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A buzz with pavement cafés, street artists, vendors, boutiques and nightclubs, the dowtown (belváros in Hungarian) or Inner City is the hub of Pest.

A buzz with pavement cafés, street artists, vendors, boutiques and nightclubs, the dowtown (belváros in Hungarian) or Inner City is the hub of Pest and, for tourists at least, the epicentre of what’s happening. Commerce and pleasure have been its lifeblood as long as Pest has existed, first as a medieval market town and later as the kernel of a city whose belle époque rivalled Vienna’s.

Since their fates diverged, the Belváros has lagged far behind Vienna’s Centrum in prosperity, but the gap is fast being narrowed, at least superficially. It’s now increasingly like any Western city in its consumer culture, but you can still get a sense of the old atmosphere, especially in the quieter backstreets south of Kossuth Lajos utca.

Pest

Pest, on the left bank of the Danube, also has many historic districts, resorts and famous sights. There are nine bridges spanning the Danube, the oldest being the Széchenyi Chain Bridge built in 1849.

Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Széchenyi Chain Bridge

 

Downtown - Pest The Downtown Parish Church on Március 15. tér was the city’s first church. Examples of all architectural styles, ranging from Romanesque to Classicist, blend into the interior of the church.

At 2 Dohány utca Europe’s largest synagogue is found, serving also as a concert hall of excellent acoustics. The Jewish Museum in the courtyard of the synagogue is a centre for Jewish studies.



The Hungarian National Museum (14-16 Múzeum körút) is the finest example of Hungarian Classicist architecture. In existence since 1846, it is the most significant public collection in Hungary, tracing the history of the Hungarian people from prehistoric times to the present day.

Hungarian National Museum
Hungarian National Museum

 

The Vásárcsarnok (Grand Market Hall, 1-3 Fővám körút) is striking in its architectural inventiveness.

The finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Hungary include the Museum of Applied Arts (33-37 Üllői út) with its wide selection of permanent and temporary exhibitions, the houses on Szervita tér (Pest town centre) and the building of the former Postal Savings Bank (4 Hold utca).

The Parliament (Kossuth Lajos tér) is the largest and the most lavishly decorated building in the country. Built between 1885 and 1902 by Imre Steindl, this exquisite edifice is 96-m high and 118-m wide, and has 10 courtyards, 29 staircases and 27 gates. Europe’s first area heating system was put in service in this building. Seat of the Hungarian Parliament and government offices, it provides a place of safety for the Holy Crown and the royal insignia. It is accessible only by guided tours in groups.

The neo-Renaissance St. Stephen’s Basilica (Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út), elevated to the rank of basilica minor, is the largest church in Budapest, and the second largest in Hungary. The right hand of St. Stephen, Hungary’s first king (970-1038), preserved intact for over 1,000 years, is the relic of the Chapel of the Holy Right. The tower balcony of the basilica offers a splendid uninterrupted panorama of the whole of the city.



It is worth taking a walk along the straight Andrássy út, a boulevard that is now a World Heritage site. It is lined with 19th- and 20th-century Eclectic-style palaces.

The State Opera House (22 Andrássy út), with its frescoed interior, seating an audience of 1,200, is a splendid work of by Miklós Ybl, Hungary’s most famous architect, and has been the centre of musical life in Hungary since 1864. There are guided tours.

State Opera House
State Opera House

 

After a stroll along Váci utca from Vörösmarty tér and a look at the splendid view of Várhegy from the embankment, the best way to appreciate the dowtown is by simply wandering around. People-watching and window-shopping are the most enjoyable activities, and though prices are above average for Budapest, any visitor should be able to afford to sample the cafés. Shops are another matter – there are few bargains – and nightclubs are a trap for the unwary, but there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying the cultural life, from performances by jazz musicians and violinists to world-class conductors and soloists.

After a trip to Paris in 1858 Count Gyula Andrássy had the idea to cut out a large thoroughfare linking the Small Boulevard to the Bois-de-Ville.

Name: Andrássy út
Category: Architecture, castles and historic districts
Location: 1061 Budapest, Andrássy út.

