• Karen Seiger

Guest Holiday Market: The Beautiful Christmas Markets of Budapest

Ami, Geoge & Asta, our Budapest Hosts

We landed in Budapest in December 2015. We were going to visit our dear friends Ami, George, and Asta Kroon,  and Julie Bagladi, who had been our friends and neighbors in the West Village for many years. We used to have Sunday Family Dinner together every weekend, until they retired and moved to Budapest for its beauty, affordability, and healthcare. As we looked out the window of the taxi from the airport, we passed Soviet-style buildings on the outskirts of the city, which fascinated me because I’d never been to this part of Europe.

Mulled wine to warm us up!

Ami and George live in the glorious historic center of Pest. Buda is the more hilly side of the city across the Danube River. (Together, both halves of the city are Budapest.) They know how much I love markets, so on our first night, we headed out for dinner at a Christmas market.

The Hungarians sure know how to put on a Christmas market!

That night we had mulled wine flavored with blueberry and pomegranate at the Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival at Vörösmarty Square. We had cabbage rolls, pork shoulder, and beef stew served on a potato pancake as big as my head. I’m not sure if the rooster testicle stew was a real thing or a joke on the tourists, but we opted to skip it. We watched the bakers make cinnamon chimney cakes for us over an open fire, and we had some more mulled wine.

Over the next few days, we’d wander through multiple holiday markets, each with its distinct characteristics, unique vendors selling handmade traditional crafts, and foods – meats, cheeses, handmade chocolates, and traditional baked goods. And lots of twinkly lights.

Handmade hedgehog

Speaking of handmade crafts, I fell absolutely in love with the teensy tiny ornaments, like 1″ tall bears with moving arms and legs, tiny fabric babies in walnut cribs, and angels made with dried lotus pods. We saw metal smiths forging medieval knives right in the market, and ladies sewing enchanting baby toys and hand puppets in their market booths. We also met a couple who make brilliant shearling coats and hats. James got me my dream hat for Christmas, and we gave one to Ami that matches Asta’s fur.

If you ever have the chance, go to Budapest for Christmas. Actually, go to Budapest any time you want. During the holidays, it is cold and grey, but the city is alive with lights, wonderful shopping streets, classic coffee houses serving fabulous pastries, world class restaurants, wine bars, and music venues. In warm weather, the city is blooming with flowers, and all the cafes open their outdoor terraces. And some other time, I will tell you about the magnificent thermal baths all over the city too!

~Karen Seiger, Markets of New York City

Dinner in the holiday market on our first night in Budapest

Everybody meets up in the market

Braised pork in the holiday market

We loved the tangy stuffed cabbage

What’ll you have? Ordering at the holiday market in Budapest

This is rooster testicle stew, allegedly.

Traditional Hungarian Craft Artisans

Handmade wooden swords

George and James getting more mulled wine

My dinner: beef gulash, or Gulyas, on a potato pancake

Making my cinnamon chimney cake

Cooking my cinnamon chimney’s over an open fire

Finally! My cinnamon chimney cake!

Handforged Hungarian knives

Otto Kaiser is an amazing photographer – his son was in the booth that night.

Tiny cornhusk angels

I can’t even with this teensy tiny bear in his red t-shirt

Traditional Hungarian Sweets

Delicious walnut and poppy seed beigli, or rolls. Yum.

The most adorable baby puppets

She made every tiny figure in her booth, and she was still sewing

St. Stephen’s Basilica’s blue tree

Budapest understands twinkly lights

Lotus pod angel

The lights on Vaci Street in Budapest, also known as “Fashion Street.”

Vaci Street at the holidays

Meet the woman who made my amazing hat.

With Ami, George, and Asta Christmas 2015

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© 2020 by Karen Seiger

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