WHAT TO DO IN BUDAPEST IN DECEMBER
If you’ve chosen December for your Budapest escape you will find a buzzing city full of life, people celebrating, drinking mulled wine frankly: enjoying the last month of the year. December is one of the busiest in Budapest. In the spirit of the holidays and responsible travel, these are the 5 activities we recommend to you
Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day
The American Santa Claus, as well as the British Father Christmas, arrives on the night of December 24. Well, Hungarian kids spend a sleepless night on December 5, waiting for the big, white-bearded man in his red, furry-collared coat to arrive and leave small presents in their boots. Saint Nicholas, or Mikulás as we call him, rewards the good children, who have also cleaned their boots before going to bed, by leaving them chocolate, orange, and little toys, while naughty kids get virgács (birch).
So don’t be surprised that on the weekend of December 6-8 everything is going to be about Saint Nicholas. The real Mikulás, the Finnish Joulupukki will visit the Christmas Market on Friday between 6 and 7:30 pm to meet and talk with children. It will be a perfect family activity as a free playhouse will be provided as well all day, where kids can learn how to make mézeskalács (gingerbread).
On Sunday the roads of the city centre will be closed for a while to secure the route of the annual Mikulás Charity Run. Anyone can register to attend the event and help Saint Nicholas deliver the gifts. The organizers provide a costume for each participant that must be worn during the run. Registration is available on this website (only in Hungarian, unfortunately), but if you prefer only observing the event, wander around the Great Market Hall and Ráday street between 1 and 3 pm on December 8. For a little teaser from last year click here.
Participate in a workshop
The best gifts are always the ones that are personal and made with love. Getting closer to Christmas many craftsmen and designers organize workshops and offer their professional assistance to help you make the best hand-made presents for your loved ones. Create “The bag of your (or someone else’s) dreams” on the 1.5 days workshop of Mittersisters (website, location), or join the staff of Medence csoport (website, location) and re-concept banners into unique-patterned backpacks, bags or laptop cases.
Are you a sweet-toothed traveller? Good news for you, the confectioners of Bonbonier (location) will teach visitors on December 9, 11 and 16 to make delicious Christmas bonbons (registration is coming soon on this Hungarian website).
Soak up the holiday vibe on the Christmas markets
Vörösmarty square market is waiting for visitors since the beginning of November, but soon you can enjoy the hospitality of other great fairs as well. The Advent Feast at Basilica is a nominee of the Best Christmas Market in 2020, so head over there any day starting from November 22 and see it with your own eyes! If you would like to get a few tips on which market to check out or what local specialities to try, read our Budapest Christmas Market guide or join our fantastic guide on an adventure of discovering the holiday spirit of Budapest (book our Merry Markets and Mulled Wine tour by clicking here)!
But enough of Christmas! The Jewish neighbourhood of the city is one of the most visited areas nowadays. Let’s celebrate Hanukkah as well! Deutch Péter rabbi opens the festival at Gozsdu udvar (location) with lighting the first candle of the Menorah on December 22, visitors will also have the chance to taste kosher doughnuts and mulled wine with live music in the background. Until December 30, every day, kids can participate in doughnut decorating workshops.
Think about others
So if you give a try to our previous recommendations, you might end up collecting many gifts and souvenirs made by you or local artisans by the end of your Budapest stay. If you can’t fit everything into your suitcase charity can be a solution to your problem. Sometimes we take it granted that we are healthy or can afford to travel to another country. But not everyone is that fortunate and for them, the end of the year can be difficult. Would you like to help? Here are a few tips about how to do it in Budapest.
If you have clothes that are still wearable, but you don’t need them anymore, give them away! Cseriti Pont (location) draws attention to the fact that donating your clothes is a way of recycling. They mainly support disadvantaged people by employing them to help out in the activities of the organization. Filantrópia (facebook, location) is a community space and charity shop in one where donors and customers can meet. Their projects aim to assist people living in poverty to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle by implementing innovative tools and approaches at a community level, based on empowerment.
Another form of charity you can do is “shoebox donations”. Step one is to decide what gender and age-group of a kid you would like to surprise, then fill a shoebox with toys, books, cosmetics, stationery or anything you think can be useful for your supported child. Many organizations collect shoebox donations during the Advent season. The most significant collection point (location) in just a short stroll away from Saint Stephen’s Basilica and open every day between 10 am and 8 pm.
There are other ways to do some good. Visit a café that employs disabled people, like Nem Adom Fel! café and restaurant (location). If you don’t want to do it alone, or you are interested in some insider stories and other exciting hidden gems of the multicultural neighbourhood, sign up to our Controversial Budapest: Exploring the Infamous 8th District tour (book it here).
Welcome the New Year
As the Hungarian proverb says, your whole year will be just like its first day! In this spirit, let’s make a smart decision.
If you are in the mood of something exclusive, many hotels prepare exceptional New Year’s Eve menu and gala for not just only for their guests. Intercontinental waits for wine lovers with a 4-course menu and six glasses of the best Hungarian wines – ones that got chosen to be the best in 2019 (website). In Hotel Gellért you can experience an authentic retro atmosphere with local bands, and unlimited food, and drinks (website). Marriot will use the invincible view of their ballroom to compete with others and welcome guests with chic ball experience with the panoramic scene of the Buda Castle in the background of the event (website).
Or benefit from the unique location of Budapest and enjoy the last night of the year on the Danube river. Many companies, like Mahart (website) or Silverline (website) arrange a special dinner for this occasion.
You should also check out the program of the rooftop bars, so you can enjoy the fireworks from above the city. High Note Skybar and St. Andrea Wine & Skybar are centrally located, posh places, representing the high-end category hospitality. TopRum’s view is a bit left-behind comparing to the previously mentioned places, but the drinks, food, and prices will compensate you for that. For a more laid-back atmosphere, choose 360 bar and enjoy your champagne from an igloo with a panoramic view.
And let us give you some advice for the first day of 2020 as well: pig brings you luck, so avoid eating poultry and choose pork instead. Also, the more lentil, rice, and millet you eat, the richer you become. Keep these beliefs in mind to have an amazing year.