December is an interesting time in Budapest. To say it in a very basic way, it sucks. It’s really dark and always cold. The metros seem extra crowded. Lines in grocery stores seem longer than usual, and the frowns on people’s faces look more intense.
If you’re still reading after that paragraph, then you’re wise. December is one of the best times to visit Budapest, but I wanted to do my part to help that remain a secret to keep the crowds down.
Really, all those negative things are true, but they are overshadowed by the beauty of a city that is preparing for Christmas. Many of the squares have markets set up with nice little houses in them. There are Christmas trees all over the place. A lot of the big boulevards (especially Andrássy út, my favorite) have lights on the trees lining them.
Everywhere you go, you can smell that delicious scent of hot mulled wine. The cold weather gives an extra excuse to spoil yourself with hearty Hungarian food and delicious desserts. You can either go into a cozy little café, or brave the weather to enjoy the steam at one of the outdoor markets.
There are multiple outdoor ice rinks set up. One is in the shadow of a castle in the City Park, and another lies in the square in front of St. Stephen's Basilica. The Opera House repeatedly shows The Nutcracker (although I’ve never actually been to see it…). Plus, I’m sure there are a lot of other stereotypical Christmas things to enjoy.
Just the other day, I saw people dressed as Santa Claus (or Mikulas, as we learned the other day) walking down the street handing out candy. I wouldn’t really be surprised to see eight tiny reindeer walk by.
So remember, when someone asks if they should visit Budapest in December, read them the first paragraph. That way you’ll have more room on the ice rink, and a shorter line for the hot wine. Don’t worry about me taking up space, I’ll be inside studying for my exams…
Hungarian word of the day:
You know what it means, but the pronunciation is a little different. Try “Dets (Lets with a D) – em – bear.”