Budapest is worth a visit throughout the year. The city is totally picturesque. However, it’s around the festive season that the city really comes to life. Are you looking to treat yourself to a Christmas market visit this year? Here’s why Budapest should be top of the list.
The spires of the Gothic-style Parliament Building are enough to get anyone daydreaming, as are the beautiful views from the Fisherman’s Bastion. The beauty of this city is clear to see, but that’s not the only reason why Christmas in Budapest is such an amazing idea. After all, not every capital has beautiful historic spa and baths open to the public, or ice rinks overlooked by beautiful castles! With my best Budapest Christmas Market tips you’ll be able to enjoy your festive city break there to the fullest!
There are lots of options for your travels to Budapest from the UK. Direct flights are available right across the country, from as far north as Edinburgh and Glasgow all the way to London in the south. Of course, there are plenty of options in between. Connecting flights are also available across the country. Depending on how early in advance you book, you can score flights to Budapest for as little as £28 return. I really recommend using my Flight Finder to help find the best flight deals to get you to the city.
Once you land in Budapest, getting to the centre of the city is a pretty easy task. The most convenient way to get to the city centre is by hopping in a taxi, but this is by far not the most cost effective. A taxi into the city centre can cost an average of 8045 HUF (the equivalent of £22). A much cheaper option is to use one of the numerous public transport options available from the airport. A single bus ticket into the city from the airport will cost about 900 HUF (roughly £2.50).
There are several options available if you would like to visit a Budapest Christmas Market this festive season. They have a range of opening dates across the months of November and December. Below I have listed the opening dates of some of the biggest and best Christmas markets across Budapest, and how long they will run for. It might help you to decide what market you would like to attend.
Christmas Fair at Vorosmarty Square
Dates: 09/11/2018 – 01/01/2019 Opening hours: Sunday – Thursday 10am – 8pm (handicraft shops), 10am – 9pm (food stalls)
Friday and Saturday: 10 am – 9 pm (handicraft shops), 10 am – 10 pm (food stalls)
Dec 24: 10 am – 2 pm (handicraft shops), 10 am – 3 pm (food stalls)
Dec 25, 26: 12 pm – 6 pm (handicraft shops), 10 am – 6 pm (food stalls)
Dec 27: 10 am – 8 pm (handicraft shops), 10 am – 9 pm (food stalls)
Dec 28 – Dec 29: 10 am – 7 pm (handicraft shops), 10 am – 8 pm (food stalls) (only Food Stalls open from Dec 29 onwards)
Dec 30 : 10 am – 10 pm (food stalls only)
Dec 31: 10 am – 4 pm (food stalls only)
Jan 1: 2 pm – 10 pm (food stalls only)
The Christmas market in Vorosmarty Square is the main Budapest Christmas market. begins on November 9th and it will run until January 1st. That gives you lots of time to visit the city and explore the sights, sounds and smells of the markets. It’s the city’s oldest and most beautiful Christmas market, and it has received international acclaim. The market is chock full of food stalls, handcraft shops with intricate and beautiful ornaments and Hungarian handicrafts, and free open air concerts. The market is one of the most popular in Europe, and despite that it still retains all its charm and family friendly nature. When you stroll around the market, be sure to stop at a stall and grab a kürtőskalács. These chimney cakes are a Hungarian speciality, and a staple of any Hungarian Christmas.
Unlike some of the other markets in the city, the handicraft stalls are only open during Advent time. This gives you a smaller window of opportunity to grab some fantastic presents for your loved ones at home. Don’t worry though, as there’s some other great markets also around the city you can also visit.
