December might be snowy and cold in Budapest, but it is the warmest time of year for a visit. This month is full of holiday cheer. You will also find that the streets are much emptier than they are in the summer, making it an excellent time to see all of the landmarks that make this community such an intriguing European destination.
Holiday events include the Christmas market, fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and several showings of The Nutcracker by local performers. If you plan for temperatures that dip below freezing and secure your tickets before arrival, then you can take part in all of the festivities without worry.
It can snow in December during a visit to Budapest, but an accumulation of the white stuff is rare. When you wake up to see a glistening layer of frost twinkling at you in the morning sun, it is one of the best experiences you will ever have.
Planning for Budapest in December
You must pack for winter weather during a December visit to Budapest. That means dressing in layers beneath a warm jacket, so bring a sweater, cardigan, or hoodie that fits comfortably. Gloves, wool socks, and comfortable shoes are necessary for any outdoor exploration excursions. The breeze coming off of the Danube gets chilly, so a scarf is a common sight to see during the winter months.
If you plan to be in Budapest over the holiday season, you’ll want to keep in mind that most stores stay closed on the 24th, 25th, and 26th of December. Should you need something during this time, your best option is to speak with the manager at your hotel or hostel to see what may be available.
Over one million lights are put up all over Budapest to commemorate the holidays, making the city twinkle with delight. Make sure that you take some time to take the festive route through Vörösmarty and Erzsebet Square, Oktogon, and Liszt Ferenc to get a feel for the season.
Best Events to See in Budapest During December
December in Budapest means that Christmas is right around the corner. This holiday dominates the events that you can experience during a stay in the city. One of the best sights is to see the bridges over the Danube lit up with holiday delight, creating some exciting photo opportunities that only come once per year.
The Christmas market in Budapest is the oldest one in the country. It’s the best place to find gifts, but you will also find that it is fun to discover holiday culinary treats. Live music often fills the square, and the variety of shopping options will satisfy any retail therapy craving you might have.
If you don’t find everything at the market you need, then head over to the Great Market Hall for some more local options.
St. Stephen’s Basilica hosts several concerts throughout the month when you visit Budapest in December. The organ creates a beautiful sound that resonates throughout the neo-classical structure. You can also choose to attend mass to enjoy the sights and sounds that have taken place here for centuries.
If your stay takes you until the end of December, then be sure to enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations that happen throughout the city. You’ll find galas, parties, and much more happening throughout Budapest. Most of the activity happens down by the river, with fireworks lit at midnight to commemorate the occasion of the new year. The Duna Palota offers a holiday menu that features a five-course meal, wine, and champagne toasts when the year turns over.
Tips to Enhance Your Budapest Stay in December
The outdoor cafés might close in Budapest during the winter months, but that doesn’t mean the coffee culture of the city disappears. You can find something warm to drink while exploring in almost every neighborhood. Many of these businesses offer pastries to enjoy. Some spots, such as the Zsolnay Café, provide sugar- and lactose-free selections.
If you want to try some of the best café offerings in Budapest, then Sunday afternoon is the time to go exploring. Discounts are more common then, with some providing discounts of more than 50%. That means you have an affordable way to grab some lunch while you take in all of the best sights.
The Christmas markets might fill up with vendors offering gifts, but there are some food options available in the 100+ stalls. There is an emphasis on grilled sausage and stuffed cabbage, so it is one of the best ways to try local dishes will experiencing the culture of the city. Make sure that you get a full mug of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts!
You can keep the mug if you want because you’re paying a deposit to do so when served. If you return it, then you’ll get your money back. One of the best options is to take a river cruise where you can enjoy even more wine.
What Will You Discover in Budapest this December?
December is the time of year when the winter tram makes its appearance in Budapest. The streetcars light up as the sun starts setting, offering over 35,000 LED lights as Line 2 makes its way along the Danube. Several other lines receive the Christmas treatment during the holiday season to create a memorable experience.
There is no tram service during the last week of December, so you will want to consider that fact as you build an itinerary to explore Budapest.
The ice skating rink in City Park can have variable opening hours, but it is usually accepting skaters by 10 am. It does close on December 24th, but it maintains regular operating hours for the rest of the holiday season.
Many hotels offer packages or discounts to the spas and thermal baths in Budapest. It can get cold in the city in December. You will also discover that the hospitality and holiday events awaiting your arrival will warm your heart in ways that the summer sun could never manage.