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 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.
If 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.
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.
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:
Have you been to the Budapest Christmas Market and Fair? What were your favorite stalls?
And here for the Budapest Christmas Fair and Market’s mouth watering-eats
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.