Yes, there may be a curfew in place from 8pm, but with darkness closing in around 4.30pm, there’s still a couple of hours for safe and tourist-free strolls around Budapest to admire the twinkling lights of Europe’s most beautiful capital in December.
Andrássy út & city centre
Nowhere is more decked out in Christmas lights than the city centre, of course, and with no tourists, it’s all an easy stroll. The main boulevards of Andrássy út and the Nagykörút are both sparkling with festivity, while Deák Ferenc utca, aka Fashion Street, is resplendent in glittering silver. Ornaments have been made and light up in an environmentally friendly way this year – as you can see around Vörösmarty tér, usually the site for Budapest’s busiest Christmas market – and you can still pick up a mulled wine around the Basilica and saunter along to Kossuth tér.
Extensive Buda Castle has many vantage spots worth exploring. Its most
beautiful promenade, Tóth Árpád sétány, on the south-western side is, the
perfect spot for admiring the twinkling lights of the houses dotting the Buda
hills. On the other side, from the Fishermen’s Bastion and Savoy terrace, you
can take in the view of downtown Pest and the Danube. The Castle District
itself has plenty of its own sights, of course, towered over by the gingerbread
roof and Gothic spire of Matthias Church.
Danube bridges & embankments
You don’t always have to scale the slopes if you want to admire the
lights of Budapest – there are plenty of vantage points as you walk along on
the banks of the Danube on either the Pest and Buda side, not to mention cross
any bridge between them. Starting the walk at Müpa, you can climb up the twisted
ziggurat (with an exhibition space inside) and from there continue on to the
Nehru embankment. From Liberty Bridge to Margaret Bridge, both riverbanks are
beautiful, one featuring Parliament, the other Castle and Gellert Hill.
Fátra tér panorama
This lesser-known but pretty panoramic spot is best accessed from the
streets below Farkasréti cemetery, the gateway to this romantic meeting place
on Sas-hegy with benches ideal for gawping and canoodling.
Gellért Hill offers the most beautiful panorama in the city, which local
lore reckons it has a certain spiritual power. The top spot is clearly Citadella,
to be equipped with a cable car in the future but for the time being, the steps
and the intensive exercise they entail will have to do. Starting the walk from Gellért
tér, you pass the Cave Church, and your first inkling of the view to
come, with more lookout points popping up later. Approaching the hilltop from
the Tabán side, it’s worth a slight detour to the Philosophers’ Garden for its
The cobbled streets of Óbuda, the Zichy Palace and the main square of Fő tér are especially cosy at this time of year with all the Christmas decorations. Elsewhere in Óbuda, you can walk around the grassy space and playground on Folyóka utca, between the residential blocks, for a wonderful panorama. From here, a spot few others know about, you can even see Parliament.
From the Buda side of Margaret Bridge, you can start a small tour taking
in three lookout spots: the Tomb of Gül Baba, nearby Mansfeld Péter park and the
vantage point of József-hegy. Rózsadomb is how everyone refers to this
incline, although its official name is Szemlő-hegy. The route is lined with
beautiful villas, giving rise to a nickname coined in the 1950s: the Party elite’s