If you are planning a city break in Europe during the cooler months, then consider visiting Budapest in winter. Budapest has it all, historic buildings, tasty goulash, fancy outdoor spas and quirky nightlife and covered in a layer of snow, Budapest is more beautiful than ever.
Winters in Budapest are cold, there’s no denying that. But it is also undeniably pretty. There are also plenty of things to do indoors like taking a tour of the opera house, visiting the markets or curling up in a cosy cafe.
I personally visited Budapest in winter with one of my girlfriends and we had an absolute ball. But that was a while ago now so instead of racking my brains for all the best bits, I’m letting Kata from Budapest Connections, tell us all about her beloved Budapest.
She has so many great tips for enjoying the winter in Budapest including how to enjoy Christmas and New Years Eve in this wonderful city in Hungary.
No time to read it now? No worries, pin it for later…
So I’ll pass you over to Kata now…
What you can expect from this article…
- 1 Visiting Budapest in Winter
- 1.1 Why Visit Budapest in winter?
- 1.2 How to get to Budapest in winter
- 1.3 How to get around Budapest in winter
- 1.4 Where to stay when you visit Budapest in the wintertime
- 1.5 What is the weather like in the winter in Budapest?
- 1.6 Things to do in Budapest in winter
- 1.7 Things to do in Budapest in the rain
- 1.8 Things to do in Budapest at Christmas Time
- 1.9 Celebrating New Years Eve in Budapest
- 1.10 Other events and festivals in Budapest in the winter
- 1.11 Packing for winter in Budapest
- 1.12 Other top tips for visiting Budapest in winter
- 1.13 Budapest Connection
Visiting Budapest in Winter
Why Visit Budapest in winter?
Budapest is full of winter magic and surprises. It is a lovable city with its merits and flaws. If you would like to gather great memories, I recommend bathing under the stars with a snow-covered hat on your head at one of the many baths. There is no better destination than Budapest.
How to get to Budapest in winter
Most of the tourists arrive in Budapest at Liszt Ferenc International Airport.
Getting to the city from the airport is very straightforward. The official shuffle bus of Budapest departs right in front of the arrivals. A one-way ticket costs 900 HUF (3 USD).
There are also cabs at the airport, of course.
How to get around Budapest in winter
Budapest has an extensive and well functioning public transport system. During winter your best option is the subway: it has 4 lines and they touch almost all the main tourist attractions.
The only exception is the Castle District, home to Buda Castle and Matthias Church, but it is also easily reachable by buses or funiculars.
Tram 2 is one of the best sightseeing tram lines in the world, make sure to use it! It runs along the Danube promenade and provides the best views of Gellért Hill, the Castle area and the Parliament.
Where to stay when you visit Budapest in the wintertime
Budapest is a very walkable city, so I recommend staying in the city centre. From there you can get to nearly anywhere you want and the public transportation is also perfect.
The best places to stay in Budapest are;
Near the Danube Promenade: perfect for couples
- Budget: D8 Hotel
- Mid-range: Prestige Hotel Budapest
- Luxury: Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection
In the Jewish District: perfect for young folks who would like to enjoy Budapest nightlife
- Budget: Roombach Hotel Budapest Centre
- Mid-range: Eurostars Danube Budapest
- Luxury: Corinthia Hotel Budapest
Near Parliament: perfect for families
- Budget: Budapest Art Nouveau Apartment
- Mid-range: Hotel Parlament
- Luxury: Iberostar Grand Budapest
What is the weather like in the winter in Budapest?
Winters in Budapest are cold: the average temperature is somewhere between -5 and +4 Celsius (23 – 40 Fahrenheit).
Sleet, snow and wind are very common with some unpredictable sunny periods.
But doesn’t it look beautiful covered in snow?!
Things to do in Budapest in winter
Budapest has more thermal springs than any other major city in the world. No wonder that it is also called the “city of waters”. Hungarians are definitely making good use of these springs: we drink these healing waters, we inhale the steams and of course, we also bath in them.
One of the biggest tourist magnets is the bath culture in Hungary. Especially during summer, the baths in Budapest are packed with locals and tourist alike. In winter, going to baths that have outdoor pools is not that obvious, but I urge you to try it!
One of the most fun ways to experience the baths culture in Budapest is by visiting a spa and immersing yourself in the hot waters of an outdoor pool. It is a strange feeling, being warm in the water whilst snow starts to blanket your head (I recommend having a thin hat).
For this experience, visit Széchenyi Bath as it has the biggest outdoor space of all baths.
Click here for a skip-the-queues day pass to Széchenyi Baths
Things to do in Budapest in the rain
When the weather turns cold or it starts to rain, you will soon feel the need for some cosiness and warmth. Luckily, Budapest is full of cosy cafés.
Several traditional cafés are famous for their beautiful architecture and detailed decorations, such as Gerbaud, Ruswurm, Café Párisi – Lotz Hall, and New York café, that is said to be one of the most beautiful cafés in the world.
If you are more into modern cafés, no problem. In the city centre, there is a café on almost every corner.
Things to do in Budapest at Christmas Time
Budapest fills with Christmas vibes during the holiday season. The Christmas markets are internationally famous and Budapest has already been voted the most affordable Christmas Market destination in Europe.
