To spend Christmas in a palace is a wonderful dream, and a visit to Gödöllo palace, near Budapest in central Europe, is probably the closest that one could come to it. There’s not only a marvellous programme of arts, crafts, plays, children’s activities, and concerts, but there’s also the lively atmosphere created by the visitors to the palace and its surroundings.
History of the Palace
The palace was originally a mansion, owned by Antal Grassalkovich. The building, in Baroque style, was begun in 1741 and work went on over many years, additions and alterations being carried out by succeeding members of the family. Finally covering 17,000 square metres, it can easily be ranked as one of the significant palaces of Europe, on a level with Versailles in France. It was brought by the Hungarian government in 1867 for the purpose of being converted into a pleasure palace for Franz Josef and his Queen, Sisi.
Nowadays the pleasure belongs to the many Hungarian and foreign visitors who arrive to celebrate the season.
Christmas Market Activities
Activities are located in two places – the palace itself, in the large courtyard, and the Palm House, off to one side of the grounds.
Palm House – Tree Decorations and Advent Wreaths
In the Palm House, everything and anything necessary for tree and home decorating is available, and it’s also possible to make an Advent wreath under the watchful eye of an expert. Hand made decorations include cornhusk dolls, hand painted glass balls, fabric fancies, coloured wire and pottery items, and glass objects, as well as candles in various sizes and styles. The spice tree, decorated with bunches of cinnamon sticks, garlands of dried orange and lemon slices, and other scented and hand made goodies, is one of the highlights.
Craft Stalls and Activities in Palace Courtyard
In the Palace courtyard are the outside craft stalls. Woodwork, glasswork, pottery, leatherwork, jewellery from various materials, and fabric work are available. There are also stands selling hot mulled wine, food, and roasted chestnuts. Mugs with a picture of the palace are available; although they are not yet a collector’s item, they are a nice souvenir.
Manger and Horse Drawn Sledge Rides
There’s also a manger and animals for the children to pat, various historical games and competitions, dances, plays, puppet shows, and, weather permitting, there are horse drawn sledge rides in the park where Empress Sisi used to love riding.
Activities in the Palace
On the ground floor of the palace there are more arts and crafts in the various rooms: potters, jewellery smiths, papermakers, hand made soaps, and much more. There is also a tearoom, where waitresses dressed in outfits from Sisi’s time, serve coffee, tea and cakes. There’s a display of Herend pottery, with crafts people demonstrating the painting and decoration techniques of this distinctive porcelain ware.
Learning Crafts and a Programme of Concerts
Visitors, including the children, can learn crafts as honey cake decoration, candle making and decoration, serviette folding, and glass painting. Evening performances of opera and concerts, in the newly renovated Baroque theatre or the Ornamental Hall round off the experience.
Exploring the Palace
The palace itself shouldn’t be missed. There are 26 rooms open to the public, and tickets are available from the office by the front door. There’s no charge for the daytime Christmas programmes, but it’s necessary to buy tickets for the afternoon and evening concerts.
The Godollo Palace Christmas markets are only one of the markets in Hungary and Europe during December where craftsmen display their arts.