Budapest is always a good idea – it’s a truly gorgeous city full of grand stone buildings, impressive monuments, and historical features. But Budapest is particularly incredible at Christmastime, as the Budapest Christmas Markets are full of charm, cheer, and cozy holiday vibes.
I fell head over heels in love with Budapest on my visit to the Christmas markets – this city is just so. dang. pretty and the markets are so festive! I spent a couple of days scouring the city for all the details and information about what to see and do in Budapest during the holiday season.
Here is my detailed guide to the Budapest Christmas Market, including information about the official Christmas markets, the unofficial markets, other great spots to visit in winter, plus what to eat and buy at the markets, and what to do in Budapest before the markets open.
Planning Your Visit to the Budapest Christmas Market
Top Hotel Options in Budapest:
All of these hotels are top-rated, centrally located spots in the city. I would highly recommend you book your hotel early, as hotels do fill up for the Christmas markets.
Other Travel Essentials:
- By Rental Car: For maximum flexibility, a rental car is the best option. Reserve early because prices increase dramatically as time goes on! I find the best options on RentalCars.com – browse options here.
- By Train: Trains are a convenient way to get around Europe, but you’ll want to book your ticket ahead of time.
Overview of the Christmas Markets in Budapest
Budapest has two main Christmas Markets: Vorosmarty Ter Square and St Stephen’s Basilica. There is also a smaller market in Obuda, a small neighborhood about 25 minutes outside the historic center, an incredibly lit pedestrian street, and several other locations that have small markets or ice skating in the winter.
In total, I visited a total of 8 spots I’d consider great “holiday locations” in Budapest – and in this post I’ll be reviewing all of them.
There are also two other spots that have some Christmas-y aspects to them, and I’ll be sharing what to expect there and my opinion of those spots.
Dates for the Budapest Christmas Market
In 2023, the Vorosmarty Ter Market, St Stephen’s Basilica Market, and Westend Market run from November 17 to December 31.
The Obuda Christmas Market and the Fisherman’s Bastion Market run from December 1 to December 23, 2023.
The Advent at St. Stephen’s Basilica Market opening hours are as follows:
- Monday-Thursday: 11 AM – 10 PM
- Friday-Saturday: 11 AM – 11 PM
- Sunday: 11 AM – 10 PM
The Christmas Markets in Budapest – A Detailed Breakdown
1. Vorosmarty Ter Market
Vorosmarty Square is considered the “Main Square” in the city center of Budapest, and is one of the two official Christmas markets in city.
Wooden booths lined with garland and lights surround the square, with Christmas music playing on speakers overhead. A tall, decorated Christmas tree stands at one end of the square, and there are lighted decorations on some of the streets leading up to the square.
One thing that makes these Christmas markets a bit unique are the extra long, sprawling food stalls selling a huge variety of food and drink. In Vorosmarty Square, there are a couple of food stalls like this selling a wide variety of Hungarian cuisine and is a popular spot in the market.
(More on what foods you can find in the markets in a section, below)
There are also many stalls in the Vorosmarty Square Market selling different goods, including handmade gifts and ornaments.
I’ll go into more detail in a section below about what to buy at the markets, but a few highlights include Hungarian paprika, children’s toys, handmade pottery and ceramics, hats and scarves, and traditionally decorated gingerbread, and a wide variety of Christmas ornaments.
2. St. Stephen’s Basilica Market
The St. Stephan’s Basilica Christmas Market (also known as Advent at the Basilica) is my favorite in Budapest – the setting is really pretty, there are fun activities, and I felt like there was a lot of variety here.
Wooden stalls lined with white garland and lights fill the square in front of the basilica and continue down the street to the side of it.
The tall Christmas tree in the middle of the square was a showstopper, creating a beautiful scene with the church in the background. I liked how even the bow garland on the tree was made of lights!
The basilica has falling snowflakes projected on its facade, with a special 5-minute show projected onto the facade every half hour. There are different versions of the projection show – I saw a nativity one and a nutcracker one – and both are very cute and well-designed.
