Now that December has finally arrived, we can start to seriously ramp up the excitement for Christmas.
And Budapest is THE place to get excited, from the Christmas themed lit main streets to the various Christmas markets, to the massive Christmas tree outside the Houses of Parliament and to the mulled wine counters popping up everywhere.
Here are just a few of the events and sights to see in Budapest this December.
Christmas trees and lights
The biggest Christmas tree in Budapest this year, must be the one outside the Houses of Parliament. Held down by tethered ropes, this huge spruce is covered in lights, which has the magnificent Houses of Parliament buildings as a backdrop is sure to brighten up any rainy, wintery day.
The trees and sides of many of the main streets in Pest such as Szent István körút, are lit up with beautiful stars, snowflakes, Christmas trees and lights. The walkways and traffic-free shopping areas around the high-end shops around Deák Ferenc tér, such as Fashion Street have the streets and shop fronts dripping in dazzling light displays.
If you are a fan of wandering around stalls which are selling authentic and interesting handcrafted items for Christmas presents, nibbling on traditional Hungarian street food such as the chimney shaped ‘Kürtős kalács’ whilst sipping on a hot mulled wine, then Budapest’s range of Christmas markets will not disappoint!
The most famous Christmas Market in Budapest is in Vörösmarty Square, which has lots of food, beer and mulled wine stalls and an array of handicraft shops. St Stephen’s Basilica Christmas market, in my opinion is even better, with lots of interesting handicraft stalls, food and wine stands (both inside the market square and outside), Christmas singing from time to time and has the additional bonus of an amazing laser light show projected on to the Basilica, every half hour.
It also has a small artificial ice rink. This is found in St Stephen’s square in District V. Other smaller markets include the Óbuda Christmas market in Óbuda at the foot of the castle in Fő tér and Vajdahunyad Castle Christmas market, near Budapest City Park. Remember to bring photo ID and evidence of being double vaccinated to the bigger markets.
There will be a few small artificial ice-skating rings around at different spots in Budapest near Christmas markets, such as the one at St Stephen’s Basilica Christmas market, the Óbuda Christmas market and at The Whale (11-12 Fővám Square, 1093 Budapest) but if you want to have lots of fun and a bit more space to squeal loudly and tumble ungraciously, then head to the Budapest City Park where there is a large natural ice rink for you to enjoy.
You can hire skates there, or bring your own, and have fun with family and friends. You will need a photo ID if hiring skates. Opening hours in the week are usually from 9 am to 1pm and then 4 pm to 9 pm in the week, and 10 am to 2 pm and then 4 pm to 9 pm at the weekends. The Budapest City Park is found at Városligeti Műjégpálya, near Heroes Square (Hősök tere). Nearby also is the Vajdahunyad Castle Christmas market.
At certain times and on certain lines, the trams are bedecked with Christmas lights and jazzle to make your train ride especially Christmassy. Most of the Christmas trams start to run from 4 pm and on into the night. Tram number 2 which runs alongside the banks of the Danube and around the Houses of Parliament is a real touristy treat.
Other routes with occasional Christmas Trams are Number 14M from Káposztásmegyer/megyeri út to Lehel tér (M3 metro station), Number 59 from Márton Áron tér to Szent János Kórház, and Number 49 Tram from Kelenföld Train Station (M4 metro) to Deák Ferenc tér. You can climb aboard and enjoy a ride on them with your regular tram ticket. Don’t forget to wrap up warm with hats, scarves and gloves!
After knocking back all those mulled wines at the Christmas markets and wiping out too many times on the ice rinks, it might be time to treat yourself to some peace and tranquillity and enjoy a festive classical concert.
Leading up to Christmas there are musical performances at St. Anne’s church and St Stephen’s Basilica. On Saturday 11th and 18th December in St Anne’s church there will be an organ concert from 7 pm playing, amongst others, pieces from Bach, Haendel, Vivaldi, Liszt, Schubert and Mozart. Then on Tuesday 14th and 21st (from 7 pm) and Sunday 12th and 19th December from 8 pm in St Stephen’s Basilica the Duna String Orchestra will be performing pieces again from Bach, Haendel, Vivaldi, Schubert and Mozart, and others.
Tickets can be bought in both St Anne’s church and St. Stephen’s Basilica from 9 am each day or by calling +36 70 407 8594 or online at ‘concertsinbudapest.com’. There are also more details on times, ticket prices and detail of all the pieces being played.