Description

After a trip to Paris in 1858 Count Gyula Andrássy had the idea to cut out a large thoroughfare linking the Small Boulevard to the Bois-de-Ville. The route for the avenue was designed in 1872 and the works lasted around 20 years. It cuts through Nagymező Street nicknamed Broadway for its theatres and cafés, and leads to Liszt Ferenc tér and Jókai tér (very busy in Summer) as well as to the Oktogon (a large crossroads in an octagonal shape which crosses the Large Boulevard).

Andrássy út
Andrássy út

 

Take a walk on this long, wide boulevard with fine cafés, restaurants, theatres, and luxury boutiques.

The Hungarian State Opera (Magyar Állami Operaház), shops of luxury brands of world-wide fame, colleges, palaces, embassies, museums and historical coffeehouses – you walk past all of these on Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út) that spans between Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere) and downtown Budapest. The avenue can be divided into three distinctive parts: palaces and villas, then between Oktogon and Kodály Circus (Kodály körönd) there are rows of trees beside the road and finally the residential part with multistoried buildings. You might want to walk slowly because apart from the buildings worth to see, the avenue itself has a peculiar feel to it, too.



Good to know about Andrássy Avenue

  • Andrássy Avenue is an iconic boulevard in Budapest that connects the city center and the city park (Városliget)
  • It is lined with spectacular Neo-renaissance mansions; it is also features a number of fine cafés, restaurants and luxury boutiques
  • Andrássy Avenue was built in 1872 to divert the heavy traffic of parallel Király street and connect the city center with the city park
  • The palaces that line the boulvard were part of the plan. They were built by the leading contemporary artchitects
  • The palaces were completed by 1884; aristorcrates, bankers and historical families moved in The avenue takes its name after a former prime minister, Gyula Andrássy, who was one of the main supporters of the project
  • The anveue was renamed 3 times highlighting the rapid political changes of the time: first it was renamed Stalin Avenue (1950-56); in the1956 revolution it was named Avenue of Hungarian Youth; after 1956 it became People's Republic Avenue. The original name was restored in 1990

Tipp: Take a coffee or a meal in one of the cafés, restaurants on Liszt Ferenc Square.

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Have you got any Budapest or Andrássy út related question? Please have a look at our Questions & Answers section!



Take a look at the Menu "Attractions" to see what other tourist sights are around.

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After a hard day of major sightseeing on Day 1, take the plunge and relax in one of Budapest’s world-renowned thermal baths, while still admiring its architectural beauty, then get out and about again to uncover some of the unique buildings that reflect the country’s varied and troubled past.

START: Take the M1 or "Millennium Underground" to Széchenyi Fürdő.

Széchenyi Baths (Fürdő)

The therapeutic waters of this neo-Baroque bathing bonanza will revitalize tired joints and set you up for a fulfilling day. That’s providing you don’t spend all your time being slow cooked in the hot pools, which will leave you seriously sleepy.

Alternate between hot and cold pools, saunas, and steam rooms and take some time out in the mediumtemperature pools or just chill out on a deckchair.

Széchenyi Thermals
Széchenyi Thermals

 

The most luxurious pool is the outdoor semi-circular one, from which steam dramatically rises in the cold of winter as locals play chess.

The whirlpool is great for kids.

Time: 2 hours. Go early to avoid the crowds, especially in summer. For more information please reed our post Best Baths in Budapest.

Location: Budapest, Állatkerti körút 11.

Vajdahunyad Castle

Looking at it now, it’s hard to believe that this fairly authentic-looking folly was once made out of cardboard and dates back barely a century. Vajdahunyad Castle went up as a temporary structure as part of the Magyar millennium celebrations in 1896, depicting the various Hungarian architectural styles over the centuries.

Vajdahunyad Castle
Vajdahunyad Castle

 

By 1908, Vajdahunyad had been transformed into a collection of stone replicas representing treasured creations from right across the Magyar realm. Particularly prominent are the ramparts facing the lake from Vajdahunyad Castle and Sighişoara’s clocktower, both in present-day Romania.

Time: 30 minutes.

Location: Metro: M1 to Hősök tere / Széchenyi Fürdő.

Fine Arts Museum (Szépművészeti Múzeum)

The Fine Arts Museum is closed for reconstruction for about 3 years since march 2015.

