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Budapest turned into a proper winter wonderland for the holiday season, with life bustling wherever you go. Whether you'd rather get lost in a buzzing Christmas market, enjoy a more active/cultural programme, or eat something heartwarming, we've put together a list of things for December that are worth trying amid the festive rush.
Start your day with a Portuguese treat
Lisboa is Budapest's first Portuguese bakery and café, now boasting several new outlets. You can go to Holló utca, Bartók Béla út, and Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út near Deák tér for authentic pastries, cakes, and excellent breakfasts. Good news is for late risers: breakfast is available until 2:30 pm. And if you are all dressed for sightseeing as early as 8 am, you can also pop in for a tasty bite (they open at 8 am). In addition to the Portuguese pastries, new baker Andi Bielik has added something special this year, so the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the sourdough bread. It's also worth picking up a selection of festive Christmas cookies or take home Pasteis de Nata in 4- or 6-piece gift boxes, even as a gift.
Skate, sip on some mulled wine or have brunch in the Buda Hills
Hello Buda is a lovely meeting spot in winter, you can easily spend a whole day here. The food court next to the Rózsadomb Center is transformed into a Winter Wonderland, a great place for families and friends to enjoy. They feature an ice rink where youngsters can do laps while parents enjoy a glass of mulled wine at the cosy lodge tables. Of course, the restaurants on the heated indoor terrace are also open during the winter season. It's hard to resist legendary schnitzels from the kitchen of Buja Disznók, but Cafat's pulled pork and BBQ offerings are also tempting. Pizza Story's Neapolitan pizzas are divine, Tom Yum brings genuine Asian flavours, and VAJ's delish pastries and cookies are worth getting up early for. On Sundays, Hello Buda is a true winter staple, with the festive atmosphere of Winterland and live music, champagne, and oyster Sunday brunch starting at 11 am.
Surprise yourself with a theatre ticket and chill out at K:antin
If you'd like to surprise yourself with a theatre ticket, head to the Katona József Theatre. They will feature several English-subtitled performances in December, including Melancholy Rooms on December 30th. In Kamra, the theatre's smaller stage, Autumn in Peking will premiere on December 15th and the main stage will host Extasy on December 16th. The theatre's cafeteria, kantin: is open every day of the week, so you can stop in for a hot drink such as mulled wine, a Bailey's coffee specialty, or a delicious cake, while at the appointed times you can purchase a Katona t-shirt or souvenir at the ficak: pop-up design shop.
Savour the best mulled wine of Vörösmarty tér and the Advent Bazilika
Whether you're visiting Budapest's two biggest and most beautiful Christmas markets on a weekday during a relatively quiet period or in the weekend rush, make sure to find the stall of DiVino. They have been an Advent Bazilika staple for years, as the wine bar itself is located at the foot of St Stephen's Basilica. They have 3 large units and a Hernyák stand, but they are also worth a stroll along Vörösmarty tér. They earned the title of 'The Best Mulled Wine on the Market' with their winter drink containing 100% pure wine and their own secret blend of spices.They also sell hot cocktails based on the most popular drinks and special spirits. Those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks can choose hot tea or hot cinnamon apple juice. And you can even order your drinks in their iconic red mug!
Visit the pop-up design shop at Crowne Plaza Budapest and have a special cookie
Between December 11th and 15th, a design market will pop up at the Crowne Plaza Budapest, located next to the Westend CityCenter shopping mall at Nyugati Railway Station. One of the most creative and elegant players in the Hungarian design scene, Juli Ilyés, will give a taste of the finest jewellery and handbag creations. In addition, culinary specialities are also on offer; besides Gergő Aszódi's poppy and walnut bejgli (a Hungarian Christmas pastry, basically poppy seed and walnut rolls), you can also get bonbons, biscuits, fruit bread, and chef Viktor Csuklich's homemade granola to be placed under the Christmas tree. If you arrive early in the morning, it's a good idea to combine shopping with breakfast, as they were recently ranked second out of 86 European hotels for guest satisfaction. The hotel's Axis Café & Lounge restaurant serves seasonal dishes for lunch and evening cocktails.
Steam up the Buda Hills
On December 9th and 10th, you can enjoy a nostalgic steam train ride. With a little luck, the landscape will remain snowy, as it's nice to travel with an oldtimer tank locomotive during this time of year. In addition to the standard ticket, you must also buy a Nostalgia Ticket for the trains, and you should arrive early as places sell out quickly. For a detailed timetable, see the calendar. The area offers many great places to visit in winter, too. In this selection, we've recommended easy excursions in the area for all ages.
Recharge your batteries; grab a bite at Scruton
Scruton's Veres Pálné utca venue hosts various free events, such as Friday and Saturday night concerts. A new menu has also been created to get you in the holiday spirit: Fisherman's soup, perch fillet, and Waldorf salad will all be featured as Christmas specials. Dessert fans are spoiled with a selection of true classics, made in the newly launched confectionery. Get in the festive mood with a traditional Hungarian chocolate and sour cherry cake, fig and chestnut tart, or raspberry Opera cake, which you can take home to the Christmas table or enjoy on the spot with a delicious coffee or hot chocolate. You can also order a Christmas takeaway, which you can pick up on the spot. They also regularly host corporate Christmas events and parties, both at their Veres Pálné utca and their Zoltán utca unit.
Get on one of the holiday special vehicles
On December 1st, BKK's holiday special vehicles rolled out of their carriageway, and you can spot the illuminated trams and buses on several lines until January 7th. What's more, you can even hop on them, all you need is a valid ticket or pass. Detailed timetables can be found here.
End the day with a party at Doboz
Party in the unique red world of DOBOZ and dance under the gaze of the mighty King Kong! Try what it's like to dance with 1,500 people in the middle of a huge dance floor this Friday or Saturday! Hungary's most popular DJs are performing, and their residents are keeping you on the dance floor with the best electronic or hip hop/R&B music. This Friday, December 8th, there will be a UV party, where you can party the night away in the full spectrum of colours! As always, every Friday from midnight to 1 am in December, ladies are invited to Girls Night Out in BOX parties with unlimited champagne and free entry. It's also a good choice for a birthday party because if you bring 5 friends, you get a bottle of champagne and free entry.