Contact

Budapest Christmas Market: Shop for Crafty gifts with a Festive Vibe

Tired of those huge Christmas markets that look promising from the outside, but are really just repeats of the same stalls over and over again (lebkuchen gingerbread hearts and wooden nativity scenes come to mind)?

Then you need to check out the Budapest Christmas Market.

Budapest christmas market fair night

The festive atmosphere at the Budapest Christmas market at night.

Budapest was not initially on my radar when I first planned my European Christmas market itinerary. But I added it to the shortlist when I learned how seriously Budapest takes its markets. To keep out the plastic, made-in-China junk that infiltrates other markets, Budapest took the extra step of creating a dedicated, four-member judging panel to vet every potential vendor.   As a result, every vendor at the Budapest market is from Hungary and all the crafts are hand-made and authentic.

With only a couple of days in Budapest, we focused on hitting the main Christmas market in Vörösmarty Square. Located smack in the city center, at the end of Váci utca (and right on the subway and tram lines), it’s easy to incorporate the Vörösmarty market into the rest of your sightseeing schedule. How to best navigate this sprawling market? Follow my shopping tips (for dining tips, see my Budapest Christmas market eats post here– warning do not read when hungry!)

My Tips for Souvenir Shopping the Budapest Christmas Market:

1.  Get to the Budapest Christmas market early, but not too early.

Buapest Christmas Market stalls Fair HungaryIf you are visiting the Budapest Christmas market during the week, you won’t have to worry about crowds during the day (evenings will be busier).  But if your plans involve the weekend like ours did, get there early or forget it.

We tried to see the Budapest Christmas market mid-afternoon on a Saturday and could barely move through the massive crowds. We gave up and came back the next morning right when the market opened at 10:00 am– this turned out to be a little too early as many of stalls were still shuttered.  But by 10:30 am most vendors were set up and ready to do business, and crowds were still sparse, making this an ideal time to arrive.

2.  Visit the Budapest Christmas market during the day to power shop, then come back at night to browse under the holiday lights.

Budapest christmas market giant advent wreath candles

The giant, candle-lit advent wreath is one of the top attractions at the Budapest Christmas Market.

You don’t want to miss the Budapest Christmas Market at night–the glittering light displays and candle lit giant advent wreath are really worth experiencing. But it’s also a bit more crowded at night, and harder to see the goods and chat with the vendors. Instead of compromising, you are better off hitting the market during the day to do your real shopping, and returning later for some casual browsing.

3.  Save the gluwein, grog and punsch for after shopping. 

buapest christmas market fair punsch gluwein stall booth

A vendor ready to ladle out your choice of Christmas-y beverage at the Budapest Christmas market.

It’s too hard to navigate this market with a full mug of gluwein in hand.  Not to mention it might impair your shopping judgment (not all crafts are created equal)– save the drinks for later.

3.  Scope out the entire market before loading up on gifts. 

There are about 140 stalls at the Budapest Christmas market– I recommend you do a quick walk-through to get an idea of what’s out there before deciding on what gifts to buy in bulk. Or, pre-shop via my virtual photo tour and review of some of the more interesting stalls at the Budapest Christmas Market:

Budapest Christmas market Souvenir ornament balls.

I loved these wooly, hand-embroidered Christmas ornament balls at the Budapest Christmas market.

budapest souvenir hungarian

A British woman also admiring these noted my quizzical look, picked up a paddle, and started flailing it wildly in the air. I took a step back. She then explained that the paddles are used to beat rugs.

budapest souvenir hungarian necklace jewlery handmade craft christmas market fair

In theory I am all for the head-to-tail movement, but I’m not sure I could get past the fact that this necklace is made from cow bones.

budapest christmas market hungarian budapest Sheepskin coats. budapest souvenir hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fair

Warm sheepskin coats at the Budapest Christmas Market.

Budapest christmas market crafts gifts souvenirs Fragrant dried spices mixed with pomegrantes, limes and cinamon sticks

I brought home one of these fragrant dried spices mixed with pomegranates, limes and cinnamon sticks (about $3).

budapest christmas market souvenir hungarian  handmade craft Hand beaded bracelets

Hand beaded bracelets from the Budapest Christmas market.

budapest christmas market gift souvenir hungarian  handmade craft  fair tool

I wasn’t sure what these were– a tool or kitchen gadget?

budapest christmas market souvenir hungarian horn combs handmade craft christmas market fair

Real horn combs

budapest christmas market souvenir hungarian  handmade craft fair leather change purses in a slew of colors.

Tiny leather change purses in a slew of colors at the Budapest Christmas market.

budapest christmas market souvenir hungarian handmade craft christmas market fair silk ornaments

Small silk bouquets for hanging at the Budapest Christmas market.

bdapest christmas market 2014 Sheepskin throw rugs. budapest souvenir hungarian  handmade craft  fair

Sheepskin throw rugs.

Hungarian hat budapest christmas market souvenir hungarian  handmade craft fair

Now this is what I picture of when I think of a Hungarian hat.

budapest knife souvenir hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fair

Sharp knives made by hand looked very high quality. Make sure to pack these in your suitcase, not your carry on.

budapest souvenir hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fair

Not sure what these were– a necklace? From a stall at the Budapest Christmas Market.

budapest souvenir hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fair lavender

Boughs of fragrant lavender were tempting but not suitcase friendly as they would be easily crushed.

