top of page

A Winter Wonderland //Exploring the Enchanting Christmas Markets of Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna



Tall Christmas tree with white lights in front of the City Hall in Vienna Austria. Local Vienna Austria Christmas Market.
Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz // Vienna Austria

The winter season brings with it a magical transformation in the heart of Central Europe, where historic cities like Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna come alive with the charm and festivities of Christmas markets. Recently, my husband Eddie and I visited these enchanting markets and experienced the tradition, festive cheer, and holiday spirit for ourselves! As a designer, I was most intertested in the local market goods, while Eddie indulged in all of the local sweet treats! I am sharing some glimpses of our bucket list trip...after spending a few days at these gorgeous markets, one can't help but be immersed in a feeling of holiday happiness!



// BUDAPEST, HUNGARY


Vörösmarty Square // Budapest, Hungary

At the heart of Budapest's yuletide celebrations stands Vörösmarty Square, home to the city's most renowned Christmas market. This was the first stop on our festive journey. The city is absolutely beautiful, but we were definitely not prepared for the bitter cold of the gusting winds that tried to blow us away all day long!


We quickly realized we were very unprepared for the temperatures...somehow, despite packing 5 tons of clothing, I forgot my gloves and hats...yes, I really did! We stopped in a couple of clothing shops near the main Christmas markets and found some winter gear that made the day survivable! I found the puffiest of puffy coats for a killer deal of $30...I continue to joke that it was the best purchase of the entire trip!


Once appropriately dressed, we hit the main square market and enjoyed some local food...Eddie sampled some goulash soup and I tried stuffed cabbage. Both were delightful and we quickly decided we would be trying to recreate these dishes once we returned home!


We then watched some chimney cakes being made and Eddie gave them a try. A chimney cake, also known as Kürtőskalács, is a traditional Hungarian pastry. The name Kürtőskalács translates to "chimney cake" in English, and it refers to the cylindrical, chimney-like shape of the pastry.


The vendors did not disappoint with their holiday decorations and local artisan pieces. I picked up some of the most beautiful gingerbread cookies I have ever seen, and grabbed a lovely green ceramic soup tourine, and found some hand carved wooden bowls to bring home!


Chimney cakes being baked over an open fire at the Christmas market in Budapest, Hungary
Chimney Cakes // Budapest, Hungary

Dried fruit wreaths at the Christmas market in Budapest, Hungary
Dried Fruit Decor // Budapest, Hungary


Urbane Interiors principal designer Stephanie Park standing in front of a green vintage sleigh at the Christmas market in Budapest, Hungary
Stephanie Park // Budapest, Hungary

Frosted gingerbread cookies in a small brass bowl
Gingerbread Cookies // Budapest, Hungary

// BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA


Nestled along the banks of the Danube River, Bratislava's Christmas markets are so quaint and charming! We visited the market in the Main Square and were pleasantly surprised with the slower pace and lighter crowds of this market. We sipped on mulled wine (quickly, a fast favorite!) while taking in the local wares. The mulled wine is called gluhwein, which translates to "glow wine", as it warms you from the inside! We had to try the local food, so we tasted lokše (potato pancakes) and some sausage made with paprika...absolutely delicious!


We went on a walking tour to the Bratislava Castle, which is naturally on a very steep hill. The cobblestone streets and unique architecture were delightful. You must have good footing if you plan to walk around the city...no modern sidewalks or stair railings in many places!



The Main Square // Bratislava, Slovakia


Handmade children's Christmas ornament. Angel made of sticks and simple craft supplies.
Children's Handmade Ornament // Bratislava, Slovakia


Large Gothic style door in Bratislava, Slovakia. Door is surrounded by large bricks and stones.
Gothic Door // Bratislava, Slovakia


Nativity scene in Bratislava, Slovakia. Nativity is made of hand-carved wood surrounded by straw and evergreen boughs.
Main Square // Bratislava, Slovakia


// VIENNA, AUSTRIA


The main and most famous Christmas market in Vienna is the Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz (City Hall Square). This market is one of the largest and most traditional in Vienna. The stunning backdrop of the Vienna City Hall is festively decorated and is very regal in the evening hours when the twinkling lights bounce off of it.


This market was, by far, the most grand of the markets we visited. Of course we grabbed some gluwein to keep warm and enjoyed seeing all of the amazing vendors. There were thousands of beautiful ornaments and plenty of delicious places to grab some local food. One of the cutest things for sale were the "smoking Santas"...incense burners in which the smoke came out of their tobacco pipes!


Earlier in the day, we stopped by the Christmas market near St. Stephen's Cathedral, which is near many boutique and luxury shoppes. We ventured into the most magical bakery Demel and were quickly enchanted by the wonderful smells of holiday sweets and treats. The bakery itself boasts an old world charm, which made us feel as though we had stepped back in time to the 1800s. We saw the most amazing gingerbread house (rather cathedral) and intricately decorated sugar cookies. Works of art is probably a better way to describe everything they sell! If you are ever in Vienna, it is a stop you don't want to skip!


After lots of walking and shopping, we stepped into Cafe Landtmann, an iconic cafe established in the late 1800s. It has seen many a famous character throughout the years...most notable, Sigmund Freud would stop in everyday for his breakfast before venturing on to the university. While there, I told my husband we should psychoanalyze each other...and then thought better of it!


As the sun set, we made our way to Theater an der Wien (Wien is the German spelling of Vienna) for a classical music concert. Viennese music is amazing and we were blown away by the talent. The concert hall was magnificent with ornate paintings on the ceiling and the most ornate wood floor I've ever seen! To top it off, we learned that the small concert hall was where Ludwig van Beethoven debuted Symphony No. 3. If you plan a trip to Vienna, you must put a Viennese concert on your list of must-dos. It will not disappoint! Blue Danube, anyone?



Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz in Vienna, Austria
Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz // Vienna, Austria

Woman drinking mulled wine from a red boot ceramic mug in Vienna, Austria.
Gluhwein // Vienna, Austria

White and gold holiday ornaments at a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria.
Holiday Ornaments // Vienna, Austria

Large gingerbread cathedral with white frosting at Demel bakery in Vienna, Austria.
Gingerbread Cathedral at Demel Bakery // Vienna, Austria

Ornate tile flooring in floral patterns at Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Austria.
Ornate Flooring at Theater an der Wien // Vienna, Austria

Large Christmas tree sugar cookie sitting upright in a wooden stand at Demel bakery in Vienna, Austria.
Christmas Tree Sugar Cookie at Demel // Vienna, Austria

Ornate wood flooring in Vienna, Austria.
Ornate Flooring at Theater an der Wien // Vienna, Austria

Man and woman at Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz in Vienna, Austria.
Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz // Vienna, Austria

To say this was a trip to remember would be quite the understatement! What better way to get into the holiday spirit than to immerse oneself in all things Christmas in Eastern Europe?


As the year draws to a close, I wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holiday seasons! Urbane Interiors is so lucky to have amazing clients, and we look foward to all of the delightful projects that will come to life in 2024...some Eastern European influences may be sprinkled in!


Happy Holidays & Best Wishes,

Stephanie Park

Principal Designer

Urbane Interiors

Comments


bottom of page