Two weeks ago, Budapest’s Winter Festival–a massive four-month event–kicked off. The festival includes a variety of activities, but its five-week Christmas Festival is by far the most popular. This year, the 10th annual Christmas Festival takes place today through December 29th. Attended by 600,000 people annually, it is considered one of the largest Christmas fairs in Europe.
But this isn’t your average tourist trap full of kitschy trinkets. Every one of the baskets, leather goods, hand-blown glass, and other crafts sold at the over 100 craft pavilions must be judged and approved by the Association of Hungarian Folk Artists. Such high standards have given Budapest’s Christmas Festival a reputation of being one of the most authentic Christmas festivals in the world. Some highlights of the festival include:
Daily Advent Presentation
As a child, I loved hanging a new advent ornament on the tree every day leading up to Christmas, but Budapest’s Christmas festival has a tradition that would have blown my 6-year-old mind. Every evening at 5 p.m. from December 1st through the 24th, a different piece of contemporary art is revealed from behind a massive window of the Gerbeaud Confectionery (left). The event is accompanied by a light show and music.
Because the gifts are so authentic and beautiful, the Christmas Festival is a popular shopping destination for locals and visitors alike. Peruse the selection of hand-made jewelry, leather goods, and traditional wooden toys.
One of the best parts of traveling is experiencing the flavors of another culture–it’s where you truly get a feel of the soul of a people–and the flavors of Hungary abound at this festival. Try a töki pompos, Hungarian bread dough baked in a clay oven; palinka, grilled meat with onions; or kürtőskalács, a traditional hollow, cylinder-shaped pastrykürtőskalács, a traditional hollow, cylinder-shaped pastry. Wash it all down with some mulled wine (below)–you can take home the mug it’s served in as a keepsake.
The festival includes events for children, as well. Every weekend, there’s a puppet show and during the weekend of December 6-7, kids can tell Santa how good they’ve been this year. There’s also a playhouse where youngsters can learn the craft of puppeteering and the techniques used to make puppets and gingerbread.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
For more on Budapest, check out our On Foot Map, a Budapest photo gallery, and an I Heart My City post from a local.
Photos courtesy of budapestinfo.hu; Video via YouTube.