The mighty Habsburgs who once ruled as far as Spain and the Netherlands acquired an astonishing collection of impressive art works, many of which found their way here. A tour de force in European art from the 13th to the late 18th centuries, lovers of Madrid’s Prado gallery will see similarities with this collection, which is also particularly strong in Spanish masters, with El Greco, Velázquez, Murillo, Ribera, Cano, Zurbarán and Goya all represented. El Greco’s Annunciation, painted in the late 16th century, is set to heavenly clouds and bright lights, while Velázquez’s early work Peasants Around a Table, dated around 1619, magically preserves the timehonored tradition of getting stuck into conversation over a few drinks.

Fine Arts Museum
Fine Arts Museum

 

Time: 1,5–2 hr. Go early when major temporary exhibitions are running.

Location: Budapest, Dózsa György út 41. Opening hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5:30pm. Metro: M1 Hősök tere.

Walk up Andrássy út

You are more than likely to have explored portions of this, the grandest of Budapest’s boulevards on Day 1 when checking out the Opera House, but further examination is rewarding. Walking from Heroes Square the first stretch is lined with luxurious villas, including Kogart, an arts center and restaurant.

Andrássy út
Andrássy út

 

Further up, Andrássy út is traversed by Kodály körönd, a striking square of faded but ornately painted town houses.

Time: 30 minutes.

Terror House

It’s funny how both the Fascists and the Communists both favored this location on classy Andrássy út to do their worst. An address that seems to be cursed, this visually impressive museum caused controversy with its highly politicized opening in 2002. Seen by many as an affront to the re-spun Hungarian Socialist Party, which once ruled Hungary with an iron fist but has changed beyond recognition, on behalf of their archrivals Fidesz, it was even sponsored by the then Fidesz Prime Minister Victor Orbán. More about the: Terros House

House of terror
House of terror

 

Cynics’ claims are backed up by the fleeting coverage of Fascist Hungary and the much denser coverage of the red terror. However, the fascist Hungarian Arrow Cross Party ran the country for only a year, coming into power in 1944, but what a gruesome year that was, with the previously protected Jewish population being shipped off in droves to concentration camps.

Politics aside, from the Russian tank that greets you; to the pictures of victims and their jailors; the industrial and dark classical soundtrack; film footage and interviews; genuine exhibits including Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross uniforms; and the trip to the cells and gallows.

Time: 60 minutes. Opening hours: Tues–Fri 10am– 6pm, Sat–Sun 10am–7pm.

Location: Budapest, Andrássy út 60. Metro: M1 to Vörösmarty utca.

Great Synagogue

With its onion domes, Moorish and Byzantine influences, Budapest’s great synagogue not only pioneered a new style of Jewish architecture, it also spawned the father of modern Zionism who was born here, Tivadar Herzl.

Zsinagóga
Zsinagóga

 

Time: 15 minutes.

Location: Budapest, Dohány utca 2. Metro: M2 to Astoria.

Applied Arts Museum

You might have encountered this remarkable-looking Art Nouveau masterpiece by Ödön Lechner, Budapest’s answer to Gaudí, if you took the road in from the airport. Lechner, who also worked on the building’s plans with secessionist sidekick Gyula Pártos, created a Hungarian take on the Art Nouveau movement, adding Hungarian folk touches and emphasizing certain eastern influences on Hungary.

Accordingly, traces of architectural styles from as far afield as India can be detected, and the bright green and gold Zsolnay tiles that adorn the roof and dome are more Oriental than European. You may find more info about this Museum here.

Time: 1,5-2 hours. Opening hours: Tues–Sun 10am– 6pm.

Location: Budapest, Üllői út 33–37. Metro: M3 to Ferenc körút.

Budapest's Bests in Three Days

 

Here, we are taking you on an action-packed tour that will leave you in awe of Budapest’s architectural magnificence and magnitude. Particularly noteworthy is the architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Hungary had finally found peace and prosperity.

START: Take the M1 Millennium Underground to Hősök tere.

Heroes Square (Hősök tere)

There’s no better place to start getting your head around the turbulent history of Hungary than Heroes Square. The key protagonists are strikingly introduced as a series of imposing statues. The central column is guarded by the seven Magyar tribe leaders who, in 896AD, stormed into the Carpathian basin, comprising present day Hungary and beyond.

