Budapest has one of the best Christmas markets in Europe leading the city to be a popular winter break destination. Most visitors tend to stay 3 or 4 days but there are more than enough things to do to keep you occupied on a longer visit. The main Budapest Christmas Market and Fair is open from November and past Christmas Day until New Year’s Day.
There are multiple markets around the city but the most popular is at Vorosmarty Square and the other is in front of St Stephen’s Basilica. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the Christmas markets, it’s nice enough to just walk around and take in the atmosphere.
Budapest Christmas Market 2021
Budapest is home to the most modern and vibrant Christmas markets in Europe, the city is bustling with things to do in winter. Visit the House of Terror museum, Buda Castle, Parliament House or go ice skating at the City Park. Try langos, the famous Hungarian street food, and an afternoon slice of cake at a historic coffee house. Browse the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market for handmade Hungarian gifts and end the day watching the sunset across from the Hungarian Parliament.
Budapest Christmas Fair
There are a number of Advent and winter markets in Budapest, the main market is known as the Budapest Christmas Fair and is sometimes referred to as the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market.
Vorosmarty Square is one of the busiest squares in Pest. It’s home to the famous Cafe Gerbeaud and Budapest’s largest Christmas market. The square is the starting point of Vaci utca, Budapest’s main touristy shopping street which leads all the way to the Great Market Hall, the historic indoor food and shopping market.
Budapest Christmas Fair: The main Christmas market in Budapest.
Budapest Christmas Market dates: 8th November 2021 to 1st January 2022 (still to be confirmed).
Opening times: Usually 10am to around 9 or 10pm (to be confirmed).
Location: Varosmarty Square in the beautiful 5th district of Budapest on the Pest side of the river.
Reason to visit: Budapest is vibrant, dynamic, affordable and one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Specialities: Langos, goulash, kurtosh kalacs, salami, handmade lace and Christmas toys.
Travel tips: Even though there are many hotels in Buda, I recommend staying on the Pest side of the river. Aside from the castle area, Buda is predominantly residential and very quiet in winter. Pest has a many more sights, attractions, restaurants, parks and the Christmas markets.
Temperature in December: December temperatures are typically around 4-8C during the day with temperatures occasionally dropping below zero during the night. These days, it rarely snows in Budapest, especially not in November or December but rain is likely.
Hotels near Budapest Christmas Market: Anywhere in the 5th district should be suitable or in the 7th district (although this is the nightlife district which might not appeal to everyone). The Aria Hotel is one of the most exceptional in the 5th district and in an incredible location near both the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market and the smaller market in front of St Stephen’s Basilica. If you would prefer a budget hotel, the D8 Hotel is a great option and only 2-minutes from Vorosmarty Square.
Hotels near Budapest Christmas Market
If you’re wondering where to stay in Budapest for Christmas, our guide to hotels near Budapest Christmas Market can help you to decide. We explain the different neighbourhoods of the city and which locations are best suited for a winter city break and access to the various markets.
St Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market
There is a great Christmas market in front of the basilica from November to January. This is a smaller market but a wonderful location in historic Pest. From here you’re not far from the Hungarian Parliament, one of the most incredible sights in the city.
St Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market dates: 22nd November 2021 to 1st January 2022 (still to be confirmed).
Opening times: Usually 10am to 8pm and later on the weekends (to be confirmed).
Location: Szent István tér (St Stephen’s Square), in front of the St Stephen’s Basilica in the 5th district.
Reason to visit: A small but cosy market with a small ice rink and Christmas tree in the centre.
Specialities: Langos, goulash, kurtosh kalacs, salami, handmade lace and Christmas toys.
Travel tips: For a small fee you can take the lift to the viewing platform at the top of the basilica. If you have time to visit the nearby parliament, it is free to visit for EU nationals and a small fee is payable for others (bookings are required).
City Park Ice Rink
Just across from Heroes’ Square is Budapest’s City Park. This turns into a winter wonderland over the Christmas and New Year period with the park’s lake being turned into an outdoor ice skating rink. Ice skating has been a popular event here since the 19th-century and continues to be so today. You can hire skates here or have your own sharpened if you need to.
Erzsébet Square Christmas Market
Erzsébet Square (Elizabeth Square in English) is located just steps from the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market and yet they hold one of their own. There are lots of things going on here as it’s one of the most popular locations in Budapest for holding events. You’ll find plenty of food trucks here and outdoor bars which can get very lively at night. The square has a Ferris wheel for great views over Budapest.
Buda Christmas Market
The Buda side of Budapest holds its own small winter market with Christmas stalls that specialise in gifts, food and drinks like mulled wine. Buda Castle is an interesting destination for tourists in this area and there are often markets and events within the Castle District as well as at the base of Castle Hill along the banks of the Danube. These events change from time to time but it’s worth stopping by and exploring the narrow streets of Buda that are very different to the wide open districts of Pest.
