Advent & Winter Festival in Városháza Park, Downtown Budapest - November 17 - December 27
Of the several Christmas fairs around town, big and small, fancy and simple, the Városháza park one is the most family-friendly. It boasts the biggest advent garland in town (on which every Sunday a new candle is lit ceremonially), but even more importantly it has a bunch of free concerts, dance and choir performances and crafts workshops besides the actual market. It’s all free, so it’s definitely worth a try.
Cool concerts and children’s events every weekend
The basics: the market opens on November 17, the cultural programs start on November 23 and everything closes on December 28. If you’d like to go to the concerts, they have the best and most music on weekends. Especially recommended:
November 23 (Friday) 7PM: Szilárd Piano Projekt, with the legendary keyboard player of the cult 90’s (still active) band Quimby and several top-shot guests
November 30 (Friday) 7PM: Swing Over
December 1 (Saturday) 7PM: Folk on 45 – this is the world-music inspired acoustic formation of another Hungarian cult band, Balkán Fanatik
For the kids, they also have pantomime, street circus and puppet shows (again mostly on Fridays and the weekends).
How to get to Városháza Park Christmas market and festival
The location is very central. To get to the advent festival, go to Deák tér (on M1, M2, M3 lines; also accessible by trams 47 and 49, buses 9, 15, 16, 105). From Deák tér, start walking towards Astoria on the right – you can’t miss the stalls and the festive lights. The fair is open 10-8 (Sun-Thu), 10-9 (Fri-Sat). Special Christmas hours: 10-2 (Dec 24), 12-6 (Dec 25-26)
What to see nearby: You can stroll over to the Vörösmarty tér Christmas fair to also see the big holiday market; also a stone’s throw from Városháza park is the Dohány Street Synagogue (one of the biggest in the world), the old Jewish quarter (Király utca and neighboring street) which is now home to the fast-growing party district; also, the Millenial Subway Museum with a cool exhibit on the history of the first metro line in continental Europe, and the Elisabeth square Ferris wheel.
Pro tip: Advent in Szentendre (December 1 – January 6)
If you’re ready to leave Budapest behind for half a day, we have the recipe for the perfect advent getaway: Szentendre is a picturesque nearby town easily accessible with public transport, with a breathtaking old town, a charming embankment by the Danube to stroll around, great museums, restaurants, and its own Christmas fair right in the old town. The fair is mostly free, some concerts and exhibits charge an entrance fee. The market is open 12-8 (Mon-Thu) and 10-9 Fridays through Sundays. It’s closed for Christmas (December 24-26).
How to get to Szentendre: Take HÉV (suburban railway) at Batthyány tér (on M2 line) or Margit-híd budai hídfő (Margaret Bridge Buda side, on tram 4-6 line). You need to buy an auxiliary ticket, as regular tickets/passes are valid only in Budapest. Just say Szentendre (“San-tan-dre”) at the ticket office and they’ll know how to help you. The town is a 5-minute walk from the HÉV station.
Recommended accommodation for your Budapest trip: Maverick Hostel and City Lodge in downtown Budapest.