A statue of Árpád leads these seven heathen horsemen, and they appear to be kept in check by Archangel Gabriel, who presides over them from the top of the central column. The founding fathers are flanked by heroes including Szent (Saint) István, who converted Hungary to Christianity on Christmas Day in the year 1000AD, and all-conquering Kings Béla IV and Mátyás Corvinus, as well as perennial thorns in Habsburg Austria’s side like Rákóczi and Kossuth.

Heroes' Square
Heroes' Square

Built in 1896 to celebrate a millennium of Magyar presence, nowadays Heroes Square is a popular place with skateboarders and with rightwingers who use it as a backdrop for rallies.

Time: 30 minutes.

Location: Hősök tere at crossing of Andrássy út and Dózsa György út.
Metro: M1 to Hősök tere.

Millennium Underground

Take a ride on continental Europe’s oldest metro, which opened in 1896 to coincide with the 1,000th anniversary of Magyar presence in Hungary. Get on at the Hősök tere stop and be whisked, just under street level, directly down the elegant Andrássy út (boulevard) - which we recommend you walk down on Day 2.

Get off at Oktogon to see one of Budapest’s several centers where Andrássy út meets the Nagy körút (the Great Boulevard), or stay on one more stop to Opera.

After London’s underground system, this is the next oldest in the world and the stations in particular retain the fin-de-siecle feel.

Time: 15 minutes.

Location: Entrance at end of Andrássy út at crossing of Andrássy út and Dózsa György út; on righthand side of Andrássy út if looking from Heroes Square.

Millennium Underground
Millennium Underground

First metro 4:36am, last 11:20pm. Read this post about public transportation in Budapest.

Opera House

The Miklós Ybl-designed Opera House provides the sumptuous veneer to classy Andrássy út. If you can, we suggest you look now but come back and experience the Opera House in all its glory by catching a performance. Be warned that the supersteep cheap seats are not for sufferers of vertigo. The neo-Renaissance style of the exterior is all semi-circular arches and columns, and is symmetrically topped off by statues of idols of Hungarian opera, while statues of the two Hungarian musical greats, Liszt and Bartok, flank the main entrance. Step inside and the style changes dramatically to neo-classical with the walls and ceiling adorned by lavish works from leading Hungarian artists of the day, including Gyula Benczúr and Bertalan Székely.

Opera
Opera

Exclusive Hungarian participation was deemed crucial in establishing the home of Hungarian opera, although the scary but magnificent-looking goldplated, three-tonne chandelier was imported from Germany.

Time: 15 minutes, 45 minutes if you take the tour, but check ahead as tours may be cancelled due to rehearsals.

Location: Budapest, Andrássy út 22.

St. Stephen’s Basilica

Building this Budapest landmark proved a job too far for defining Hungarian architects József Hild and Miklós Ybl, who both died during the prolonged 54-year construction.

The Basilica project literally hit rock bottom when the dome collapsed in 1868, a year after Hild’s death. Architect József Kauser was called in and dragged Budapest’s biggest church over the finishing line in 1905. A massive restoration project was completed in 2003 and the gleaming marble is the result of the application of 200kg of beeswax.

St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica

Mathematically minded Hungarians love dealing in numbers and, like the Parliament’s dome, Szent István’s stands 96m/315ft high, as a tribute to the Magyar settlement of Hungary in 896. Had they arrived a few years earlier, perhaps the roof wouldn’t have fallen in! The almost 1,000-year-old withered hand of St. Stephen, Hungary’s first King, is displayed in the Szent Jobb Chapel.

Another great Hungarian hero Ferenc Puskás, the talisman of the Magical Magyars and Real Madrid goal machine, was laid to rest here in 2006.

An elevator is on hand to whisk you up to near the top for sweeping views of Buda and Pest.

Time: 60 minutes. Opening hours: Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat–Sun 10am–4pm.

Location: Budapest, Szent István tér 33. Metro: M1 to Bajcsy- Zsilinszky út. M3 to Arany János utca.

Parliament

Architect Imre Steindl’s mostly neo-Gothic extravaganza dominates Pest’s waterfront and bucks the Gothic trend with the 96m/315ft-high dome at its center.

