The market on Vörösmarty Square is the most famous and well recognized in Budapest. The large square is blanketed with glowing Christmas lights strung from trees and buildings. Beneath the lights, wooden market stalls host traditional Hungarian food vendors and all sorts of arts and crafts. Locals and tourists mingle over a mug of spiced mulled wine or a bowl of warm goulash soup at long communal picnic tables. Space heaters keep revelers warm as the sounds of Hungarian folk music echo throughout the square.
If you stop by the Vörösmarty Square market, expect crowds in the evenings during the live music sessions. To avoid the crowds, visit the market earlier in the day. Vörösmarty Square has the best shopping selection of homemade Christmas gifts such as ceramics, scarves, candies, and folk instruments. If you’re looking to buy an iconic Hungarian souvenir, this is the place to do it in December. Many of the craftsmen speak English and can tell you about their passion for their work so that you can even have a meaningful story behind each souvenir you purchase.
After visiting the market at Vörösmarty Square, walk along Deak Ferenc Street until you reach Deak Ferenc Square, and then make a left to the next market, located in Erzsébet Square underneath the Ferris wheel.
The market in Erzsébet Square lies between the Vörösmarty Square market and the market at the Budapest Basilica. This market is the perfect place to sample several varieties of mulled wine. Flavors like lavender and cherry mulled wine are popular. Hungarian Christmas liqueur, called Mezeskalacs Likor, is also served in small pours to help you stay warm on a cold evening. For the kids, hot chocolates and szaloncukor, Christmas chocolates, are plentiful and more reasonably priced at this market than the other two on this list.
While you sip on something warm and eat something full of sugar, you can gaze up at the Ferris wheel which takes on the appearance of a giant snowflake under the atmospheric lighting at night. Or you can take a break from the markets and warm up at Akvarium, one of Budapest’s most popular bars located underneath an artificial pond in the square. If you look up while you are at the bar, you will see the glass ceiling which reveals the water above you.
When you are ready to move on, follow Hercegprímás Street to Szent István Square, where you will find a spectacular Advent feast beneath the impressive cathedral.
In Szent István Square, an ice-skating rink surrounds a two-story tall Christmas tree and an animated lights show on the Basilica’s façade entertains visitors every hour on the hour. Visitors can find food trucks in the square and along Zrínyi Street serving more than just the typical market fare. Guests can select Mexican food or burgers prepared fresh at one of the food trucks.
Grab a strong Hungarian palinka liquor from one of the many palinka huts to enjoy after dinner while watching the skaters zoom past. If you’re craving a more upscale market experience, simply walk to the end of Zrínyi Street to the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, which offers a winter wonderland experience to visitors in the lobby area. High-end boutiques and reputable craftsmen sell their pricier products here beneath the chandelier resembling a whimsical snowflake.
Stroll through the lobby and exit through the hotel’s main entrance and then walk just two minutes to enjoy the best lights in Budapest — those illuminating the Danube riverbanks on both sides. If you have time, take an evening river cruise during your stay in Budapest to fully appreciate the glory of the massive Parliament House from the water at night.
Delicious Hungarian cuisines such as paprika chicken and thin pancakes topped with sour cream can be found year-round in Budapest. So can first-class shopping experiences for any budget. Culture is always present in the city known as the ‘Pearl of the Danube.’ But somehow, visiting during Christmas and experiencing the grandeur of the lights on Andrassy Avenue and the gigantic Christmas tree illuminated in front of Europe’s second largest house of Parliament just make the city seem even more magical.
You can attend the Budapest markets every day from November 27 to December 31, 2015 from noon until 10pm.