Think bright lights, snow flurries and Christmas markets – winter is Budapest’s ultimate time to shine. It’s a true tinsel town in December.
It is way too twinkly for us to resist which is why it’s the destination for our first out-of-the-country mini break since we returned to live in the UK. The flight time from London Stansted is just 2.5 hours, by Australian standards that’s just around the corner. We flew budget airline Ryanair. I must say it’s a long time since I’ve flown in a plane this small – it’s like travelling by baked bean tin!
This isn’t our first visit to Budapest, we enjoyed a short mini-moon after we got married way back in 2007. Since then, we’ve changed so much, the city has changed so much since and thankfully so has the fashion!
Last time we stayed in Buda which has stunning views and is perfect for a romantic getaway but this time we thought we’d mix it up and stay in Pest, close to food, nightlife and shopping, especially the Christmas Markets.
Where We Stayed
Location, location! Hotel Moments is situated in the World Heritage Site of and nestled between the high end boutiques of Andrassy Avenue. The hotel is beautifully appointed and the Christmas markets and other spectacular city sights are just a short walk away.
Our superior room is so comfortable, spacious, spotless and incredibly quiet despite being in the heart of the city. It’s the perfect balance of old world elegance and modern convenience.
There’s a gym (which we never have time to use,) a 24 hour lounge with complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water and a delicious and extensive breakfast is served daily. The interior of the hotel is really a sight to behold.
One thing to note is that if travelling from the UK, Budapest is a very affordable city. To stay in a hotel of a similar class in London or Paris, you’d be paying double at least!
Where we played
The Christmas Markets
I’d heard a lot about Budapest Christmas markets and indeed, the markets are the reason for our visit. The biggest Christmas market can be found at Vorasmarty Square at the end of the shopping street, Vaci Utca which is so beautifully decorated, it’s a destination in itself.
Vorasmarty Square is the oldest and busiest Christmas market in town with over 100 stalls selling food, gifts and souvenirs. Much of the merchandise in the market can be found at one of the many souvenir shops in the city (often for a cheaper price!) so it’s worth shopping around the market before you buy. There are some stalls selling handcrafted and artisan goods but these are much fewer and far between.
Head down the road about 600-700m away to Advent Feast Basilica – which has been voted the best market in Europe for 2023.
We prefer this market in front of St Stephen’s Basilica with it’s bijou ice rink in the centre and plethora of food options. Come for the amazing lights shows on the church, stay to sample local favourites from one of the many food stalls and/or do some souvenir shopping.
Traditional Treats and Eats
One thing is for sure, you won’t go hungry at the Christmas markets in Budapest. With everything from mulled wine to goulash and chimney cake to langos, there really is something for everyone. Sadly, the weather is not entirely favourable to take advantage of the outside seating while we are there and prices are pretty steep so we look for local favourites that we can enjoy indoors… And for similar prices.
If you go to Budapest, you have to try this sweet, cylindrical delight! It’s made of yeast dough, rolled in sugar and it’s absolutely yummy. There are more chimney cake kiosks than you can shake a stick at at the markets but we are cold and hangry and need somewhere we can eat and keep warm!
We head to Kato Neni Finomsagai (Deliciousness of Auntie Kato) which has an extensive menu of both sweet and savoury chimney cakes. Upon further investigation, we discover that none of the savoury options are available so settle on a classic walnut chimney cake. You can create your own stuffed chimney cake by choosing a creme filling but I thought that was one step too far.
At 2000 HUF I cross Chimney Cake off my list. As Auntie Kato says “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy chimney cake and that’s pretty much the same thing.”
Stepping inside Strudel Hugo is a bit like taking a step back in time but don’t be fooled, because although this little independent strudel shop may be small, it’s strudel is mighty! Mighty good! There are sweet and savoury options and even some that are sugar free.
We visit just before we leave town so we grab our sour cherry and cabbage strudels to go and enjoy them at the airport. Fillings are rich and generous and the pastry is ultra thin and melts in your mouth – the cherry is my favourite – it’s packed full of fat, juicy cherries! Prices are super reasonable – we pay 1300 HUF (about £2.95) for both!
In the past, langos was made with the last bits of the bread dough and baked at the front of the brick or clay oven and was served hot for the breakfast of the bread baking day. These days it’s evolved into a deep fried flatbread typically served topped with sour cream and grated cheese. It’s all kinds of delicious.
David does his research and we head to Retro Langos for some of Budapest’s loveliest langos. There’s seating inside and out but this place is super popular and you’re lucky to score a spot. There’s an extensive menu with a wide choice of langos including some vegan and sweet options and some lactose free toppings.
We are spoilt for choice but in the end opt for the Hungarian – sour cream, grated cheese, bacon and red onion (3000 HUF) It definitely lives up to the hype – the dough is warm and crispy and the sour cream and cheese is a winning combo. This is our final feed in Budapest and it’s the perfect fare for our last Hungarian supper.
Let me leave with you a couple of Budapest travel tips…
There are plenty of public toilets around Budapest but there is often a small charge to use them. It’s worth keeping some coins or small amounts of HUF with you, as going to the loo can cost about 200 HUF a pop.
I read somewhere that Hungarians are the second loneliest people in Europe – only Albanian is spoken by fewer people. Hungarian is a Uralic language which means it only shares similarities with Finnish and Estonian and quite frankly, it’s almost impossible to learn (especially in 2 weeks LOL!) I had a go at learning it on Duolingo before I left and failed dismally. That said, all the locals we met spoke very good English but I still made an effort to say and remember my 3 key words, igen (yes) nem (no) and kozonom (thank you.) I always got a smile when I used my Hungarian words, even if they were having a little laugh on the inside at my accent.
Have you ever been to Budapest? Which of the local delicacies would you be most keen to try?