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Budapest Christmas Eve

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While discovering the Christmas markets the wonderful smell of mulled wine and chimney cake fills the cold air. You take a deep breath and the holiday spirit fill your nostrils. You become part of the hustle and bustle of the cheerful crowd marching through the streets of Budapest while everyone around you is in a festive mood. Having complete your Christmas shopping, you stop to rest and eat a bit. You sample all the delicious traditional winter dishes of Hungary, such as Stuffed cabbage, Fisherman’s stew, Duck legs with gravy and many more at the Christmas markets and suddenly it starts to snow… It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Afterwards, to burn some calories, you visit the Ice rink to do some sporting. After some skating in front of a fairy-tale like castle in the City Park, you sip mulled wine and eventually you thaw and recreate in one of the thermal spas of Budapest. Wow! Such a full-filling day. But little did you know that something is still missing to complete your winter visit at Budapest… Nestled along the picturesque Danube, the riverbanks come alive during the winter months, adorned with the splendor of Christmas and the promise of New Year's celebrations.

This is why, Silverline Cruises would like to offer you our holiday special cruise programmes exclusively for Christmas days, and New Year’s Eve.

Join us for the December holidays

We ensure pleasant and memorable celebrations.

Budapest christmas cruise

Christmas Dinner Cruise on River Danube

We would like to invite you to our very special Christmas Eve boat cruise, complete with a welcome sparkling wine, live piano performance, and a superb 4-course dinner onboard. Our 3,5-hour long programme will sail pass by the most prominent sights of the winter wonderland that is Budapest. Let us bring you the Christmas mood with the tunes and melodies of Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra, or Ella Fitzgerald. Available only on the 24th and 25th of December. Get into the Christmas mood with us onboard!

Budapest new years eve cruise

Budapest New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner & Cruise

Celebrate the coming of the new year with us! What site can be more illustrious to spend the last day of the year then a boat on the river Danube? Join us on our Budapest New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner & Cruise programme, which offers a 6-hour scenic journey on the Danube. Bid farewell to the old year as you sail pass some of the most important sights of the capital of Hungary. Onboard of our Gala boat we provide a lavish 5-course dinner with a welcome cocktail complete with a splendid piano battle show and a glass of midnight sparkling wine to greet the upcoming year. Book now and celebrate the New Year with us onboard!

New Year’s Eve Unlimited Booze Cruise

New Year’s Eve Unlimited Booze Cruise

Looking for the best option to celebrate New Year’s Eve? What could be a better site to bid farewell to the old year than a boat cruise on the river Danube with unlimited drinks? We are happy to invite you to our very special Unlimited Booze Cruise on the 31st of December. Our cruise will last 3 hours and covers the most spectacular sights of Budapest along the river Danube. Book now and celebrate with us onboard!



Have 5 cocktails with us and celebrate the coming of the New Year! With Budapest's iconic landmarks aglow in a sea of lights, our cruise promises a front-row seat to the city's New Year's Eve spectacle. Dance your way onboard our ships to the new year as midnight approaches. We guarantee you 5 flavourful cocktails during our 3-hour cruise. Sip on handcrafted cocktails, each a masterpiece of flavour drinks that tantalize your taste buds.
Book now for our New Year’s Eve Cocktail Cruise!


¤ Sweet potato cream soup with walnut parsley pesto and roasted almond
¤ Hungarian goulash soup

¤ Herb-crusted salmon fillet served on a creamy tagliatelle with spinach and shaved parmesan
¤ Chicken breast fillet potato purée with smoked paprika and vegetable relish
¤. Beetroot risotto with fried carrot crouton and parmesan
¤ Duck leg confit with gravy sauce and fried cabbage and noodles hidden in chimney cake ring
¤ Beef ragout made with dark beer, mushroom and dark chocolate with bread dumpling

¤ Breezy tapioca pudding made with coconut milk and served with forest fruit coulis
¤ Dark chocolate cashew brownie with Bourbon vanilla ice cream

Things to do in the Winter at Budapest

During the slow and cold months of winter the city of Budapest brings you bountiful fun and joy.
Discover the several Christmas markets scattered throughout the capital. We would like to provide you a short list of fun activities what you must try out while visiting Budapest during winter.

1, Christmas Markets:

Budapest hosts several Christmas markets throughout the city during the
winter season. The most famous and largest one is the Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival, located in Vörösmarty Square. Here you can explore a variety of stalls selling traditional Hungarian handicrafts, unique gifts, and delicious local food and drinks. The market is marvelously decorated with lights and features a festive atmosphere. Try the local wintertime food specialties like stuffed cabbage, fisherman’s stew. Indulge yourselves with the traditional sweets of Hungary.

