December in Budapest

Programs and Things to Do in Budapest

5 people clink with glasses of red wine over a dinner table with pine decorThe 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.

Quick Links: Weather in DecemberEvents, Festivals: Christmas Markets  – WAMP Design & Gastro FairAdvent Sundays at the Várkert BazaarPalace of Arts (Müpa) Winter FestivalAdvent at the BálnaTIP: New Year Programs

SightseeingChristmas TramXmas Market TourBethlehem in Víziváros TourIce Skating

TIP: Concerts, Opera, BalletMuseum ExhibitionsCafe, Cake Shop TIP of the Month

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
  • hotels.

Weather in December – What to Pack?

  • 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.

Christmas Fairs and Other Events in 2017

December is all about Christmas and after that, the approaching New Year.

food and Xmas gift vendors' wooden cottages decorated with fir and red globes
Winter Wonderland at Vörösmarty Square

Budapest is home to one of the most charming (and affordable) Christmas markets in Europe that takes place on Vörösmarty Square (10. November – 31. December 2017.) 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).

Highlights:

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,
  • sandwiches,
  • 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.

Drawback:

  • a bit crowdy and touristy.

Christmas Market at Fővám Square, till 23. December 2017

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 Festival & Fair at Szent István Square, Basilica,

Date: 24. November 2017. – 02. January 2018.

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.

TIP: View our photos of the Advent Feast at Budapest’s Basilica on our FB page.

Check out other Christmas markets in Budapest and see also a list of hotels closest to the Vörösmarty Square Holiday Fair!

Open Air Winter Festival at Müpa/Palace of Arts

Date: 02. – 31. December 2017

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 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, 24. December: CLOSED, 25-26. December.

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.

Christmas Tree Installation

The 4-storey high, 5 m- diameter wood tree is lighted up with 110m long string of lights – a sight to behold on the Pest riverbank.

The unique installation is made up of 167 boxes and 45 lightboxes and has 3 entrances, with a lower one for children.

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.

WAMP Design and Gastro Fair, December

Venue: Millenáris “D” Building, Kis Rókus utca 16-20, district II., close to Mammut Shopping Mall

Dates in 2017: December 03., 10., 17 .

Opening Hours: 10.00-18.00

Entry: 500 HUF (ticket can be used as a voucher to buy things at the event)
Facebook

Wamp gastro market in MillenarisAlthough 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,
  • cheese,
  • bread and pastries,
  • chocolates,
  • biscuits
  • oils,
  • 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.

Advent in Óbuda, 27. November – 18. December 2017

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

Admission: free
Website

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!

Advent Weekends in Várkert Bazaar,

Date: on Saturdays & Sundays: 09., 10., 16., 17., 24. December 2017.

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 dome of the palace of Buda Castle and Varkert photographed from a boat on a clear spring day
Varkert Bazaar and the Royal Palace of Buda

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,
  • playhouse,
  • 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.

Advent Festival at the Bálna/Whale, Free Ice Skating,

Date: 02. December – 02. January

Opening hours

  • Sun – Thurs: 12.00 – 22.00,
  • Fri-Sat: 12.00 – 24.00

All Programs are FREE.

The Whale/Bálna Shopping & Cultural Centre, at a wonderful, scenic location right by the Danube in Pest will host a an Advent festival with

  • concerts,
  • street food,
  • 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.

You can also view a ginger bread mock up of Budapest in the Gallery No. 306 (street level) between 21. December – 29. January Entry is FREE.

TIP: Read also our post about What to Do on Christmas Eve in Budapest?

New Year’s Eve Programs

the Parliament by night from the Danube
Parliament at Night

Budapest is the perfect place to be on the last days of 2017 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 and Open Bar

Date: 31. December, 2017. 19.00

This is no doubts one of the best-value programs for Szilveszter (New Year’s Eve in Hungarian).

Warm buffet dinner, a wide choice in drinks from the open bar, dinner at midnight, raffle, a cruise on the river two times during the night, live music, great atmosphere!

Places are limited!

Buy Your Ticket Online!

New Year’s Day Concert in the Danube Palace

Festive Concert with Cimbalom Show, Operetta Songs, Dance Performances  by the Danube Chamber Orchestra

orchestra playing in the festively decorated theatre hall, stage illuminated by soft purple light
Gala Concert in the Duna Palota

Date & Time: 01. January 2018. 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: You can also book the concert together with a river excursion complete with with dinner to have an even more memorable evening on the first day of 2018.

Buy Your Ticket

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!

Sightseeing & Other Things To Do in December

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

Christmas Trams – 12 Lines Including Trams 2

the yellow tram No. 2 with strings of LED light standing at one of its stops
Tram 2 in Christmas LED lights

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):

See more photos about the Christmas Trams of Budapest.

Christmas Market Tour

Dates: 01 – 23. December 2017, 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.

Tour Prices:

  • Adults: 30 EUR
  • Students: 28 EUR
  • Children: (3-12 years of age): 15 EUR.

Bethlehem in Víziváros – Walking Tour by Imagine Budapest

Discover the hidden attractions of northern Buda, called Víziváros (Watertown) on foot.

The 1.5-hour tour will lead you through this romantic part of the city, showing you two churches including the moving Bethlehem of Szent Anna Church.

Itinerary:

Batthyány-tér – Bem rakpart – Csalogány utca – Fő utca – Batthyány utca – Batthyány-tér

Tickets: adult: 2 500 HUF, students, pensioners: 2 300 HUF

Tour dates in December: Fridays: at 11.00. Meeting point: entrance of St. Anne Church at Batthyány-tér, Buda, district I., (M2 (red) metro

Registration is online at the organiser’s website.

Concerts, Ballet

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.

See the program of the Opera in December and tickets.

TIP: A special Nutcracker Festival will be held in front of the Opera with a small craft fair, traditional Christmas delights: Sekler cake, roast chestnut, mulled wine. Date: 26. November – 30. December 2017.

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 !

See more Chistmas & New Year Concerts in 2017-18 in Budapest.

Museum Exhibitions in December

Cafe TIP of the Month

Cake Shop

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
Facebook

macarons, meringues on the counter
Inside Cake Shop

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

  • cakes,
  • pastries,
  • biscuits,
  • 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!

TIP: Other favourite coffee shops in town: Espresso Embassy – one of the first new wave coffee bars in Budapest is located in Arany J. utca (not far from Cake Shop).

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.

TIP: Browse our Christmas in Budapest page to see how Hungarian prepare for the holiday!

Related: Budapest Programs, Things to Do in NovemberOctober Events, Festival, Program TipsTop Winter Activities & Programs

Check Also

december 2017 in a calndar with 24th circled in red

Christmas Eve Programs in Budapest

Here in Budapest for the Christmas holiday? Read our things to do recommendations for 24. …