Like Vorosmarty Square, there are huge, vibrant stalls selling a large variety of traditional Hungarian cuisine at the Basilica market, as well as smaller stalls selling individual foods.
You can find a wide variety of goods and gifts at the Basilica market, with an emphasis on traditional offerings and handmade wares (although there certainly are some things that are more mass-produced as well).
I’d recommend visiting this market during the daytime and again at nighttime. During the day, you can visit the cathedral (which was gorgeous inside ) – and I’d recommend you get the ticket to visit the dome terrace which allows you to see the inside of the dome and see the city from above – a beautiful view.
There’s also a little nativity set up in front of the church.
In years past there was ice skating around the tree, but this year there is no rink. (It does look like ice from far away, but it’s just a mat). There are several other places in the city to go ice skating, though, which I’ll cover in the next sections.
3. Deak Ferenc – Fashion Street
Fashion Street (Deak Ferenc) is delightful and a can’t-miss Christmas location in Budapest. Many of the buildings along this pedestrian-only street have strands of lights strung from the top of the 3 stories all the way to the ground.
There are lit decorations strung over the street and a giant, white lit tree that glows brilliantly in the middle of the street.
Music is playing overhead, and the whole area is glittering and delightful. The Fashion Street lights start right where the Vorosmarty Square market ends, and there are more market stalls on the opposite end of Fashion Street.
4. Obuda Christmas Market
The Obuda Christmas Market is a charming, cozy market located in a neighborhood about 30 minutes away by public transit from the other two main markets in Budapest.
This neighborhood market has a much more local and homey feel, and while it’s certainly not huge, I really loved it.
A large lit sign saying Merry Christmas in Hungarian welcomes you to the market, and you’ll walk down a street lined with gift and food vendors until you reach the main square.
The center of the square is filled with a small ice skating rink, which is free to use (although you do need to bring your own skates). Market stalls surround the rink, and the stalls, ice skating rink, and buildings around the square are all draped with lights and decorations.
A lit Christmas tree is at the far end of the square, next to a small nativity display and a lit reindeer and Santa sleigh. Santa is there for pictures for several hours every day, otherwise, you can always get in the sleigh and take pictures yourself.
This market opens on December 1 – later than other Christmas markets in the city. In previous years the Obuda market was only open on weekends, but it has grown enough in popularity that for the 2023 season, it’s open every day of the week.
This was also the only market in Budapest that served drinks in plastic cups instead of disposable cups. The cups were definitely an interesting design, but since I love collecting and bringing home mugs and cups from Christmas markets, I was very happy to find one to bring back with me from Budapest.
The deposit for these cups is 500 HUF (about $1.50).
The Obuda Christmas Market had a ton of food options, including many favorites I saw at other markets (e.g. chimney cake, sausages, roasted potatoes, pulled pork sandwiches, and pizza), but a few unique offerings as well.
These included raclette (melted cheese that is scraped onto toast or potatoes), waffles, and churros.
5. City Park Ice Skating
The Varosligeti Ice Skating Rink in the City Park is the biggest and best spot for ice skating in Budapest.
City Park is located about 20 minutes north of the other two main markets, and is just a couple minutes away from the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, so it makes sense to combine a trip to both places if you are wanting to do both activities.
The Vajdahunyad Castle is the backdrop for the ice rink. This castle is super cool – it has a gate, moat, draw bridge, and classic castle architecture. Today it’s the home of a museum, but you can just walk through the courtyard and admire the area.
Ice skating has varied hours, but is generally closed for a few hours in the afternoon.
- Mon-Fri: 9am-12:15pm, 5pm-8:15pm
- Sat: 10am-1:15pm, 4pm-8:15pm
- Sun: 10am-1:15pm, 4pm-7:15pm
Pricing for Ice Skating:
- 3000 HUF (about $8.50) for adults, 2000 for students and seniors. There are also family package prices available
- 3000 HUF for skate rentals
6. Fisherman’s Bastion Market
The Fisherman’s Bastion market is new for 2023, and I hope they continue offering it in future years because the setting is fantastic. About 15 stalls are set up in the square right behind the main entrance to Fisherman’s Bastion, just next to Matthias Church.
