By Zsófia Balassa
Winter is here and Christmas is almost upon us. Some people are getting ready for their final exams; others are looking forward to the holidays to be with their loved ones. If you are one of those people who are studying and are eager to take a little break and get into the holiday spirit, then here are a few things that Budapest has to offer for Christmas time.
1. Christmas Markets
This is probably the most atmospheric place to be around the holidays. The biggest Christmas market is at Vörösmarty tér, near Deák, and it offers handmade crafts, traditional Hungarian food, cake (chimney cake is one of the finest desserts) and of course mulled wine! It is a great place to get into the Christmas mood, perhaps even buy gifts or just simply meet with the old (and new) friends. This market usually opens late November and closes at the end of December.
Not so far from Vörösmarty tér, there is yet another small market, right in front of the Basilica, which is just as nice, however it offers less shops and it is on a smaller area. Nevertheless, it has a breathtaking view of the old Basilica. Furthermore, since you are there, you might as well go inside to admire the historic building.
There are several smaller markets that are almost hidden in the city, for example there is one near Király utca and also they have a smaller one at Heroes square. I suggest that you go ahead and explore the city, as it is lit up with Christmas lights and decorations for you to view.
One of the best activities to do in the wintertime is ice-skating. Europe’s biggest and best ice rink is located at Heroes Square. In the summer it is usually a huge lake where you can rent boats, but in the winter it turns into a fun, entertaining ice rink. It is easy and affordable to rent ice-skates and you’re ready to go skating in the rink, while listening to music and stopping for some mulled wine.
Shopping malls also offer smaller ice-rinks, for example at ArenaPlaza (near Keleti) and also next to Westend city center, at Eiffel Tér.
3. Santa Claus Factory
That’s right! There is an actual event called the Santa Clause Factory. If you are feeling generous and joyful during the holiday season, take a visit to Felvonulási tér (next to Heroes square) where they have an inflatable snow globe, where elfs pack presents and send them off to the orphanages. You can donate some of your toys to the elfs and then walk around in the small market around it (They also sometimes have an ice-rink set up). If you don’t have anything to give, then you have the opportunity to do volunteer work as well! It is open December 6-22. Don’t forget, this is the season to be giving.
4. Nutcracker at the Opera House
No Christmas is complete without the Nutcracker play. One of the oldest buildings, The Opera house (On Andrassy street) offers the ballet. The building itself creates a pleasant atmosphere, as it is so elegant. The ballet has a beautiful Christmas story, with lovely music and dancing! It starts playing from the 17th November. Ticket price ranges from 400ft – 12000ft , but hurry, tickets are easily sold out for this show.
If you do not want to spend too much money, yet you would like to see Budapest during the winter, then the best place is the Buda Castle. The view is breathtaking, and to warm up, they sell mulled wine, hot drinks and of course the traditional funnel cake. It is also a great place to take picture for all those photography-lovers.
6. Shopping Malls
Shopping malls in Budapest take Christmas rather seriously. They have various decorations hung up right after Halloween. Shopping malls are a great place to buy present for Christmas, sit down to have a drink with friends or even watch a Christmas movie at the cinema. Also, as I mentioned before, some plaza’s even offer an ice-rink. There are also Christmas shops in the malls, where you can buy decorations and/or gifts. Mammut (near Széll Kálmán tér) has an actual shop called the Christmas Shop, which is full of goodies and I recommend for you to check it out!
These are some things to do in Budapest during the holiday season. Of course there are many other events to go to, you just need to explore and open your eyes to the possible opportunities and programs. Budapest is not the only city that offers interesting and enjoyable events, some neighboring cities, like Szentendre, also offers fun activities for you to enjoy.