Budapest in festive spirit

When Last Christmas resonates on the radio – several times a day – we all know that, no matter where you are in the world, Christmas time is upon us. If that corner of the world happens to be Hungary, or Budapest to be exact, there are plenty of festive programs to relish and shopping experiences to be had. Get ready for the holidays in Budapest!

From the moment Budapest locals start getting ready for the holidays, they know that the enchanting Christmas lights on Andrassy Boulevard (which also happens to be a part of their World Heritage) ring in the festive spirit. The Avenue is lined with trees and well-known designer shops that are adorned with lights and Christmas regalia at least a month before the big day. Therefore, in December, we highly recommend a walk from Deák Square to Heroes’ Square, since it guarantees a festive mood.

On the way, you can see the Hungarian Opera House, which is currently closed for renovations, though the surrounding neighborhood still holds true to the holiday tradition of displaying decorations from the Nutcracker along the avenue. There are life-sized statues in front of the Opera House, as well as in huge showcases across the way, which provide great photo opportunities for those walking by. There are, of course, also ballet performances by the Opera company while the renovations are underway at the nearby Erkel Theater this year, which can be enjoyed regularly throughout the Christmas season.

There are numerous Christmas fairs open throughout the Christmas holidays in Budapest, but if you are looking for the classic maelstrom experience such a fair can offer, then the direction to take is towards Vörösmárty Square, where you can also use your Budapest Card for special discounts. You can find everything your heart desires here, including food, drink and presents galore. Once you have some hot mulled wine to warm your hands up, you must pamper yourself with a Hungarian delicacy such as chimney cake (“Kürtős kalács”), and only then are you ready to proceed to the numerous stands to buy anything from artisanal folk art to modern gifts.

There are a few dishes in Hungary that make Christmas just that, which can also be found at local restaurants from the beginning of December on, in their classic or most recently updated versions. Moreover! There are several restaurants, such as the Intercontinental Hotel Corso Restaurant, where you can even order your entire Christmas dinner to go, so it can be enjoyed at home for your family or guests. So, what do these delicacies consist of? Well, for starters there are the traditional rolls, called bejgli, usually made with poppy seeds or walnuts – although extravagant versions can be purchased here and there!

Look for the classic ones at the Jacques Liszt Pastry Shop, which can be found just a few hundred meters away from Vörösmárty Square. Another recommendation on the list would have to be a real Hungarian Fisherman’s soup which, though Hungarians cannot get enough of this traditional treat at this time of year, one should be selective about where they taste this delicacy for the very first time. We would like to recommend Rosenstein’s Restaurant as our top vote, since they have proudly been making this dish for the last 20 years.

If you have had your fill of all the delicious eats possible, then you won’t want to miss the chance to ride the Christmas trams on line 2 by the Danube’s riverside, which are covered in Christmas lights all December long.

One thing is for sure: Budapest in December has a bit of holiday cheer to offer to all, so getting into a festive mood is absolutely inevitable.

Photo: 123rf.com

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