Although 2020 was something of a washout, the idea of heading abroad to do some unique Christmas shopping has always been appealing. Budapest Christmas market is one of those must-see destinations, and many people return year after year for the wonder and spectacle that really helps get you in the seasonal spirit and gives you an opportunity to purchase some really gorgeous items for your loved ones while taking in the culture of this fantastic Hungarian capital city. So, if you are planning some Christmas market shopping for 2021 Budapest should be high on your list because it is simply amazing.
For just over a quarter of a century, locals and tourists alike have been able to enjoy the wonders of the Budapest Christmas market. The market is set up in the square of Saint Stephen’s Basilica and in the surrounding areas. It isn’t a massive affair, but there are around 30 to 40 craft stores and a dozen or so market traders selling food and drink, and they tend to set up right in the middle of Vorosmarty Square. It is as you might expect quite quaint and you can enjoy the atmosphere with a glass of mulled wine as you stroll between the gorgeous offerings lovingly prepared by the market traders. Hungary is famous for goulash as well as many other dishes so expect to find that on offer. The traditional way to serve it is inside of a bread roll. If that is not your taste, you will also find garlic basted flatbread with grated cheese and sour cream which is absolutely delicious, sauerkraut and pigs knuckles with potato dumplings. Indeed, plenty to tempt even the fussiest of palettes.
There is certainly a lot for younger members of the family to do, and at weekends you can take children who are aged over 10 to the craft-making creche and escape for a bit of shopping without them in tow. Each Sunday they can watch the ceremonial display of lighting the advent candle and visit Santa on the stage as he hands out candied marzipan. Beautifully lit by the Basilica, there is also a good size ice skating rink, and a laser light show is displayed against the walls of the building.
For the Grinch
If you are being taken on the shopping trip by an overenthusiastic loved one, but actually, retail therapy is not your idea of fun then you will find plenty of pop-up cafes, and craft beer bars at which to rest your weary legs.
You can comfortably hang out there for an hour or so taking advantage of the lovely things they have on sale. Apple cider and Raspberry schnapps punch are two of the specialities you can enjoy and of course the aforementioned mulled wine and plenty of food on offer.
In reality, most people are going to head there because they simply love the buzz of the Christmas market and enjoy the retail therapy that it offers. There are some absolutely gorgeous offerings to be had from felted hats to stunning jewellery as well as the perhaps cheesier music boxes and pink bubble gum marzipan.
There are traditional Christmas decorations which include the smoking Santa who seemingly gave off a plume of real smoke which is more likely to come from an incense stick.
Alternative Christmas garlands are all the rage, and there are some beautiful Bay leaf and cinnamon stick offerings interspersed with dried orange segments which are simply unusual and totally different from the lurid plastic ones we have in the UK. Generally, most years you will find a simply stunning gingerbread seller, and not only will you be able to purchase a traditional house but also a hedgehog, Fox and other Woodland creatures or crafted out of this delicious gingerbread biscuit.
Even the most seasoned shopper needs to take a break, and the traditional plum and poppy seed cake which is a Hungarian Jewish recipe is simply delightful, called flodni you simply have to try it with a warm beer and sour cherry. If coffee is more your thing Café Gerbeaud is just along from the stores and you can also try the salted caramel macarons laced with raspberry. Their traditional coffee the Gerbeaud coffee features hot chocolate, coffee, apricot liqueur and April source with enticing vanilla foam and really has to be charged to be believed.
In the Local Area
One of the must-see things in Budapest is the Szechenyi thermal baths, which are formed from natural Hot Springs in the area and date back to Roman times. You can actually hire swimwear or bring your own. With outside temperatures likely to be in minus figures it isn’t the warmest experienced, and the water is often just warm instead of boiling hot.
But still, when in Rome and all that…when in Budapest one must visit the thermal baths.
Travel to the Market
There are plenty of ways to get to the market, whether you book a totally independent trip sourcing your accommodation, or whether you opt for a more organised Christmas market tour. You will find stores open beyond Christmas to the 29th of December, and many food stores remain in situ until the new year. Some of the stalls around the Basilica are also there a little bit longer. There is plenty of local accommodation from just £59 a night and plenty of flights including British Airways, when restrictions are lifted, who fly from London to Budapest for under £100.