This post on Budapest and Vienna Christmas Markets is from travel blogger Cristina Puscas of LooknWalk.
Christmas Markets are is a street markets associated with celebrating Christmas. They typically take place during Advent, but in recent years, they’ve been opening a lot earlier. By mid-November stalls are popping up in squares in many European cities. We’ve visited both Budapest and Vienna Christmas Markets.
Christmas Markets typically take place during Advent, though in recent years, they’ve been opening a lot earlier. By mid-November stalls are popping up in squares in many European cities. Early European Christmas markets date back to the medieval period. They originated in Germany, Austria, Northern Italy and Eastern France. One of the earliest is the Vienna market, initially known as December market, which dates back to 1294. Other early markets were the ones in Munich (1310) and Dresden (1434). Christmas markets have some things in common: Nativity scenes, traditional Christmas cookies (which vary according to the region; gingerbread is present everywhere), hot mulled wine and traditional Christmas foods. I’m excited to share some interesting information about the Budapest and Vienna Christmas Markets; things which set them apart and make each of them unique. Both these European capitals are home to more than one Christmas market. I’ve written about the two most famous and popular Budapest and Vienna Christmas Markets.
The Budapest and Vienna Christmas Markets
Budapest: Christmas Market at Vörösmarty Tér
The most famous and popular Christmas Market in Budapest is officially called Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival and is held at Vörösmarty Tér. To get there, hop on metro line 1 (yellow) and get off at Vörösmarty Tér (Square). If you want to walk, take a stroll on Vaci utca, until you come at its end (opposite the Danube). Your nose will guide you; the entire market is a very interesting mix of Hungarian food, traditional Christmas sweets and handicrafts. Mulled local wine is always available. Though not traditional Hungarian, you can find punch – which is a combination of mulled wine tea, along with spices and spirits. And, yes, there’s also the hot palinka (plum brandy). You’d better eat something before you start tasting these! Speaking of food, try the meat filled cabbage rolls, the gulyas (goulash) served in bread or the polenta with sour cream and cheese. If you want something special, look for mangalita sausage. It’s made from mangalitza, a Hungarian breed of domestic pig developed in the mid-19th century by crossbreading Hungarian breeds from Szalonta and Bakony with wild boars from Serbia. For sweets, chimney cakes are traditional. Glazed peanuts are also a nice snack, as well as the roasted chestnuts (sprinkled with wine). What makes this market special is the array of non-traditional foods available such as lamb sandwich, foie gras sausage and pumpkin braised in duck fat. And for a very fusion dish, you should try the goulash with prunes. For sweets, chimney cakes are traditional and glazed peanuts are also a nice snack, as are roasted chestnuts (sprinkled with wine). The market opens runs from Nov 11, 2016 to January 6, 2017.
Budapest: Christmas Market at St. Stephen Basilica
The Christmas Market at St. Stephen Basilica which started in 2011, is the second largest in Budapest. It is quite close to the one on Vörösmarty Tér and is served by all metro lines.. The metro stop at Deak Ferenc Ter is close enough to walk. Just like the other market, you will find traditional food, drinks and handicrafts to entice you to part with your forint (the Hungarian currency). Handicrafts are slightly more affordable than at the Vörösmarty Tér market. What makes this market magical is St. Stephen Basilica. You can climb up to its tower; the views from there are magnificent. Or, if you want to stay closer to the ground, take photos from the Basilica’s stairs. This year, there will also be a spectacular light show on the facade of the basilica. Another thing that sets it apart from the Vörösmarty Tér market is the large ice skating rink that is free for children. The 2016 dates, not yet finalized, are November 27, 2016 through January 2, 2017.
Vienna: Christmas Market in front of the Town Hall
The Vienna Christmas Market is the most famous and popular Christmas Market in Vienna. It changes the name each year but everyone knows it by the location: in front of the Town Hall. As a result, it is always crowded with tourists and has the prices to match that popularity. But it has a lot of interesting things to take photos of and 150 stalls to check out. A lot of traditional foods and sweets – make sure to try the strudel – are available. You can also try the mulled wine, punch or mulled cider. These are served in very interestingly decorated mugs, which you can keep for a fee (2 euros back in 2013). The mulled wine is made with local wine but the seasoning is slightly different than the one in Budapest. The Viennese one is milder and with less of a kick. If you are traveling with children, inside the Town Hall there is a special area dedicated to them, where they can learn to make sweets and candles. What makes this market special is the lighting in the trees within the park. Each year, there is a different theme. This year, for the first time, there will be two ice rinks in the park. The market opens on Nov 14th and closes on Christmas Eve.
Vienna: Christmas and New Year’s Market at Schönbrunn Palace
The famous Schönbrunn Palace is the backdrop for Vienna’s Christmas and New Year’s Market, which has a totally different feel than the one at the Town Hall. The area in which the 60 stalls are spread is is very large so you don’t feel the pressure of the crowds. Aside from the food and drinks which have really similar prices to the Town Hall market, the handicrafts and souvenirs are slightly more affordable here. Make sure to try the vanillekipferl which is a traditional cookie. Wash it down with punch or mulled cider. The unique thing about this market is the huge location. The huge Schönbrunn gardens are a very interesting place to check out even during winter (though they are stunning during summer). And while you are at it, climb up to the gloriette for some interesting views of the area. The market opens on Nov 19, 2016 and closes on January 1, 2017.
In case you are not used to the weather in December in Central Europe, take my advice and wear layers to both the Budapest and Vienna Christmas Markets. And lots of them! It is cold (and often windy) but snow is not always present.
Cristina is the founder of Looknwalk. She travels with her husband and they are both passionate about discovering new and affordable places in Europe to visit together and blog about them.