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Top 3 Must Visit Budapest Christmas Markets

Top 3 Must Visit Budapest Christmas Markets

In the darkest month of the year, what could be better than enjoying some mulled wine under the sparkling Christmas lights? Budapest offers some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, an absolute must if the December festivities are your favorite.

Budapest Christmas markets are great if you are looking for unique, locally made gifts and also if you want to eat and drink some Hungarian specialties. Here are our best Christmas markets in Budapest, according to a lifelong Budapest local. 

2024 Budapest Christmas Markets Dates are coming soon

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Best overall hotel in  Budapest – Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest 
We stayed at the Kempinski hotel and love it for so many reasons, but one of the best is there is a Christmas Market right out your door, from our room we could see down on to it. It’s also one of the best locations in Budapest to stay in.

Are the Budapest Christmas Markets happening in 2024?

Yes, the Christmas markets in Budapest will be open for the 2024 season and should be less restrictive than the previous few years.

Best Budapest Christmas Markets

Large Christmas tree and busy market at vörösmarty square - Budapest Christmas Market

The Biggest Christmas Market in Budapest: Vörösmarty Square

The biggest and longest Budapest Christmas market takes place on Vörösmarty Square in the heart of the city. It starts already in mid-November and lasts until the 31st of December.

Besides the countless food stalls and craft vendors, you can enjoy free concerts by various Hungarian bands every day. Budapest takes pride in the selection of craftwork, and luckily the things for sale are authentic pieces by local artists – some traditional things and even more contemporary designs.

Our insider warm-up tip: Get a piece of cake at the gorgeous looking Szamos pastry shop (1 Váci street). Our favorite is the coffee caramel-flavored torte.

  • 1051 Budapest, Vörösmarty square
  • 2024 Dates are still to be announced, but they are generally late November to the end of December

Related Article: Top Things to do in Budapest

View of the St. Stepen's Basilica Market at night - Best Christmas Markets in Budapest

The Cosiest Christmas Market in Budapest: St. Stephen’s Basilica Market

Despite its smaller size, many visitors vote for the Christmas market in front of St Stephen’s Basilica as their favorite one. The small ice skating rink and the gorgeous Christmas tree in the middle of the square offer excellent photo ops with the magnificent church in the background.

What else makes this location special? The custom-designed light screening show is displayed on the facade of St Stephen’s. In recent years, there have been two kinds of shows, both once every hour: a “traditional” one and a 3D one for which you can buy your 3D glasses at any vendor in the market.

The “Advent Bazilika” starts around the last week of November, and you can enjoy it until the 1st of January.

Our insider warm-up tip: Enjoy one of the amazing square-shaped donuts at The Box Donut Shop on the corner of Zrínyi and Sas Street.

Related Article: Perfect 3 Days in Budapest Itinerary

Budapest Christmas Market Where the Locals Go: Óbuda

Óbuda (‘Old Buda’) is in the north of the Buda side and has a charming old town with a beautiful town hall. In front of it, there is a Christmas market every year with a larger ice skating rink, a romantic-looking carousel, and lots of free concerts.

In 2018, the Christmas tree of Óbuda was made by the artists of the Hellowood group, and the wood used to create it was donated to families in need who used it for heating.

The Óbuda Christmas market starts four weeks before Christmas and ends on the 23rd of December.

To experience this less touristy atmosphere, we recommend you hop on the H5 local train at Batthyány tér and get off at Szentlélek tér. Once you’re there, we also recommend you visit some Roman sights like the Aquincum Museum – you will be surprised to learn how important this location was for the Roman Empire!

Our insider warm-up tip: Enjoy a specialty coffee at Esernyős (2 Fő Square).

  • 1033 Budapest, Fő square
  • 2024 Dates are still to be announced, but they are generally end of November to the end of December

Related Article: Guide to Budapest’s Jewish Quarter

Aerial View of Szentendre Hungary - Best christmas Markets near Budapest

Best Christmas Market Outside of Budapest: Szentendre, Hungary

Just half an hour from the center of Budapest, you get to Szentendre, a picturesque little town with cobblestone streets and colorful old houses. It’s a perfect day trip from Budapest if you’d like to see something outside the big city!