The markets are packed with homemade goods and gifts and they offer all the main traditional Hungarian meals. They are paradises for foodies!
Try some local festive delicacies
Try many delicious, authentic Hungarian dishes as you can: goulash, “pörkölt”, “lángos”, stuffed cabbage accompanied by craft beers, mulled wines or hot tea.
Our sweets and pastries are also worth trying! “Beigli” is a typical Christmas pastry, stuffed with walnut or poppy seeds.
“Kürtös kalács” is also known as chimney cake. It is a tall pastry baked into a chimney-like shape. While fresh from the over and hot, it is rolled in a topping such as vanilla sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts.
“Szaloncukor” is a candy that is soft inside and coated with chocolate. We decorate our Christmas trees with these. Buy some of these edible Christmas decorations for your loved ones!
Christmas markets not to miss in Budapest
There are several markets around the city, but two of them you definitely should not miss:
Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market
Location: Vörösmarty tér, district V.
How to get there:
M1, M2, M3 metro lines: Deák tér station
Tram 2 Vigadó station
This is the biggest and most popular one in Budapest. It has around 100 stalls offering gifts and crafts and it has the widest range of dishes, too.
St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market
Location: Szent István tér, district V.
How to get there:
M1, M2, M3 metro lines: Deák tér station or Arany János station
Tram 2 Széchenyi István tér
It is a smaller, but an equally fabulous market, right in front of the Basilica.
This market has some unique features: a skating rink in its middle and a light show that is coordinated with music and projected on the walls of the Basilica itself.
Opening times of the Budapest Christmas Markets
Vörösmarty Square: 9 November – 1 January
Szent István Square (St. Stephen’s Basilica): 23 November – 1 January
The markets are usually open daily from 11 am to 9 pm
24. December 10 am to 4 pm
25-26 December 10 am to 6 pm
Celebrating New Years Eve in Budapest
Enjoying a cruise on the Danube is one of the best ways to spend New Year’s Eve. There are various types of boat tours, so everyone can find something for their taste and wallet.
If you are not into ship cruises, you can head to a central club. ‘360 Bar’ is one of the best options with its cool roof-top where you can enjoy the views without feeling cold in its heated igloos.
Ruin bars are the biggest party hotspot in Budapest, every bar has a unique atmosphere. You can also take part in an NYE bar hop to experience several bars in one night.
The streets and squares in Budapest are also full of crowds of young locals, dressed up in party hats and blowing their whistles. After the countdown to the new year finishes, everyone gets loose with hugs and kisses all around the city.
The best areas to enjoy the party spirit are the Danube promenade (Vigadó Square) and Vörösmarty square.
Other events and festivals in Budapest in the winter
The Ice Rink in Budapest City Park, right in front of the fairytale-like Vajdahunyad Castle is a must for winter sports lovers. It is open all winter and you can rent a skate at the spot.
There are a lot of “pop up” ice rinks throughout the city.
On St. Martin’s Day restaurants serve goose dishes and new wine, and there are several street festivals on this occasion, too.
At the end of November opens the annual Christmas market, a great source for souvenirs, traditional crafts, and Hungarian comfort foods, like pörkölt, harcsa paprikás (paprika fish stew), and sausages.
February is carnival season (“farsang” as we call it). It begins on Epiphany on the 6th of January and lasts until Ash Wednesday.
Farsang is the perfect occasion to taste as many sweets as humanly possible. Hungarian doughnuts are simple but delicious, with powdered sugar and (apricot) jam.
You can also peek into the “Busó” parade of Mohács, without leaving Budapest. “Busó” is where scary-looking men chase women while wearing wooden masks and horns.
If Busó is not your thing, fear not: Valentine’s Day is also celebrated in Hungary.
Hungary’s prize pig, Mangalica also has its own festival in February. Taste the products made from a pig while chatting with the farmers.
Packing for winter in Budapest
Do not forget to wear grippy shoes during winter, the pavements are slippery.
Be sure to pack scarves, hats, and gloves! Layering is very important because there is a huge difference in temperature between outside and indoors.
A heavier, more nourishing hand and face cream would be handy, too.
Other top tips for visiting Budapest in winter
What about the nights, you may ask. Head to Jewish Quarter during an afternoon and stay there until the evening! It is the district of street art, design shops, and ruin bars.
Always look around well in the narrow streets of this neighbourhood, as the best murals in Budapest can be found here! Such as the Man of the Year mural as featured below.
The ruin bars are unique and quirky enough to make you hop in each one. Start with Szimpla and wander around its secluded rooms.
If you are with kids in Budapest (or you are young at heart), go sledging to Normafa! It is a popular hiking spot that is easily reachable from Széll Kálmán square metro station. Just take bus number 21 or 21A and about 20 minutes later get off at the final station. You are right there! Easy.
Oh, and one more thing: After Christmas, the prices drastically drop both in hotels and shops!
Many thanks to Kata for giving us such a great insight into what the winter in Budapest is like and why we should be planning a city break there this winter!
Guest Author: Kata Németh
Kata writes a niche Budapest blog packed full of all the information you could possibly need to plan a trip to the capital city of Hungary. You can follow her Budapest stories on Facebook and Instagram.
Have you been to Budapest? Feel free to drop your Budapest winter tips in the comments box below! And don’t forget to pin this article so you can come back to it later!