Quality food and gifts, small town charm, and a manageable market in the center of town
The Budapest Christmas Fair is located in the center of town at Vörösmarty Square. Vörösmarty Square sits at one end of the pedestrian shopping street, Váci utca, making it a conveniently located in the tourist zone. The Budapest Christmas Fair is a decent sized market, packing a lot of merchandise and food into and around a popular town square. This market exudes a small town feeling, and it is decorated beautifully, both during the day and especially at night when everything is lit up.
At the Budapest Christmas Fair, you’ll find cottage-style wooden stalls lining the square selling all kinds of unique, traditional gifts. In the center of it all, you’ll find open kitchens where the food vendors prepare all kinds of traditional Hungarian dishes before your eyes. There’s quite a bit of outdoor seating available, too, so you can sit and enjoy your meal. There’s also entertainment at the Budapest Christmas Fair, and you can find performances on either of the two outdoor stages starting in the early evening hours (5:00 PM) every day.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry!
What to Eat
You will not have a hard time finding something delicious to eat while visiting the Budapest Christmas Fair. Most of the food options are traditional Hungarian Christmas dishes. For the less adventurous eater, stick to the potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, grilled sausage, and roasted chestnuts. You may also want to try the lepény, a square shaped, flat bread pizza topped with sour cream, bacon or sausage and cheese that is then baked in a clay oven. Beware, the line for lepény is always long, but it is definitely worth the wait! Not very filling, it’s perfect for a lite snack. For the foodies, you can easily take it up a notch and choose from roasted goose thigh, pork knuckle, goulash soup, chicken paprika, and liver pudding.
Be sure to leave room for a sweet treat. Traditional Hungarian treats include the mézeskalács (a traditional honey cookie), a slice of beigli (Hungarian poppy seed and walnut rolls) or a kürtös kalács (chimney cake). By far, my favorite treat is the chimney cake, and it’ll be hard for you to miss these at the market, as they tend to be a star attraction.
You’ll see many people gathered around the kürtös kalács stall watching as the young men wrap a strip of sweet yeast dough on a cone shaped baking spit, and then place it over charcoal cinders to bake. They’ll rotate the chimney cakes over the charcoal until a nice even golden color is achieved to signify the end of the baking process. You can order this hollow pastry treat plain or with the traditional cinnamon powder. Sometimes, it’s also offered with ground walnuts or chocolate. I’ve had them all, and I still think the traditional cinnamon powder is the way to go!
Travel Tip: If you don’t get a chance to try a chimney cake at the Christmas market, you can also visit the the indoor cafe, Molnar’s Kurtoskalacs, along Vaci utca at No. 31, It’s about 3 – 4 blocks away from the Christmas market.
Travel Tip: If you are traveling with a picky eater, consider a stop for an indoor lunch or dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe Budapest, which is conveniently located on the square along Vaci utca.
What to Drink
When it comes to drink offerings, you’ll find the staples of all European Christmas markets at the Budapest Christmas Fair. This includes the popular steamy mulled red wine, as well as the not-as-popular mulled white wine. You can also simply opt for one of the Hungarian craft beers or grog.
You’ll also find the traditional Hungarian punch, Krampampuli, throughout the market. Although there is a lot going on with it (it’s made with raisins, figs, dates, dried, plums, candied orange peel, orange and lemon juice, sugar, tea, cane rum, and spicy mulled white wine), it’s definitely worth a try while in Budapest, and there is no doubt that it will warm you up on a cold December day at the Christmas market.
If you are looking to warm up, grab a coffee at one of Europe’s most famous coffeehouses, Café Gerbeaud. Conveniently located right on Vörösmarty Square where the Budapest Christmas Fair is located, it will be the large white building on the corner with an Advent Calendar on it. Expect to wait in line, as it is already a popular coffeehouse in Budapest, but during the Christmas Fair, it becomes crazy busy.
What to Buy
Some of the best quality and most unique gifts can be found at the Budapest Christmas Fair. In fact, items for sale at the Christmas market stalls are selected and approved by a panel of folk art experts to ensure that visitors are buying nothing but hand-made, good quality, Hungarian items. With over 122 stalls offering a range of unique gifts, plan some time for shopping and expect to pick up quite a few gifts to take home with you.
With a lot of different items being sold at the market, from the practical rattan carpet beaters to the beautiful and fragrant dried fruit and spice garlands, you are sure to find the perfect gift for yourself or someone else. Some things to keep your eye out for include the specialty jams and honey, cold pressed pumpkin seed oil, and my personal favorite, the fine ceramics painted in blue and gold.
You may also want to pick up a souvenir mug of the Budapest Christmas Fair. Many folks collect these at all the Christmas markets they visit during their trip as most markets throughout Europe will have their own souvenir mug. It makes for a festive mug collection for your home, perfect to put out each Christmas season to remind you of your Christmas market trip.
Have you been to the Budapest Christmas Fair? What were your favorite things to eat, drink and buy? Share in the comments below.