Their Advent Market usually starts four weeks before Christmas and lasts until the first weekend in January.

They invite lots of local artists and producers from the area, and the nativity scene on the main square is the center of attention. Szentendre is also known as the art capital of Hungary, so you can always step into a gallery to warm up and enjoy the exhibitions.

To get from Budapest to Szentendre, just take the H5 local train with the destination Szentendre. The old town is just a few steps away from the train station, or you can even book a half-day tour with a comfortable minivan through Budapest 101 here

Related Article: Best Christmas Markets in Prague

What to Eat at Budapest Christmas Markets?

Meat lovers will be in heaven when visiting the Hungarian Christmas markets, but vegetarians can also find some options, so no worries.

Hungarian Traditional Goulash from Budapest Restaurant

The first thing that everybody knows about Hungarian cuisine is Goulash – or Gulyás, as locals spell it. Whether it’s a soup or a stew, it’s made of beef and paprika, and it’s the perfect dish to warm up on a cold day.

You can find similar paprika-based dishes made of other kinds of meat as well: Chicken Paprikash is also a must, preferably with some freshly made dumplings called Nokedli.

Sausage fans will also not be disappointed. There are three main kinds of traditional sausages in Hungary: the delicious ‘Kolbász’ seasoned – of course – with lots of paprika, and the two kinds of ‘Hurka’: pork liver and pork blood.

Don’t be afraid of trying any of them. The Hurkas are soft and often creamy, thanks to the rice in them. Dip the sausage in mustard or horseradish, and make sure to eat a huge slice of white bread with it!

Stuffed cabbage (‘töltött káposzta’) is also on every Hungarian’s table at Christmas. Made of sauerkraut with paprika, minced meat, and rice, it is rich in flavor and great for your tummy, like all fermented foods.

Would you like sour cream with it? The answer is always yes! Unless you can’t eat dairy, that is. Hungarians put sour cream (‘tejföl’) on almost everything. It would deserve the fame of paprika really.

Stuffed cabbage is also a staple item at wedding parties, served at midnight as the second dinner.

Woman holding a Langos - a fried dough filled with cheese served at a Budapest Christmas Market

You will also see the famous ‘lángos’ at these markets, a typical fried flatbread, but in our experience, they often prepare them in advance.

Make sure to get a really fresh piece, and don’t get tempted by all the toppings: locals would eat it with just garlic, sour cream, and cheese – pick your combination.

Man selling Chimney Cakes at a Budapest Christmas Market - Circular Dough roasted on a tube over hot coals

Of course, there is no Christmas market without sweet treats. The most classic thing you can get in Hungary is the chimney cake (‘kürtőskalács’), a hollow pastry baked over charcoal, caramelized on the outside, often rolled in cinnamon, walnut, or almond.

You can often find it in other countries, but the authentic kürtőskalács comes from Transylvania. Needless to say, don’t ruin it with Nutella, ice cream, coconut, or any of the crazy new flavors. This is something that doesn’t need any improvement!

Flódni, a wonderful Hungarian Jewish cake, is also sold at some of the markets. Look for the best at the stall of “Rachel’s Flódni” in front of the Basilica!

It unites four classic ingredients in a heavenly combination: walnut, poppyseed, apple, and plum jam. If winter holidays have a flavor, well, this is it in Hungary.

What to drink at Budapest Christmas Markets?

The staple drink of winter in Budapest is the mulled wine with soul-warming spices. Typically, it’s made of red wine, but you can find the white version of it as well. Be careful and try to get the kind made of higher quality wine.

Our pick is the Divino stand in front of the Basilica – the wine bar nearby with the same name wouldn’t risk hurting their reputation!

