The sky sparkles with festive spirit over the many holiday-season fairs that pop up in Hungary’s capital as autumn glides into winter, filling numerous squares and monumental buildings with merry scenes. Scented with spicy mulled wine and chimney cakes baking over open fires, these Christmas markets amaze visitors of all ages with old-fashioned wooden toys and other handicrafts, live folk-music concerts, delicious delicacies, and even some avant-garde surprises – we present a comprehensive guide to this year’s assortment of Yuletide bazaars that brighten chilly nights across Budapest.
EDITOR’S NOTE: FOR OUR UP-TO-DATE 2016 BUDAPEST CHRISTMAS-FAIR GUIDE, CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW:
The Budapest Advent and Christmas Fair
Listed among the ten prettiest Christmas markets in Europe, Budapest’s iconic fair in Vörösmarty Square is extremely popular among Hungarians as well as tourists from abroad. This rustic market embodies the quintessential winter wonderland, which is why it’s a must regardless of the long line in front of the mulled-wine booth, or the sometimes eyebrow-raising prices – but with every vendor carefully chosen for providing top-quality handmade products, this remains one of the best places to purchase classic Hungarian gifts like folk-music instruments, decorative baskets, and intricate ceramics. Amid the 1,200-square-meter gastro terrace, visitors can sample regional delicacies like goulash with prunes and mutton sandwiches with roasted paprika cream. The market’s diverse entertainment selection includes jazz, blues, folk, and soul concerts, along with an art fair and a playground for the tiniest visitors.
When: November 13 - January 6
Fashion Street Advent – Festive lights for the children
Deák Ferenc Street – aka Fashion Street – welcomes shoppers with Christmas lights and quaint wooden booths all along this upscale city-center pedestrian lane. During a multiple-hour shopping spree to purchase everything you need for the holidays, a cup of hot punch or a perfectly flaky strudel can be a real lifesaver. Kids can escape the bustling crowd at the play corner with a variety of games. Teaming up with Csodalámpa Foundation, the organizers of the market will make the Christmas wish of a severely ill child come true.
When: November 13 - January 4
Filled with life, music, and Christmas lights, Városháza Park – found in the very center of downtown Pest, a few steps away from Deák Square – becomes one of the festive spots in the city during the most wonderful time of the year. In addition to an art fair displaying high-quality handcrafted merchandise and a traditional rural show kitchen, the Glass House in the middle of the square hosts events tailored to music, culture, and literature lovers. On weeknights, amateur folk groups, choirs, and theater troupes take the stage, while weekends are dominated by kid’s events such as puppet shows, concerts, and handicraft workshops. Charity efforts are important here as well, with several fundraising events taking place to support families in need.
When: November 21 - January 3
Advent Feast at the Basilica
As kids slip and glide on a miniature ice rink centered by a tall Christmas tree, the huge façade of St. Stephen’s Basilica is illuminated with 3D holiday imagery for this charming Advent market filling Szent István Square. Long strings of Christmas lights share the air with amplified tunes as visitors peruse the little trinkets filling craft-fair stalls, creating an especially inviting atmosphere before Budapest’s biggest church. Like in previous years, market guests are invited to join the charity initiative of the Hungarian Interchurch Aid organization, but this year’s event is slightly bigger than before, featuring a food-truck show between Sas Street and Széchenyi Square with such popular vendors as Zing Burger, KolBice, , Paneer, MexKitchen, Balkán Grill, Beffaló Bill, , and Korhely.
When: November 27 - January 2
Amid its fairy-tale Art Nouveau interior, the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace once again hosts a luxury Christmas market, this time with a Nutcracker theme. The market showcases a wide range of Hungarian and international products, with Magyar brands including the Herend Porcelain Manufactory, Varga Crystal, and the renowned glove-making company Pécsi Kesztyű. Those looking for fragrances of and the finest bottles of Kreinbacher Winery will not be disappointed either. Weekends will be all about thematic events: fashion takes center stage on Thursdays, pop music on Fridays, and classical music on Saturday evenings, while the hotel’s entrance hall is filled with holiday tunes performed by children’s choirs on Sundays.
When: November 27 - December 27
Magyar Ízek Vására (Market of Hungarian Flavors)
With the Sziget Eye spinning like a gigantic snowflake in the background, the biggest gastro-themed Christmas fair in town will be full of local and international vendors selling their artisanal goodies, which can look just as enticing on the dining room table as under the Christmas tree. You can pick up extraordinary cheeses, salamis, honeys, or sweet handmade treats, or spend an entire afternoon wandering around Erzsébet Square to sample as much of the festive assortment as possible. We definitely won’t be able to resist the temptation to try some fresh poppyseed rolls, a savory fried sausage, or a golden-brown chimney cake.
When: November 27 - December 23
Gozsdu Christmas Market 2015
As an ever-buzzing hub of life and leisure in downtown Pest, Gozsdu Udvar transforms into a festive holiday-season headquarters for almost an entire month. Located between Király Street and Dob Street, the market fills these interconnected courtyards with a five-meter-tall Christmas tree, an illuminated carousel, and a narrow-gauge railway. Like all proper Christmas fairs, this one will have an amazing selection of hot drinks and tasty seasonal snacks, and Santa Claus will make an appearance along with a bunch of live reindeers on December 6th, surprising the children with heaps of Christmas presents. This is perhaps the only holiday market in town that will also host a Hanukkah celebration – the Jewish holiday will be celebrated between December 6th and 14th with a Hanukkah bench, menorahs, and traditional doughnuts.
When: November 28 - December 23
Joining in the wintertime fun for the first time, Várkert Bazaar is a new player on the Christmas-market scene. Set on the side of Buda’s magnificent Castle Hill, the elegant edifice provides the perfect backdrop for the holiday fair – visitors can feast their eyes on the panorama of bustling Pest while sipping on a steaming mug of spicy mulled wine. However, the charming location is not the only attractive aspect of the market: the gigantic candle installation of Hello Wood will be on display for the entire time of the event, and there’ll be plenty of cultural and music events featuring the Budapest Dance Theater, the Virtuózok Produkció, Sárik Péter Trio, István “Szalonna” Pál, and kids from the folk-music talent show Fölszállott a Páva. Children can take part in arts and crafts and various other activities, jump around in the dance house, and go wild in the play area.
When: November 29 - December 24