One of our favorite things in European Christmas Markets are the specialty vendors selling local goods. From Strasbourg to Budapest, we have explored the markets in both small and large towns across Europe this year. We enjoyed seeing some Christmas market staples in all of the European markets, such as mulled wine and festive ornaments. That being said, we loved how each market also has its own unique spin on these traditions and goods. Of all of these fun traditions, no city offered markets with more variety than the Christmas Markets in Budapest. So what were our favorite finds in the Budapest Christmas Markets? Read on to find out!
First, COVID-19 Logistics: We visited the Budapest Christmas Markets from December 15 to December 19, 2021. Remember: to enter the markets, you must have proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or other form of immunity. We suggest checking updated vaccine and immunity requirements before visiting, since the paperwork for proof often changes. Please also note that some markets were not open in 2021. Therefore, if you visit in subsequent years, make sure to check with your hotel or a guide regarding other markets!
The Main Christmas Markets in Budapest
In 2021, we found three main market areas. One is located in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica (and just steps from our suggested hotel in Budapest, the Aria Hotel Budapest, by Library Hotel Collection). Another market runs along Deák Ferenc té, a pedestrian-only street on the edge of Elizabeth Square, (where the Budapest Eye Ferris Wheel is)), and the last main market is located in Vörösmarty Square. Each have their own unique feel, but we suggest checking them all out. In general, we found that the one near the Cathedral and the one in Vörösmarty Square offered more artisan souvenirs and food, while the market along the pedestrian section of Elizabeth Square offered more souvenirs and small gifts.
(Side Note: If visiting Budapest during Christmas time, make sure to check out the huge ice skating rink on the edge of the City Park, near Hero’s Square. While note technically a Christmas Market, it’s a favorite Christmas spot for both locals and tourists!)
Our Favorite Things in the Budapest Christmas Markets
1. Ceramic Gifts
Different ceramic gifts are by far the most widespread market offering in Budapest, and they are fairly unique to this area of Europe. Stalls with ceramic goods offer everything from ceramic flowers (you can pick your favorites to make your own bouquet), to Christmas trees (which you can light up with a tea candle). Of course, more traditional ceramic items such as plates and bakeware can be found too! We found these stalls throughout the major markets, and definitely left Budapest with some fun items from these stalls!
2. Chimney Cakes!
Chimney Cakes are a classic dessert in Budapest’s Christmas Markets (they are called Kürtöskalács in Hungarian). This dessert is a sweet favorite throughout several countries in Central Europe (in Prague, you can get them year-round), but in Budapest, they are specifically a Christmas specialty. Essentially, a chimney cake is a long rope of dough wrapped around a wood cylinder, which is then coated in sugar and rotated over an open fire to cook. Warm chimney cakes are then rolled in your choice of toppings, such as cinnamon or Nutella.
Wondering why they are called chimney cakes? When released from the wood cylinder, chimney cakes release steam from the open center, making it look like a chimney on a cold day! Chimney cakes are a can’t miss experience in the Budapest Christmas Markets.
Of course most people who visit Budapest’s Christmas Markets will want to remember their time there, and the perfect Christmas themed souvenir is an ornament! In the markets, ornaments range from special hand-sewn ornaments to touristy wooden and ball shaped ornaments with “Budapest” printed on them. We particularly loved some of the special ceramic and cloth ornaments, which were unique to each stall and artisan.
4. Clothing Items
Several stalls throughout the markets sold special clothing items, including hats, coats, and sweaters. These items were all unique in some way or another such as hand-woven sweaters or hand-knitted hats. Additionally, there were many leather hats and coats at different stalls!
5. Mulled Wine
Of course, no European Christmas Market is complete without plenty of mulled wine! In Hungary, mulled wine is called “forralt bor”. This hot red wine (sometimes white wine versions are offered too) is spiced with seasonal spices such as cinnamon and orange (Each vendor has their own unique spice list), and is best enjoyed in the markets while wandering through the shoppings stalls!
Another popular good at the stalls was visual art. From intricate maps to paintings and prints, there were several stalls that sold special artwork. These stalls ranged from offering the work of one unique artist to displaying a range of works from different artists for visitors to peruse.
7. Roasted Food
Unlike some of the other markets we visited, Budapest’s markets offered a huge array of food options! In addition to the Chimney Cakes and Mulled wine described above, large food stalls offered a variety of roasted meats, soups, and side dishes. Our favorite part of the food in the markets was the amazing smell that wafted throughout!
Another unique aspect of the Budapest Markets is that the city provided tables for people to eat at within the market area (unlike in other cities where tables are either not provided or sequestered off in a no-mask zone to minimize the spread of COVID-19). This provided for a more fun environment, although it also encouraged us to keep our masks on while walking around those areas to be safe!
If you are looking for a special Christmas gift for a loved one, some of the jewelry stands at the Budapest Christmas Markets may offer what you’re looking for! The jewelers in these markets were mostly artisans selling unique pieces of jewelry. These pieces tended to be handmade, and used non-precious metals to provide affordable (but unique) pieces.
9. Roasted Chestnuts
If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to walk around a festive holiday area with “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” the Budapest Christmas Markets will give you that opportunity! Special stands sell roasted chestnuts at both of the big markets, providing a wonderful scent throughout the markets and offering customers the opportunity to taste the holiday favorite.
10. Christmas Gifts!
While all of the artisan goods above could be Christmas gifts, we frankly enjoyed shopping through the stalls for our own souvenirs! However, we also loved shopping through the stands that sold everything from small souvenirs to take home to friends to general gift-type goods, such as silly socks and toys. While stalls selling these items were spread out throughout the markets, we mostly found them on the pedestrian area of Elizabeth Square. Definitely make sure to check out these stalls when you visit the markets!
Budapest’s Christmas Markets offers a wide array of artisan goods, gift ideas, and holiday food favorites. It’s a great place to visit if you are looking for the bustling and festive Christmas spirit, while also wanting to experience some of the traditions and local favorites of a Hungarian Christmas.
Have questions or want help planning your trip? Feel free to contact us!
Considering what areas are the best places to visit to see the best Christmas Markets in Europe? Compare our overview of the Budapest Markets with out overview of the Christmas Markets throughout France’s Alsace region.