2, Ice Skating:

Budapest offers several ice rinks during winter where you can enjoy ice skating. The most iconic one is the ice rink in front of Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park. Skating here is a popular activity for both locals and tourists, creating a joyful and wintery ambiance. Occasionally in front of the Parliament, another ice rink is available and other facilities tend to arrange one as well, so keep an eye open, if you are after some skating fun.

3, Thermal Baths:

Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, and visiting one during winter is a delightful experience. Due to the geological position of the city, there are numerous hot springs located under the surface, providing several spas for you to visit. The warm waters of the baths provide a soothing and relaxing escape from the cold weather. Some popular thermal baths to visit include Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Gellért Thermal Bath, and Rudas Thermal Bath.

4, New Year's Eve Celebrations:

Budapest hosts lively New Year's Eve celebrations, particularly along the Danube River. The city's skyline is illuminated with breathtaking fireworks, and various events and parties take place throughout the city to welcome the new year in style. Do not miss out on our New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner & Cruise on the Danube, where we greet our guests with a lavish 5-course gala dinner with several drink options. Or if you want to celebrate the upcoming year on our New Year’s Eve Unlimited Booze Cruise, we also got you covered.

5, Winter Festivals:

Budapest also organizes various winter festivals that showcase Hungarian culture, arts, and entertainment. These festivals feature music concerts, theatrical performances, art exhibitions, and culinary delights, adding extra charm to the winter season. Find the programmes which suit you the best.

Hungarian winter holiday customs

Did you know that in Hungary there are region specific, unique customs in December? Have you ever heard of the Krampus, or the Chair of Lucy? Why do Hungarians force-feed themselves with pork and beans/lentils on New Years Eve? Let us guide you through the intriguing local folklore and rituals. Allow us to introduce and detail these odd and one-of-a-kind customs in Hungary. In chronological order we will list the winter customs and habits of our country which might differ from yours.

Advent Wreaths and Calendars:

Just like in many other countries, Hungarians often use Advent wreaths with four candles to count down the weeks until Christmas. The colours of the candles also vary among Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. For example, most of the Catholic churches use the 3 purple 1 pink arrangement, in Protestant churches usually red is used instead of purple. Some wreaths include an additional 5th candle as well, lit during the midnight mass, dubbed as the Candle of Christ. Regardless of the colours, in both faith the candles have the same meaning: Faith, Hope, Joy, Love. There were also wreaths with 20 red candles and 4 white ones serving as the predecessors of another popular holiday item…

Advent calendars are also popular among children, with each day leading up to Christmas marked by opening a small door or compartment to reveal a treat or small gift, usually a piece of chocolate.

christmas chocolate

St. Nicholas Day (Mikulás Nap):

Probably the most significant difference about Christmas here compared to numerous other countries is that the celebration on the 24-25th of December is not related to Santa Claus at all! In many European countries St. Nicholas is remembered on another day.

Hungarian children celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. The true story of the canonised bishop originates from the Roman provincial Lycia, the town of Myra, near the snow-capped mountains of the Tauros range, and neither Lapland nor the North Pole. The philanthrope bishop always helped others and offered his wealth for charity and to help those who were in great need. One legend when he hid gold coins as a present in drying stockings on the fireplace had stick with St. Nicholas to this very day. However, as often with traditions, and customs there are different variants.

According to tradition, St. Nicholas (Mikulás) visits children and leaves small gifts or treats in their previously polished shoes, which are typically placed on windowsills or outside the door. The only difference here would be shoes instead of stockings. In many European countries Santa does not have merry elves in his workshop, instead he has a very weird companion…

Along with him travels the Krampus, an altogether much more disturbing folk creature resembling a demon-like entity with hooves and horns. While Santa is giving presents to the good boys and girls, the Krampus gives coal, and in Hungary specifically, a golden birch-rod (Virgács) for bad children to whip and punish themselves. The nightmare-fuelling Krampus has been the inspiration of many horror movies and is originated from German folklore.

Christmas Markets:

In major cities like Budapest and other towns across Hungary, Christmas markets are a significant part of the holiday season. These markets feature various stalls selling crafts, traditional Hungarian foods, mulled wine, and other festive items. The history of these market dates back to the 15th century. The first recorded genuine Christmas market was held in Drezden in 1434. However, there were so called “December markets” centuries earlier in Vienna, Münich, and even in Drezden as well. This lovely and colourful phenomenon also was adopted by Hungary.