Note that the Buda Castle funicular is currently undergoing renovations and may not reopen in time for Christmas.
The Christmas markets in Budapest are a great place to try out traditional Hungarian specialties from the famous paprika-spiced goulash or chicken paprikash to quick and easy street food like langos or kürtőskalács (chimney cake). You can get full meals at the Christmas market and there are plenty of benches and tables where you can sit but other items can easily be consumed while standing or walking around the markets.
A great introduction to Hungarian cuisine can be experienced via a food tour with a local guide. I recommend this food tour as you get to try many different specialties while also learning about Hungarian and Budapest history and culture. The tour is run by Taste Hungary, a highly respected food tour company in Budapest.
- Langos – A Hungarian speciality, langos is a deep fried flat dough, usually topped with garlic, sour cream and grated cheese. This is not only popular at the Christmas markets in Budapest but at most European Christmas markets. If you don’t get the chance to try it at the Christmas markets, you can get it at any time from Karavan on Kazinczy utca in the Jewish Quarter.
- Kürtőskalács (chimney cake) – This is the famous woodfired, sugar coated cake that is prepared in a tubular shape. It is essentially a sweet dough that is rolled around a long, ciruclar spit and cooked over coals then optionally topped with cinnamon or coconut. This dish originated in the Transylvanian region of Romania by ethnic Hungarians.
- Beef goulash – This classic Hungarian beef stew is known around the world. You can try it at the Christmas markets but you’ll have much nicer versions at one of the nearby traditional restaurants. You can find vegetarian goulash at a few places in Budapest.
- Chicken paprikash – Another classic Hungarian dish, this slow cooked chicken is served with a creamy paprika sauce, again probably best at a restaurant but you can get it from the Christmas markets at Vorosmarty Square.
- Stuffed cabbage – A well-known and popular dish all around Central Europe, the Hungarians love it too and it’s worth trying if you’re looking for a hearty meal.
- Chicken schnitzel – It’s not just the Viennese that love a schnitzel, the Hungarians have their own delicious version and this is a good option at the markets as you can easily eat it in sandwich form. If you can’t find it at the markets, one of the best, cheapest and freshest versions can be found at Belvárosi.
- Hungarian salami – Mild and spicy versions of this Hungarian specialty are easy to come by in Budapest at any of the market or supermarkets. It’s great as a snack, for a picnic or to take home with you.
- Smoke cheese – There are plenty of locally made Hungarian cheeses worth trying while in Budapest. Smoked cheese is quite common in Hungary and a unique flavour that some love.
- Pancakes – Sweet and savoury pancakes are a great snack you can enjoy while taking in the festive atmosphere. This is a cheap street food that is commonly available.
- Dobos torta – This is a famous Hungarian cake that is layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with a thin layer of caramel. There are many Hungarian cake shops around Budapest but Cafe Gerbeaud in Varosmarty Square is one of the most famous and fanciest places to try it. You can order it takeaway or eat inside the beautiful, historic cafe. Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, you can get a more affordable slice at Jégbüfé at Kígyó utca 4-6 in the 5th district.
- Tokaj wine – It’s not just Slovakia where you can find the famous Tokaj wine region, it crosses the border into Hungary too. While this region isn’t near Budapest, you can get the sweet wine at the Christmas markets and bars in the area. It’s a lovely complement to a slice of dobos torta.
- Palinka – Every country has their own version of brandy and in Hungary it is known as palinka. It comes in various fruit flavours and you can get shots from food trucks and bars. Of course, it’s very strong so won’t be to everyone’s liking but you might find a flavour you like.
- Unicum – A strong herbal liqueur that is unique to Hungary, this is a very special drink that locals drink as an aperitif or digestif. First produced in 1790, the drink is bitter and in my opinion, tastes awful. It is most definitely an acquired taste. You can read about the drink’s long history here.
Hungary has a long, rich history and cultural traditions. Budapest is a wonderful city to experience this and learn about its past and present.
Hungary celebrates St Nicholas an event that is called Mikulás in Hungarian. St Nicholas arrives in early December to give gifts to children.
Hungarians also celebrate Christmas by preparing traditional gingerbread. The gingerbread is flavoured with cinnamon and cloves and then decorated in folk motifs using red, green and white national colours.
Map of Budapest Christmas Markets
If you have any questions or comments about visiting the Budapest Xmas market in 2021 or visiting Budapest in winter more generally, please leave a comment below.
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Please be sure to follow all government travel guidelines and restrictions while in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary. Be aware these may change at short notice so please continue to monitor the situation. The latest information for locals and travellers is published by Visit Hungary, the official office of tourism.
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