With Europe's most beautiful Christmas market, alfresco ice rinks, historic baths and magical city views, Budapest is one of the best places to be in December. Here is our list of 13 things to do and see to make your holiday season truly memorable.


Browse the Christmas markets

Budapest squares had put on their Sunday bests and transformed into buzzing Christmas markets. Teeming with festive treats (Hungarian sweetbread chimney cake is a must-try), steaming mulled wine and gorgeous handcrafted goods, they all have something unique to offer too. Head to the award-winning fair at St Stephen's Basilica for a breathtaking setting, concerts and an alfresco ice rink. Walk to Vörösmarty Square to see the dazzling lights of Fashion Street and shop baubles and bejgli (another Hungarian Christmas delight) at Gerbeaud's Christmas Jingle pop-up shop. Or visit the Main Square of Óbuda to feel like a local, walking among friendly faces while gorging on goodies and testing the ice rink with your family.


Skate alfresco

Budapest has some pretty amazing answers to outdoor skating. At City Park Ice Rink you can draw figure eights backdropped by magical Vajdahunyad Castle. At Csepel Ice Park you can feel like a local, sliding through special ice corridors (connecting two ice rinks). And you can be among the first ones to try the ice rink at popular open-air concert venue Budapest Park, opening on December 1st.


Catch the Advent Tram

Hop on a tram saying 'Adventi villamos(Advent Tram) on the front, and you will get to sit amongst lovely garlands and baubles while travelling past iconic landmarks. The Advent Tram runs every day until Christmas (23 December), between 2pm-5pm on weekdays and between 10am-5pm at weekends. Click to see where to catch it. 


Sip mulled wine in an igloo

Rooftop views of Budapest are just as spectacular in winter as they are in summer - which you can test at Andrássy Avenue's 360 Bar. Wrap yourself in a blanket, sip mulled wine or a Ho Ho Ho Hot Toddy and munch your way through snacks in one of the heated igloos of this iconic rooftop terrace, overlooking the city (and sights such as St Stephen's Basilica).


See light installations at Lumina Park

A magical light exhibition took over Margaret Island's Palatinus Open-Air Baths for the autumn-winter season. Though Lumina Park is not specifically Christmas-themed, Budapest's new attraction will definitely put you in the mood with its special light and sound-filled fairytale land. 


Have an afternoon tea at the Gresham Palace

Visiting elegant cocktail bar Múzsa for an afternoon tea is more Hungarian than you would think. First, the bar is located in the heart of one of Budapest's most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, Gresham Palace. Second, the tea is served in hand-painted porcelain, coming from Hungary's famous Herend Porcelain Manufactory. Make sure to book a table, so you can toast your teacups while enjoying some festive feasting too. The afternoon tea is available from Thursdays to Sundays from 3 PM to 6 PM in December. You can make a reservation HERE


Cosy up at Normafa Ski House after a walk

As much as you might love the bustling city, a forest walk high above it and the silence around it always provide peace and quiet. And Normafa Ski House could be a great way to start or end a lovely wintery walk at Normafa. Imbued with the atmosphere of an Alpine chalet, you can warm body and soul with a hot drink in your hands. The Ski House is for friendly conversation over strudel and mulled wine, mingling or finding your favourite winter read on the communal bookshelf.


Wrap yourself in Alpine atmosphere at Hello Buda

If you don't feel like doing the whole forest walk for the Alpine atmosphere, you can also stay closer to the city centre and head to Hello Buda. Nestled in hilly Rózsadomb, family-friendly gastro hub transformed into a winter wonderland with skating, adorable decorations, festive lights and matching music.


Marvel at the work of El Greco

For the first time, a comprehensive exhibition of El Greco's oeuvre is on show in Budapest, at the Museum of Fine ArtsThe aim of the exhibition is to provide a broad overview of the oeuvre of one of the most outstanding masters in the history of European art, the Spanish-Cretan El Greco. So expect such famous paintings as The Baptism of Christ from the Prado in Madrid, St Louis, King of France, with a Page from the Louvre in Paris, Christ driving the Traders from the Temple from the National Gallery in London.


Have a sweet steamed bun at Czakó kert's farmers' market

Nothing speaks to the heart of the Millenial like a farmers' market. Except if it is a farmers' market coming with sweet steamed buns (gőzgombóc). Both will be available every weekend in December at Czakó Kert. And the list goes on with the usual delicacies: such as goats’ cheese, organic fruit and veggies, jams and smoked meats - so make sure to bring your tote bag.


Have a festive brunch at The Ritz Carlton, Budapest

They take Sunday brunch very seriously at The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest. What's more, it comes in a Christmas edition in December. This means you are invited to spend quality time with your loved ones over free flow of bubblies, lavish seafood and Art of Cake, around the magical Christmas tree, while listening to live music. The setting is the beautiful Kupola Lounge, right under the magnificent glass dome of the hotel. While there, also pop into Kaffee Wien, which got a festive photo corner, where you can snap Christmas card-worthy pictures.
To reserve a table, send an email to restaurantbudapest@ritzcarlton.com.


Get festive with an organ concert

There is festivity beyond the Christmas markets and dazzling lights too. So if you are opting for a different kind of holiday spirit, and would like to find peace and intimacy amidst all the buzz of the city, visit one of the organ recitals at St Stephen's Basilica.


Relax in thermal baths

After ticking off items on your list, such as shopping at Christmas markets, feasting on festive meals and taking loads of photos, you’ve earned a couple of hours at a thermal bath. Go to Széchenyi Baths, the largest spa complex in Europe, housed in a stunning Classicist and Neo-Renaissance building, to take a dip in steaming outdoor pools and play chess. Or head to the magnificent Art Nouveau building of Gellért Baths. Within, thermal and swimming pools display the same gorgeous decorative aesthetic as envisaged more than a century ago.