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Not only can you find that perfect gift, but you will also be entertained and stuffed full of Hungary’s best traditional holiday foods. With hundreds of folk-art and handmade specialty booths to choose from for those unique gifts, Budapest’s magical Christmas Fairs and Markets have something for everyone. And the holiday foods! There are so many venues to choose from you’ll certainly enjoy wandering among the offerings and sampling the foods and watching the dance and music performances and listening to the holiday songs.
The Fairs will be open until January 1, 2018. And now, bundle up in your warmest coats, scarves, gloves and hats and let’s take the tour of this year’s best Christmas Fairs.
Budapest’s longest-running and most well-known Advent and Christmas Fair is easily found at Vörösmarty Square, in the heart of Budapest. This fair is always listed among Europe’s most beautiful and festive winter markets. Shoppers and revelers will find quality hand-made gifts offered by Hungary’s most talented artists; and, of course, there is a huge food stand right in the middle of the square. In the evenings, Café Gerbeaud’s facade is bathed in a magical light, taking the more romantically inclined into a fairytale world.
The food here is truly delicious, from traditional dishes all the way to a cinnamon-covered chimney cake. The tantalizing aromas that assault you as you wander the booths will draw you in and satisfy your every culinary desire. There are even benches for the weary shopper
There are daily programs at Vörösmarty square, including choir concerts, folklore performances, storybook readings, Santa Claus programs for children, workshops and other fun activities. These activities run all week, but there are generally more on offer on the weekends. You can find more detailed information about the program at the Christmas market itself at the information stands. If you miss your advent calendar from home, you can see the daily turning of the Gerbeaud advent calendar at 17.00.
Just ten minutes’ walk from Vörösmarty Square, Budapest’s newest Christmas market is located right in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika), one of the most amazing and festive locations in the city. Enter the giant Advent gate and browse among the hundred or so handcrafts stalls in your search for that perfect gift. Also, of course, the food stalls offer a wide variety of tasty and stomach-warming foods, in addition to a mug or two of great forralt bor (mulled wine). And if you are so inclined, you can even try out the skating rink in the middle of the square. Every half hour between 4.30 pm and 8 pm there’s an amazing Christmas laser projection on the Basilica’s facade.
Ever since the old, abandoned Gozsdu Courtyard area was turned into Budapest’s hottest entertainment venue, it has become a magnet for winter strollers. And at the end of the year this long stretch of restaurants and pubs turns into a festive grotto. A five-metre tall Christmas tree gathers stares and applause as visitors pass by. Plus, it is possibly the only holiday market to host the annual Hanukkah celebrations between 6th and 14th December. You can enter this wonderland from Király utca 13 or Dob utca in the VIIth District.
The Lesser Known
If you prefer a less-touristy Christmas Fair, try the Advent Fair in Óbuda (Old Buda); it’s not as well-known as the others, but it is still one of the city’s best. This Christmas Market is in Main Square (Fő tér) in Óbuda, just a short distance from the city centre. Visitors can enjoy a range of folk, jazz and world music concerts, beautiful festive market stalls with hand crafted presents and, of course, lots of delicious food.
There are also smaller Christmas markets located at different locations in Budapest, one of which is at Liszt Ferenc square (near Oktogon) and across Andrássy út at Jókai tér. If you prefer the less-hectic Buda side, try the market located next to the Allee shopping mall. Also, there is a little Christmas market at Móricz Zsigmond Körtér. These are not the biggest ones, but you can still find chimney cake to eat, some hot wine and, naturally, bags, handicrafts and other articles comparable to the more well-known places in the city.
One final note: for the adventurous Christmas shoppers: you can easily arrange a day trip to the Christmas Fairs in Vienna, just a short train or car ride away. But whatever your preference, don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to sample the best of Hungary’s winter and holiday venues for gifts, food, drink and entertainment; you’ll be so happy you did!