Christmas Market at St Stephen’s Basilica
Dates:23/11/2018 – 01/01/2018 Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday: 10:00 – 21:00
Friday – Saturday – Sunday: 10:00 – 22:00
Dec 24:10:00 – 14:00
Dec 25: 10:00 – 22:00
Dec 26: 10:00 – 22:00
Dec 31: 10:00 – 22:00
Jan 1: 11:00 – 20:00
The market at the Basilica is another popular market in the city. It’s located quite near the market at Vorosmarty Square, so you could visit them both on one day when you visit the city. As you can imagine from the name, you can find this market in front of Budapest’s beautiful cathedral, one of the largest churches in Hungary, on the Pest side of the city. There has been a market in this area since 2011. This year, it will start on November 23rd and it finishes on January 1st. It might start a little later than the other market, but it is still more than worth a visit. Not only are there fabulous stalls with some gorgeous offerings across the market, there’s also a great ice skating rink. What could be more Christmassy, than an evening on the ice followed by some delicious hot chocolate or mulled wine? The markets will definitely keep you filled and happy as you walk through.
Why check out the Budapest Christmas Market?
One big pull factor to the Budapest Christmas Market is they really make a special effort to keeping the Hungarian traditions alive. They thrive on serving the best Hungarian foods, selling fine Hungarian handicraft, and displaying Hungarian art. As well as this, it’s such fun for the entire family. With ice skating, countless stalls, and a warming fire to gather around, a visit to a Budapest Christmas market is the perfect way to start your festivities.
What are the top ways to relax in Budapest?
If you’re looking to explore a little more of the city than the markets, you’re in luck here. My Budapest Christmas market tips wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a visit to one of the city’s legendary baths. The most famous of all, Szechenyi Baths, draw from thermal waters to create an experience leaving you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Even the open-air pools stay open during the winter, but when you see the steam rising from the water it’s pretty magical. Think of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, but in the middle of a city.
It’s possible to book spa treatments during your time there, which is a common thing in most public baths across Budapest. The Gellert Spa also offers a wide range of luxurious massages and spa experiences too, and the Art Deco architecture alone makes this place well worth checking out. Budapest’s public baths have been a central part of its history and culture for centuries, so you really can’t afford to miss them. Prices are quite reasonable too, so you should definitely check and see if there’s a special package you can book to make the most of your time at the spa!
Cruise Along the Danube
OK, so you can do river cruises in a lot of cities – that much is true. But Budapest has one of the most beautiful promenades you’ll ever see. It only gets even more pretty once the sun has set and the streetlights come on! Budapest in twilight is picture postcard beauty.
There are several different types of cruises you can book. Some depart during the afternoon, and will come with an audio guide and an option to book lunch. But I actually recommend setting aside a whole evening for one of one of the dinner cruises that depart later at night. My favourite one is the Budapest Dinner Cruise, where you can enjoy a 4-course dinner, piano music and even the option for unlimited drinks. There’s nothing more romantic than sailing past the beautiful Parliament Building as you enjoy a candlelit dinner together with your loved one. If you can book a cruise including beautiful Hungarian music to entertain you, all the better!
Ice Skating by the Palace
Ice skating is popular in many cities, but you can’t exactly go ice skating in Buckingham Palace just yet. Well, in Budapest that doesn’t matter, because every single skating ring that’s set up during the Christmas season is in a stunning location.
Perhaps the largest ice rink is in Varosligeti Mujegpalya, or City Park. Several markets across Budapest have their own little rinks, but once you see how big this one is there’s no going back. There’s a stunning entrance building with all sorts of domes and spires, but on the other side is the impressive Vajdahunyad Castle, built in 1896 to celebrate all the different architectural styles that have appeared throughout Hungarian history. It might be a wacky mix of styles when you first spot it, but when you’re skating at night and you see how the castle’s spires are lit up, it’s absolutely breathtaking.
It’s easy to see why Budapest has been enjoying more and more popularity over the past few years. Thanks to its beautiful buildings, wonderful views and a rich and vibrant sense of history, I couldn’t think of a better place to spend your next Christmas break! If a Budapest Christmas Market break doesn’t catch your fancy, fear not. I’ve spotted some other really great Christmas market deals, so be sure you check them out too. Maybe one of them will be the perfect way for you to start feeling festive!