What are the best Christmas markets and fairs during this time period (Dec. 7-13), and day trips worth doing ? Thank you in advance.
Save me some typing:
Not really sure what to tell you. This past Christmas and New Year’s
was in Budapest. That marks the third time we have been in Budapest
for the holidays over the last 7 years.
All depends on your interests. This year was dry, but the two previous
trips we had snow and being that we are from a climate where there is
no snow we always have a good time with it; including snow ball fights
in the park.
Most of Europe, Budapest included, closes down for Christmas about
noon on the 24th. So get all your shopping done before or after. But
the best restaurants are open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New
Year’s Eve and Day. This year we spent Christmas Day at the Bathhouse.
40F outside but the water was 80F in the outside pool. The family had
a great time. Christmas Eve Dinner was in a restaurant in Buda that
has this commanding view across the Danube to Pest. Budapest at night
is stunning. Christmas Day dinner was in a Hungarian fare restaurant
complete with gypsy music. There are a couple of these places that are
really well done and a few that are not so good. While we are on food,
the kids (about the age of your kids) always insist on a place in a
basement with the belly dancer and the guys with swords and great
platters of (actually really good) food that you sort of eat in a
hedonistic manner. The wife tolerates it once a year. Budapest has
remarkably good food in a remarkable number of restaurants.
At a higher level of consciousness the Opera House is one of the most
beautiful in town and has the Nutcracker and some less obvious
programs including a New Year’s Eve Gala that requires another bag for
the tux and evening gown; but worth it. The opera is one of several
performance venues in town. Opera, Dance, Ballet, Musicals (with
English subtitles), concerts, Jazz Clubs. Budapest has about the same
population as my home town, but 10 x the performance venues; and they
are more for local consumption than tourism. Something that sets
Budapest apart from places like Vienna (you are actually surrounded by
Hungarians, not the O’Malley sisters from New Jersey).
There are some world class museums if you are into that. Generally the
rail service will run a steam engine to someplace interesting as a day
Budapest is famous for Ruin Pubs and while they use to be a sort of
seasonal thing they stay open year long. Your kids might enjoy them. I
like the Wine Bars better. Hungarian wine can be pretty good.
Finally the Christmas Markets. They do them really pretty well. Each
vendor has to vet his products with a committee. This way the imported
junk is kept out. Its almost entirely crafts and local products and
lots of good hot food on a cold evening.
Unlike Prague where the tourism is in a tightly defined zone Budapest
is pretty spread out. You go to Prague to see Old Town, you go to
Budapest to “experience” the city. But if you pick your accommodations
wisely you can be within 10 minutes of 90% of the sights and the
beauty of Budapest. 90% of the time it will be a short walk or a
sightseeing ride on one of Budapest’s great trams. These are fun.