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 (till 01. January 2020.) 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: 22. November 2019. – 01. January 2020.
- Monday – Sunday: 10.00 – 22:00,
- December 24.: 10:00 – 14:00,
- December 25. & 26.:10.00 – 18.00
- December 31.: 10:00 – 03:00 am
- January 01.: 10.00 – 18.00
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 spiced 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!
Christmas Tree at the Parliament
As a tradition the country’s Christmas tree stands in front of the Parliament building on Kossuth Square.
This year it’s a magnificent silver fir of 18 – 20 m height and with 65 m diameter.
The tree weighs approx. 5 – 7 tons. A 130 cm high, 30 kg golden star ornament sits on its tip.
The Christmas tree and the special seasonal lighting will adorn the square till 06. January/Epiphany
Date: 02. – 31. December 2019, Ice Rink: till 29. January 2020.
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 concert, contemporary circus 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?
NEW: Advent/New Year Fair in City Park, till 12. January
Venue: City Park/Városliget
Opening Hours: 09 – 21.00 every day, even on 24-25-26 December and 01. January
The city’s largest park, Városliget, or just Liget, hosts a holiday fair with food and drinks, as well as family programs till 12. January 2019.
On 31. December you can join the crowd to carouse and say good bye to 2019 on a rock’n’roll street party.
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 2019.
Opening Hours of the Ice Rink
(till 28. February 2019.)
- Mon – Thurs: 10.00 – 14.00, 15.00 – 22.00,
- Fri-Sat: 10.00 – 14.00, 15.00 – 24.00
- Sun: 10.00 – 14.00, 15.00 – 22.00
Christmas-New Year Opening Hours
- 24. December: 10.00 – 14.00
- 25 -26. December: Closed
- 31. December: 10.00 – 14.00, 15.00 – 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 2019: December 08., 15 .
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.
Advent in Óbuda, 29. November – 23. December 2019
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!
Advent Weekends in Várkert Bazaar
Date: on Sundays: 02., 09., 16., 23. December
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 2019 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, 2019. 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!
A 70-minute long Chamber Concert starts the festive evening in the thatre hall of the neo-baroque palace at 17.00.
A longer Gala Concert with Cimbalom Show, Operetta Songs, Dance Performances by the Danube Chamber Orchestra will start at 20.00
Date & Time: 01. January 2019. at 17.00 (Chamber Concert) and 20.00 (Gala Concert, 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 2019.
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 2019 (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!
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.