City guide

Budapest’s charming Basilica Advent Fair is now open

Photo : Attila Polyák / WLB

The Advent Fair by St Stephen’s Basilica is one of the most atmospheric in Budapest. Centrepieced by a towering Christmas tree and a free ice-rink for kids, stalls offer delicious dishes and all things jolly, while special light shows projected onto the façade of the Basilica make every night special. See below for tips on what to eat, drink and buy – and find out what film star Antonio Banderas was up to here last year!

Right in the city centre, this Christmas fair has been improving year upon year, offering an enchanted experience for all ages. The main attraction is a recent one, illuminated visuals projected onto the façade of the historic Basilica. Look out for them in the evenings, screened every half-an-hour after sunset, from 4:30pm. 2D and 3D short stories both feature and 3D glasses are available from stalls around the market.

Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB

The free ice rink is for under-14s only and there’s no charge for skate rental. At weekends, friendly instructors help little ones learn how to slide and glide on ice, also for free.

Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB

Vendors and their wares are always specially selected. The assortment includes leather products, jewellery, gloves, toys, Christmassy trinkets and all things merry, but special surprises such as miniature handmade doll’s houses also feature. Stallholders can tell you more about each item – sometimes its producer might be there, too.

Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB
Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB
Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB

The food assortment is really impressive. While it still includes classic Hungarian market food in big cauldrons, this Advent Fair always focuses on higher-quality street food. The Bocaccini stall offers cheese and meat bites with sauces, while Vegan Love awaits those who follow a meat-free diet. Our favourite is a stall offering traditional cornmeal pones from Zalaegerszeg. A decent sour cream, cheese, bacon and onion pone is ready in a few minutes, but is so filling that we recommend it to share.

 

We tried the mulled wine at three different stalls, and they were all of such decent quality we’d go back for more. A standard cup is 900 forints, so pretty much the same price as you’d find at restaurants and cafés. DiVino has four stands altogether, and as expected from these wine experts, their hot drinks are high-quality.

Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB
Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB

There is also a Christmas Bar at the beginning of Zrínyi utca, a two-floor hut offering flavoured mulled wine, hot chocolate, rum punch and other tasty treats. Fruity variations come from the addition of cranberries, strawberries, cherries or plums, with no artificial additives or extra sugar.

Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB

From the selection at the Unicum Food and Bar, we tried mulled wine infused with Unicum plum. It is super tasty, but have two glasses and you’re pretty mellow already. If you are of the braver kind, try the Unicum Jalapeño – it speaks for itself.

Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB

There is also a salmon smoker, so you can order fresh melt-in-the-mouth fish with sides or even atop a lángos flat bread.

Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB

Those who prefer finger food or have a sweet tooth can try traditional Hungarian flódni dessert, kürtőskalács (chimney cake) – with extra, filled versions – or visit the Ez Sajt stall for special cheeses. They also come lactose-free and most are award-winning. We also learned that last year, Antonio Banderas spent quite a lot of time here with the vendors, who did not recognise him due to his Picasso disguise.

Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB
Photo: Attila Polyák / WLB

The Basilica Advent Fair is open every day from noon to 10pm until 1 January.

St. Stephen's Basilica
  • 1051 Budapest, Szent István tér 1.