While it was once the biggest Parliament in the world when it opened for business in 1896, the building has lost none of its opulence. The exceedingly long corridors of power, the grandiose gold-plated interior and red-carpeted staircases do nothing to instill any form of collective unity between the polarized politicians.

While much like any Parliament, should you happen to enter the chamber after a debate, to which the opposition actually shows up, you can almost feel the steam rising as you enter.

Look out for the Hungarian crown, a gift from the Pope to King (now Saint) István (Stephen) in the year 1000 to thank him for signing up Hungary to Catholicism.

Parliament
Parliament

Watch out for protestors outside calling for the current Prime Minister’s head.

Time: 60 minutes for tour, 15 minutes viewing from outside. Enquire ahead via internet as Parliament is closed when in session & turn up 10 min before the tour begins. Buy tickets at gate X. English tours at 10am, 12am, and 2pm daily.

Location: Budapest, Kossuth tér 1–3. Metro: M2 to Kossuth Lajos tér.

Chain Bridge

This, the pick of Budapest’s varied bridges, isn’t just an architectural marvel but is the first permanent bridge that linked Buda with Pest, setting in motion their eventual unification.

It’s also still the best and most scenic way of traversing the Danube to get from Parliament and Pest’s old town to the Castle District. The brainchild of István Széchenyi, an anglophile Hungarian Count who sought to bring rural Hungary into the modern age, he employed two designers to build the ornate bridge, each with the name of Clark: William, an Englishman, and Adam, a Scot.

Chain Bridge
Chain Bridge

The Chain Bridge opened in 1849, during Hungary’s War of Independence with Austria and fortunately survived an immediate botched attempt to blow it up, something that the more efficient Germans managed when retreating from occupying the city in 1945. It was soon rebuilt and reopened on its centenary in the original style.

Come back at night when it and the Royal Palace are both lit up dramatically.

Time: 20 minutes.

Location: Connects Széchenyi István tér with Clark Adám tér. Bus 16/105 or Tram 2.

The Castle District

Bombed, burnt, battered, and rebuilt many times throughout the centuries, the Royal Palace and St. Matthias Church dramatically portray Hungary’s trials and tribulations. We suggest you wander the district at your leisure to soak up the history of the place and return later for a more in-depth tour.

The Castle District
The Castle District

Time: 2 hours.

Location: Castle District, take the Bus No. 16 to Dísz tér.

Budapest's Bests in Two Days

 

Main shopping streets

Shopping is the most beloved activity of modern-day human being. Budapest, as every other big city, has shops of worldfamous brands to offer. These are to be found mainly in malls, Vörösmarty Square (Vörösmarty tér), Fashion Street and Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út). But in order not to arrive home with worthless pieces of junk as a result of your frantic shopping spree, take a little time to look through our selection of shops.

 

The most sensitive issue is, of course, that of the souvenirs. These are the items traditional tourist hubs are flooded with. Fortunately, there’s another option. If you want a classic Hungarian product, purchase ground paprika at the Great Market Hall (Központi Vásárcsarnok), Rubik’s cube at any of the souvenir shops or Hungarian porcelain of worldwide fame in Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út).

Apart from next-generation popup stores, there are many young and progressive shops with permanent headquarters, many times around clubs. Uniquely designed, colored, scented souvenirs, jewels, clothes and pieces of art can be bought here for reasonable prices. If you’re an avid collector of clothes, you’ll go crazy seeing what Budapest has to offer. The choice ranges from classic, elegant shops and trendy, shiny showrooms to designer stores with creaky floors, and the pricing could be surprisingly friendly for tourists. Or if you’re looking for the lowest prices, check out the vintage shops and those selling earlier models. You might as well find timeless favorites. All in all, with some creativity and keeping your eyes open you can have a richer piece of Budapest than you might have thought you would. Here is why:

The world of fashion and commercialization has bombarded the capital with a silent invasion. Each week, coming soon signs are appearing on storefront windows, promising yet other items of globalized fashion, but you can rest assured they are not for the average Hungarian. From famous designer labels like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, brand-name items, stylish secondhand shops, and, sad to say, As Seen on TV stores, Budapest offers a far wider array of shopping experiences than just a few years ago.