In modern sense Budapest had organised Christmas markets ever since 1998. The main location was the Vörösmarty square but recently due to its immense popularity, the city of Budapest hosts several markets. The main ones being the Christmas market in front of the Basilica and the earlier mentioned Vörösmarty square Christmas market. Besides these several smaller bazaars are also available to enlighten the spirit of visitors.

Besides the numerous trinkets, hand-crafted items, and decorations which you can buy as a last- attempt present to your loved-ones, the great attraction of the markets is to sample all the traditional winter specialities of Hungarian gastronomy. We will detail the “holiday menu” in a later entry below.
The icing on the cake is the beautiful decoration and the facilities which can be found at the markets. Mini-ice rink, concert stage, and laser shows are ensuring that there is always something happening at the Christmas markets. The Market in front of the St. Stephen Basilica was voted as the most spectacular Christmas market in Europe in both 2019 and 2021.

Luca Chair (Luca szék építés):

This is a unique and ancient Hungarian tradition that takes place on December 13th, the feast day of Saint Lucy (Luca nap). In certain regions of Hungary, particularly in Transylvania, people follow the custom of building a "Luca chair." The ritual was necessary to sort out witches and other demons from among the crowd. This metaphorical chair needs to consists of 7 (or 9) different types of tree branches such as hawthorn, juniper, maple tree, pear tree, blackthorn, spruce, acacia, alder, rosebush. The chair needs to be constructed without using metal nails. The building process needs to exactly 13 days. Strating from the 13th of December daily the carpenters are only allowed to build certain portion of the chair. As it is required to be ready for the 25th for the midnight mass, upon the chairs completion a very complex ceremony follows…

This involves selecting a girl from the household to represent Saint Lucy. She sits in a special chair decorated with candles. The lady, as the incarnation of St. Lucy, at midnight can spot the witches among the attendants. When a witch is spotted the young men must flee so that the witches wouldn't tear them apart. The fleeing ones carries poppy seeds in their pockets to scatter them while escaping. The witches have to pick up the poppy seeds (as it was believed to attract witches) and this way they can't catch the young ones. Then they set fire to the 'Luca chair' at home, and in the fire, the many little pieces of wood starts screaming, and if it is quiet on Christmas morning, the witches could still hear the moaning of the pieces of wood, because this fire meant the end of the witches.

Afterwards, garlic had to be inserted into the keyhole, the knife had to be struck into the left doorpost, and the brooms in the houses had to be placed in a cross position, to be protected from all harm. Makes perfect sense, right?
Nowadays only a few villages do the whole ceremony, mostly the chair building part of ritual is practiced. In Budapest in front of the St. Stephens Basilica they have the chair displayed.

Christmas Trees:

Decorating Christmas trees is a common practice in Hungary. Trees are usually adorned with ornaments, lights, tinsel, and topped with a star. These trees are typically set up in homes and sometimes even in public spaces. The pine tree is also a metaphor of the everlasting and undying spirit of Jesus.

Again, Hungary has a unique decoration element: parlour candy (Szaloncukor) Similar to the French Papillote chocolate candy. Refined sugar covered in chocolate, wrapped in decorated golden wrappers. Intriguingly in Hungary, the Christmas tree becomes a secondary snack source, if the sweets for the holiday wouldn’t be enough…

Usually, Christmas trees are home decorations until Epiphany. On January 6th, Hungarians celebrate Epiphany, also known as the Feast of the Three Kings. A popular custom involves "water blessing," where a priest visits homes and blesses them with holy water.

Christmas Eve (Szenteste):

Christmas Eve is the main day of celebration in Hungary. Families gather for a festive dinner, which often includes traditional dishes like fish soup, stuffed cabbage, and beigli (a type of pastry filled with poppy seeds or walnuts). After dinner, families exchange gifts and spend time together.

Midnight Mass (Éjféli Mise):

Many Hungarians attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which is a religious service held at churches to celebrate the birth of Jesus. As mentioned earlier, unlike in many other countries, the entirety of Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ and the celebration of light, as the number of daylight hours grow after the winter equinox, signifying the victory of good over evil.

