Okay, big words, I know. And to be honest, if I had just spent a weekend exploring Christmas markets in any other European city I might have named theirs the best, because Christmas markets in general get me SO EXCITED.
But I will say that I was totally blown away by Budapest and Bratislava’s Christmas markets, and I’ve been telling anyone and everyone that they have to visit them someday. Like seriously.
The idea for this trip came all from my mom, who is on a not so secret mission to visit every country in Europe and had never been to Hungary or Slovakia before.
But an added touch of genius came from my boss, who decided to give me days off for this in December instead of the days in November I had originally requested, because she knew that visiting during Christmas would be so much more magical. I mean, I don’t actually know if she’s even been to either place, but I like to think that she has and that sending us there in December was her very special Christmas present to me.
And it was special.
I’ve been to Budapest a few times now, and I think I love it more with each trip. First of all, it truly is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. I mean, the Parliament building on the Danube? Add a sunrise and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece.
I actually took this photo from our hotel room window. So, if you ever find yourself looking for a hotel in Budapest, try to book a night at the Lanchid 19 Design Hotel and request a river view. You can thank me later, when you’re waking up to this gorgeous view (or at night when all the lights turn on). Check current prices for Lanchid 19 here
I was sorely tempted to stay in the hotel room all day and watch boats float down the Danube, but luckily my mother is a bit more of a doer so she quickly had us outside in search of the Budapest’s best Christmas markets.
The first Christmas market we got to was in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica, and I actually thought it must be the city’s main market as it seemed huge to me after visiting Oslo’s small Christmas market.
But then we got to Vörösmarty Square.
It’s conveniently in the middle of the city’s main shopping street, and the perfect place to stop for some hot goulash and handmade trinkets between visits to the bigger stores.
I know often Christmas markets can be a bit cheesy, with overpriced food and stalls full of kitsch, but the Budapest Christmas markets really impressed me! The stalls had some really lovely handmade items and I managed to get a lot of Christmas presents there. And I looooved the Christmas music they were playing.
We spent Wednesday and Thursday evening in Budapest, Friday in Bratislava, and Saturday again in Budapest, and I will say that the markets were quite nicer on the weekdays. Saturday night was absolutely packed and really hard to get through the markets, so if at all possible I would either recommend visiting on a weeknight or earlier in the day.
Only having a day in Bratislava (we arrived at 2 pm and left at 11 am the next day) was of course far too short, but I would say it was at least enough time to explore the Old Town and city Christmas markets.
I love Slovakia, so it was sad being there without having time to pop up to my all-time favorite the High Tatras, but it was still nice to have a day in the country!
At first we thought the Christmas market in the Old Town market square was Bratislava’s only Christmas market, and we weren’t all that impressed. I mean, it was beautiful, but also a little small and the stalls seemed to be mostly selling mass produced souvenirs.
But then we headed out of the Old Town and stumbled on the Christmas market at the Main Square, and it was amazing!
I didn’t take any photos, but I made a video of our day in Bratislava which shows both markets:
And here are two more of my Vlogmas videos from our time in Budapest:
How to get from Budapest to Bratislava by bus
We took the Regiojet bus from Budapest to Bratislava, which took just under three hours each way. You can book the tickets online here – ours cost 8 euros.
NB: If you do travel with Regiojet from Budapest, be aware that the bus doesn’t leave from inside the main Nepliget bus station, but instead across the street from the station, in front of a pub called Szöglet.
Where to Stay in Budapest and Bratislava
In Budapest we stayed at the Art’otel and Lanchid 19 Design Hotel. The Art’otel had a bigger room, but Lanchid 19 won for its amazing view over the Danube and really nice bathtub! Check current prices for Lanchid 19 here and check prices for Art’otel here
In Bratislava we stayed at Hotel Tatra, which had a really convenient location near the bus station and downtown, as well as a very retro breakfast room that my mom was a little obsessed with. Check current rates for Hotel Tatra here