The essence of the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve is getting in the holiday spirit. Although being stressed out about the unavoidable madness known as gift shopping might rain on your Advent parade, it is more than possible to get away from the mall pogo thanks to cultural curiosities and outdoor fairs, with the latter characterized by family-friendly programmes, concerts, handcrafted goods, mulled wines, Hungarian delicacies, and beautiful fairy lights. To guide you to the festivities worth checking out, we”ve collected the very best Budapest has to offer during the merry weeks of Advent.
Óbuda’s name – meaning “Old Buda” – tells the whole story. Before the capital’s three parts were unificated into one major metropolis, Óbuda used to be a pleasant, tiny town with a rich historical background. Óbuda’s main attractions are undoubtedly the ruins of Aquincum, the capital of the Roman Empire’s Pannonia province, although the cobblestone streets and the renovated baroque buildings are also must-sees. The small town-vibe and the community’s cohesive nature become even more emphatic at Christmas time, when both attributes are echoed by Óbuda’s Advent festivities. Basically the whole district takes its share in organizing the family-friendly programmes, thus the repertoire is as colorful as a set of fairy lights and attracts all ages. You shouldn’t miss out on the pair of Christmas fairs. One of them offers handcrafted goods and arts and crafts workshops on weekends, an outdoor ice rink with no entry fee and cultural gatherings on weekdays; while the other guarantees heaps of fun all week long with concerts, a children’s zoo, sweets, mulled wine, and authentic Hungarian delicacies. Restaurant discounts, charity donations, a drawing contest for kids, and several other activities assure that you’ll get in the holiday spirit faster than Santa Claus slides down chimneys.
If you’ve had the fortune to scan through real estate advertisments, you surely are familiar with an overused term that goes “in the heart of the city”. Most of the time, it’s an exaggerating sales tool, but in the case of downtown Budapest’s Vörösmarty tér (Vörösmarty Square), it’s more than valid. Deák Ferenc téris just around the corner, Váci utca (Váci Street), theDanube Promenade, Gerbeaud Confectionery, and (Chain Bridge) are well within sight, and chic clubs such asTrafiqand are as close as Rudolph is to starring in a nasal spray TV spot. Vörösmarty Square’s Christmas Fair is characterized by wooden stands, mouth-watering scents, Hungarian dishes and spirits, a visit from the original Finnish Santa Claus on 6 December, a giant Advent crown, charity donations, a magical realm and a playhouse with arts and crafts for children, and concerts every single day between 5 pm and 8 pm.
Eventuell Gallery, located in downtown Budapest, specializes in jewellery, textile, and fashion design. Their Gift-Music+ series, which consists of three separate events between 24 November and 8 December, not only focuses on the aforementioned fields of art, but also brings those together with classical music. The first night is denoted to fashion and dancing, the second one to textile, and the third one to jewellery. The initiative’s gist is to introduce all parttaking talents, and to demonstrate that various fields of art can coexist and cooperate to morph into a community-creating force that’s also capable of providing entertainment. For more information, check out Eventuell’s website.
Advent Chocolate Festival
Some say that you shouldn’t trust a woman who loves the blues. We’re not the ones to decide if there’s any truth to that, but we’re more than willing to follow such a thought process and declare that you shouldn’t trust a person who doesn’t love chocolate. Organized by Giorgio Perlasca Vocational Secondary School of Catering, Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Cultural Center – situated in the 10th District – will give home to weekend-long celebrations centered around chocolate. Lollipop and fondant candy workshops, a trio of concerts – one by Kaláka, a folk music band, one by Tutta Forza Orchestra starring famous movie scores, and one by Eszter Horgas, a renowned flutist – , exhibitions, mulled wines, mulled beers, a chocolate cake contest, the screening of Lasse Hallström’s Chocolat, and Advent crown decorating for the whole family ensure that both your weekday troubles and your craving for sugar will be gone.
Advent Feast at St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Square, the home of St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the eye-pleasing neighbour of several sights such as the Danube Promenade and Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, will serve as the scene for a grandiose Christmas fair. The basic ingredients – wooden stands selling handcrafted goods, hunger-inducing scents, mulled wines, playful programmes for children, and charity donations – hold no major surprises. Regardless, the repertoire is as long as Santa’s beard, and includes curiosities such as a Gourmet Weekend between 14 and 16 December, light painting on Basilica’s wall every day from 5:30 pm, and ice skating on a free-of-charge outdoor rink until your feet can take it – or at least until closing time.
While the crazy Christmas rush is expected inside shopping malls, preparation and mood setting programs happen mainly outside of them, in this case outside Allee shopping center. The stands seem to be functioning as resting spots before the real game starts, so all those who decided to partipate can sip mulled wine and buy handcrafted charms that might bring them luck finding their dream-pressent on sale.
Christmas market at Liszt Ferenc square
Of course such a prominent place like Liszt Ferenc tér cannot miss out on the Christmas Fair series of 2012 with the usual mulled wine, roasted meat, souvenirs and alcoholic beverages to warm up both your body and your soul. Here you can even meat Santa Claus and you can see street theater performances under the moody Christmas lights.