Winter in Szeged brings shorter days and a festive atmosphere as the city prepares for its annual Christmas market.
The town is known for its impressive Votive Church, the vibrant University of Szeged and the thermal baths that draw visitors throughout the year.
In this guide, I’ll detail the essentials, including this year’s market dates, operational hours, specific sites and what to eat while you’re there.
Szeged’s Christmas season resonates with the glow of festive lights against the backdrop of its Art Nouveau architecture, casting a warm ambience on the city’s squares and streets.
The chill of the Hungarian winter is often softened by the communal warmth of traditional outdoor gatherings, where locals and visitors share the season’s cheer.
Szeged Christmas Market 2023
At the heart of Szeged’s festive celebrations, the Dóm Téri Advent stands out with its unique setting.
Amid the city’s large squares and avenues, the Christmas market unfolds, particularly transforming Dóm tér into a lively hub of cultural exchange.
Stalls teeming with Carpathian handicrafts, suitable for Christmas gifts, bring the city’s Roman and Ottoman history to life through traditional partisanship.
The aroma of hot drinks wafts through the air, reminiscent of Szeged’s role as the birthplace of paprika, adding to the market’s local flavour.
Seasonal entertainment takes to the open-air theatre in Dóm tér, offering musical and folklore performances alongside puppet shows crafted to captivate children.
Simultaneously, the antiquities fair in Dugonics tér presents a trove of treasures, linking the market’s festive spirit with the allure of history and collectibles.
Dates and Information
Szeged Christmas Market dates: 25th November to 24th December 2023.
Location: Dóm Tér.
Opening times: Monday to Friday 12pm to 9pm, Saturday to Sunday 10am to 9pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Christmas lights: Yes, switch on date: 25th November.
Ice skating: Yes, at Dóm Tér.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, but not recommended during busy periods.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: Historic ambiance, authentic Carpathian crafts, vibrant cultural performances, unique paprika-infused treats, antique treasures.
Food specialities: Spicy fish soup, chimney cake, paprika-seasoned sausages, stuffed cabbage, honey cookies, mulled wine.
Where to stay: Art Hotel Szeged is a popular hotel, located 3 minutes from the market.
Hotels near Szeged Christmas Market
Staying close to Dóm tér is ideal for visitors looking to experience the festive atmosphere of the Christmas market.
The area is central, well-connected and bustling with seasonal activities. For a comfortable stay, Art Hotel Szeged comes highly recommended due to its proximity to the market and its well-regarded services.
Recommended Walking Tours
Exploring Szeged with a local guide provides a direct route to understanding its history and vibrant culture.
The city’s historic centre is a sight to behold, with grand squares and Art Nouveau buildings that testify to its past, making Szeged a city you should see at least once.
I find guided tours around Szeged particularly enlightening, especially for those here for the first time.
They often cover the city’s significant spots like the Votive Church and the symbolic bridges spanning the Tisza River.
On these tours, you’ll visit notable landmarks, including the Szeged National Theatre and the university grounds, known for their architectural grandeur.
Alternatively, consider a food tour to experience the region’s flavours, from renowned fish soup to sweet honey cookies.
These tours have gained popularity, and rightly so – they’re an enjoyable way to connect with Szeged’s culinary heritage.
To broaden your festive horizons across Hungary, delve into my Hungary Christmas Markets 2023 guide which covers the best markets to visit this season.
Christmas in Szeged
- Halászlé (Fisherman’s soup) Hungary is landlocked, yet fish dishes are prominent in Szeged, particularly halászlé. Traditionally cooked over an open flame, this spicy soup combines river fish, typically carp, with a rich paprika-laden broth. It warms you from the inside, making it perfect for the chilly market evenings. Halászlé’s deep red colour and hearty flavour make it a staple at the Szeged Christmas Market.
- Töltött káposzta (Stuffed cabbage) A comfort food often served during winter and festive times, töltött káposzta is a savoury mix of minced pork, rice, and spices, all rolled into fermented cabbage leaves. The rolls are then slow-cooked in a tomato-based sauce, often seasoned with, yes, more paprika. At the Christmas market, you’ll find them steaming hot, served with a dollop of sour cream on top.
- Kürtőskalács (Chimney cake) The sweet, cinnamon-scented aroma of kürtőskalács is hard to miss. This pastry is made from sweet yeast dough (often flavoured with walnuts, cocoa, or almonds), which is wrapped around a cone-shaped baking spit and roasted over charcoal. It’s a Szeged market must-have, especially when served warm and with a crisp, sugary crust.
- Mézeskalács (Honey gingerbread) A market isn’t complete without mézeskalács, intricately decorated honey-spiced cookies. These treats are often crafted into shapes like hearts, stars, or Christmas motifs, with white icing adding to their appeal. Not only are they delicious, but they also double as decorative ornaments or sweet gifts.
- Forralt bor (Mulled wine): When your hands need warming, a cup of forralt bor does the trick. Red wine mixed with a unique blend of mulling spices and a bit of sugar, it’s served piping hot. The drink’s spicy fragrance and warmth are synonymous with the market’s festive ambience.
- Pálinka Distilled from various fruits, pálinka is a Hungarian solid spirit. It’s often enjoyed as a digestive or a warm-up on cold days. With a high alcohol content, it’s not for the faint-hearted but is certainly an integral part of the local Christmas spirit.
- Sült gesztenye (Roasted chestnuts) A bag of sült gesztenye, with its smoky and nutty flavour, is a classic Christmas market snack. Roasted right there in front of you, these hot chestnuts make for a quick, warming snack as you stroll through the market stalls.