Necklaces traditional Hungarian design budapest souvenir hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fair

Necklaces cast in a traditional Hungarian design

budapest souvenir hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fair fur-lined vests

Fur-lined vests.

budapest souvenir hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fair handpainted egg cups

I bought a set of four hand painted egg cups like the one above. We had to hunt through the vendor’s bin for smaller sizes as some of the cups were enormous– apparently Hungarian hens lay very large eggs. At the Budapest Christmas Market.

budapest christmas market souvenir hungarian  children's clothing handmade craft fair

Children’s clothes made with traditional Hungarian blue and white patterned cotton.

budapest souvenir hungarian chestnut jam handmade craft christmas market fair

I bought this spread made from chestnuts and chocolate (I think?)

Baskets budapest christmas market souvenir hungarian  handmade craft  fair

Baskets lined with frilly fabrics make good bread baskets. From the Budapest Christmas Market.

marionettes budapest souvenir hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fairall hand made and hand painted

Slightly creepy marionettes, all hand-made and hand painted

budapest souvenir hungarian soap handmade craft christmas market fair

I bought this yummy smelling soap at the market.

budapest souvenir hungarian hat handmade craft christmas market fair

The hats I found at the Christmas Market were often trimmed with real fur.

budapest christmas market fairNight at the Budapest Christmas market brings out a festive atmosphere as the locals come out from hiding from the winter chill.

budapest christmas market fair

Night at the Budapest Christmas Market.

budapest christmas market ornaments souvenir hungarian  handmade craft fair ornament

I loved these playful Hungarian Christmas ornaments.

budapest christmas market souvenir necklace hungarian  handmade craft  fair

Inexpensive necklaces would make a nice tween gift.

shopping budapest christmas market hungary

Shopping at the Budapest Christmas Market.

budapest souvenir hungarian doll handmade craft christmas market fair

Tiny hand painted wooden box with a traditional Hungarian design

Tiny hand painted wooden box with a traditional Hungarian design.

budapest souvenir wreath hungarian  handmade craft christmas market fair

These wreaths caught Linds’ eye.

hungarian sheepskin budapest

I know my chihuahua would love for me to bring home this thick throw

hungarian candy budapest budapest souvenir christmas market fair

So many candies to choose from at the Budapest Christmas Market.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have you been to the Budapest Christmas Market and Fair?  What were your favorite stalls?

Want to read about more Christmas markets?

Is New York City’s Union Square Holiday Market worth checking out?

And here for the Budapest Christmas Fair and Market’s mouth watering-eats

Munich, Germany’s Medieval Christmas Market: Corny or Cool?

Budapest Christmas Fair and Market Souvenir Shopping Details:
The market runs late November through the end of December.
Located at Vörösmarty Square, at the end of Váci utca

Also at the market:  there are two stages with various concerts offered several times a day (from local folk music to jazz to dance performances).  Puppet shows on the weekends should keep the kiddies entertained.

All photos Copyright 2013 by Souvenir Finder, all rights reserved.  No photos may be used in any way without express permission of Souvenir Finder.

,

13 Responses to Budapest Christmas Market: Shop for Crafty gifts with a Festive Vibe

  1. sueslaght 12/17/2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Kristin when I read that one shouldn’t drink the grog before shopping I thought you meant because one wouldn’t be able to walk 🙂 The creepy marionettes look like they would be a big hit with kids.

    • Kristin Francis 12/17/2013 at 6:22 pm #

      Lol well the grog might cause you to make poor shopping decisions…like those rainbow rope necklaces. The puppets wouldn’t scare the kids? They scared me!

      • sueslaght 12/17/2013 at 6:24 pm #

        I guess it would depend on the age of the kid but I have a special eight year old who loves puppets and I think she would be pretty excited.

      • Kristin Francis 12/17/2013 at 6:39 pm #

        Creepy puppets seem to be an Xmas market staple– more to come in Vienna!

  2. gallivance.net 12/23/2013 at 7:32 am #

    Kristin, what a great post, and your photos are beautiful! It definitely looks like you had fun. I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite, but like Lind I was also drawn to those gorgeous wreaths. I must admit I love the creepy marionettes – they remind me of the ones we encountered in Athens at Christmas. Do you know if they are from some traditional holiday play? ~Terri

  3. travelscapism 01/06/2014 at 5:00 pm #

    HA I think the best way to shop is after a little Grog. I stumbled on the same market a couple of years ago when I was visiting – it really has some charming stuff (and it was not the grog speaking)

    • Kristin Francis 01/07/2014 at 4:55 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I was really surprised at how festive the Budapest market was– I can’t believe I hadn’t heard more about it. I really can’t argue with that– grog definitely makes the experience more enjoyable!

  4. surfingtheplanet 02/08/2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Wow Kristin! As a Hungarian, I was curious about this post, and it totally transmitted the atmosphere of our Christmas market. Moreover, I actually missed out on it this year, so I am really grateful that you brought it to me. Thanks!

    • Kristin Francis 02/08/2014 at 1:46 pm #

      Thanks so much for the nice compliment! I was really surprised at how all out Budapest goes for this market! The German markets are written up all the time, but I hadn’t read a thing about Budapest, which is crazy because the market is so fabulous!

  5. wanderingeducators 04/16/2014 at 12:17 pm #

    The creepy puppets crack me up. I’d avoid them, too! What an amazing selection of crafts!

    • Kristin Francis 04/20/2014 at 11:06 am #

      Funny how the creepy puppets seem to fascinate children, but scare adults!

  6. Elizabeth 11/22/2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Nice post! I’ll be spending Christmas in Budapest this year and I look forward to this sweet market.

  7. Esther 12/02/2014 at 4:34 am #

    Budapest is so gorgious, doesn’t matter if it’s winter or summer. I really have to get there for Christmas though!!

Leave a Reply