How did we end up spending the holidays in Budapest? Well, it was September and, after spending 6 months in the extreme heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, the idea of spending Fall and Winter in the northern hemisphere didn’t sound bad at all. Plus, it was difficult to imagine that it would feel “Christmasy” to us in a tropical climate. I suppose that comes from growing up in the NE and NW regions of the United States.
We wanted chilly weather that allowed us to bundle up. We wanted holiday cheer and decorations. We wanted carolers and Christmas Markets. And, heck, we wanted ice skating. We looked into our destination options and we didn’t lack for choices, but ultimately we wanted the biggest holiday bang-for-our-buck.
Budapest had been on our travel wish list for a while and it is known for being cost effective. Even better, they go all out for the holidays. In actually, we’ll be spending Christmas in Avignon, but we decided to spend Thanksgiving and the lead up to Christmas in Budapest.
Our Thanksgiving dinner was simple, but delicious and satisfying. Of course, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Hungary, but you will find some hotels and such offering a Thanksgiving Dinner to guests and/or expats. If you are making your own meal, it can be a challenge to find traditional ingredients. Honestly, there are only 3 of us, so we don’t need to roast a turkey and we don’t need multiple sides or desserts.
We prepared a crudité platter for an appetizer, homemade chicken noodle soup (delicious, if I don’t say so myself), fresh bread, and then had store-bought chocolate chip cookies for dessert. After dinner we watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. It was perfect.
Our apartment is small, but well-laid out and has high ceilings. We are located in District VI, near City Park and Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út). Our metro stop is at the entrance of Hero Square. It’s been a great area for us and we feel right at home.
Budapest has a great energy and it’s got everything you’d want in a city: history, architecture, cafe culture, a deep love of the arts, a great transportation system, and plenty of good restaurants.
Hungarian is a difficult language, but we can speak a few words, and luckily, many people can speak at least some English, so we haven’t had any real challenges. Besides, we spend a fair amount of time at home reading, working, and homeschooling.
When we head out to explore the city, we visit some of the standard tourist sites, but just as often, we simply go about our daily life. We shop for groceries, run errands, go to the hospital for a checkup, check out the latest exhibit at a museum, or go out for a meal. We’ve always enjoyed becoming temporary locals.
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Budapest during the holidays is to visit the various Christmas Markets around town. We arrived in November, before they were fully underway, but they’ve continued to ramp up throughout our time here and there’s always been something new for us to see when we visit.
The primary Christmas Market is located at Vörösmarty Square in the heart of the city at the end of the famous stopping street, Váci utca. Like all of the markets, you’ll find cottage-style wooden stalls decked out for Christmas and offering a variety of traditional Hungarian foods and cakes or handicrafts.
It’s so pleasant to walk around and soak up the holiday spirit, partake in some of the delicious snacks and warm yourself with a hot cocoa or mulled wine. The markets are festive, inexpensive, and an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two. We’ve particularly enjoyed some delicious, but incredibly messy grilled sandwiches, flat bread served with sour cream and bacon, and cylinder-shaped pastries called chimney cakes. There are always grilled sausages, pizza, potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, and strudel to choose from as well.
We love seeing the avenues and the squares lit up. Even some of the street cars are decorated for the holidays. Unfortunately, there are only a few and we’ve never been fast enough to capture one on film (well, digitally), but it’s delightful. Once, when we were strolling down Andrássy Avenue, we happened upon carolers outside the Opera House.
Budapest is truly a great holiday destination.