1. Visit the Christmas markets
There are a number of Christmas markets set up around the city. The biggest one is at Vörösmarty Square in the centre of Budapest. The Christmas market is a mix of food and drinks, and arts and crafts. Handmade traditional gifts are for sale and you can taste delicious specialties of Hungarian cuisine.
Another Christmas market is set up outside St. Stephen’s Basilica and is usually quieter and not as busy. There is a small ice rink as well. At some of the larger metro stops there are mini markets set up filled with similar items that you would find at the Christmas markets.
2. Drink mulled wine
Nothing will warm you up from the winter cold than a hot cup of mulled wine. You can pick up a mug at any of the Christmas markets, at stalls set up along the street or at a local bar or restaurant. The delicious mix of herbs and wine cannot be missed.
3. Watch the Nutcracker
This holiday classic comes with a Hungarian twist at the Opera house. But watch out! Book your tickets early or the performances will be sold out. Thankfully, performances go well into the new year.
4. Enjoy a kürtős kalács
Kürtős kalács are a Hungarian pastry also known as chimney cakes. You can find stalls of these at all the Christmas markets or hidden inside metro stops. These pastries are served piping hot and are a deliciously sweet way to warm up hands in the cold December air. They come in a variety of flavours from cinnamon (my fav) to coconut to chocolate.
5. Go to the thermal baths on Saturday night
Every Saturday night in December, Szechényi Baths open its doors to partiers. Take some time to soak in the baths while enjoying some live music, drinks and atmosphere.
6. Ice skating in City Park
Nothing says the holidays more than skating on the City Park lake. This ice rink is considered Europe’s largest and one of the oldest outdoor skating rinks. Head there at night to take in the holiday atmosphere complete with bright lights and views of the Vajdahunyad Castle.
7. Walk around the city at night
The main streets of Budapest are all decorated and lit up in Christmas lights. Take a walk along the Körút or down Andrássy ut or perhaps stroll Vaci utca. The possibilities are endless.
8. Concerts in the Basilica (and other venues)
Nothing puts you more in the holiday mood then basking in some holiday music. St. Stephen’s Basilica offers concerts of classical music and holiday classics alike. The acoustics of the basilica makes any concert on its premise a joy for the ears.
Can’t get a ticket to a concert in the Basilica? Try the Liszt Academy or Palace of the Arts.
The holidays means discounts and shopping. Its not different here in Budapest. Stores offer bargains beginning December 26, and last until January.
10. Eat delicious holiday candy and sweets
Purchase a bag of szaloncukor from your local market and enjoy all the flavours of this traditional Hungarian candy. Typically these candies are hung on Christmas trees as decoration due to their colourful foil. Or spend some time in the kitchen and bake up a storm. Nothing says Christmas like diós kifli (Hungarian Christmas crescent cookies)