While there are many reasons to visit Budapest any time of year, winter has a lot of special events and experiences that make it an ideal time for a holiday to the city. From crisp air and winter spices to holiday festivals and ice skating, here are 10 reasons to visit Budapest in winter.
1. Lower prices and fewer visitors
Budapest is a budget-friendly city in general, but winter is exceptionally inexpensive. The winter months are the low season, so you can find flights and hotels much cheaper than at other times of the year, and you may even be able to splurge on accommodation with more stars. Because fewer people travel to Budapest in winter, you can see many of the city's gems without throngs of crowds, and it's easier to book last-minute travel. It also provides a more authentic experience, since you're surrounded by locals and not tourists.
2. Secret baths
Budapest is known for its popular baths all over the city. These cosy thermal baths are a great way to relax in the cold weather, as the snow comes down around you, and take in the therapeutic benefits of calcium, magnesium and hydrogen carbonate. If you want a local experience, Veli Bej is the place - the secret bath. The historic thermal spa features everything from a Turkish-style cupola to saunas and steam rooms, so you can step out feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Some thermal baths become nightspots when the sun goes down for their own version of a winter pool party. The venues have music, dancing, drinks and access to the baths for the ideal combination of healing baths and party culture.
3. Ice skating
One of the biggest winter draws for Budapest is the outdoor ice skating at Műjégpálya. The large skating rink is located on the outskirts of the City Park and offers views of Vajdahunyad Castle for an enchanting experience. Skates are available on site to rent, so you can decide to take the family skating on a whim.
4. Chimney cake
Kürtőskalács, or chimney cakes, are one of the best parts of visiting Budapest in winter. The cake is made from sweet dough that's spun and wrapped on a baking spit. It's then rolled in sugar and roasted over charcoal and basted with butter until the outside turns golden brown. During cooking, the sugar coating caramelises and forms a crispy crust. The treat is delicious, light and indulgent, perfect for a comforting treat in the cold weather.
5. Ruin pub crawl
Budapest's wealth of Ruin Pubs is popular for pub crawls, but when the air is chilly, they have an even more inviting vibe. These unique pubs are laid-back, eclectic and never boring, plus there's no dress code, so you can go in bundled up to avoid getting cold on the way to the next pub.
6. Winter sports
Not many cities have the luxury of skiing and snowboarding resorts nearby, but the hills on the Buda side of the Danube offer a winter wonderland for outdoor sports enthusiasts. You can take a bus or train to the hills or use the transport loop with a railway run by children to take in the scenic views during the ride.
7. Holiday events
One of the biggest draws of Budapest is the Christmas lights that illuminate the entire city. From the main streets to the hidden passageways, every street in town is decorated with white or gold lights that give it an enchanted feel. Once the snow falls, the city becomes even more magical.
As Christmas gets closer, the city hosts many Christmas fairs and markets with comfort food and drinks and holiday entertainment. Christmas Fayre is one of the most popular and offers traditional food and hot mulled drinks. You could also treasure hunt for unique souvenirs and gifts, learn a folk dance, watch a light show or taste street food treats during Christmas fairs.
8. Coffee houses
Coffee houses in Budapest have a historic vibe that takes you back to the 20th century and the golden age of the city. You can sip coffee and try a selection of delicious cakes and desserts while you take in the scenery and unique history of these heritage coffee houses, some of which date back to the 19th century.
The cooler months are a great time to escape the chilly air and take in the culture of a museum. Though the city has many museums, the Hungarian National Museum boasts an array of historic finds like medieval and renaissance stone carvings, gothic paintings and sculpture and masterpieces from prominent Hungarian artists. The House of Terror, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Aquincum Museum and the Museum of Ethnography are also popular.
10. Tram rides
During the holiday season, the tram in the city offers a beautiful way to explore the fairy-tale environment. The streetcars are lit up with 35,000 blue and white LED lights that create a stunning visual experience as the tram rides along the Danube. There's no additional charge to ride the tram while its lit, so you can use your existing public transport passes. Tram 2 is the most popular because it travels along the Danube Promenade.
If you're planning a trip to Budapest in winter, Expedia can help. Check out the deals on Budapest holidays to get a great rate on your travel and accommodation and enjoy the wonders of the city in winter!