The Christmas Market is the central event of the winter holidays in Bucharest. It attracts over one million visitors annually, both from the country and from abroad. And this year is no exception. The Christmas Market has turned Constituției Square into a fairytale-like place where tourists and Bucharesters can enjoy traditional goodies, find Christmas gifts and have fun at live concerts. In addition, Santa's House, the ice rink or the carousel are the main attractions for kids.
Another working day is almost over and the Unirii Boulevard in downtown Bucharest is quite crowded. While some of the Capital's residents are heading home, others choose to discover the surprises of the Christmas Market today, along with family and friends. We decide to do the same and we find the magic place in Constituției Square quite easily: the top of the Christmas tree, the stage for concerts and even the famous Parliament Palace are visible from afar.
Opened almost a month before Christmas, the fair in Constituției Square sets the pace for the holiday season to the Capital. Even though it is still early in the day and the light installations are not lit yet, the music, the decorations and the smell of mulled wine with cinnamon takes us into the Christmas atmosphere right from the start.
There are four access points to the Christmas Market and we choose one of the entrances closer to the Unirii Boulevard. A couple heads to the food area arranged close to the entrance, while other visitors choose to check the fair’s Christmas gift offer first or go to the carousel, the children's favorite place, at least until Santa's House opens.
There are more than 130 stalls decorated festively at the Christmas Market, which sell anything from special gifts to traditional dishes, seasonal decorations or handmade products. However, the mulled wine seems to be the star of the fair: wherever you are in the square, you will for sure find a stall selling mulled wine, dry or sweetened with cinnamon and apple slices.
Depending on what products they sell, the stalls got different names. There’s the Stand with Sweets, the Stand with Ceramics from Corund, the Stand with Goodies from Nature, the Stand with Folk Costumes and the Stand with Bags. Our first stop is at the Craftsmen’s Stand, where we find a unique collection of painted ceramic, brass and copper objects. The seller is actually the craftsman making these special objects; he is skillfully modeling in front of our eyes yet another brass ring for the fair's visitors.
Many other artisans are present at the winter fair in the center of the Capital, their offer including items made from carved wood, folk costumes and religious items, leather goods, items made from glass, fur or wool garments, jewelry or decorative objects of different materials and different colors, many of them hand made. For food lovers, the offer includes venison products, traditional pork or fish products, cheese specialties, jams, syrups, cozonac (the traditional sweet bread in Romania), or different types of chocolate, even some that are sugar free.
We are slowly approaching the carousel, where the joy is contagious. Parents and children enjoy this attraction of the fair together, with the kids spinning around in circle on the back of small horses, giraffes and elephants. A small dog barks at the noisy children, caught up in their fun activity, but its owner immediately draws its attention with a piece of pie. A group of young people are dancing on the beat of the Christmas music which can be heard from the fair’s loudspeakers, while a couple checks the fair schedule.
"Mommy, look!” says a child. We look up and smile: the holiday lights are lit in the market. The whole fair is even more beautiful now, and the Christmas tree, 30 meters high and decorated with thousands of light bulbs, seems to have come to life. Many visitors start gathering around the tree, for family photos or selfies for friends.
A group of children accompanied by several adults head to Santa's House. It’s almost 17:00, which means that the elves are almost ready to meet with the visitors. The kids are eager to visit the magic house and leave their wish lists to Santa’s helpers. Such meetings with the elves take place daily at the fair. Santa Claus is expected here on December 13.
A special chest for good deeds is also found at the entrance to Santa’s House, where visitors can donate books or toys for children in need. The humanitarian campaign runs until December 20.
Another attraction of the Christmas Market is the nativity scene that tells the story of the Birth of the Lord, with figurines depicting baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Joseph, the Angel and the three Magi.
The number of visitors keeps increasing as the dusk settles over Constituției Square, despite the low temperatures. Some drink a glass of tea, coffee, mulled wine or hot chocolate to keep warm, while others decide to enjoy the traditional flavors and tastes of the gastronomic areas. The cooks have prepared many seasonal goodies, from the traditional pomana porcului (a Romanian Christmas dish made of pork meat, sausages, bacon and other parts of the pork fried together), to cabbage stewed with sausages or sarmale (a mixture of rice and minced meat rolled in cabbage leaves) with polenta. The offer, however, also includes dishes such as hot dogs or burgers.
The cold is for sure not felt at the open-air ice rink, where the entry is free. A new skating session started not long ago and some visitors are already having fun on the ice. Not far away, the decorations for the European Football Championship 2020 (EURO 2020) attract many curious people as well. Bucharest will host four EURO 2020 matches in June, and some of this year's Christmas installations are dedicated to this special event.
As always, not missing from the Bucharest Christmas Market’s program are the concerts and live shows. Top artists and folklore ensembles will take to the stage installed in the Constituției Square from Friday until Sunday, the program including local artists such as Paula Seling, Holograph, Grigore Leșe, Narcisa Suciu and Ștefan Bănică. An extraordinary Christmas concert is scheduled for the Christmas Eve.
The Bucharest Christmas Market awaits visitors until December 26.
Constituției Square is located near the Unirii Square and the Parliament Palace. Many means of public transport have stops nearby, such as trams 7, 27 and 32 or buses 104, 116, 117, 123, 313 and 783, and the nearest subway station is Piața Unirii.
The Christmas Market is open daily until December 26, and the full program and other information can be found online at Bucharestchristmasmarket.ro.
Other Christmas fairs to try in Bucharest:
- The peasant Christmas fair at Muzeul Național al Țăranului Român – December 13-15
- The designer gift fair NOEL at Hanul Gabroveni – December 14-15
- The Christmas edition of Bounty Fair at Casa Universitarilor – December 14-15
- The handmade product fair organized at Impact Hub - December 15
- The Ozosep Fair - Christmas special edition organized on Pictor Arthur Verona St. – December 13-15
- The Christmas VegFair (with special products for a vegetarian diet) organized at Casa Universitarilor – December 19-21
This material is part of a project under the program of promoting the touristic heritage "Destination: Bucharest", carried out by the Bucharest City Hall through the Public Monuments and Touristic Heritage Administration (AMPT).
Photos by Kathrin Weident / Romania-Insider.com for AMPT