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Europe Christmas Markets: Budapest to Zagreb

8 days with Intrepid Travel   Rating: Budget

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices Day 1 Budapest
Szia! Welcome to Budapest, Hungary's intoxicating capital. Make your own way to the hotel, where your trip begins with a 6 pm welcome meeting. There are no planned activities for today, but if you arrive early, there is plenty to do and see. This historic city, complete with hilltop castle overlooking the Danube, is beautiful any time of the year, but it becomes even more magical at Christmastime when its draped in lights and dusted with snow. Get acquainted with the city on an afternoon stroll, taking in its charming mix of Roman, Gothic and Turkish architecture. Head to Fishermen’s Bastion – a white-stoned, seven-towered structure that looks straight from a fairy tale – for the best view of Budapest. After your important evening meeting, perhaps head out with your new travel buddies and tour leader for dinner, then take a night walk along the Danube River to see the surrounding buildings and bridges lit up in lights. Not to be missed are Budapest's funky 'ruin pubs'.

Day 2 Budapest
Get acquainted with Budapest on a morning orientation walk with your tour leader, finishing with a visit to the Budapest Christmas Fair at Vorosmarty Square. Not only is this the oldest and biggest Christmas market in Budapest, it is frequently cited as one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world. Discover why as you browse wooden stalls selling local handcrafts, as your senses are treated to wafts of fresh Hungarian pastries (like chimney cakes and home-made strudel), dodolle (potato dumplings), grilled sausage, paprika-infused goulash and other various street foods fill the air. Don’t miss sampling a freshly baked chimney cake (Kurtoskalacs) or dough shaped as a cone, covered in sugar and cinnamon. Enjoy an included food tasting a warming glass of mulled wine in the market. Afterwards, you have a free afternoon to further explore on your own. You might want to check out some of the smaller markets scattered around the city – head to Deak Ferenc Steet (frequently called Fashion Street), Varoshaza Park, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Erzsebet Square and Gozsdu Udvar to find just a few – or jump on a tram and make your way to City Park for outdoor ice skating in front on the gorgeous Vajdahunyad Castle. Follow this is a warm soak in the Budapest baths. Keep the Christmas spirit going in the evening, taking in festival music at one of the many venues in town.

Day 3 Graz
Travel by train to Graz (about 6 hours). Austria’s second largest city has no less than 14 Christmas markets open over the holiday season. Start off with a visit to the main one at Hauptplatz square in front of the town hall. Find vendors selling a mix of traditional Austrian handicrafts and culinary treats, a towering Christmas tree decked in lights and a carousel for the young at heart. In the evening, an advent calendar is projected on the town hall to great effect. Afterwards, enjoy free time to explore a few more of the markets scattered around town; all 14 are within easy walking distance. Otherwise, simply stroll the UNESCO-crowned historic Old Town and savour the sights.

Day 4 Ljubljana
Travel by train to Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana (about 3.5 hours). Set amongst grand lakes and mountains, Slovenia’s picturesque towns offer an idyllic backdrop at any time of year. But in winter, the spectacular scenery becomes even more captivating with a dusting of snow and frost-covered trees. Upon arrival, set out to explore the town with your leader and visit the main Christmas market on the banks of Ljubljanica river. Head out to Metelkova Mesto in the evening to experience the local nightlife.

Day 5 Bled / Ljubljana
Today you’ll take a one-hour bus ride to the lakeside town of Bled. Gifted with immense natural beauty, Bled ranks among the most beautiful alpine resorts in the world; its fairy tale-like scenery – which includes an 11th-century cliff-top castle, a stunning lake and a picturesque island topped with a church – is a dream to explore. Depending on the weather, you can choose to visit Bled Castle, join your leader on a 6-kilometre/4-mile walk around the lake or climb to Ojstrica viewpoint for some amazing vistas. Warm up with coffee or hot chocolate and a slice of kremsnita (Bled’s famous cream cake) before taking the public bus back to Ljubljana.

