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I *Love* Budapest in Winter!
Without a doubt, the Hungarian capital is magical in the snowy winter months. I’m not kidding. It’s perfect.
Regardless of the cold, winter is a great time to visit and explore and learn. Want to see Budapest in December? Budapest in January? Budapest in February? Then brave the frigid temperatures, pack your bags, and brace yourself to go adventuring in one of Central Europe’s greatest cities. You won’t regret it.
As you probably know, planning for an “off season” trip is harder for travelers even though there are plenty of benefits to visiting a place at “low times.” Simply put, less information exists. And, to tell you guys the honest truth, I think visiting Budapest in winter is the definition of an “off season” trip.” Like most of Europe, tourists flock to Budapest in the summer. But winter? Brrr, too cold.
Never fear, though. You’ve come to the right post to begin planning for winter in Budapest, my friend!
Personally, I think winter is one of the best times to visit Budapest. The entire city transforms into a white frosty wonderland that’ll provide you with never-ending travel memories. I still reminisce about my trip to Budapest – even though it’s already been two years (ugh, where does the time go?!). I truly had a magical time roaming the Christmas markets and popping in the cafes and watching families ice skate near castles.
I don’t at all regret spending Christmas holidays in Budapest and saw a lot of beautiful things on my visit to Hungary’s capital. These wintry Budapest pictures say it all, really!
Ultimately, my winter trip in Budapest made me want to pack my bags and move to the city forever and ever.
So, What Are the Best Things to Do in Budapest in Winter?
Let’s get the bad news out our way first and foremost. Budapest is cold in winter. You need to keep the low temperatures in mind when planning your trip. Spending hours outdoors isn’t the best idea. And, yes, the winter packing hassles come into play here. You need to bring scarves, gloves, boots, and more.
In addition, your personal interests are big things to consider when tweaking your Hungarian itinerary to perfection. While I may not know each of you as individuals, I still wrote plenty of awesome suggestions for Budapest to help you get started on the planning process.
For this list, I tried to implement a fair balance of free attractions, historical sites, and outdoor activities to appeal to a variety of tastes. What can I say. I’m considerate like that, haha!
I hope I help you plan the best possible trip to Budapest. Take out your pen and write some notes ’cause here we go.
Read More: What to Wear in Budapest in Winter
1. Thermal Baths: One of the Best Things to Do in Budapest in Winter.
“What?!” you might be thinking. “Budapest’s baths are open in the middle of January? No way!”
Yes, you can still soak in the outdoor baths even with snow floating falling you. Budapest’s thermal baths are open year round for all visitors (and locals) to enjoy. Budapest naturally sits on 125 thermal springs, which makes the city very unique in comparison to its neighbors.
And remember: you are worth a spa date. Or two. Or three.
Although I loved Budapest’s most popular bath, Szechenyi Bath, I personally think Gellert Spa and Bath might work better for Budapest in winter. Gellert’s baths are located indoors, meaning you don’t have to walk through freezing winters in a bathing suit and towel with hair dripping wet on your shoulders. But, if you budget permits you to go to both baths, then do it!
- Find Gellert Spa and Bath on the Buda side, near the Danube River, at H-1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4.
- Find Szechenyi Bath at Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary, located near the City Park.
SKIP THE LINE: BUY PRIVATE ENTRANCE TICKETS TO SZECHENYI
2. Sip Coffee in All of Budapest’s Cafes.
Budapest’s “cafe culture” thrives in the winter months. Ranging from cozy to elegant, Budapest’s cafes offer unlimited enjoyment for coffee and cake snobs from around the world.
My two favorite cafes are New York Café and Café Gerbeaud, and these establishments are both spectacular options for visitors coming to Budapest in winter.
New York Café is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world to sip gourmet coffee or hot chocolate. New York Cafe was an incredibly popular place at the turn of the 20th century. Although it survived many turbulent governments, it wasn’t until 2006 that New York Cafe was finally restore to its former glory. Go check it out!
Additionally, Café Gerbeaud is another historical option available for cake and coffee lovers. It was founded in 1858, well over a hundred years ago.
Don’t miss either place!
3. Enjoy a Budapest Christmas in December.
Ahhh, of course I couldn’t write this post without mentioning one of my favorite holidays aka Christmas!
Budapest in December is magical thanks to all the festivities that accompany the holiday season. Christmas lights deck out the historical buildings and streets. These bright Christmas lights even cover the tram cars zipping across the city!
Furthermore, Budapest’s joyous Christmas markets are in full swing throughout December. I loved these markets, and I’m convinced they’d even make the Grinch smile. No lies.
So buy a mulled wine or hot chocolate, and ogle at the little holiday souvenirs to buy for your friends and family back home.
The best news of all? Budapest’s Christmas markets remain open until New Year’s Eve so you won’t miss the joyous exhibits even if you arrive a little later than Christmas Day. Victory!
4. Go to the House of Terror.
Budapest’s chilly winds and snow sleeked roads might encourage you to spend time indoors. Which, hey, is totally understandable! Luckily for you, Budapest has some awesome museums available to tourists.
