Christmas Eve Programs in Budapest

Here in Budapest for the Christmas holiday? Read our things to do recommendations for 24. December, especially for the evening that kicks off the festivities.

a Christmas fir with blue LED lights in front of the illuminated Parliament at night
The Christmas Tree of Hungary at the Parliament

24. December is not a public holiday yet in Hungary so you will find the

  • food markets, and
  • the handful of Christmas fairs open till around 12.00 or 14.00 the latest.

Public transport services also run quite frequently according to Saturday schedule, till. 15.00 – 16.00.

Quick Links: Public TransportChristmas MarketsBoat ToursWine TourA Ride on the EyeConcertsThermal BathsMidnight MassDinner in RestaurantsFor KidsTitanic Exhibition

The first half of the day is busy with people rushing about to buy last-minute presents, or ingredients for the Christmas Eve dinner.

Then in the afternoon life in Budapest quiets down.

Families come together to

  • decorate the Christmas tree, and
  • pack the presents.

Many – even those who are not religious – attend the midnight mass in churches (see tips below).

What’s the Weather Like on 24. December in Budapest?

In recent years it was cold and cloudy with the sun setting early. Be prepared for wind and some rain/drizzle. Dress in layers – winter coat, sweater, cap/hat, gloves – wear warm boots or winter shoes.

Public Transport on 24. December

Services run according to Saturday schedule. The last metro, tram, bus, and trolley services usually depart between 15.00 – 16.00 after that you can travel on the night services.

TIP: tran No. 49 decorated with strings of lightHop on one of the Christmas trams  – unfortunatley they don’t operate on 24. December, but Tram 2 will run on 25. and 26. December – lighted with strings of blue and white lights.

Tram 2 along the Danube bank in Pest is one of the festive services allowing you to see some of the top sights of the city (Buda Castle, Gellért Hill, the Chain Bridge and other bridges, the Parliament). You can use the service with valid tickets/travel or tourist card.

Christmas Fairs – Which One to Go to?

Our city has a couple of festive fairs that welcome visitors throughout the Advent period. But which one offers the best of all things?

Vörösmarty Square

The market on Vörösmarty Square has been praised by numerous travel magazines and guides and it looks back to the longest history.

The charming wooden cottages offer all kinds of handcrafted goods – selected by a board of juries – while in the centre you can enjoy cooked food, mulled wine, tea, coffee, craft beer, wines and spirits.

What To Eat On The Markets?

heaps of grilled paprika sausages and chicken breastDo try the local specialties like beef goulash, stuffed cabbage (sometimes both served in a bun), roasted goose and duck meat, grilled paprika sausage and hurka (blood or liver sausage) served with grilled potato slices or fresh white bread, mustard and pickles.

Prices of meat dishes is cc. 2 000 – 3 000 HUF.

Lángos is also a must-have snack on the markets. A round piece of yeasty dough is deep-fried in oil and served with cheese, sour cream, or just with salt and garlic oil.

For a quick snack have some roasted chestnuts roasted right in front of your eyes. They come in 10 (1 000 HUF) or 15-piece (1 500 HUF) packages

Kürtöskalács (Chimney/Sekler cake) is a symbol of all Hungarian fairs. It’s a cylinder shaped pastry baked over coal then coated in vanilla sugar, ground walnut, grated chocolate, cocos flakes, cinnamon sugar or dry raspberry/blueberry pieces.

A large piece costs around 1 300 – 1 500 HUF.

Strudel, flódni (a layered cake with walnut, apple, poppy seed and plum preserve), Gerbeaud cake – layers of pastry, ground walnut, apricot jam with chocolate on top – are the other sweet temptations.

Drinks: spicey mulled wine, punch, hot cherry beer , tea

Opening Hours of the Vörösmarty Sqr. Market on 24. December

  • Craft fair: 10.00 – 14.00
  • Food and Drinks: 10.00 – 15.00
  • Stage performances (concerts, folk dance): 10.00 – 14.30 and 15.00 – 20.00

Pros

  • central location in the city centre, close to the Danube, Váci Street, many shops, restaurants and cafes
  • varied program and wide selection of food and drinks
  • activities, performances for children

Cons

  • very busy and geared more towards tourists (a bit expensive for locals)

TIP: The famous coffee house on Vörösmarty tér, Gerbeaud is open between 09.00 – 14.00 on 24. December 2017. This historic cafe is a bit pricey but boasts a nice selection of traditional cakes and pastries, great coffee, wines, champagnes, long drinks and many other good stuff.

Basilica, Szt. István Square

wooden Christmas market stall with the Basilica in the background at nightThe Advent Fair by Budapest’s largest church, St. Stephen’s Basilica is also extremely popular. The products vendors offer are not very different from the Vörösmarty tér market.

The same applies to the food with maybe that here you will see more trendy street food, quality ones (burgers).

A small ice rink is a definite plus where kids can skate and train for free (up to 14 yrs).

Colourful images lit up the facade of the Basilica to the tunes of music during the light mapping show every day in 30 minutes periods between 16.30 – 22.00.

Grab some food – stuffed cabbage, goulash, gilled meats, lángos, flat bread – with a glass of hot drink and take in the festive atmosphere accentuated by the holiest building of the city in the background.