New Year's Eve (Szilveszter):

While not strictly a Christmas tradition, New Year's Eve is still part of the holiday season. Many Hungarians celebrate with parties, fireworks, and other festivities to welcome the new year. You probably wonder why it is called Szilveszter in Hungary? The reason for that is Hungary celebrates name days as well. More or less every name has its corresponding day in our calendar. For instance, those who are named Silvester celebrate their name days on the 1st of January. Therefore, in common language Hungarians refer to the New Year as Újév or Szilveszter.

In addition to the celebrations, Budapest New Year's Eve also comes with a unique set of traditions, habits, and superstitions.

There is a strongly recommended list of types of food that you should or shouldn't consume on the first day to ensure a successful year. For instance, eating lentil and/or bean thick soup (Lencse- Babfőzelék) is highly recommended if you want to have a financially rich year in Budapest! However, it is strictly forbidden to consume fish or poultry on the first day of the year. Eating fish is believed to make your fortune swim away, and any kind of poultry is thought to scratch your luck and tear it into pieces. The best solution, according to tradition, is to enjoy pork-based meals at the beginning of the year, as it is believed to dig your luck and bless you with a fortunate year. So, in conclusion, after enjoying a hefty dose of sparkling wine and cocktails to cure your hangover from the Budapest NYE festivities, you should consider indulging your stomach a bit more to guarantee a successful year ahead.

Wishing you good luck and a joyful Budapest New Year's Eve!

What are the ideal Christmas presents? – tips and hints on what you should buy as a traditional Hungarian gift to your loved ones

Christmas Ornaments: Hungarians often appreciate beautifully crafted Christmas ornaments to decorate their trees and homes. Look for intricate glass-blown ornaments and those depicting Hungarian symbols or motifs.

Hungarian Wines and Spirits: Quality Hungarian wines and spirits, like Tokaji wine or pálinka (fruit brandy), can be thoughtful gifts for those who enjoy beverages. Be careful though, always check your country’s border customs, how many bottles can you take into your country duty-free.

Sweet Treats: Hungarian confectioneries are loved around the world. Beigli (a traditional walnut or poppy seed roll), szaloncukor (chocolate-covered fondant), and traditional Christmas cookies like mézeskalács (gingerbread) are popular choices.

Handmade Crafts: Handmade crafts and artisanal products, such as leather goods, textiles, and ceramics, showcase the local talent and craftsmanship of Hungary. Items such as traditional embroideries, pottery, and woven goods make for unique and culturally rich gifts. Wooden toys, carved items, other gifts, and decorations made of glass like cups, mugs crystal glass would also be a great present.

Traditional Clothing and Accessories: Hungarian traditional clothing items like embroidered blouses or vests, as well as accessories like folk-style scarves or hats, can be appreciated by those interested in preserving their cultural heritage. Near the Basilica there is a fashion store fusing traditional elements with modern ones.

Spa and Bath Products: Hungary is known for its thermal baths and spa culture. Luxurious bath products or spa vouchers can be a relaxing and indulgent gift. Or if you were the lucky ones entering any recreational spa, like the Széchenyi or the Gellért, inside you can also purchase wellness items or beauty essentials, bath robes and many more

Experiences: Consider gifting tickets to cultural events, such as theatre performances, concerts, or exhibitions, which can provide memorable experiences. Gift vouchers to remarkable events such as a river cruise on the Danube, or an unforgettable Folklore cruise, which you should of course test first yourselves!

Cooking Ingredients and Kits: Gift sets featuring Hungarian spices, paprika, and other traditional ingredients can be ideal for cooking enthusiasts. You might also consider kits for making Hungarian dishes at home. These lovely kits come in neatly decorated tiny baskets, usually wrapped in colours of the Hungarian tricolour.

Holiday dishes, specialties – winter gastronomy in Budapest.
A Delightful Journey Through Holiday Flavors

Hungary, with its rich culinary heritage, transforms into a wonderland of flavors during the winter season. As the temperature drops and snowflakes dance in the air, Hungarian cuisine takes center stage, offering a tantalizing array of holiday specialties that warm the heart and soul. From hearty soups to festive desserts, the table in Hungary is a celebration of tradition, togetherness, and the joy of sharing delicious meals with loved ones. As in many other countries this season is all about the hedonistic, gastronomic joy of the year. As we visit our relatives more and more complex and extravagant meals are served (in larger and larger quantities), becoming somewhat of a familiar competition. Everyone wants to impress, for sure, but many abandon the traditional way of celebration. Now we want to show you essence, the base of the Hungarian holiday menu which are commonly prepared in households to enchant the taste buds of the family members. Let us provide you a full list of a truly authentic Hungarian festive winter menu.