Most of these stalls sell goods and gifts, but there is also one stand selling food and drinks.
Some lights are strung up along the bastion, and a Christmas tree and stage for concerts are also situated next to the bastion. The concert schedule is posted right next to the stage, but generally, weekend nights are scheduled for concerts.
This market is open from 10am-8pm starting December 1. I’d recommend visiting this market at dusk or later, as the lights add a lot (and seeing the Parliament Building lit up across the river is spectacular).
7. Winter Wonderland by Westend Market
This market has a unique location on the rooftop terrace of the West End Shopping Mall. I thought the location was really fun, being on the rooftop, but when I went on a Monday night, there were just a few people here – some people ice skating, and just a few people eating and drinking.
Hopefully it’s busier on weekends, because I thought this market had a lot of great features. There were several spots set up as interactive decorations, like large sleighs that visitors can sit in, large candy canes and nutcrackers, and a little “Christmas in a barn” scene for pictures.
In addition to the ice skating rink, there was also a cute carousel, a Christmas tree, food and drink stalls, and covered and uncovered areas for sitting and eating.
8. Varoshaza Park Christmas Market
Varoshaza Park has a small but cute holiday set up, featuring an ice skating rink, a few festive stalls selling food and drink, and some decorations.
The market continues on the other side of the street (the north side of Karoly Krt), where you can find a few more stalls, and a Christmas tree with a cute candy bench underneath it.
Other Markets with Christmas-y Aspects
9. Godszu Court
Godszu Court is a long passageway between buildings that has some areas that are covered and some areas that are open-aired. This area is sometimes referred to as a Christmas market.
There are really pretty Christmas decorations and a garland arch at the entrance, and snowflakes and stars hang from the ceiling at intervals along the passageway.
There are tables set up along the passageway selling items, but the market here is just a standard antique/flea market and there’s nothing different or Christmas-y about it. While I did like the garland arch at the entrance, I do think this spot is overall a pass.
10. Central Market Hall
Central Market Hall is a historic, 19th-century covered market that is popular with locals and tourists, and is open year-round. You can find a mixture of souvenirs and regular market offerings like fresh meat and produce.
During the holidays there are some more seasonal offerings, such as gingerbread, nutcrackers, ornaments, and Christmas decorations. This to me was a nice spot to visit (although it did feel pretty touristy), but I wouldn’t come here specifically for the Christmas aspect.
Map of Market Locations
What to Eat at the Markets
The food stands in the two main markets are a vibrant display of Hungarian cuisine decked out in Christmas cheer.
Rows and rows of trays of savory dishes are lined up in a row, creating a mouthwatering display of hot foods to eat. The following are some of the most common and most traditional foods you can eat at the Budapest markets:
Drinks at the Christmas Markets in Budapest
Hot drinks are an integral part of any European Christmas market, and Budapest is no exception. There is a large variety of warm alcoholic drinks available, but the mulled wine is certainly the most popular. It’s often served as a fruity mulled wine – such as with plum or blueberry, which is fun. Non-alcoholic apple cider is also available.
Personally, I’m particular to the hot chocolate at the Budapest Christmas Markets, as it was some of the best hot chocolate I’ve had in my life. The cocoa was thick and creamy and tasted like actual melted chocolate – delicious.
Unfortunately, unlike many cities in Europe, Budapest does not use ceramic mugs or plastic cups for their drinks in the market, opting instead just for disposable cups.
What to Buy at the Budapest Christmas Markets
Budapest has a really large variety of goods and gifts for sale at the markets, and perusing the vibrant displays is a fun activity while you’re sipping your mulled wine or hot chocolate. These are some examples of what you can buy at the markets throughout Budapest:
Other types of goods for sale included paintings and original art, handmade jewelry, hats, gloves, and scarves, and artisanal soaps.
What Else to Do in Budapest
The markets don’t open until early afternoon and since there are only a few markets and the ambiance is best at night, I’d recommend waiting until at least mid-afternoon to hit the markets.
