Photo by pabkov
Photo by pabkov

Christmas in Budapest

by Elizabeth Jones
Stripes Europe

Venture out and experience the holiday season in Budapest, one of Europe’s most amazing cities. From world-renowned Christmas markets, loads of sights to see, relaxing thermal baths (yes, even in the winter!), unique ruin bars and much, much more — spending Christmas in Budapest will not disappoint!

Christmas Market in Vorosmarty Square
The most popular market of Budapest can be found in Vorosmarty Square in the downtown area. Full of dazzling lights, colors, delightful smells and countless shopping opportunities, the market in Vorosmarty Square will indeed get you in the Christmas spirit. Come hungry to indulge in a variety of street food and mulled wine, but especially try kurtoskalacs, also known as chimney cakes. These heavenly, spiral-shaped pastries are dusted with cinnamon and sugar and served toasty, making it a warm treat your taste buds will love!

In the evenings, take advantage of the free concerts featuring various genres to include jazz, folk,  indie, blues, soul and more! Another market highlight is the light show featured on Cafe Gerbeaud, where you can watch the lights flash bright colors against the cafe underneath the night sky — it’s definitely a show you don’t want to miss!

Open Nov. 9, 2018 – Jan. 1, 2019.

Christmas Fair in St. Stephen’s Square
Find another magnificent market only 10 minutes away situated in St. Stephen’s Square directly in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. Walk through the Advent gates to enter this market, also known as the Christmas or Advent Fair.  Once inside, peruse along the wooden stalls that showcase the most unique and high-quality traditional crafts of Hungary. Shop, eat, drink, and be merry throughout this Christmas Fair.

Feeling adventurous? Skate your way across the ice rink found in the heart of the market. The rink is free for children up to 14-years-old. Once the evening rolls around, at every hour on the hour between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., watch a Christmas light show on the outdoor walls of St. Stephen’s Basilica, displaying festive colors and patterns for all to marvel at.

Know before you go

  • Walk to the markets or take public transport.
  • Bring cash in Hungarian Forint or Euros.
  • You can book a Christmas market tour and wine tasting for both markets.
  • There are a handful of other very small Christmas markets sprinkled throughout the city.
  • Buy a Budapest Christmas market mug as the perfect souvenir for yourself or loved ones.
  • Visit www.budapestchristmas.com for all of your Christmas-in-Budapest planning needs.

Things to do outside the market

Go for a magical ride on the Budapest Christmas Tram (Number 2) which will be decorated with thousands of twinkling, white and blue lights for a festive experience unlike any other. Use the Budapest Card or public transport travel pass for the ride!

Dates: Dec. 1, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018

Closed: Dec. 24 and 31           

Need another rink to ice skate on? Found in Budapest City Park is an ice rink known as Varosligeti Mujegpalya. Skate rentals are available, and visitors pay by the hour. Be sure to snap a lot of selfies, especially with the spectacular Vajdahunyad Castle in the background.
Hours: Mon. - Fri. 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Closed: Dec. 24

Unwind in the thermal baths throughout the city but be sure to pay a visit to the most popular one, the Szechenyi Baths. Take a dip in two open air thermal pools or any of the 15 indoor pools if it gets too chilly outside. Whether you want to try any of the spa services or attend the fun weekend pool parties, the Szechenyi Baths have something for everyone!

Marvel at the grandeur of the Parliament building with its lush carpet, gold decor, high ceilings and stained glass windows. Since the building can not be toured without a guide, splurge a little on booking a private tour well before your trip.

Peruse along the cobblestone streets passing Baroque houses, hole-in-the-wall cafes, historical monuments and more that can be found in this district sitting 170-meters above the Danube River. A top attraction of Castle Hill includes Fisherman’s Bastion, a 19th century fortification resembling a fairytale-like lookout tower. Enjoy panoramic views of the sparkling river below and the rest of historic Budapest from the Fisherman’s Bastion’s intricately-designed turrets. Also situated on Castle Hill is Buda Castle, also known as the Royal Palace, a must-see attraction with a vast amount of history to share from over the centuries. The palace is open for daily tours.

Budapest is also known for its spectacular ruin bars in its oldest district, District VII, also referred to as the Jewish Quarter. From the outside, these bars are unrecognizable with no lines, booming music or crazy, bright lights. Once you step inside the bars, find mismatched, flea market furniture, graffiti from local artists and a very specific atmosphere catering to each of the bars’ individual, quirky themes.

Known for always being an enchanting city and one of the best destinations to spend Christmas in Europe, Budapest will surely surpass all your expectations this holiday season!

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