What makes Budapest Christmas Markets unique? Is it the food or the atmosphere? Or maybe both?
Budapest has become famous for its Christmas Market since the early 1990s. The city attracts thousands of tourists every year, who come from around the globe to stroll through the stalls, eat traditional Hungarian food, and get in the festive spirit.
Since it’s such a great time to visit Budapest, you’ll want to book your cozy vacation rental home with plenty of time in advance.
Use this guide to experience the splendor of Christmas markets in Budapest.
The dates change from year to year, but generally, you can expect Budapest Christmas markets to be active from mid-November to early January.
Thankfully, the stalls don’t close up shop after December 25th, so you can still experience the Christmas markets even if you plan your trip to Hungary to coincide with the New Year.
Prepare yourself for a very chilly winter! In the deepest of winter, the average temperatures are between 29°F (-1°C) and 34°F (1°C). Coats, scarves, and gloves are a must if you want to stay comfortable while walking around on your Christmas market tour.
Don’t worry the stalls will have plenty of typical drinks and food to keep you warm. More on what you need to try while here down below!
Budapest has quite a straightforward and well-maintained city transport system. The good news is, many of the main markets are in the city center, meaning that walking between them is completely doable.
However, for those who want to hop on a bus, metro, or tram can easily purchase a 24 or 72-hour transport pass through BKK.
Tip: If you have an extra day in your itinerary, you can always hop a train to Vienna and see their magnificent markets as well. Journeys are very manageable for a day trip since it’s only 2 1/2 hours away.
One of the most beloved Budapest Christmas markets takes place right in the city center, at Vörösmarty Square. As you approach, you’ll likely notice the giant Christmas tree, towering over merrymakers and setting the scene for Christmas cheer.
Once at the market, you can peruse the huts for handcrafted Hungarian goods (the ceramics and hand painted gingerbread are particularly captivating) and dine on succulent Hungarian food. Be serenaded by live music and performances from the festival stage while you browse.
While you're here, don't pass up the chance to surround yourself with old-world elegance in Gerbeaud Cafe--a lauded confectionery founded in 1870. Try traditional Hungarian cakes and sip an espresso to fuel you for your next stop on your Christmas tour!
The Vörösmarty Square market is also connected directly to Fashion Street, the brightest street in Budapest thanks to its extensive Christmas light displays!
Nov. 18th to Dec. 28th
11AM - 9 PM Mon to Thurs and Sunday
11 AM - 10 PM Fri & Sa
Often overlooked by tourists, the Óbuda Christmas market is a local favorite! Budapest is actually made of three old cities–Buda, Pest, and Óbuda ("Old Buda"). If you make your way just a little north of Budapest's city center, you'll find Óbuda Christmas market, with its charming old town lit up with a rosy glow. Glide on the ice skating rink or hop on the carousel for a gleeful ride.
In order to celebrate Christmas with the locals, take the H5 (suburban railway train) from Batthyány tér to Szentlélek tér, merely a 15-minute ride. Since you're heading north anyways, perhaps stay on a few more stops to Aquincum, the open-air museum of Roman ruins that puts on live reenactments and activities.
Budapest has made it onto lists of the best Christmas markets in the world, and the Basilica Advent market is a large part of the reason why! Actually voted Best Christmas Market in Europe in 2022, the bursting courtyard is nestled in front of the impressive St. Stephen's Basilica.
The 19th-century church is one of Budapest's most jaw-dropping landmarks, and it serves as a majestic backdrop to the market. A visit to all of the city’s most beautiful cathedrals becomes even more festive with the spectacular Christmas lights.
Tip: Time your visit on a Sunday and see the Basilica in action during a mass (this way you might also be able to sneak a peek at the holy relic of the hand of Szent István himself). If you have time, buy a ticket for the lookout point (elevators available) and see all of Budapest's dazzling holiday lights from a birds-eye-view!
The market is quite accessible, just a stone's throw away from the central Deák Ferenc Square. Walk around and try delicious Hungarian food, hop on Santa's sleigh for a VR experience, and enjoy the sight of the ice skating rink right in the center (it's a small rink, however, so only children are allowed).
Nov. 18th to Jan. 1st
11AM - 9 PM Mon to Thurs and Sunday
11 AM - 11 PM Fri & Sat
If you’ve ever walked along the riverside, it’s hard to miss the superb Buda Castle perched up on the hill, guarding the city. You’ll find that a trip to Budapest isn’t complete without visiting the winding, well-preserved streets of the Castle District, and it’s even more beautiful during the festive period. The courtyards and paths are dotted with stalls, selling traditional food and wares.
If a mug of mulled wine isn’t enough to warm you up, stop off in Ruzswurm Confectionery for some old-world charm (and of course, delicious cake). Once you reach Buda Castle’s entrance, take a moment to drink in the panoramic view of all of Budapest spread before you.
One of the smaller treasure-boxes of Christmas markets can be found in Elizabeth Square. If you’re not sure where that is, simply look for the Budapest Eye–the Ferris wheel that takes you up 65 meters for a view of the entire city!
