POSTED: December 3rd 2016

JENNIFER WALKER: Get into the holiday spirit at Budapest's Christmas markets

The Budapest Christmas market offers a mix of culture and local culinary delicacies © Jennifer Walker
The Budapest Christmas market offers a mix of culture and local culinary delicacies © Jennifer Walker

An array of baked local Holiday treats tempt visitors © Jennifer Walker
An array of baked local Holiday treats tempt visitors © Jennifer Walker

Over 25 Colorful stalls offer authentic Hungarian crafts © Jennifer Walker
Over 25 Colorful stalls offer authentic Hungarian crafts © Jennifer Walker

JENNIFER WALKER in BUDAPEST / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) As Christmas draws closer, the aroma of mulled wine and cinnamon perfume the streets of Budapest. Stands of Sekler cakes, also known kürtöskalács in Hungarian, pop up on numerous street corners, rotating the cylindrical dough above a coal fire until the sugar crust blisters and they are cooled and rolled in cocoa powder, walnuts or ground cinnamon. Wooden stalls occupy virtually every public space, selling mulled wine spiced with cloves, cinnamon and fruit, or handcrafted gifts from local designers. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Hungarian capital comes to life with the festive spirit.

Budapest is currently bidding to host the 2024 Olympics and is keen to showcase the city's tourism appeal. Hungary is bidding against Paris and Los Angeles two other cities that have very big tourism followings.

While each neighborhood has its own mini Christmas market, most of the action takes place down in the city centre in the city's V District, spreading out to the Basilica and up into Deák Square. The set up next to the historic Gerbaud Café on Vörösmarty Square, the official Christmas Fair showcases the best in local Hungarian design, along with seasonal street food and Advent-related events.    

The aroma of hot sausages and roasted goose leg waft out of the wooden cabins set up on a raised platform at the center of the square. High above the seasonally decorated wooden huts and stalls, people laugh and eat over a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate while taking a break from shopping as dogs sit whining for scraps besides their owners on the wooden steps.

With over 25 stalls to choose from it's easy to get some Christmas shopping done, and without the usual Christmas kitsch you'd come to expect from the usual seasonal markets. 

From handcrafted diaries and notebooks, pottery, woolen goods and jewelry to artisanal cheese, marzipan and baked goods, the one thing the stalls have in common is quality and a focus on the local, with a large majority of the vendors holding a membership with the Hungarian Crafts Association. If you have a Budapest Card, you can also get a 5% discount on all goods and 10% off food and drink.   

But beyond the shopping the Christmas Fair offers plenty of festive fair, on each Sunday during Advent at 4pm, there is a ceremonial lighting of the Advent candles, and from the 5th of December you can also find folk and world music concerts, puppet shows and more every day, and not just on the weekends, at the stage at the edge of the market, close to the charity booth and the information point. 

However, even if you leave the square, you'll still find plenty of festive events around the city. There's another market with the Basilica as the backdrop, especially spectacular at night with its evening light shows, and Deák Street, known colloquially as Fashion Street, has its own crafts market made up of quality street food and Hungarian arts and crafts, including vintage inspired goods, lavender products from the Tihany peninsula on Lake Balaton as well as the usual Hungaricum products such as packets of paprika and folk embroidery you'd find in any gift shop. 

But if the winter weather gets in the way of your festive shopping, or you're looking for a more elegant shopping experience, you can always pay a visit to the market at the Four Seasons Hotel. You can shop luxury and local brands brands under the art nouveau arcades of the famous Gresham Palace, before enjoying specialties from the hotel bar.

So get into the holiday spirit in downtown Budapest for the month of December until New Year with Budapest's seasonal markets.

The IOC will choose the final host city in September of 2017 for the summer Games.

** ​JENNIFER WALKER is an ex-physicist turned freelance writer specializing in art, travel and culture, with a focus on Budapest, Hungary. She's a blogger for herself at Off the Bohemian Track, along with the Huffington Post and Perceptive Travel, and she writes about Budapest culture and gastronomy for The Budapest TimesWe Love Budapest and Budapest Local. She has written and worked for: DK Travel (Penguin books), Lonely PlanetBBC TravelThe GuardianCNN TravelVICE NewsSlateQuartzTripadvisorDraft MagazinePaste MagazineThe Calvert JournalOryx (Qatar Airways' in-flight magazine)OxfordWordsViatorGadlingThe Matador NetworkGOOD MagazineAtlas ObscuraBootsnall, Move Guides, Inside GuidesThe ExpeditionerARTES MagazineKunstpediaThe Culture-ist and Untapped Cities.


Keywords · Olympics · Budapest · Jennifer Walker

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