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December in Budapest 2021

Hello, My husband and I are considering a trip to Budapest Hungary the first week of December. We understand, as of now, they are allowing all travelers regardless of vaccination status to enter and do not require masks, just a negative Covid test 72 hours prior to arrival. Has anyone been there recently? Is December a good time to visit? I know there will be a Christmas market open at that time which sounds wonderful. Has anyone attended? Does anyone know of day trips to take and if the sites are open in December? If day trips aren't ideal this time of year, how long would you recommend staying in Budapest? Any advice would be appreciated! Thank you!

Posted by
13410 posts

https://info-budapest.com/things-to-do-in-budapest-in-winter/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgTKjqujlGg
https://www.twoscotsabroad.com/things-to-do-in-budapest-in-december-christmas/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nd9DuDGCz0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TltY6cW1p7o
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x0g1uSX7nc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PruFwhua78E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7OXihx9Ji4

Entry Requirements
Yes, you have the entry requirements correct, but go here to track them: http://www.police.hu/en/content/information-on-general-rules-of-border-crossing
Also take a look at https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/covid19/pcr-test-timing-and-hungary

There is no national mask law currently in effect; except in medical facilities.

There is no social distancing law currently in effect.

Has anyone been there recently
I was there late September/early October

Is December a good time to visit
December is an excellent time to visit in great part due to the aforementioned Christmas Markets; but also it is theater season. And while December is a bit early for snow in the area, if you get lucky the city is stunning i the snow, but being from Minnesota you might not much care for that.

Has anyone attended the Christmas Markets
I have been to the Christmas Markets about a half dozen times over the years. Unlike the situation in some of the neighboring countries everything in the Budapest markets is local crafts and local goods. No foreign junk. The atmosphere is amazing too. I have only been to the markets in a few countries, but among those I have been too, Budapest is among the most beautiful and well done.

Are the sites open in December
Most everything is open in Budapest and will be open in December as well if nothing major changes with the COVID regulations.

Any good Day Trips
Its sort of a long haul to other points of interest around Budapest so I would think overnight trips, not day trips. You might consider: Pecs, Edger, Vienna (2 to 3 hours by train) or Banská Štiavnica (2.5 hour drive), or Lviv (about 1.5 hours non-stop for as little as $25 each way - two night stay). Most any major capital in Europe is accessible from Budapest by discount airline. The Eastern European capitals are all one to two hours away making them ideal side trips (Bucharest, Sofia, Kyiv - all fascinating and each worth the trip if only for two nights). All have events and / or markets going on. Getting an AirBnb makes over night or multiple night side trips more practical. You leave the heavy stuff in the apartment and you take what you need for the side trip.

Any other Advice
At a bare minimum to get introduced to Budapest I think four full days (5 nights) is ideal. But if you only had one day, its still worth the effort.

How long can someone stay before they get bored out of their mind? My total is somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 days now; and I return next week. Never bored.

PM and I can send you a link to my favorite travel guide for Budapest.

Posted by
14784 posts

I got home Sunday after a full week in Budapest. It was my third visit and it's never enough. There are a couple of nice day trips and some towns that are better as a 1-2N visit. I liked Pecs, Szeged and Kesckemet.

I'd keep an eye on the Covid situation. The numbers of active cases and deaths are going up after a summer lull. Hardly anyone was wearing a mask anywhere. The most popular bar (Szimpla Ruin Pub) required a vax certificate to enter on Friday night - that was the only restriction I came across. BTW I came home with a bad cough and sore throat - first time I've been sick in 3 years.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you for the replies. James I sent you a private message.

Posted by
7434 posts

Karrie — I loooooove Budapest in winter and used to every year late November/early December. It makes it the perfect time to warm up in cozy cafes after wandering around outside in the cold, and also the baths are another alluring warm up.

