Programs and Things to Do in Budapest
The last month of the year and the first month of the winter season has a lot in store for visitors to Budapest.
Although the weather is cold with average monthly temperature around 2 deg. Celsius, a range of
- festivals and Christmas fairs,
- concerts and other activities take place at various spots in the city enticing everyone to brave the unpleasant December weather.
Besides Christmas, children are expecting the visit of Santa on St. Nicholas day, 06. December.
Joulupukki, the real Santa comes to Hungary from Finnland for a week. He can be spotted at various places in Budapest, including Vörösmarty tér.
December ends with awesome New Year parties at various venues:
- in the streets,
- on the Danube,
- in bars and clubs, and
- December is cold with temperatures below zero or a couple of degrees above zero.
- On top of the subzero temperatures it is often cloudy and windy.
- We usually don’t get much snow in December (in previous years there wasn’t any), though some days there is some rain or sleet.
- It’s best to dress in several layers: so do bring warm sweaters, cardigans, or a vest that you can pull on a long-sleeve shirt. A lightweight but warm coat, scarf, winter cap, gloves are must to make exploring the city in the cold more pleasant. Warm socks and a comfortable winter boots/shoes (water proof, if possible) can also go on your packing list.
December is all about Christmas and after that, the approaching New Year.
Budapest is home to one of the most charming (and affordable) Christmas markets in Europe that takes place on Vörösmarty Square (09. November – 31. December 2018.) in the city centre.
It is easily accessible by public transport
- M1 underground at Vörösmarty tér,
- M1, M2, M3 metro lines at Deák tér station,
- tram 2 on the Pest side of the Danube: get off at Vigadó tér stop).
The market is a great source for quality handmade gifts: knitted hats, leather products, pottery, jewelry, kitchen utensils, homedecor items, culinary delicacies.
The food court offers typical Hungarian and international dishes:
- stuffed cabbage,
- grilled and roast meats,
- strudel, beigli and other pastries and cakes, and of course
- typical winter drinks: hot wine, punch, grog, tea and coffee.
Concerts, the visit of Santa Claus on 06. December between 15.00-16.00, children activities and playhouse (weekdays: 14.00-18.00, weekends: 10.00-13.00 and 16.00-19.00) are permanent programs each year.
- a bit crowdy and touristy.
Advent Festival & Fair at Szent István Square, Basilica
Date: 23. November 2018. – 01. January 2019.
Opening Hours: Mon – Thurs: 11:30 – 20:00, Fri: 11:30 – 22:00, Sat: 10:00 – 22:00, Sun: 10:00 – 20:00, December 24.: 10:00 – 14:00, December 25. & 26.: closed, December 31.: 10:00 – 22:00
The Christmas Market and Advent Festival at Szt. István Sqaure in front of the Basilica is the second most popular festive fair in Hungary’s capital.
The largest church of the city gives a spectacular background to the fair and there’s also a small ice rink (200 sqm).
Lovely wooden cottages offer various local craft products, handmade Christmas bonbons, mulled wine and other drinks, and quality street food from lángos to gourmet burgers.
You can sip seasoned winter drinks in the heated hütte, while watching a spectacular light mapping show on the facade of the Basilica (every 30 minues after sunset). See exact programs on the official website of the event.
Check out other Christmas markets in Budapest and see also a list of hotels closest to the Vörösmarty Square Holiday Fair!
Date: 02. – 31. December 2018, Ice Rink: till 28. January 2019.
Address: Komor Marcell utca 1., district IX., getting there: tram 2 or H7 suburban railway, Közvágóhíd stop
Although there isn’t an Xmas market at the Winter Festival at the Palace of Arts, it’s a wonderful event to soak up some festive atmosphere and culture.
An ice rink on 400 sqm and a large tent next to it for some exciting programs and a Melody Wheel – an interactive music box – are the highlights of the festival.
Ice Rink Opening Hours
- weekdays: 14.00 – 20.00, weekends: 10.00 – 20.00,
- winter school holiday (exc. bank holidays): 22. Dec – 02. January: every day: 10.00 – 20.00,
- Christmas – New Year: 24. December: CLOSED, 25 – 26. December & 01. January: 12.00 – 20.00
Ice Rink Admission: free for one time with a valid Müpa Budapest ticket. Mulled wine,tea, coffee and snacks as well as skate rental are available.
Tent, 02 – 31. December
Tickets: between 500 – 1 500 HUF
The spacious tent set up next to the rink gives home to a range of concerts and other cultural programs including many for children.
See the list of programs here.
TIP: Read also our post about What to Do on Christmas Eve in Budapest?
The Whale/Bálna Shopping & Cultural Centre, at a wonderful, scenic location right by the Danube in Pest will host a an Advent festival with
- craft workshop for kids (inside the building)
- spicy mulled wine and other hot drinks.