Situated just next to Deák Ferenc Square, this market is a perfect little stopover as you continue on to the bigger ones. Elizabeth Square is surrounded by many bars and cafes, making it a perfect place to stop for a drink while soaking up the Christmas cheer.
Tip: Save your visit for the evening so you can see Budapest illuminated by Christmas lights!
No matter the time of year, the Great Market Hall is your go-to place for gifts, classic Hungarian food, and souvenirs. However, visiting during the Christmas season takes it to the next level.
You can explore the different levels of the hall, from the food goods on the ground floor, to the souvenir stalls filled to the brim up above. You’ll also find food stalls where you can try traditional Hungarian food–and in a warmer setting than if you were huddled around a market table outside. Before you know it, your arms will be laden with gifts and souvenirs that will delight and awe.
Tip: Keep an eye out for pop-up stalls selling szaloncukor. These chocolate bon-bons come in a variety of flavors, signified by the rainbow of foil wrappings. Hungarians actually take these colorful sweets home and use them to decorate their tree!
We can only describe the food displays of the Budapest Christmas markets as mouthwatering. After you’ve made a lap or two around the markets, you’ll notice that the vendors are all selling basically the same things. But with food this tasty, we’re not ones to complain! Want to try classic Hungarian food but don’t know where to start? Here’s a brief guide.
Perhaps the most famous Hungarian food of all (although you may have seen it spelled like “goulash”), this hearty soup should be at the top of your list. Based off of beef and seasoned with the famous Hungarian paprika, this dish is sure to warm you up. Ask for some in a bread bowl if you’d like to make it extra filling.
If it’s meat you’re after, you must try this juicy sausage. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as biting into a freshly grilled kolbász–don’t forget to ask for bread and a side of mustard!
If you’re looking for a way to stay full for hours, stuffed cabbage (‘töltött káposzta') is a must. Saurkraut, minced meat, rice, and paprika are mixed together and wrapped in cabbage leaves, and this meal is a staple for cold, wintry nights. Eat it like a true Hungarian and add a large dollop of tejföl (sour cream) on top!
If you see something resembling a large, flat donut, you’ve likely spotted lángos. This fried bread warms and fills you up in equal measure. If you’re eating it the traditional Hungarian way, you’ll first have it slathered in garlic and then topped with sour cream and soft white cheese.
However, the market stalls certainly get creative, and there are loads of toppings to choose from. A word to the wise: Many stalls will make these in advance for convenience–make sure to find ones that are pulled fresh out of the oil.
Called a chimney cake for its cylindrical shape, this treat is entertaining to eat. This mildly sweet bread is coiled around a cylinder and then rolled in a variety of toppings. There's nothing more mesmerizing than watching the cakes being turned over hot coals.
Popular flavors are: cinnamon, cocoa, and walnut, although at markets you can find even more colorful variations. Some stands even take it to the next level by filling the cakes with ice cream!
Forralt bor is the ubiquitous drink that you’ll see in gloved hands all winter long. Hungarian wine is mulled with enticing spices, and a glass or two will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Go for the classic red wine or try one of the many variations!
If you want to take warming up to a whole other level, you might take advantage of classic Hungarian liqueurs. Zwack Unicum is concocted from a secret recipe of over 40 types of herbs and has an earthy taste similar to Jagermeister. Pálinka, on the other hand, is a fruit brandy that’s famous for its high alcohol content (around 40-50%!).
Strolling through the Christmas markets is beautiful, no doubt. But have you tried gliding around under the festive lights? Put yourself right in the middle of the action by lacing up your skates and visiting one of Budapest's ice rinks. Don't forget to warm up with a cup of mulled wine!
This is the most famous Budapest ice rink--and some might even argue that it's the most picturesque. The star of the scene is the majestic Vajdahunyad Castle that towers over the frozen lake. If the castle strikes you as unique, you're not wrong--it's an amalgamation of architectural styles across the ages, from Medieval to Baroque to the Neo-Renaissance.
With such a pretty view, it's a pleasure to whiz around the largest outdoor ice rink in Europe. Get to City Park by taking the historic Metro 1 (the first metro in continental Europe!) all the way to Heroes Square.
As mentioned above, the award-winning Basilica Christmas Market has an ice rink right in the center. We're sure this has been the source of many childhood memories, as only children are allowed.
Outside of the normal tourist zone, the Bálna (or, "whale") complex is a futuristic structure with hip bars and restaurants.
During the winter, they set up a small ice rink right on the river's edge, affording you views of the beautiful Blue Danube river. What's more, admission is free! Skate rentals are available. Quite accessible from Gellért Square, you need only to cross Liberty Bridge and then walk a picturesque 10 minutes down the river.
A relatively new addition to Budapest's winter activities, this small rink is in Parliament's backyard. It's the perfect add-on to a scenic riverside walk, and even tends to be less crowded since it’s off the typical tourist path.
The modern museum is a sight to see in itself, but come Christmas, Müpa adds to the festive cheer by installing an ice rink in its courtyard. Müpa puts on a host of musical and theatrical programs–check their schedule to see what performances coincide with the rink.
Strolling through Budapest Christmas markets is the perfect activity to enjoy the festive season in the Hungarian capital. Using this guide, you can stock up on souvenirs and soak up the holiday joy!