Chani — you went to Kecskemet!!! Be still my heart !!! That is where I lived and taught school for a year in the early 1990s. I used to go back and visit, but haven’t been for a long time. I may be biased but I think it has some beautiful architecture including one of my favorite Art Nouveau buildings anywhere. And the Kodaly music school for concerts !!

Ah yes that is another reason, Karrie, for going yo Budapest in winter — the ballet, the symphony (I am not an opera person, but the opera there is reportedly excellent too). See what you can find tickets for either at the Opera House or the Liszt Music Academy during your visit.

And of course the night view of Budapest’s bridges is superb, no matter the time of year.

Oh dear I am getting a heavy case of nostalgia here !!! Sigh . . .

Posted by
13410 posts

For a place to stay I prefer an area that is at least half local. For that if you want a hotel the K&K behind the Opera House is pretty ideal and fairly well priced. Get a map, streets are called "utca" boulevards are called "ut". You will see that Pest has two ring roads, inside the one closest to the River is District V, and that is the tourist area I great to visit, but not where I would stay. So look for what seems reasonable to you that is between the inner loop and the outer loop road bordered by Dob utca on once side and O utca on the other. This is District VI which is about 50% tourist trade and 50% local environment. It is where the opera and other theaters are, borders the Jewish ghetto and includes Andrassy ut which is sort of the Champs-Élysées of Budapest (but better I think, especially in recent years).

A good place to see what is going on in town during your stay is https://jegymester.hu/

A guide isnt essential, but I like Andras: http://guideinbudapest.fw.hu/Site_Brown/Private_guide_in_Budapest.html He was my first guide there back in 2002 and I have used him and recommend him ever since.

Other advise is get a TravelCard for the trams and the metro. So much easier. Find the stairs down to the metro on the sidewalk on the inner loop road between Andrassy ut and Kiraly utca and go down. You will find an office there for the travelcard.

And the Chain Bridge is under renovation and the view of it isn't that superb right now .... sorry.

Posted by
7434 posts

Ah, good point about the Chain Bridge, James. I have read about that but somehow hadn’t integrated it into my thinking.

It is definitely a shame to miss the Chain Bridge, and I understand the repairs are going to take a few years. Well it’s all for the good to help it live into a couple more centuries.

Posted by
14784 posts

I went to Pecs, Szeged and Kesckemet mainly for the art deco architecture and was not disappointed in the least. The synagogue in Pecs was lovely and the one in Szeged was extraordinary.

All I remember doing is walking in all three and enjoying it all. And like Budapest, there is good food and excellent wine in abundance. I especially liked walking in Pecs after dark, so I was glad it was the one town I spent 2 nights in. The RS walking tour was good as well.

I got my one week travel card at the BKK office at the airport, along with my 100E bus tickets to town and back.

Lots of renovation works in Budapest. The Opera was only one of the many beautiful buildings covered in scaffolding and netting.

Posted by
13410 posts

It would be a beautiful city if they would finish it. At least the Parliament is finished. I wish I could share pictures here and I could show you the dank, soot covered city I walked into 17 years, 1 month, 3 days ago.

Posted by
2 posts

HI Karrie - just a heads up that the main Christmas Market in Vörösmarty Square has unfortunately been cancelled this year. We are heading there as part of a Budapest/Vienna/Prague itinerary December 10th and are disappointed but still lots to do and see I am sure. Looks like Vienna and Prague are a go though. Have fun!

https://www.budapestinfo.hu/hu/a-budapesti-fesztival--es-turisztikai-kozpont-uj-kampannyal-tamogatja-a-hazai-kezmuveseket

Update: Someone was nice enough to PM me and advised the link I posted above was from 2020 (face-palm). But...I did find updated information that 2 of the 3 are closed in 2021 as well. It does appear that so far the Obudan market is a go. Hope this is helpful

See:
https://christmasmarketsineurope.com/budapest-christmas-markets/

Posted by
71 posts

Karrie, I would recommend you follow James E's advice - he won't let you down! A quick search of his posts will result in great recommendations.
I've done a day trip to Vienna from Budapest and really enjoyed it. We took our breakfast on the train and reviewed our photos of the day on the trip back. I think this time of year would be a wonderful time of year to see Vienna and check out a Christmas market.