A 450 sqm ice rink with skate rental welcomes the active ones till the end of February.
Entry is free. Skate rental is 1 000 HUF for 3 hours (single skate from size 26, luggage storage is available).
You can also view a ginger bread mock up of Budapest in the Gallery No. 306 (street level) till 27. January 2018.
Opening Hours of the Ice Rink
(till 28. February 2018.)
- Mon – Thurs: 10.00 – 22.00,
- Fri-Sat: 10.00 – 24.00
- Sun: 10.00 – 22.00
Christmas-New Year Opening Hours
- 24. December: 10.00 – 14.00
- 25 -26. December: Closed
- 31. December: 10.00 – 18.00
- 01. January: Closed
You can also view a ginger bread mock up of Budapest in the Gallery No. 306 (street level) between till 27. January Entry is FREE.
WAMP Design and Gastro Fair, December
Venue: Millenáris “D” Building, Kis Rókus utca 16-20, district II., close to Mammut Shopping Mall
Dates in 2018: December 02., 09., 16 .
Opening Hours: 10.00-18.00
Entry: 500 HUF (ticket can be used as a voucher to buy things at the event)
Although the location of this gastro fair is not central, foodies must drop by anyway.
Take tram 6 or M2 (red line) metro till Széna tér stop and you’ll reach the huge industrial building of Millenáris and park, just behind Mammut Shopping Centre in a few minutes.
The fair has been part of the city’s designer and craft food scene for a couple of years now.
A great place to browse among and buy quality food stuff as well as wonderful designer items:
- homemade jams,
- bread and pastries,
- spices and herbs,
- wine and pálinka,
- designer kitchen utensils.
It’s a whole different experience than shopping in a store or plaza. The sellers who design and make their own items are friendly and happy to talk about their products and craft.
Christmas Market at Fővám Square, till 23. December 2018
Opening Hours: every day 10.00 – 20.00
The little plaza, Fővám tér opposite the Great Market Hall also offers a holiday fair. A wooden Xmas tree installation in the centre is surrounded by cottages selling
- handcrafted decors,
- folk textile,
- cheeses, Hungarian paprika sausages and
- food and drinks.
You can listen to music performances of local bands on Thursdays and Fridays at 16.00, and 18.00 and on Saturdays at 12.00, 14.00, 16.00, 18.00.
TIP: Since Váci Street starts at Fővám tér it’s a good idea to explore the market here then walk down Váci utca till you reach the main Christmas Fair on Vörosmarty Square.
Advent in Óbuda, 30. November – 23. December 2018
Location: Óbuda-Main Square (Fő tér) and Szentlélek tér district III.
Opening hours of the Xmas market: Mon-Thurs: 14.00 – 21.00, Fri-Sun: 10.00 – 22.00
The Main Square of Óbuda as well as the Szentlélek tér, a 2 minute walk from Main Sqr., turn into a wonderful Christmas venue each year.
- A tall Christmas tree,
- craft fair,
- and tasty local food offering authentic Hungarian food (stuffed cabbage, Fishermen’s soup, veal paprikash, roast goose, strudel, oven-baked bread, and fragrant winter drinks) welcome everyone in the Advent period.
You can skate on the ice rink for free (skate rental is available for 600 HUF for adults and 400 HUF for children) every day from 8.00 till 22.00.
Don’t forget to view the photo exhibition introducing old Christmas, New Year and other folk traditions, how people lived in the village in winter. Find out more about the Advent Festival in Óbuda!
Dates: 01 – 23. December 2018, every day at 14.30
It is a great holiday-themed guided walk tour where you’ll get an insight into Hungarian Christmas traditions while visiting three Christmas fairs and the Pest’s main sights including
- St. Stephen’s Basilica (interior visit if it’s visitor time for the public),
- the Opera House all glowing in spectacular holiday decoration.
A 3-tier wine tasting in a local restaurant is also part of the program: you can take a rest while sipping fine Hungarian wines.
The tour ends at the city’s largest fair at Vörösmarty Square where you’ll be treated a glass of hot wine.
- Adults: 30 EUR
- Students: 28 EUR
- Children: (3-12 years of age): 15 EUR.
Advent Weekends in Várkert Bazaar
Date: on Saturdays & Sundays: 01, 02., 08, 09., 15., 16., 22., 23. December 2018.
Address: Ybl Miklós tér 2-6., district I., Buda
Getting there: bus No. 16. or No. 105 (you can get on at Deák F. Sqr. in Pest centre, or at Széchenyi tér at the ChainBridge, get off at Clark Adam tér, then a few minutes walk)
Entry: free to most programs, theatre performances can be attended with tickets (cc. 2 900 HUF)
The finely restored historic building complex, Várkert Bazaar & Royal Gardens at the southern foot of the Castle Hill host a series of programs on Sundays preceding Christmas, between 27. November and 24. December.
