December in Budapest: Christmas Fair and Winter Festival at Vörösmarty
Did you also notice that Christmas Fairs have a tendency to open earlier each year? The traditional Christmas fair in Budapest at Vörösmarty tér opened in the second week of November, and will stay open up until New Year’s Eve. Meaning if you decide to travel to Budapest in this beautiful advent season you can’t miss it! Luckily for you, the Christmas market just turned 20 years old, so they make it especially big and fancy this year.
How to find Vörösmarty tér (Vorosmarty square)
It can be tricky, as there is a Vörösmarty tér (square) and a Vörösmarty utca (street) in the downtown, both on the millennial subway line M1 (yes, still the very first metro line on the European continent!).
Vörösmarty tér (square) is where most important things happen – the street is in a nice neighborhood, but really nothing to write home about. They were both named after the same 19th century poet. Vörösmarty square, where the market takes place, is the downtown end station of M1; this is where overpriced Váci utca, or the Budapest fashion street begins, and it is a stone’s throw from the Danube and the Buda hills across the river.
What you’ll find on the market
The basic idea is that you can shop around for gifts, try traditional food, sip on your mulled wine and think to yourself, “Is Christmas really so close?” while listening to live music or watching a dance performance.
For beginners, like any big and traditional Christmas fair, the one in Budapest is also a bit overpriced. You’ll have to spend over 900 Forint (2.8 eur) for a mulled wine, 1000 Ft (3 eur) for a beer or a plain lángos. Not stellar by European standards but still more than you’d pay elsewhere in the city.
Maverick recommends that you should definitely try at least one of the traditional local treats: roasted chestnut, plum juice with cinnamon, hot chocolate, mulled wine, chimney cake (kürtőskalács – with cinnamon or even Nutella), lángos are the most popular choices. For advanced meat lovers, we suggest a very special delicacy: mangalica burger, made of the one and only hairy pig breed in the world, the Hungarian mangalica. And even if you don’t eat meat, you can enjoy a hunter’s haunt installed on the square – climb the deer stand to get a bird’s-eye view of the merry market-going folks of Budapest underneath.
Weekly gastro specialties
The organizers prepare special treats each week according to the local Christmas traditions:
November 9-18: St. Martin's week, loosely translated as goose with goose, seasoned with new wine
November 19-25: Venison, boar, rabbit meat with Bull's Blood or Cabernet
November 26-December 2: Stuffed cabbage with Somló wines
December 3-9: Hanuka-themed cuisine
December 10-16: Fasting fish, with white wine
December 17-26: Traditional Christmas food: fisherman's soup, stuffed cabbage, walnut and poppy seed pastries (think Gerbeaud!)
December 27 on: Lentil, beans and the new year's pig!
For the kids: free arts and crafts
Children can take part in the arts and crafts workshops in a heated room. They can learn to make gingerbread dolls and Christmas ornaments among many others – for free!
What to do after visiting the market
If you came on foot, take a quick look at the millennial subway line M1 – it’s late 19th century fancy! Then you can walk west, it’s less than 2 minutes to the Danube! You can stroll by the embankment, cross Erzsébet híd or Lánchíd (Elisabeth Bridge or Chain Bridge) to the Buda hills – romantic Gellért hill or the enchanting Castle District.
Or: stay on the Pest side and take a reflective moment to walk around the Shoes on the Danube Promenade, one of the most touching Holocaust memorials in the world. (The shoes above the steps of the embankment commemorate the Jewish Budapest residents shot into the river by the Nazis).
If you prefer to move on towards inner Pest, you can take M1 to Heroes Square, Széchenyi thermal bath or the City Park.
To get there: M1 subway line, Vörösmarty tér station (or Tram 2, Vigadó tér) Admission: free (to all events including crafts workshops, programs and concerts; all you have to buy your is food & drinks)
Recommended accommodation: Maverick Hostel and City Lodge in downtown Budapest.