December 24, the day of Christmas Eve is one of the Christmas holidays in Budapest when most locals are all day preparing for the evening family gathering. The day of December 24 is a split day: although the morning of Dec 24 is like a busy weekday with shops open, people running last minute errands until noon or 2 pm.
In the afternoon the streets are starting to get visibly lacking in the Christmas crowds, and by around 4pm, when the last metros run their routes (later replaced with temporary buses), the streets of Budapest get quiet and festive.
Officially Dec 24 is not a public holiday, but practically it is from the afternoon. Several attractions (museums, shops, markets) are closed, but there are still many things to do to make Dec 24 a fantastic day. We have collected some ideas and activities for you for Dec 24 to make it a great day:
- Christmas Market Morning: the main market on Vorosmarty Square will be open from 8am – 2pm on Dec 24 with some morning concerts
- Bathing the thermal baths in Budapest on Dec 24 (shortened opening times!)
- Visiting the churches of Budapest also for the Christmas Eve Midnight Masses on Dec 24
- Enjoying Shows and Music in Budapest on Dec 24
- Taking in the Winter Views in Budapest on Dec 24
- Taking a Christmas Eve cruise on the Danube in Budapest on Dec 24
- Walking in the winter parks of Budapest on Dec 24
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour in Budapest on Dec 24 (last bus tour leaves at midday)
Baths in Budapest on December 24
Szechenyi Baths at Christmas – open on December 24 until 2 pm (based on previous years’ opening hours, 2013 hours not officially decided by the bath management yet).
The open air thermal pools give a special winter bath experience.
Instead of the usual opening hours, the baths are open for shorter hours, from approx. 8 am to 2 pm on December 24. Weekend prices are charged, queues may build up (Szechenyi Bath tickets)
Gellert Spa – open on December 24 until 2 pm (based on previous years’ opening hours, 2013 hours not officially decided by the bath management yet).
Instead of the usual opening hours, the baths are open for shorter hours, from approx. 8 am to 2 pm on December 24. Weekend prices are charged (Gellert Spa Tickets)
Lukacs Baths – open on December 24 until 2 pm (based on previous years’ opening hours, 2013 hours not officially decided by the bath management yet).
The open air thermal pools give a special winter bath experience.
Instead of the usual opening hours, the baths are open for shorter hours, from approx. 8 am to 2 pm on December 24.
There is free entrance to Lukacs thermal bath with Budapest Card.
Christmas Panorama in Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion is a perfect place to take in the beautiful winter views of the UNESCO World Heritage sights in Budapest. The bastion is an open lookout tower with open and roofed terraces and walls. Only the upper towers have coin operated turnstiles, so you can practically see the sights free of charge, even on December 24.
Citadel on the top of Gellert Hill has also open, free spaces, which provide excellent views over the city. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the top of the hill. The uphill walk for an average person in good physical condition should not be a problem (wear comfortable shoes). Note: the bus timetable on Dec 24 shows infrequent buses.
Christmas Tram in Budapest: usually the Christmas tram does not run on Dec 24 and Dec 31 evening, but you can take a Christmas ride on December 25 or December 26.
For winter walks in the city, put on warm clothes, boots and hat.
Concerts & Shows in Budapest
There are some nice concerts on Dec 25 in Budapest. The classical concerts have already been scheduled, light music concerts are typically scheduled later, in early or mid December.
11 am – 13:45 pm, Dec 24: Nutcracker Ballet Show in the Budapest Opera House
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm Dec 24: As part of the Christmas Eve night river cruise, you can listen to live concert played by a Hungarian Gypsy Band on the Budapest Christmas Eve Cruise.
8:15 pm – 10:15 pm Dec 24: As part of the Christmas Eve night river cruise, you can listen to live concert played by a Hungarian Gypsy Band on the Budapest Christmas Eve Cruise.
The list is updated, so please check back later for further ideas.
Dec 24 Midnight Masses in Budapest
Participate in the Midnight Mass in Budapest in St Stephen’s Basilica or Matthias Church, two of the outstanding churches (there are many beautiful churches in Budapest!). Christmas music and spirit will fill the century old halls of the churches. Join the locals to celebrate the Eve together.
Christmas Cruise in Budapest on December 24
The early sunset on Dec 24 is around 4 pm, so you can practically see the night lights from both Christmas Eve cruises on the Danube. There are much fewer cruises in winter in Budapest, and the seats are absolutely booked up for the Christmas holiday (Dec 24 – Dec 26). Book in advance while you can.
2 pm Sightseeing Cruise with Audio Commentary on Danube Bella panorama boat
6:30 – 8:30 pm Christmas Eve Dinner Cruise with live music, but without Audio Commentary
8:15 – 10:15 pm Christmas Eve Dinner Cruise with live music, but without Audio Commentary
Parks in Budapest in Winter
There are two beautiful parks worth visiting in December in Budapest, if you have a pair of comfortable waterproof shoes. One of them is the City Park with several open air attractions to look at, and the other one is the island in the Danube, between Buda and Pest called Margaret Island. Both are open parks, without fences, open on Dec 24.
The City Park is the home of special sights, like the 19th century Vajdahunyad Castle: the castle itself is closed on Dec 24, but the gates to the grounds are not. Take a look around, walk on the grounds, see the hooded statue of the Hungarian chronicler, Anonymous or the bust of Bela Lugosi, Dracula actor. Opposite the Castle, you can see the Ice Rink Palace (the Ice Rink might be open on Dec 24 in the morning hours). These sights are a minute only from the Hungarian Millennium Monument on Heroes’ Square, you may already be familiar with from Budapest guide books.
Margaret Island may not have castles just ruins, but if you love nature in winter, it is a nice and romantic place to feel the fresh air and tranquility.
The entry to Margaret Island is free, the park is open in winter too.
Closed Attractions in Budapest on Dec 24
Museums, galleries, Christmas markets, shops are often closed on Christmas Eve day (Dec 24). Also, many tours in Budapest are cancelled on this day.
Major attractions that are closed on Dec 24:
- Budapest Great Market Hall
- Buda Castle (open outside castle yard, closed inside)
- National Museum
- Museum of Fine Arts
- National Gallery