Planning a city break to Hungary’s capital? Go in December for the ultimate festive trip. The Christmas markets in Budapest are some of the best in Europe, and there are a whole bunch of them to pick from while you’re here.
The bigger markets open for business in mid-November and run until New Year’s Eve, when the festivities wrap up with fireworks over the Chain Bridge. You’ll find the big-hitters on the Pest side of the river, but it’s worth crossing over to Buda for some of the tucked-away markets, too. If you can walk it, do – the frosty Danube views in December are something else.
Eat your way around Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market
The Christmas market at one end of Váci Utca, Budapest’s main shopping strip, is easily the city’s most popular. More than 100 stalls cover the cobbles on Vörösmarty Square and there’s a distinctly foodie focus. Hungarian flatbreads, warming goulash and fragrant mulled wine are all on the menu along with piles of pastries and cinnamon-sprinkled chimney cakes. You can pick up take-homes like ceramic Christmas decorations and wooden trinkets, too, and nosey round traditional nativity scenes. The whole thing unfolds in front of Café Gerbeaud, an absolute icon of a patisserie that serves up fancy cakes, proper coffee, and more than 100 years of history. It’s the perfect warming pit-stop when you’re so cold you can’t feel your nose.
Watch the light display at Budapest Basilica Christmas Market
Another essential stop-off on the city’s Pest side, Basilica Christmas Market – sometimes called Advent Basilica or St Stephen’s market on account of the square it’s held in – is a ten-minute walk from Vörösmarty. It’s a similar vibe, with stacks of festive eats and handmade trinkets, but this one comes with a skating rink and loads of atmosphere courtesy of St Stephen’s Basilica. The facade lights up with animations at night so it’s worth picking up some 3D glasses from the market and coming after sunset. Folk dancers, live musicians and a sizeable Christmas tree tick all the boxes for a properly festive day out.
Ride the Ferris wheel at Erzsébet Square Christmas Market
Want the kind of city views your Insta grid will thank you for? Wrap up warm and ride the Budapest Eye at Erzsébet – AKA Elizabeth – Square, a five-minute walk from the Basilica. Up top, you can see all the way across both sides of the city from this 65-metre Ferris wheel, including Buda Castle in the distance and the Christmas market below. Once your feet are firmly back on the ground, you can mooch around the stalls – mulled wine in-hand – and pick up anything from Christmas tree decorations to one-of-a-kind gifts. Staying out? This is also where you’ll find one of Budapest’s most popular nightlife spots, Club Aquarium. Stay up late for concerts, club nights, and cocktails around a swanky glass-bottomed pool.
Snap the view at Buda Castle Christmas Market
Granted, most of the festive market fun happens on the Pest side of the river, but it’s worth crossing over to Buda for a wander round the stalls at Buda Castle. The Christmas market here may be on the smaller side – the castle itself is the main event – but the views back across to Pest are pretty special. The narrow, winding streets over this side of the city are scattered with a gems you won’t find back home – so you’ll ace the work’s Secret Santa this year.
Shop for souvenirs at Obuda Christmas market
Going properly off the tourist trail? Check out the Christmas market at Obuda, or Old Buda, on the outer fringe of the city. This lesser-trodden neck of the woods lays on its own Christmas festivities and the crowd is definitely more local. The main square is where it all happens, and the bulk of the events – from ice rink sessions to live music concerts – take place on the weekends in December. Hungry? Fill your boots with paprika-laced goulash, chicken schnitzel and wafer-thin salami slices, then fill your bags with souvenirs like hand-blown glass ornaments and leather purses.
Fancy doing Budapest’s Christmas markets?
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Author: Katie Gregory
Last updated: 23/10/23
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