When it is really cold you might feel like sending down something even stronger. There are two kinds of Hungarian shots. For those who don’t mind the bitter herbal taste, we recommend the Zwack Unicum, made of more than 40 kinds of herbs, made since 1790. There’s a lighter version of it made with plums, the Unicum Szilva if you like sweeter notes.

The other classic drink is pálinka, a strong fruit brandy that can be made from any fruit that grows in Hungary. Typically, around 40-50% of alcohol, sometimes even more, and many families make their own.

If you are lucky enough to visit a Hungarian family in the countryside, they will most likely offer their homemade pálinka for you, and it’s a really impolite thing to refuse it.

Related Article: Budapest Nightlife & Ruinbar Guide

What to buy at the Christmas Markets in Budapest?

You will find plenty of modern designers and artists at the fairs, and they offer a huge range of products. They are full of creative energy, and you will definitely find something of your liking that will remind you of your Budapest trip for many years. We recommend you support them instead of buying the cliché China-made souvenirs.

But let’s talk about the more classic products!

Something very traditional is the gingerbread, or as Hungarians actually call it, honey bread (‘mézeskalács’). Decorating it with fine lines of sugar glaze is an art form in itself.

It is often sold by honey vendors as it is made with lots of liquid gold. Honey itself is a good gift idea: Hungary is one of the best producers in the world. You can also find wax candles that smell amazing when burnt.

Wooden tools and toys are also common at Hungarian fairs. There is a long tradition of wood carving, especially in Transylvania. The Vörösmarty Square usually features a smith’s workshop as well, where you can see how iron objects are made in an authentic way.

Pottery is impossible to miss when in Hungary. While you can buy the fancy porcelain products by Zsolnay and Herend in dedicated stores, the markets offer a wonderful range of – much more affordable – pottery pieces. There are all styles and kinds, something for every household.

Related: Gorgeous Castles in Hungary to Visit

Hungarian Christmas Traditions

You will be surprised to see that Santa Claus is not so present in Hungary around Christmas. The reason is that he has his own day, the 6th of December. According to local tradition, he brings little presents to the Hungarian kids during the previous night. He leaves a red bag full of candy, chocolate, nuts, and fruits in the shoes that kids leave in the window.

Of course, the kids must clean it before! It’s probably the only time when it’s finally not the parents’ job. Kids that couldn’t behave this year also get a type of golden or silver-colored wand in their pack – in fact, most kids get one anyway.

In Hungary, the 24th of December is the most important day when close family members get together, they decorate the Christmas tree, give each other presents, and eat. A lot. So who brings the presents on this day if not Santa? Baby Jesus. To be honest, he’s never pictured bringing the gifts. We are not sure how he travels.

Because of this, the 24th is the quietest day in Budapest. Public transportation switches to night mode in the afternoon, most businesses and restaurants are closed, and very few locals go out at night.

It is a good idea to reserve a table in time if you spend these days in Budapest, but if you stay hungry, you can always grab something at the fairs.

Large Budapest Ice Rink with old buildings behind - things to do in Budapest in December

One more thing that you must at least see while in Budapest in winter: the huge open-air ice skating rink on the Városligeti lake in the City Park. Surrounded by gorgeous architecture, it’s the most romantic place in the colder months!

It was popular already in the 19th century, and it’s just so much fun to imagine the ladies back then in their long, elegant skirts skating around the lake! It provided an excellent opportunity to meet the future husband as well. The rink is usually open from November until February, and you can rent skates there.

sunburst coming through the yellow archway of the Szechenyi Thermal Baths - Famous Budapest Baths

To finish the perfect winter day in Budapest, there’s nothing better than walking over to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths and sitting in the steamy outdoor thermal pool. If you are lucky enough, you can catch the older gentlemen playing chess in the water!

Budapest Holiday and Christmas Market Tours

If you would like to learn more about the winter holidays in Hungary, the Christmas markets, and the city itself, don’t hesitate to book a private tour with Budapest 101. They offer a special Christmas-themed tour as well, with lots of tastings!

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