This means that you have quite a few hours in Budapest to sightsee and enjoy the city. And lucky you, because Budapest is so gorgeous. These are a few of the places I’d recommend you hit up on your visit to Budapest in December:
Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, and the Szechenyi is easily the most well-known bathhouse. Here, large pools are surrounded by stately yellow walls in an open-air setting. The pools are surrounded by stone pots and sculptures and the whole area just feels very fancy.
The water temperature in the pools is a very comfortable 34 C in winter (about 93 F), which felt pleasantly warm, but not hot. It was warm enough that you weren’t cold in the chilly December weather, but not so warm that you got overheated.
Although you will have to get in and out in the cold weather, this is a fantastic activity to add to your Christmas market itinerary – the warm water feels great in the chilly air.
You can buy tickets onsite, or book online to avoid a queue.
Fisherman’s Bastion is a gorgeous fortification made up of turrets and passageways that overlooks the river and the parliament building on the opposite bank. This is one of the most popular spots for pictures in the city, and for good reason!
If you have time, I would recommend coming here in the morning to enjoy it and take pictures in the light, and then come back in the evening for the market ambiance.
The Buda Castle is a massive building that today is a complex of different offices and museums that you can visit, including the Budapest History Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery, and St. Stephen’s Hall. However, many people just come to admire the outside, which is stunning.
Shoes on the Danube
The Shoes on the Danube Memorial is a memorial to the Jews who were told to take their shoes off and then were shot and dumped into the river during the Holocaust.
The memorial is hauntingly beautiful and so poignant – women’s pumps, men’s boots, and children’s slippers are arranged to look like they’ve just barely been stepped out of. People have placed candles near the shoes, and many shoes are filled with rocks – a sign of respect at Jewish burial sites.
- Hungary’s official currency is the forint (abbreviated HUF), but euros are also accepted at some places throughout the city.
- Approximately 350 HUF is equal to 1 USD.
- Almost all stands in the markets will take credit card. In fact, some places will not accept cash. I’d still recommend having cash on hand for smaller vendors who may not take card.
- The Christmas markets are free to enter.
- No public bathrooms are available.
- Displays are in English and Hungarian, and everyone I met spoke English very well.
Getting Around Budapest
Budapest is a very walkable city, but you may need to take transportation if you visit Obuda or just have a long walk ahead of you.
The city has a great bus, tram, and metro system.
If you’re taking the bus, you can pay the bus driver directly. For the metro, buy metro tickets from the machines in the station, and then punch them in the orange validation machines as you enter the station.
If you’re coming from the airport, the 100E bus is a quick, easy, and cheap (2200 HUF) way to get to city center.
How to Fit Zagreb Into Your Europe in December Itinerary
Budapest’s location in central Europe makes it a great addition to a Central Europe December trip. While Germany, France, and Switzerland are home to the most well-known Christmas markets, this part of the continent also serves up some fantastic holiday markets and events.
On this trip, I started in Budapest, then took a train 2.5 hours north to the Bratislava Christmas Market in Slovakia, then took a train 1 hour west to the incredible Vienna Christmas Markets in Austria, then went 2 hours south to the Graz Christmas Markets, then another 2.5 hours south to the Ljubljana Christmas Market and the Lake Bled Christmas Market in Slovenia , before ending the trip at the Zagreb Christmas Market.
This was a fantastic route and I loved the Christmas markets and cities that I visited – I’d highly recommend it!
And if you really want to jump over to Western Europe (which truly is incredible), I can also highly recommend the Cologne Christmas Market in Germany, the Strasbourg Christmas Market and Colmar Christmas Market in France, the Basel Christmas Market in Switzerland, and the Luxembourg Christmas Market in Luxembourg.
Christmas Markets in Budapest – The Wrap Up
As I look back on my time at the Budapest Christmas Markets, it’s clear they offer something truly special. With a fantastic array of food, unique gifts, and a genuinely festive atmosphere, it’s an experience that captures the heart of the holiday season.
If you’re planning a trip to the Christmas markets in central Europe, Budapest is a must-visit for a real taste of Hungarian Christmas spirit.