After a slow and quiet Budapest in November, December once again comes with life and romantic atmosphere to Budapest. The month first of all has to do with the preparations for Christmas as people come to Budapest to visit the annual Christmas market and to buy Christmas present for their loved ones at home. Others come with the company for a pre-Christnas party with lots of drinking, partying, large meals and lots of pre-arranged programs. In general it can be said that Budapest has a lot to offer its visitors in December, and here we will try to give some information about the best hotels, activities, weather, programs, festivals and similar stuff in Budapest in December.
Weather in December
As you pack your suitcase and prepare for your stay in Budapest in December you should be prepared for temperatures around 0 degrees, maybe warmer and some sunshine during daytime, but still a cold feeling to it all. It is often windy in this period of the year, and when the wind is blowing in Budapset in 0 degrees, it is freezing cold, even for people from Nordic nations who are used to cold temperatures. It might be 0 degrees, but it feels more like -15 because of the wind. Make sure to have some warm shoes and socks in addition to your solid jacket and something to cover your ears with. As always we recommend our visitors to check out the weather forecast one day before departure, to get the latest update on what temperatures and weather can be expceted during the stay.
Because of the cold weather and the win, you might want to live in a hotel which is central, but not necessarily along the Danube where it is blowing more than anywhere else. The best Christmas market is located on the Vörösmarty square, so a hotel not far from this is recommend, for example Kempinski (5 stars), Eurostars Budapest Center (4 stars), Mercure Budapest CityCenter (4 stars) or Hotel Promande (3 stars). These are all central and have quite good prices and normally good reviews from their visitors.
What do do in Budapest in December?
In the cold you will probably look for quite some indoor activities, so we will try to come up with some good suggestions for you for things you can do in Budapest in December. Still, the most important activity in Budapest in this period is the Christmas market(s).
There are several Christmas markets in Budapest, but the most visited and important market is the one located at the Vörösmarty square. This is the square where you can find the famous Gerbeaud confectionery and every day at 17.00 they open the calender of the day in the windows at Gerbeaud. The market looks especially magical in the evenings with all the lights turned on. Read more about the market at our Christmas market page.
Hot wine and honey festivities
This is something very similar to a Christmas market, but still a bit different. The location is the Vajdahunyad castle in the City Park of Budapest. You will of course get the chance to shop handicrafts here, if you are freezing you will find hot wine and you can of course combine it with some ice skating at the giant ice skating rink just next to the Castle. The program is available from December 1st till December 23rd in 2012, and is open from 10.00-20.00 on weekends and from 12.00-20.00 on weekdays. Entrance is free!
Before Christmas people want to go shopping and they look for traditional and untraditional Christmas presents. In Budapest you can find lots of shops in the popular Vaci Utca, but if you want to visit a traditional shopping mall with the most famous stores inside you should visit either WestEnd Citycenter (by Nyugati Pályaudvar) or Arena Plaza (by Keleti Pályaudvar). In these centers you will find popular brands, restaurants, cafees, cinemas and more. If you want more exclusive shopping and want to buy some really expensive stuff to a wife or girlfriend, then go for a walk in Andrassy ut and visit either Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Max Mara, Armani or one of the other exlucsive shops in Budapest. To shop some handmade stuff and quite seldom stuff, a trip to Szentendre could be an option.
Excursion to Vienna
A great idea and cool activity to do before Christmas if you come to Budapest is to go on a day trip ti Vienna. The capital of Austria is only 250 kilometers away, and most drivers do this distance in 2,5 hours. In Vienna you have beautiful attractions such as Schönbrunn, Hofburg and the Stephansdom, but in December you can in addition find some of the nicest Christmas markets in the world here. Vienna is much more expensive than Budapest, so live cheap in Budapest, enjoy the Christmas market in Budapest and then do a day trip to Vienna one day and enjoy the beauties and the romantic Christmas markets of Vienna as well.
This might not be the nicest Christmas program, but according to Hungarian traditions a pig needs to be slaughtered in this time. This is a big celebration and during a pig slaughter day you eat lots of pork, drink a lot and fill your freezer with meet for the upcoming year. This is a “hard-to-find” program, but if you look hard on the web, you might find it.
Christmas in Budapest
When writing an article about Budapest in December one of the most important parts is what to do for Christmas in Budapest. Quite a lot of people travel to other cities and nations to celebrate Christmas there, and if you come to Budapest, here are come advices. First of all it is useful to know that most restaurants keep closed on December 24th. While some restaurants open again on December 25th, most restaurants stay closed all the way until December 27th. It is therefore important, especially for December 24th to book a table in an open restaurant beforehand. A new option available on December 24th in 2012 is the traditional Dinner Cruise with live gipsy music which will be arranged from 19.00 on Christmas Eve. If that sounds interesting click here for more information and ticket reservation.
Shops are open in Budapest on December 24th until 12.00 or 13.00, and then they open again on December 27th. Museums are also closed on December 24th and most of them open again on December 27th. Again, if you plan on visiting someplace special or have a special interested in a museum, check out what opening times they have specifically. The Szechenyi Thermal Bath has nice opening times during Christmas and stay open every day, but it closes earlier on December 24th. This means that if you come to Budapest for Christmas you will meet a lot of closed restaurants and museums, so be prepared for that and take that into consideration as you plan your stay. But, as of December 27th everything goes back into normal life again, only interrupted by:
New Years Eve in Budapest
December 31st is the last day of the year, and on this day you will be able to enjoy open shops, restaurants and museums in Budapest. During the daytime most restaurants run with their normal menus, but starting sometimes between 19.00 and 21.00 almost all restaurants have special new years eve menus, which needs to be booked and often payed for before the program itself starts. It is therefor important to plan where you want to spend your New Years Eve before arrival, as most restaurants are fully booked some days before the big day.
What about January 1st? On the first day in the new year it is time to relax after a late night, so stay in bed for a long time. All shops are closed on this day, but restaurants and shops keep open as normal. Some museums are closed, but the Szechenyi Thermal bath is open, so if you want a swim in the cold weather (which we can warmly recommend), that is a great program for January 1st.
Other programs available in December
In December you can find some programs available, which you could just as well do any other month in Budapest and Hungary. This means that there are daily cruises available on the Danube in all of December, there are folklore performances, some organ concerts, wine tasting opportunities, great private massage treatment opportunities and of course lots of traditional and un-traditional Hungarian restaurants waiting for you to visit them
We wish you at least a good stay in Budapest in December and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.