My favorite of all of Budapest’s museums is the House of Terror. Set aside at least two hours to fully appreciate the exhibits. The House of Terror isn’t a museum to rush through and requires patience and effort.
The House of Terror serves as a memorial and bleak reminder of the suffering that took place under Hungary’s fascist and communist regimes. Be prepared to stand in line. The museum only admits a few people at a time. However, the wait is worth the education. Don’t miss the House of Terror.
You can find the House of Terror at Andrássy út 60.
5. Hike to the Top of Gellert Hill.
As I’ve already said, Budapest’s temperatures plummet in winter, but don’t let snowy conditions keep you indoors 100% of the time. You don’t want to freeze, sure, but at the same time, it’d be a shame to miss out on Budapest’s natural wonders.
One of my favorite hikes in the city is scaling Gellert Hill. It’s not a difficult walk (trust me, if it was challenging, I wouldn’t be writing about it), but the views of the Danube, bridges, and Pest are spectacular – especially when snow covers all the rooftops.
Go to the top to see Liberty Statue, which was erected in 1947 after Hungary was liberated from Nazi Germany, and enjoy a panoramic view of Budapest. You’ll thank yourself.
Once you complete your hike, treat yourself to some coffee afterwards, or head over to the classic attractions of Castle Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion.
6. Get Cultured at the Opera House.
As you already know, I’m a big supporter of the arts including opera. And what better time to go to an opera than winter in Budapest? I’ve always wanted to see a performance here. The opera is full swing in the winter, too, meaning you have plenty of options when selecting a show.
So check the website for the most recent programs and find a performance that appeals to you. As a point of safety, only buy tickets through the opera’s house official website. You don’t want to risk buying fake tickets or something.
Don’t have the money to attend a performance? Never fear! In that case, you ought to book yourself on a guided tour of the Opera House. It’s a gorgeous building with a spectacular history that dates allll the way back to the years of the Habsburg Dynasty. You’re more than welcome to take pictures inside, too!
You can find the Opera House at Andrássy út 22 – which is a beautiful street that you ought to explore.
More Info: Why Budapest is Perfect for Solo Female Travelers
7. Sample Wine Inside Faust Wine Cellar.
Faust Wine Cellar at Buda Castle was one of my favorite things to do in Budapest in winter. Seriously, this place is incredible and worth your time and money especially if you’re a wine connoisseur. I’d revisit Budapest just for the Faust Wine Cellar.
Upon arrival, you’ll take the stairs way down until you reach a 13th century Dominican Cloister. Awesome, huh? The stone walls and candle lit atmosphere make you feel as if you’ve transported far back in time.
Keep in mind that the cellar is quite small (I mean, think about the 13th century) so it’s essential to make reservations in advance. You don’t want to be disappointed.
One final word about enjoying a wine tasting here. No photography is permitted inside Faust Wine Cellar. It’s a very intimate environment, after all, and you don’t want to disrupt other wine lovers enjoying a special evening.
8. Ice-Skating in Budapest is Awesome.
Wanna enjoy the outdoors by going ice-skating? Then you’ve come to the right place for your winter vacation.
One of the greatest spots to enjoy this activity is at the Budapest Outdoor Rink in City Park. This enormous open air rink will make you feel free like a small child again! You’ll have plenty of room to zip around and laugh.
In addition to the cost of your ticket, you may also pay to rent some skates so you don’t need to worry about packing them either, haha.
Furthermore, ice-skating in front of an exquisite Vajdahunyad Castle is one of the coolest things to do in Budapest in winter. The atmosphere is perfection without a doubt. Seeing the castle will make you feel as if you’ve transported back in time to the 1800s.
9. Take a Danube River Cruise.
Ahhhh, no post about Budapest would be truly complete without writing about taking a Danube River Cruise. Is taking a cruise touristy and kind of expensive? Yes. Worth the cost and hassle? Also yes!
In particular, I think a Danube River Cruise would be special when visiting Budapest in December, because you’d see the Christmas lights, glistening all over the city, from your boat. Plus the views of the Hungarian Parliament Building are iconic for a reason.
Wear warm clothes. You have to wait (sometimes a good thirty minutes) to board the boat. It’s freezing when you’re standing near the Daube. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, haha.
10. Snap Great Winter Photos at Vajdahunyad Castle.
Last but not least is Vajdahunyard Castle located in City Park close to Budapest famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath.
This incredible building was constructed in 1896 for the Millennial Exhibition, celebrating the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian State, and today it is free to roam the castle’s grounds. And who doesn’t love free activities?
I honestly think Vajdahunyad Castle is one of the coolest things to do in Budapest in winter. With snow covering the towers and bridges, the atmosphere on the castle grounds is nothing short of magical. You’ll also discover mulled wine for safe! Don’t miss it!
More Info: What to do in Budapest in 2 Days
What do you think are the best things to do in Budapest in winter? Have you ever visited Budapest? Share all your thoughts in the comments.