Budapest has repeatedly been voted one of the best (and most affordable) destinations for Christmas Markets. With average temperatures of 5 - 11°C and crisp, clear blue skies throughout November/December, it certainly sets the scene for an idyllic festive break. This is reflected by glowing 5* reviews and a growing fan base.
There really isn’t a better place to get you feeling Christmassy! If it sounds right up your street, and you want to plan a visit to Budapest, this blog will help you dive into planning your trip. We’ll run through the must-see areas, events and activities over the Christmas period. Not sure if it’s in your budget this year? To help you plan and manage your currency we’ll also cover average prices of food, drink, public transport and anything else you might need.
Throughout the festive season the whole city transforms into a winter wonderland. There is no shortage of Christmas markets & fairs, but here are our top picks;
The most popular Christmas fair; a plaza situated in the heart of the city. The market is placed right in front of the famous Gerbeaud Coffee House at the end of a pedestrian street. There are around 100 wooden stalls selling everything from arts & crafts to food & drink. It’s hard not to feel festive while wondering around the square - which is beautifully decorated with fairy lights, and infused with the scent of honey cookies, mulled wine and cinnamon. Choral choirs, live bands and traditional folk dancers add to the ambience with a beautiful demonstration of Hungarian culture.
Open from 10th November - 31st December. There are live jazz, folk, soul and blues bands playing every day (17:00 - 20:00 weekdays, 16:00 - 20:00 weekends).
This market isn’t too crowded so it’s ideal if you’re travelling with children. Not only that but there are playhouses open from 10th November - 24th December and even a visit from Santa himself on 6th December!
Advent Fair and Christmas Market at St. Stephen’s Basilica
No other venue could be more fitting for a festive market than the iconic St. Stephen’s Basilica in downtown Budapest! Open from 24th November to 1st January, this is a true Christmas extravaganza.
To accompany the usual Christmas Market food, drinks, arts & crafts – this market boasts a huge range of entertainment. Don’t miss the opening ceremony on 30th November at 16:00 – the lights are switched on to mark the official opening of the Christmas Fair. Throughout the 4 ½ week period there’s a spectacular light show every 30 minutes on the façade of the basilica (16:00 – 18:00). Hungarian locals perform folk dance shows every Friday and Saturday (audience participation is encouraged… one way of staying warm!) Not only that but this market has its own 200m2 ice rink! This is free for children age 4 – 14, with lessons available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, don’t miss out on a visit from Santa on 4th – 6th December, where there will be enough singing and storytelling to really warm the heart! If you’d rather retreat indoors, there will also be regular organ concerts inside the basilica itself.
Christmas Market in Fashion Street/Deák Ferenc Street
Check out two/three markets in one – this cuts right through Vorosmarty Square and leads up to the Basilica on St. Stephen Square.
Christmas Fair at Four Seasons Gresham Place
For the first time, one of the top luxury hotels in the city is opening its doors to host its very own Christmas market.
Open from 24th November – 24th December, this market offers a taste of the more lavish side of Christmas! With luxury items, handcrafted goodies and indulgent food delicacies in a lavish setting, this one will be worth checking out. Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, it’s worth a stroll through to get a feel for the elegant interior and fairy tale-like ambience!
When it comes to shopping at these markets, paying with cash is recommended. There is no guarantee that sellers will accept cards so always make sure you have enough cash on you. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the one-of-a-kind ornament because you don’t have enough currency! On that note (pun intended), it’s also worth knowing that although they may have a similar festive feel, every market is different. If you find something you really love, don’t assume you’ll be able to get it elsewhere.
With regards to food and drink, most stall holders want to sell their goods while they're fresh. This means they’ll likely only accept cash as it makes the transaction as quick as possible. To help you plan how much cash you may need, we’ve summarised average prices of popular Christmas market food & drink*:
*All prices are estimates based on our own research, and should be used as an average guide only.
**HUF to £ conversions have been made using our online rate, correct as of 15/11/17 at 20:00GMT.
In case you were wondering…
The local street food; a yeast-based round batter deep fried in oil. Available with sweet and savoury toppings from nutella and fruit jam, to sour cream, garlic oil, cheese, sausage, bacon, grilled chicken & veggies and roasted pork.
Traditional Hungarian punch drink made with dried fruits, loaf sugar, cane rum and mulled wine. Served in the official Christmas mug - which features 3 new designs each year (collect all 3!). 450 HUF for drink without mug, 600 HUF for drink & keep the mug!
There is almost too much delicious food to try! Portions are quite large, so best advice is to buy one meal to share, rather than one to yourself, so you can sample a bit of everything.
There truly is an endless supply of Christmas markets scattered throughout the city –these are just our top picks. Let’s not forget there is much more to Budapest! There are plenty of other festive attractions:
Nutcracker Festival at the State Opera House - 26 performances running from 27th November – 30th December. Festive concerts in the Danube Palace. Ride on the Christmas Light Tram – a tram literally covered in Christmas lights! Winter cruises and Christmas Boat trips on the River Danube. Have a wonder around Budapest Castle. Check out Fisherman’s Bastion and Mattias Church (both completely free of charge in the winter months!). The iconic Chain Bridge. Relax in the infamous Thermal Spas – which remain open throughout the winter.
Getting around the city to explore all it has to offer is easy. Budapest is well connected by efficient public transport including trains to get to/from the airport, and trams, metro and buses within the city centre. You can buy a Budapest card for 24hrs (4,900 HUF – approx. £14.92), 48hrs (7,900 HUF – approx. £24.06) or 72hrs (9,900 HUF – approx. £30.15). This not only grants you unlimited access to public transport, but free entry or discounts to various attractions too.
It’s easy to find affordable places to eat outside of the main areas – so you can find anything to suit your budget. You can find a meal from about 1000HUF upwards. Like most places, tipping is part of the culture in Hungary. In most bars and restaurants you can typically expect to leave a 10-15% gratuity.
And one final tip – there is usually a fee for using public washrooms! This ranges from 100 – 200 HUF, so always make sure you have cash.
So if we’ve got you craving a slice of Hungarian Christmas culture – don’t forget to pre-order your Hungarian Forint (HUF) before you go! Our Reserve & Collect service allows you to order currency a minimum of 24 hours in advance for collection at all our airport and central London locations – so you can still lock in our best rates even if it’s a last minute trip. We have branches at London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Southend, and Bristol airports – which all have direct routes to Budapest.
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