- Lángos Lángos, deep-fried flatbread, is a favourite at any Hungarian event. It’s usually topped with garlic sauce, cheese, and sometimes sour cream. The dough’s crispy exterior and soft, chewy inside make it an irresistible quick bite during market visits.
- Szegedi Paprikás Csirke (Szeged Paprika Chicken) Drawing on Szeged’s heritage, this dish is a creamy chicken stew, abundant in locally produced paprika. It’s often served with nokedli, and Hungarian dumplings, soaking up the sauce perfectly. Its rich and comforting taste profiles it as a market classic.
Each food offers a taste of Szeged’s culinary heritage, combining the flavours that define the city’s Christmas market.
Gifts and Stocking Fillers
- Szegedi Paprika (Szeged Paprika) Recognised for its vibrant red colour and distinctive taste, It is one of Hungary’s most famous exports. The spice is available in various grades, from sweet to hot, and is often found in beautifully designed tins or bags that make for both a practical and decorative gift. Szeged’s stalls are typically run by the producers themselves, offering insights into the paprika-making process.
- Magyar Szeszgyár és Finomító (Hungarian Spirit Factory and Refinery Products) Local spirits like pálinka and Unicum are found here, distilled from Hungarian fruits and herbs, known for their unique flavours. These spirits are often sold in ornate bottles or gift sets that include traditional Hungarian shot glasses, making them a good choice for a distinctive souvenir.
- Kézműves Cserépedények (Handcrafted Pottery) Craftspeople from Szeged and the surrounding regions sell handcrafted pottery at the market. Each piece, whether a mug, plate, or decorative item, is unique and reflects the local craftsmanship. These pieces often feature folk patterns specific to the region, making them a unique souvenir of your visit.
- Hímzett Textíliák (Embroidered Textiles) Embroidery is a time-honoured Hungarian craft, and at the Szeged Christmas Market, you can find a wide range of embroidered goods. Tablecloths, napkins, and clothing items such as blouses or scarves are embellished with traditional Hungarian motifs.
- Fa Játékok (Wooden Toys) Skilled woodworkers offer a selection of handmade wooden toys, from puzzles to traditional figurines, reflecting Hungary’s folk heritage. These toys are not only a nod to nostalgic childhoods but also support local artisans keeping the traditional woodcraft alive.
- Gyöngy Ékszerek (Beaded Jewellery) The market often features stalls where intricate beaded jewellery, a craft passed down through generations, is sold. Necklaces, bracelets, and earrings made from tiny glass beads arranged in complex patterns and vibrant colours are popular among those looking for handmade accessories.
- Mézeskalács Díszek (Honey Gingerbread Ornaments) While honey gingerbread is a treat to eat, at the Szeged market, intricately decorated mézeskalács are also sold as ornaments. They are often personalised with names or messages and hung on Christmas trees.
- Hagyományos Magyar Hangszerek (Traditional Hungarian Instruments) For music enthusiasts, some stalls sell traditional Hungarian instruments, like the flutes or the cimbalom. These instruments come with the story of their use and significance in Hungarian music, sometimes even offering a quick lesson.
- Nemezelt Tárgyak (Felt Crafts) Felt crafting is a well-established Hungarian folk art, and you can find everything from slippers to decorative items made of this warm, durable material. These stalls display the versatility of felt and often demonstrate the felting process.
These gifts and souvenirs are as much a part of the Szeged Christmas experience as the market, each telling its own story of the city’s culture and traditions.
For comprehensive insights into winter activities and up-to-date event information in Szeged, I recommend visiting VisitSzeged, the city’s official website.
Sustainable Travel Tips
Here are a few tips on travelling more responsibly in Szeged at Christmas.
- Choose Eco-Friendly Hotels In Szeged; you can select accommodation that prioritises environmental responsibility, such as those using renewable energy sources. By opting for hotels that reduce their carbon footprint, you contribute to the city’s sustainability efforts. Check for certifications or eco-labels when booking your stay to ensure your visit has a lower environmental impact.
- Reduce Food Waste The Christmas markets in Szeged offer a bounty of delicious foods, but it’s essential to purchase only what you can consume. To minimise food waste, consider sharing portions with friends or choosing smaller servings. Be mindful of what you order, and if you find yourself with leftovers, ask for a takeaway container to enjoy it later.
- Practise Ethical Consumption When shopping for gifts or souvenirs at the Szeged markets, think about the necessity and longevity of what you’re buying. Aim for items that are locally made or have a cultural significance to Szeged, which supports local artisans and reduces the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.
- Follow a Sustainable Diet Szeged’s markets are an excellent place to try plant-based or locally sourced foods, which often have a lower environmental impact than foods that require extensive resources to produce and transport. Look for stalls that source their ingredients from nearby farms, thus supporting the local economy and reducing transportation emissions.
- Utilise Sustainable Transport Make the most of Szeged’s public transport or consider walking or cycling. The city has bike-sharing schemes and pedestrian-friendly zones, particularly around the Christmas market. Using these modes of transport reduces traffic congestion and pollution, maintaining cleaner air during the holiday season.
Szeged captivated me with its festive atmosphere, where traditions fuse with a modern vibe, offering a unique Christmas experience.
The city’s historical charm, coupled with the warm hospitality found at every turn, makes it an exceptional destination during the holiday season.
Comment below if you want to leave a review of Szeged Xmas Market or have any questions.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Szeged, Hungary. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.