As we count down to the big day (only two Mondays to go!), it can be a little stressful — last minute gift shopping, learning recipes for Christmas dinners, etc. It doesn’t always have to be this way. Christmas markets are a great place to shake off those stress and winter blues, unwind and warm up the festivities. If you don’t already know, Europe has the best christmas markets in the world. After the weekend at London’s Winter Wonderland, I set out to experience what Christmas markets are like in other parts of Europe.
Budapest’s christmas markets were rated top 10 by Time Out, a close tie in with the obvious top-of-the-list markets in Strasbourg, Brussels and Vienna. There are two main christmas fairs in Budapest — one in Vörösmarty Square, and a smaller market in St. Stephen Square (Szent István tér in Hungarian) by the Basilica.
St. Stephen Square
View of the famous cathedral from the square
There’s an ice-rink in the middle of the square surrounded by vendors selling Christmas-themed arts and crafts, mulled wine, pork knuckles, sausages and other tasty fares. Advent candles are lit each Sunday.
1. Mulled Wine
Hot and seasoned with spices, this drink is popular across Europe in winter. Just under a pound (HUF 350) for a cup.
2. Goulash (Gulyás)
Goulash served in a bowl bread. Goulash is a popular signature Hungarian dish — meat and vegetable stew. Although originated in Hungary, this dish has spread across to Central and Southern Europe, Scandinavia and eventually around the world, giving the recipe different variations. For those in need of energy and warmth, goulash works like premium fuel – an instant boost.
3. Ham Hocks
Pork is no foreign dish here. In fact, beef and pork make up most of the traditional dishes in Hungary. Hanging on display along food stalls are ham hocks, like ornaments on a Christmas tree.
Just under 200 grams, a plate of pork costs HUF 1000 (£2.60)
Do take note when buying from stalls that charge dishes by weight – always ask for the price first. For the same serving of potatoes, it costs double than that of the pork platter. If you change your mind at this point, prepare yourself for a slightly disgruntled server.
More pork meat simmered over huge pans
4. Clay Oven Pizza
Nothing more authentic than a firewood baked pizza in clay oven
5. Apple Strudel
Otherwise known locally as Almas Retes, the apple strudel is a popular Hungarian dessert; layered pastry full of sugary goodness.
..and more desserts for those with a really sweet tooth.
Only until 01 January 2015, the christmas market is open from 11.30am to 8pm (10pm on Thursdays & Fridays). More details here.
The bigger christmas market at Vörösmarty Square is very conveniently situated right at the doorstep of Vörösmarty metro station (the yellow M1 line) and a very short walk to the famous Danube river.
6. More pork dishes
Sausages, intestines, pig faces, and whatever that’s left practically!
By night, the square is cheerfully lit up with fairy lights and decors hanging across the square
7. Chimney Cakes (Kürtőskalács)
A really fun process to watch as the chimney cakes are cooked in front of you. Another popular Hungarian dessert/pastry is the charcoal baked dough coated in sugar and melted on the surface until golden brown. The sticky surface is then topped off with either cinnamon or walnut.
Still served piping hot, a large chimney cake costs about HUG 1050 (£1.30)
Open until 01 January 2015, the opening times are from 10am to 10pm (11pm on Fridays – Sundays). More details here.