Pros

  • great gastronomy and program offer
  • good, central location at top attraction of the city
  • ice rink

Cons

  • crowd, especially on weekends and late afternoon-evenings

Várkert Bazaar Advent Sundays

Cruise the Danube (avail. with Dinner/Drinks)

A river tour is a comfortable way to see the World Heritage protected cityscape. On 24. December you can

  • go on a cruise during the day (with buffet lunch/drinks at the tour starting at 14.00) or on
  • a festive river tour with 4-course dinner served buffet style, the 2-hour program starts at 18.00 and at 21.00).

Tickets sell out quickly so book well in davance!

Wine Tour in Etyek (Morning Only)

For a half-day trip we recommend a morning wine tour with lunch in Etyek village cc. 40 km west of Budapest.

a bottle of red wine with two empty wine glasses on a snow-covered table The small village has become famous for its wine making and gastronomy in recent years.

You will

  • take a stroll in the gently rolling vineyards,
  • visit 2 cellars with sampling 3-4 wines and
  • end the tour with a traditional 3-course lunch.
  • Transfer to and back and professional guiding are also included.
Book Etyek Wine Tour & Lunch

Budapest Eye – Amazing View!

The Eye with Christmas decor lights at nightTake a ride on the impressive Ferris wheel standing on Erzsébet tér in the city centre.

It operates every day, all year round and offers a fantastic panorama from the top.

Opening Hours:

  • Monday – Tuesday: 10.00 – 23.00
  • Wednesday – Thursday: 10.00 – 24.00
  • Friday – Saturday: 10.00 – 01.00
  • Sunday: 10.00 – 24.00

Tickets:

  • 2 400 HUF for adults,
  • 1 500 HUF for children between ages 2 – 14.
  • Family ticket (2 adults+2 kids under 14): 6 600 HUF.

Concerts on Christmas Eve

Nothing gets you in the festive mood then attending a concert in a church. Besides the Basilica, Budapest has some lovely churches that usually host concerts during the Advent period.

Franciscan Church (Ferenciek tere)

the pipe organ and the main nave of the church
Organ of the Franciscan Church

This historic Baroque temple offers two free programs on 24. December 2017:

  • Nativity Play by the Kecskés Ensemble at 15.00, and an
  • Organ Concert by László Deák and Mónika Kecskés at 23.00

St. Anne Church, Downtown Pest

Address: Szervita tér 6., district V.

Tickets: 33- 47 EUR

You can listen to works of Mozart & Vivaldi on 24. December, Sunday starting at 18.00

St. Anne Church in Buda

Address: Batthyány tér 7., district I., Buda (M2 metro)

In the twin-towered Church of St. Anne in the Buda side you can listen to Christmas organ music from 23.00 on 24. December/Sunday. Entry is FREE.

Afterwards you can stay on the Midnight Mass starting at 24.00.

TIP: Browse among other concerts in the festive season! There will be a Christmas Gala Concert in Danube Palace on 27., 30. December 2017. at 20.00

Dinner in Restaurants on Christmas Eve

Many restaurants prepare with special multi-course dinner for the festive evening.

Most of them are in the city centre and belong to famous luxury hotels like

  • ÉS Bisztró (Kempinski Corvinus Hotel)
  • ARAZ restaurant (Continental Hotel Budapest) in Dohány Street, or
  • Icon Restaurant in Hilton Buda Castle.

Browse our list of restaurants offering a dinner party on Christmas Eve!

Midnight Mass

Locals – even those who are not religious –  go to the traditional midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Head for Matthias Church in Buda Castle for a truly magnificent experience.

If you prefer to stay on the Pest side celebrate the birth of Christ in

  • St. Stephen’s Basilica or in the
  • Inner City Parish Church on Március 15. tér, next to Erzsébet Bridge. Arrive half hour earlier and you can participate in the devotion accompanied by organ music starting at 23.30.
  • the St. Anne Church on Batthyány Square, Buda is also a highly recommended for attending a Christmas Eve holy mass starting at 24.00. You can enjoy a 1-hour organ play before the mass.

Thermal Baths

The baths of Budapest are well-known for their healing power as well as fine architecture. On 24. December they are open between 06.00 – 14.00.

The best-known spa complexes that many tourists include in their must-visit list are

Get our special “I Love Budapest Spa” package with taxi transfer, skip-the-line entry, guidance and bath gear.

For Families with Kids

The Zoo and Botanical Garden in the City Park is open between 09.00 – 13.00, last entry is at 12.00 (animal houses close at 12.30).

The Magic Hill welcomes children with 16 exhibitions, movie screenings and fun activities on 4 floors.

There are buffet, toilet and free luggage storage on the ground floor.

The boat tours mentioned above are also highly recommended for children, especially the daytime cruises.

They will enjoy the

  • 1,5-hour ride on the river
  • panoramic views and the
  • food that includes delicious desserts (strudel, carrot cake, Gerbeaud cake, shot glass desserts) and seasonal fruits.

Titanic Exhibition

Address: Király utca 26.  Budapest 1061, district VII.

Opening Hours: 09.00 – 20.00 (cashier: 08.30 – 18.30)

This grandiose exhibit relating the story of the famous cruise liner is one of the programs that awaits visitors even during Christmas time, including 24. December, Christmas Eve.

The venue, located in Király Street is easily accessible and you can find numerous other attractions in the area, since it is part of the historic Jewish Quarter.

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