I would highly recommend one of the thermal spas. Szechenyi is our favorite, mostly because it is so easy to get to and several of our Hungarian relatives still go there. We spent our first few trips wondering why anyone would spend their time in Budapest sitting in water, it seemed like such a waste of time. WE WERE WRONG! It's a wonderful experience and I promise you, you'll feel relaxed an refreshed.

You'll find James E's restaurant recommendations via search, but I would add two of our favorites on the Pest side:
https://retekbisztro.hu/ Reservations are a must - it's super tiny.
http://www.porcesprezli.hu/en/ They have been closed for quite a while and just recently reopened

On the Buda side, we love: Nagyi Kifőzdéje
It's just like walking into Grandma's kitchen. It may seem intimidating, but there is someone who speaks English and they will help you out.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
12 posts

I am sad to see that the Christmas markets are cancelled this year. The Christmas markets were one of the reasons we chose to come this December. For those living or visiting Budapest currently, are there other places closing now too due to Covid? I understand that Hungary does NOT require proof of vaccination or PCR test results to enter museums or restaurants. Is this still accurate? I know that we need a negative PCR test to get into Hungary (by air) though. Thanks!

Posted by
13410 posts

I am sad to see that the Christmas markets are cancelled this year.
The Christmas markets were one of the reasons we chose to come this
December.

Me too

For those living or visiting Budapest currently, are there other
places closing now too due to Covid?

Nothing that I have observed, the city is quite normal.

I understand that Hungary does NOT require proof of vaccination or PCR
test results to enter museums or restaurants. Is this still
accurate?

You understand correctly. I went to the Operett two nights ago, no restrictions on the theater either. The only restrictions are masks on the metro and in medical facilities.

I know that we need a negative PCR test to get into Hungary (by air)
though.

You are correct. Got mine at CVS in Texas

Thanks!

You are welcome

Posted by
169 posts

We went in late December a few years back. We were just there for 3 nights I believe, but 4 would be better. We did enjoy the Christmas markets but they were thinning out since it was after the holiday. That didn't matter because there were still lots of things to do it is a beautiful, interesting city! We did the Szechenyi baths, which were so interesting in cold weather. We loved it! A nighttime boat ride to see the city all lit up from the Danube is a must. We also indulged in lavish desserts and coffee at the NY cafe and a smaller one, you feel like you're lunching at Versailles. The architecture around the city was so fascinating. Obviously Parliament and the castle.
Our most interesting experience though was staying at a small B&B and hearing stories about the change from communism in the country. We highly recommend this one: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g274887-d635259-Reviews-Kapital_Inn-Budapest_Central_Hungary.html
OR a local guide could probably also provide some of those details.

There is definitely plenty to without markets! And if that really appeals to you, then take a bus like 2 hrs to Vienna and spend a few days their markets. (also an interesting city)!

Posted by
2295 posts

I follow a fb page called We Love Budapest, and just read that the Christmas markets are happening this year at the Basilica and Vorosmarty ter, they’re setting that one up right now. I am SO tempted to go but think spring will suit me better.

Posted by
13410 posts

As of yesterday nothing was being set up. But I will be there tomorrow, and will check.

Posted by
13410 posts

Yup markets were being set up today!! Lights are being strung. Its going to be beautiful!

Posted by
64 posts

So glad to hear there will be a Christmas Market or two!

Posted by
12 posts

I am so excited! Thank you James for checking and reporting back on the Christmas markets. Thank you also to others who have commented on this post. I look everyday to see what you all have posted. I really appreciate all the responses!

Posted by
13410 posts

CAjan, I didnt look (maybe today) but pretty sure if the Vorosmarty ter market is open, the others in town will be too.