Should you want an entertaining „Hungaricum”, your best choice is Rubik’s cube.

A popular yet overpriced shopping area for travelers is the Castle District in Buda, with its abundance of folk-art boutiques and art galleries. A healthy education about Hungarian wines from historical local viticulture regions can be found in the intimate labyrinthine cellar of the House of Hungarian Wines, but buy elsewhere for a better price. Most supermarkets carry an extensive selection of Hungarian wines.

Hungarians tend to do their serious shopping on Pest’s Outer Ring (Nagykörút), which extends into West End City Center, a shopping mall, located just behind the Nyugati Railway Station. Another favorite shopping street is Pest’s busy Kossuth Lajos utca, off the Erzsébet Bridge, and its continuation, Rákóczi út. Andrássy út, from Deák tér to Oktogon, is popular for browsing or wishing, since it is the more upscale shopping street. It is out of question that the most popular shopping/pedestrian walking street of Budapest is Váci utca.

West End City Center
West End City Center

 

Together with the adjacent Liszt Ferenc tér and Nagymező utca, Andrássy út is a popular hub for nightlife, with numerous coffee shops, bars, and restaurants (many change often). Nestled among the plethora of cafes and restaurants on the lively Ráday utca, you will often find small boutiques and shops where you can find unique presents and doodads. You can often pay by credit card in the most popular shopping areas.

Opening hours

Most stores are open Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and Saturday from 9 or 10am to 1pm or sometimes 2pm. Some stores stay open an hour or two later on Thursday or Friday. Sunday, most shops are closed, except for those on Váci utca. Shopping malls are open on weekends, sometimes as late as 7pm.

Taxes & Refounds

Refunds on the 27% value-added tax (VAT), which is built into all prices, are available for most consumer goods purchases of more than 45,000 Ft ($173/EUR 143) purchased in one store, in 1 day (look for stores with the taxfree logo in the window).

The refund process, however, is elaborate and confusing. In most shops, the salesperson can provide you with the necessary documents: the store receipt, a separate receipt indicating the VAT amount on your purchase, the VAT reclaims form, and the mailing envelope. The salesperson should also be able to help you fill out the paperwork. Use a separate claim form for each applicable purchase.

If you are departing Hungary by plane, you can collect your refund at the IBUSZ Agency at Ferihegy Airport. You have to do this right after checking in but before you pass security control. Otherwise, hold on to the full packet until you leave Hungary and get your forms certified by Customs when you land. Then, mail in your envelope and wait forever for your refund.

Two wrinkles: You must get your forms certified by Customs within 90 days of the purchase showing that it is leaving the country, and you must mail in your forms within 183 days of the date of export certification on the refund claim form. We have never found this to be any significant savings since there is a “service charge” for the service. Unless you are making grandiose purchases, you may want to save your time and energy for other things. For further information, contact Global Refund (Innova-Invest Pénzügyi Rt.), Budapest, IV. Ferenciek tere 10. (00 36 1 411-0157; fax : 00 36 1 411-0159; www.globalrefund.com).

Shipping & Customs

You can ship a box to yourself from any post office, but the rules on packing boxes are as strict as they are arcane. The Hungarian postal authorities prefer that you use one of their official shipping boxes, for sale at all post offices. They’re quite flimsy, however, and have been known to break open in transit.

The Hungarian post does not have a five-star rating on service, but they do rank four stars with misappropriating packages coming and going from the country.

Very few shops will organize shipping for you. Exceptions to this rule include most Herend and Zsolnay porcelain shops, Ajka crystal shops, and certain art galleries, which employ the services of a packing-and-shipping company, Touristpost.

Touristpost offers three kinds of delivery: express, air mail, and surface. The service is not available directly to the public, but functions only through participating contracted shops. You need to consider whether the cost of shipping will still save you money by purchasing your fine porcelain and crystal in Hungary than at home.

Hungarian Customs regulations do not limit the export of noncommercial quantities of most goods, except collectibles. However, the export of some perishable food is regulated, but allowed if acceptable to the receiving country. The limit on wine and spirits is not limited at export if shipped, but may be limited by Customs at your destination. Shipping wine can be prohibitively expensive.