Families with kids can choose from lots of things to do:
- craft workshops,
- interactive performances.
Concerts, folk performances and a wonderful festive atmosphere await everyone at one of Budapest’s top landmarks.
Each Sunday, at 18.30 a candle will light up on the festive Advent wreath – located in the Event Hall – marking the approach of Christmas and the birth of Jesus.
Find out more about the programs.
Budapest is the perfect place to be on the last days of 2018 since people will say farewell to the old year at countless
- parties in bars and clubs,
- street carnivals, and
- home parties.
New Year’s Eve Party on the Danube with Dinner & Open Bar
Date: 31. December, 2018. 19.00
This is no doubts one of the best-value programs for Szilveszter (New Year’s Eve in Hungarian).
Delicious 5-course dinner, a wide choice in drinks from the open bar, dinner at midnight, a cruise on the river two times during the night, live music and dancing till dawn!
Places are limited!Buy Your Ticket Online!
Festive Concert with Cimbalom Show, Operetta Songs, Dance Performances by the Danube Chamber Orchestra
Date & Time: 01. January 2019. at 20.00, the concert is 90 minute long (with a break)
Celebrate New Year’s Day in style with
- classical concert spiced up with a Cimbalom play (hammered dulcimer-authentic Hungarian folk instrument)
- operetta songs by the Budapest Operetta Theatre and
- balett dance performances in the elegant, historic Vigadó on the Danube Promenade in Pest.
TIP: See alo our list of Budapest Restaurants that are open on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
See more New Year Programs in Budapest!
Budapest is not the nicest in the dreary December weather but it’s still worth exploring the many historic and cultural sights.
If you don’t like chugging along in a cold, windy weather take a
- boat cruise or go on a
- bus tour to see the most of the city.
Boat Tours with Meal/Drinks
Each year some of the tram lines, one is tram 2 along the Danube bank in Pest, are decked out in festive lights welcoming the approach of Christmas and the New Year.
The 3500 m long string has 39 500 blue and white LED lights. The interior of the trams is also decorated in holidays theme.
You can travel on these special trams with regular public transport tickets (a single ticket costs 350 HUF) or the Budapest Card (entitles the holder to free use of all public transportation).
Schedule: the festive trams run every day after 17.00 till late evening between 01. December – 06. January ( exc. 24 Dec and 31. Dec).
Tram 2 route: Közvágóhíd – Müpa/National Theatre – Boráros tér – Zsil utca – Fővám tér/Great Market Hall – Március 15- Square – Vigadó tér – Eötvös tér – Széchenyi tér/Chain bridge – Kossuth Square – Parliament/Visitor Centre – Jászai Mari tér: 04. December – 06. January 2018 (except for 24., 25., 26. and 31. December when the Christmas trams don’t run):
A classical concert either in a church or in one of the city’s numerous concert halls or a folklore performance are great indoor programs in winter.
The Nutcracker in the Opera House
The Hungarian National Opera House includes the Nutcracker in its December program each year.
Tchaikovsky’s last ballet is an ideal program in the Advent period.
Before the show you can admire the 130-year old building of the Opera on Andrássy út one of the best-known works of architect Miklós Ybl.
Music & Wine Gala Concert of the 100 Member Gypsy Orchestra
Date: 30. December, 18.00
Venue: Budapest Congress Center, address: Jagelló út 1-3, Bp., 1123, district XII.
Tickets: from 42 EUR
A New Year Gala Concert of the 100-Member Gypsy Orchestra is a fabulous program to say farewell to the old year.
The 2-part concert of the famous orchestra includes a unique interpretation of popular pieces by Strauss, Rossini, Brahms, Bizet, Liszt and Tchaikovsky.
During the program you can enjoy a wonderful dinner or just snacks and wine.
A wine tasting and folk dance show precedes the concert where you can sample the best of Hungary’s wine regions and wine makers.See Tickets !
Address: József Attila utca 12., district V., close to Erzsébet tér in the city centre
Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 08.00 – 20.00, Sat: 10.00 – 20.00, Sun: 10.00 – 18.00
If you miss their stall at the Advent fair in front of the Basilica you can easily find them in the city centre near Erzsébet Square in József Attila utca.
You can’t miss the girls working with a bright red Kitchenaid behind the shop window overlooking the street, creating the most exquisite
- macarons, and
- brownies in town. (Daubner, my other favourite cake shop, doesn’t count because it’s located at the end of the world).
Coffees, teas, Christmas specialties, savoury snacks are all available.
Stepping through the door you’ll encounter an enchanting shop dominated by the fragrant aroma or sugar, vanilla, chocolate, caramel and coffee.
Take a break and treat yourself to a slice of cake and a cup of hot coffee in this little gem of Budapest!
Expert, coffee fanatic baristas, high-quality, single origin coffees from various roasters (both local and international), great teas, pastries and cakes entice you to spend there an hour or two.