Festivals, cool concerts, cultural events and amazing parties – Budapest is always buzzing. Every month, we bring together all of the important happenings taking place in and around Hungary’s capital, so you can plan ahead. In December, Santa Claus Day, Santa Speedo Run and New Year’s Eve trotting races are all among the many exciting events you shouldn’t miss. Whether you would like to shake it to the coolest beats, immerse yourself in culture or give in to guilty pleasures, we present a bunch of suggestions for the upcoming weeks. Get out there and enjoy everything that Budapest has to offer!
With the arrival of December, autumn glides into winter, and the city starts to sparkle with festive spirit – the most wonderful time of the year is here once again! Holiday-season fairs and ice skating rinks are now open citywide, setting heartwarming wintry scenes and enticing everyone with live music, cultural events, a varied selection of merry merchandise and delicious festive treats. Vörösmarty tér, and the downtown area around the Basilica and Városháza tér, as well as the Gozsdu Udvar are already warming hearts with cinnamon-scented fairs, while many open-air ice rinks allow visitors to slide and glide. See our round-up of Christmas markets here and ice rinks here.
Ice skating alfresco
With winter upon us, don your skates and draw figure eights! Whether you amaze people with your smooth moves on ice or amuse them with epic falls, you can slide and glide alfresco at many skating spots around town. Settings stretch from stunningly historic to cool and modern, and all have tasty treats to boost your mood between laps, too. See our selection here.
Santa Claus Day in Hungary
Good old Santa Claus is really busy during December preparing for his gift-giving journey around the world – but he always sets time aside to visit Hungarians just that bit earlier. In certain Central European countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Hungary, Santa Claus comes on the feast day for Saint Nicholas, 6 December. Therefore, the city fills with various festivities on this day, making everyone merry. Special menus, brunches, kid’s attractions, decorations await citywide, and between 4pm and 5pm, families can even meet the real Santa Claus, Joulupukki, at Budapest’s biggest Christmas Fair in Budapest on Vörösmarty tér.
Night of Tattoo Artists
Inked bodies gather on 8 December at Dürer Kert for the Night of Tattoo Artists, where significant representatives of Budapest’s tattoo scene guide visitors into the world of wacky figures. Whoever buys a ticket automatically enters a draw, and the winner gets a chance to be permanently decorated by one of the talented artists for free (with romance-themed designs for couples, too). You can also get a professional make-up job done, enjoy the cocktail bar and several concerts, or just hang out with other tattoo fans. More details (in Hungarian!)
Street Music for the Homeless
This year, Amnesty International Hungary celebrates Human Rights Day by supporting the work of NGOs that help the homeless. On 8 December, the closing event of their campaign is a free unplugged concert in the underpass of Blaha Lujza tér, with the contribution of many Hungarian musicians. You can support the cause with donations on the spot.
This winter, on 8 December, Hungarian contemporary circus company Recirquel present a new production evoking the atmosphere of the winter holidays. The magical world of Crystal awaits children and adults alike in a snow-covered circus tent erected in front of the Müpa building. The story recalls classic fairytales and a story about mistress of the crystal world, all to get you in the holiday mood. Performances start at 11am and 3pm. For tickets and more information, visit the Müpa website.
Santa Speedo Run
On 8 December a team of underdressed Santas take the streets to run around central lanes and thoroughfares wearing a swimsuit, sneakers, a Santa hat and really not much else. This initiative began in Boston in 2000, when five guys ran through Back Bay wearing only Speedos and Santa hats to spread some holiday spirit. Since then, it has grown into a huge annual event attracting hundreds each year to create a surreal wintry scene. The run finishes at the Széchenyi Baths, where everyone can melt their goose bumps away. Everyone is welcome to join the team between 2pm and 2:30pm near the Go Active Fitness Centre in the Gozsdu Udvar. Come early to get a Santa hat and face painting. More details (in Hungarian)
This one is for the lovers of classical music. One of Hungary’s most famous Hungarian composers, creator of the world-famous Kodály Method of music tuition, Zoltán Kodály was born on 16 December in 1882. This year on this day, the stunning Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music is holding a special concert to commemorate Kodály’s great oeuvre and legacy. More details
New Year's Eve trotting races
If you want to test your last bit of 2018 luck or just want to do something special on the last day of the year, head to Budapest’s premier racecourse, Kincsem Park, on 31 December. At this traditional build-up to NYE before everyone goes off and parties in town, modest amounts of forints are won and lost, and a good time is had by all. Holiday surprises also await visitors. More details (in Hungarian)
New Year's Eve
Budapest always rings in the New Year with spectacular fireworks, street parties and countless special events. The selection is always super wide, stretching from an exclusive feast on a floating restaurant moored by the Chain Bridge, an atmospheric evening of live violin melodies – and, of course, rowdy parties. Look out for our article nearer the time with details of all events.