Experience the city’s prettiest venues with a side of Christmas cheer. Here’s our pick of the most festive musical events.
Dusted with snow, peppered with festive markets, decked in twinkling lights and scented with warm spiced wine, the Hungarian capital puts on a very atmospheric festive season. Adding to the sense of occasion are Budapest’s Christmas concerts. These annual musical highlights are a historic tradition in the city – certainly enough to draw the cultured crowds away from The Nutcracker for a night. Here’s our pick of the loveliest places to enjoy a Christmas concert in Budapest.
St Stephen’s Basilica
The Hungarian capital is packed with churches – it’s certainly no surprise, then, that some of the biggest Budapest Christmas concert highlights are held within their hallowed halls. One church, which has lifted a few pages from Marie Antoinette’s book of interior design tips, is St Stephen’s Basilica – or the “Bazilika” if you’re trying to impress the locals. It’s within this gilded jewellery box of a building that you can hear the celebratory melodies of Handel’s Messiah, performed throughout December up until the 6th January. Hallelujah, indeed.
Photo: © Lefteris Papaulakis
While the city’s other churches may not be a visual match for the King Midas-approved Bazilika, they’re still pretty exceptional to look at – and their vaulted interiors make for an ideal sonic setting for a Christmas concert in Budapest. The medieval Matthias Church, or Mátyás Templon, is set to host five seasonal evenings of music this December, which will feature performances by the Hungarian Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. The petite but pretty St. Michael’s Church – known for its somewhat OTT altar – will also host classical concerts performed by the Duna String Orchestra that will make for evocative and festive listening.
Budapest’s dazzling medieval skyline is perhaps best appreciated from the river that clefts it. During the festive season, with the glitter of the Hungarian Parliament Building reflected upon the water and a fine powdering of snow adding extra sparkle, it’s a picturesque immersion in the Christmas spirit. The Danube Palace Dinner & Cruise offers a cosy perch from which to appreciate it all. The panorama is soundtracked by the Hungária Folk Orchestra, which performs rousing tunes before a lavish traditional Hungarian dinner is served.
A dramatic departure from the romance of Budapest’s Belle Époque architecture, Müpa Budapest is an icon of concrete and glass at the heart of the city’s cultural scene. It houses the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, a capacious venue with a spectacular organ that has given it a reputation – among local musicians at least – for being the best auditorium in the world. Settle in for an evening of Bach’s six-part Christmas Oratorio, scheduled for just one night every December.
Photo: © Darabos Gyorgy
No round-up of Christmas concerts in Budapest would be complete without a nod to one of the city’s preeminent music conservatories, the Liszt Academy. Excellence is a given at Liszt, and the venue’s festive programme is a guaranteed cultured crowd-pleaser. Its Christmas concert this year presents a Tchaikovsky recital by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra.