There are four seasons in Hungary, with winter being cold and snowy in January and February, sometimes even in March.
But don’t let the winter cold put you off. Visiting Budapest in the winter is a great adventure. There are plenty of authentic things to do and see. If you hurry, you can still get a peek of the famous Christmas Market.
There is a great mix of cultural, historical, architectural, and gastro activities to explore. These experiences will leave you refreshed and charged up for what’s to come in the New Year.
Don’t forget your hat, scarf, gloves, and swimsuit at home, but don’t worry you will be greatly rewarded for venturing out in the dead of winter. Warm up with a cup of mulled wine or hot tea anytime you start feeling a bit chilly.
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Ice skating in the City Park is one of the best activities you can do in Budapest. With the magical Vajdahunyad Castle in the backdrop, the ice rink is at an especially picturesque location.
The City Park Ice Rink first opened in 1870 and it was the first of its kind, the largest ice rink at the time. Ever since skaters flock the ice every winter to enjoy a great winter sport and have a mulled wine to recharge.
Once you feel nice and tired, it is time to head to the Szechenyi Bath, just a few minutes away from the ice rink. This impressive bath complex has 21 pools to choose from and an even wider variety of massaging streams in the pools.
Don’t miss the iconic chess parties while soaking in the hot water. Even if it is cold outside, the water will keep you warm. It has such a special atmosphere sitting outside in the steaming water.
The thermal water comes from 1246-meter deep in the ground and it is 76oC hot when it comes to the surface. The water obviously gets cooled down when the pools get filled.
There are other baths too in case you get hooked on the hot water. Rudas Bath has a special rooftop jacuzzi pool where you can have an amazing view of the city. Gellert Bath is in the imposing Hotel Gellert and its interior design is one of a kind.
Visit any European country from mid-November till January, and you will find remarkable Christmas Markets. Budapest is no exception. If you get there in time you can pick up some handmade souvenirs.
Don’t worry if you miss the market season. You will still find street vendors selling spicy mulled wine and delicious chimney cake. These delicacies will complete your evening walk wandering on lit-up streets.
As it gets cold outside, it is time to find adventures indoors. Explore an array of museums whatever you are interested in.
The Museum of Fine Arts always has something on to explore. Currently, the Cezanne to Malevich exhibition is on until 13 February. Lose yourself in the pictures that showcase how art got from portraying real life to the avant-garde trend.
Just wandering about in Budapest is an experience in itself. The Castle District is a picture-perfect neighborhood with small colorful houses, cute restaurants, and cafes.
Avoid the crowds in the winter season when you are admiring Buda Castle and taking the iconic picture at Fisherman’s Bastion with the Parlament in the background.
While you are there, take a visit inside Matthias Church, one of the most unique churches in Europe. If you are admiring the neo-gothic features, wait until you see the breathtaking interiors.
This building has lived through so much, it even served as a mosque for over 150 years during the Ottoman ruling. Yet, nothing can lessen the beauty of this stunning piece of architecture.
If entertainment is needed, see the calendar of Budapest’s modern cultural institution, called Mupa. Choose from an array of classical, contemporary, pop, and world music events, as well as opera and jazz. There are exhibitions and workshops too.
Hungary is proud of its famed musicians and scriptwriters; opera houses and theatres dutifully honor their legacy. Attending performances is still a popular pastime for all generations.
Vintage and second-hand shops are popular in Budapest. If you are on the lookout, you will find some real treasures. Treat yourself to a new wool jumper or a warm coat. From street shops to intimate showrooms, find what feels right for your style and budget.
Pop into Hogar where the emphasis is on the fabric of the clothes, so find the perfect cashmere jumper. Look for everlasting pieces at Nimfa where beautifully curated vintage pieces are waiting to be swapped up.
If you are looking for vintage with big brands, check out the Typo Showroom to pick up some extravagant pieces.
When looking for souvenirs, ground paprika, traditional sausages, and a taster of palinka are always good choices. You can get most of these in any shop.
But if you want to make an experience out of souvenir hunting, it is best to go to the Central Market Hall. There you can also choose from traditional embroidery, jams, syrups, Hungarian chocolate (Szamos), and other ornaments.
There are oodles of choices when it comes to food and drink.
Winter specialties include the stuffed cabbage (töltött káposzta) which is a dish cooked in a large pot. Meatballs individually wrapped in a cabbage leaf are cooked in a paprika sauce.
Gulyas soup is the signature dish. It is so hearty that you won’t have space for the second course.
As mentioned before, the chimney cake (kürtőskalács) is traditional street food in Hungary. The warm pastry will warm up your heart too, soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. You can choose from a variety of simple flavors, but cinnamon is just the best.
It might be tempting to eat it with Nutella, but personally, I advise against it as the sweet chocolate flavor is overpowering the unique flavor.
Further to all this, there are amazing coffee places to try in Budapest. Lumen has such an elevated atmosphere, the interior is calming but also energizing. Espresso Embassy has a chic vibe. The contemporary minimal design and specialty coffee blend in well with the traditional features. A traditional Hungarian-Jewish dessert, ‘flodni’, is a must-have.
A coffee place called Fekete also needs to be mentioned here. It is a small but very cozy café a bit tucked away from the main street, but it is in the inner city. The coffee is perfect, and also grab a cardamom bun while you can.
Looking for something stronger? The ruin bars have got you covered. They are most popular in VII. District. The abandoned buildings have been converted and their rundown chic style is fully maintained.
Don’t miss Szimpla Kert for an authentic experience. This gritty place has so many quirky corners to explore.
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