Soups: One cannot delve into Hungarian winter cuisine without mentioning the heartwarming soup that graces holiday tables. A spicy fisherman's soup or rather stew, (Halászlé) is a prominent choice, often served on Christmas Eve. Made with a blend of freshwater fish, fiery paprika, and vegetables, it's a flavorful and aromatic delight. Hungarians in general do not consume many fish over the year. However, in this season eating fish dishes is a custom. As the ancient symbol of Jesus Christ was the fish this is reason why Fisherman’s soup became such an important meal.
Additionally, during New Year's celebrations a jelly-like dish made from pork hock, snout of tail, seasoned with garlic and vinegar, (Kocsonya) finds its place on tables, also sufficing as a soup or cold starter.

Starters: Goose liver pâté (Libamájkrém) is a popular starter during the festive season. Its creamy texture and rich flavor make it an exquisite delicacy, often enjoyed with freshly baked bread or crackers. Another classic is deviled eggs (Töltött Tojás) filled with a flavorful mixture of egg yolks, mustard, and spices, creating a harmonious blend of tastes.
New Years Eve cannot be complete without Tatar Beefsteak. The raw richly seasoned beef ground to a creamy pâté goes really well with toast.

Main Dishes: Roasted meats take center stage in Hungarian winter feasts.
Stuffed Cabbage (Töltött Káposzta) is a beloved dish that graces Hungarian tables, particularly during the holiday season. This hearty and comforting delicacy is the alfa and omega of Christmas meals and showcases minced pork or a pork-and-beef mixture, seasoned with paprika and rice, all enveloped within tender cabbage leaves. The rolls are then simmered in a tomato-based sauce, resulting in a harmonious blend of flavours that embody the essence of Hungarian comfort food.

Duck meat is also significant during the winter holidays, providing a succulent and flavourful centrepiece for festive feasts. Roasted duck leg (Kacsacomb), known for its crispy skin and tender meat. The balance of tenderness and robust flavours is a true testament to Hungarian culinary mastery. Additionally, roasted duck (Kacsapecsenye), is often featured on plates, complete with aromatic spices such as rosemary, sage, pepper, basil, and thyme that infuse the meat with warmth and depth. Often served with braised red cabbage (Lila káposzta), this dish is a highly anticipated festive main dish in the country.

As mentioned earlier fish plays a pivotal role at the table around Christmas. Therefore, deep-fried carp, trout, perch, or catfish (Ponty, Pisztráng, Süllő, Harcsa) are also quite popular to be served.

Sweets and Desserts: The Hungarian winter dessert repertoire is a treasure trove of goodies and sweetness. Gingerbread cookies (Mézeskalács), adorn many homes during the holidays, often intricately decorated. Fondant-covered candies (Szaloncukor), are a staple on the Christmas tree, offering a variety of flavors and colors to be savored throughout the season.

The oh-so-famous chimney cake (Kürtős kalács) is also a welcomed sweet snack at dinner tables. Although a bit tricky to make at home, this lovely cinnamon and sugar incrusted bakery will surely impress everyone in the family. Lastly the signature sweet to be had around Christmas is the "Diós Beigli", the walnut-filled counterpart to "Beigli," is another must-have dessert, showcasing the indulgent flavors of ground nuts and spices. This snack crowns the holiday feast. Or it can completely ruin it as well. If it is too wet, it can ruin the carefully planned meal and it is a potential nightmare for those who prepare the holiday dishes. Needless to say, if it is too dry that’s no better either. At least it can be still used as a baseball bat…

Other side dishes: Cold platter (Hidegtál) is an elaborate dish that brings together various types of meat, sausages, cheese, and vegetables. It's a versatile option often present at holiday gatherings, providing a balanced selection of flavors and textures.

Last but least we wanted to mention the “glue” that sticks the whole meal together, and fills your hearts with warmth and joy: mulled wine or hot chocolate. (Forralt bor, forró csoki) These sweet drinks are always a pleasure to drink but during Christmas there is something truly magical about sipping these lovely beverages.

In Hungary, winter is a season that fosters warmth through culinary tradition. The joy of preparing and sharing these dishes is as essential as the meals themselves. From the crackling of the roast duck to the comforting aroma of freshly baked pastries, each dish carries with it a story of heritage and familial connection.
Hungary welcomes the season with open arms and open kitchens. The dining table becomes a gathering place where generations come together, creating memories, and savoring the flavors that define this enchanting time of year.