If you have decided to treat yourself to a vacation in majestic and charming Budapest at Christmas, despite the less than benign temperatures, you have made the right choice. The city of Budapest is one of the European capitals that boasts some of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe. Every year thousands of visitors come to this Hungarian city during the Christmas season to fully experience its Christmas atmosphere, shop for typical items and sample local Christmas products.
Advent is a very special time to visit Budapest: the Christmas lights and decorations make the atmosphere in the city festive, lively and welcoming. Usually Christmas markets in Bupadest are set up from November in two different areas of the city: at Vörösmarty Square and at St. Stephen’s Basilica. In addition to artisans selling their products, there are kiosks here selling typical foods and the opportunity to do various activities such as ice skating.
The first Christmas market in Vörösmarty Square was organized more than 20 years ago, and since then the event has changed and evolved to become one of the most famous in the country. Currently thousands of people come to Vörösmarty Square during the Christmas season for its festive atmosphere. The square was transformed into a pedestrian area only in the late 1980s along with Váci Street, and at its center is a statue of Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty and a fountain flanked by stone lions.
From November to January, the area hosts a beautiful Christmas market but also numerous entertainment activities for adults and children. Here you can walk among the many stalls selling handicrafts and buy original Christmas gifts. In addition, stages are set up where musical groups perform or theatrical events are organized. In the area there are, in addition, numerous stalls selling cinnamon sweets, fried sausage, mulled wine and other foods typical of this period.
In addition, there is a wooden nativity scene made entirely by hand during the Christmas markets, and the 24 windows of the popular Café Gerbeaud building, which overlooks the square, are lit up at this time, forming a giant advent calendar.
The Christmas market organized in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica has repeatedly won the “Best Christmas Market in Europe” award given to it by the European Best Destinations portal. In front of the striking St. Stephen’s Basilica for more than ten years this market has been organized, which is not as large as the one in Vörösmarty Square but is equally engaging.
More than a hundred stalls and kiosks sell handicrafts and culinary specialties. The ambiance is finely decorated as early as early November, and a light show is projected onto the facade of the church. The show is carried out both in “traditional” form and in 3D.
A huge garland with four candles is hung in the center of the area, and special candle lighting ceremonies are held on the four Sundays of Advent. In addition to being able to eat numerous delicacies, it is possible to attend shows, demonstrations and musical events.
An ice skating rink is also set up in the area for adults and children, while Santa Claus tours the area to greet children and receive their Christmas letters.
Exploring Budapest during the Christmas season also means getting to know its typical cuisine. In particular, typical Christmas dishes are prepared in November and December that will win over every palate. Those who want to taste something quick while walking through the markets can try fried sausage served with crusty bread, which is definitely a hearty dish that also gives a lot of energy. You can also buy at some stalls the fried flatbread known as lángos that can be topped with sour cream, cheese or other sauces. For a snack you can also find sandwiches stuffed with the well-known Hungarian salami or other sausages, such as teli szalami.
To warm up from the cold, however, you can eat one of the excellent soups or the famous Hungarian goulash (soup or stew) accompanied by stuffed cabbage. Other very hearty meat dishes include: duck, goose liver or Porkolt, a stew of mixed meats cooked with peppers and paprika in a hearty tomato sauce. However, it is desserts that are the stars of the season. In addition to gingerbread, one should not miss a taste of Kürtőskalács, a dessert also known as “chimney cake” because of its special shape; this can be vanilla, cinnamon, hazelnut, almond, chocolate or raspberry.
Another dessert to try is Flódni, which traces its origins to the Jewish community and is made of puff pastry and filled with jam and chocolate. Although the most typical dishes in Hungarian cuisine are usually meat-based even vegetarians can find delicacies such as grilled vegetables and mushroom and bread dishes. All these dishes can be accompanied by mulled wine, which is the quintessential hot drink of Hungary. It is usually made with red wine and various spices but there is also a variant made with white wine. Other local drinks sold in winter are Pálinka which is a strong fruit brandy and a bitter herbal liqueur known as Zwack Unicum. Those looking for something lighter can opt for one of the excellent wines from Hungary’s wine regions.
Magical winter markets, Christmas shows, classical music concerts and wine tasting: there are many things to do in Budapest during the Christmas season. Visiting the city during November and December means being able to see the Hungarian capital in a different guise and being able to participate in numerous activities. In addition to exploring the Christmas stalls set up at Vörösmarty Square and at St. Stephen’s Basilica, you can go ice skating at two large rinks in the city during Advent: one right next to St. Stephen’s Basilica and the other near Vajdahunyad Castle.
To warm up from the cold and learn more about the Hungarian capital, don’t miss the opportunity to frequent Budapest’s main Ruin Bars. The most famous is the Szimpla Kert pub, but there are real tours that take you to lesser-known establishments. Another thing to do here at Christmas is definitely to try the thermal baths. Although Budapest’s thermal bath s are wonderful at any time of year, these are especially enjoyable during the harsh winter weather. In particular, the outdoor ones give the unique sensation of feeling fresh air on your face and warm water in contact with your body-a unique and rejuvenating feeling!
If you want to see Budapest from a different perspective, don’t miss the chance to take a cruise on the Danube perhaps with a typical dinner and music. This will allow you to admire the snow-covered city illuminated by Christmas lights. Finally, wine lovers cannot let go of the opportunity to take a tour to discover Hungary’s main wines. Many venues organize wine tastings accompanied by artisanal cured meats and a selection of cheeses.
If you are looking for Christmas gifts or little presents to take home, Budapest’s markets are the place to look. Here you can find numerous handicrafts such as leather bags, furs, jewelry, children’s toys, knick-knacks, clothes and home accessories. Hungary holds a long tradition of woodcarving, so in the city you can admire craftsmen at work and buy handmade objects or toys. Pottery is also a highly prized product in Hungary. There are several stalls selling high-quality ceramic artifacts. In addition to these there are products related to the Christmas season, decorations or candles.
If you are looking for a gift related to culinary heritage, it will not be difficult to find stalls selling honey or products related to it since Hungary is one of the best honey producers in the world. A good bottle of wine can also be an appreciated gift for enthusiasts, especially the legendary Tokaji “Aszù.” Sausage lovers can buy not only the well-known Hungarian salami but also other types of salami such as teli szalami and Pick szalami.
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