Day 6 Zagreb
Travel to Zagreb this morning (about 2.5 hours by train). Nestled below Mt Medvednica, Croatia’s thriving capital is an exciting winter destination. A month-long Advent festival transforms the city into an illuminated winter wonderland, complete with acres of fairy-lights, huge Christmas trees, nativity scenes, temporary ice rinks, mulled wine stalls and igloo-shaped rakija (a potent local drop) bars. The Christmas market here is considered among the best in Europe. Head out on an evening walking tour to see the city in full Christmas splendour. A local guide will provide an insight into Croatian Christmas tradition, such as why Croatian’s used to keep their turkeys out on their balconies before Christmas dinner.

Day 7 Mt Medvenica / Zagreb
Take a short drive out of town to Mt Medvednica. If you weren’t fortunate enough to see snow at previous destinations on this trip, you’ll likely get the chance to experience a true winter wonderland here in the mountains, which always see a fair bit of snow during the winter. Savour the snow-covered sights on a short walk with your tour leader, before enjoying a traditional Croatian lunch. Feast on local specialties like soup, meat stew or sarma (cabbage rolls stuffed with meat), then return to Zagreb for your final night.

Day 8 Zagreb
Your festive adventure come to an end after breakfast. There are no planned activities for today.
Map
All This Included
It’s the most wonderful time of year, particularly when its set in some of Central Europe’s prettiest and most historic cities. Get in the Christmas spirit exploring festive markets in cities decorated in full Christmas splendour, browsing local handicrafts from traditional wooden stalls, sampling delicious regional specialties and taking in endless winter scenes along the way. Indulge your senses in intoxicating Budapest, browse Austrian handicrafts hopping between Graz’s 14 charming markets, and be immersed in spectacular winter scenery in Ljubljana and fairy-tale like Lake Bled. Finish up in Zagreb, which transforms into a magical illuminated wonderland for its month-long Advent festival.
  • Meals - 7 breakfasts, 1 lunch
  • Transport - Train, public bus, taxi
  • Christmas snacks and mulled wine tasting Budapest
  • Lake Bled day tour
  • Guided tour of Christmas markets in Zagreb
  • Medvednica mountain day trip
Highlights
  • This trip takes you to a variety of Christmas markets across central Europe. Contrast the various traditions, cuisines and of course, mulled wine, in several amazing cities.
  • Hungary’s intoxicating capital becomes even more magical when draped in fairy-lights and dusted with snow at Christmastime. Try delicious local specialties like chimney cakes and potato dumplings at its main market at Vorosmarty Square.
  • Why settle for one Christmas market when you could have 14? Visit Graz’s main market at Hauptplatz Square, then make your way through as many as you wish.
  • Bled’s fairy tale-like scenery – which includes an 11th-century cliff-top castle, a stunning lake and a picturesque island topped with a church – is a dream to explore. See it for yourself.
  • Zagreb transforms into a glorious illuminated winter wonderland during its month-long Advent Festival. Spend two days savouring the sights, taking in acres of fairy-lights, huge Christmas trees, nativity scenes, ice-rinks, mulled wine stalls and igloo-shaped rakija (a potent local drop) bars.
Accommodations
Hotel (5 nights)
Hostel (2 nights)
Notes
  • Ages: Min 15
  • Group size: Min 1, Max 12
  • While the Christmas markets we visit are all beautiful, they can get very busy, so please be prepared for crowds.
  • This trip runs throughout December, which can be one of the coldest months in central Europe. Please make sure you bring warm clothing with you and are adequately prepared for the weather.
  • The primary means of transportation on this trip is by train. Train travel is a fast way to traverse long distances, allowing you to avoid traffic jams and arrive right into the city centre. Trains are comfortable and often decked out with air-conditioning, toilets, a snack bar (or vending machine) and power points. Please note that you'll have to carry your own luggage on and off the train, so make sure it doesn’t exceed our weight and size recommendations.
  • This trip focuses on visiting Christmas markets. While there will be some time to view other sights, there won’t be enough time to see all the attractions each city has to offer.
  • On Day 7 you’ll have a chance to enjoy traditional Croatian lunch. Keep in mind that Croatian cuisine is meat based. Even though there will be a vegetarian option available, it may be limited.
  • A single supplement is available on this trip.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Intrepid Travel terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.