Whether alone, with a family, enjoying your honeymoon, or traveling with friends, winter in Budapest is beautiful, fun and enchanting. To help you make the most of the winter wonderland in Budapest, we asked our meerkats what their favorite aspect of the city is, and here are their answers! They all weighed in, taking their own perspectives into account, and have all given their favorite things to do. From indoor to outdoor, shopping, sightseeing, museums and playhouses, winter in Budapest is never boring when you’re guided by meerkats. Join us, and see what the city has to offer this winter!
Fun for the whole family in Budapest (Walker Family)
We’ve found that Budapest is a great place to visit with kids. Although the summer is a real no brainer (just take ‘em to the park!), there are plenty of family friendly things to do with kids of various ages.
Enchanting Christmas markets
Starting in the middle of November, Vörösmarty Square, the square in front of the Basilica turn into the cutest little Christmas markets you ever did see. Miraculous little villages filled with yummy food, fresh mulled wine, and astounding little trinkets. Artisan stalls make for some of the best gifts, as they are one of a kind and cannot be found in other countries, so great chance to get some stocking stuffers. From key chains, leather goods, hats and scarves to books, furs and even pottery, anything that can be made by hand is found here. Very high quality goods, with legitimate artisans selling their wares.
Our go to activities in the winter are definitely playhouses. Call us lazy, but there is just an appeal to knowing the kids are romping around, tiring themselves out in a safe environment, and we can catch up on some emails, have a cup of coffee, or plan the rest of the day. The Zoo café is our favorite, they have cool animals on display, and have different ecosystems for each room. Lurdy House mall has an amazing playhouse too, and there is a fun eco-friendly playhouse located at Kopaszi gát.
Indoor Mini golf and Minipolisz
Our kids’ absolute favorite bad weather activities are these two places. There is a cool mini golf course in Budapest that is just as fun for kids over 12 years as it is for adults. Indoor minigolf is located in the center of the city offering 18-holes of fun and a great bar area to hang out at after a big family competition. It’s actually in the same building as Minipolisz, another awesome attraction with kids! Minipolisz is basically an interactive mini-city where the kids can try out adult roles and jobs, and learn how the police and fire stations work. Educational but don’t worry, they won’t know they’re learning.
Sledding and skating
Although Budapest is somewhat low on natural lakes, there is a great artificial lake in the City Park which turns into an ice skating rink in the winter. The best place for a sleigh ride is definitely Normafa, located in the Buda hills, just below János hegy. Beautiful, panoramic view of the city and a fun slope that is frequented mostly by children and families. Other hills in the area (Harangvölgy, for example) are also great and can be easily reached, so no long treks in the snow.
The royal treatment (Sir. William)
Winter is a great time to explore Budapest in style. All of the most notable sites are open despite the weather, and while driving in the city is a bit of a nightmare, grabbing a cab to avoid the foul weather isn’t. Treat yourself to some of the most luxurious experiences winter can offer.
Although Hungarian cuisine is quaint and traditional, fine dining has only recently been picking up in the city. But now there are several Michelin star restaurants to choose from, so there is no shortage of places to choose from. Hungarian food has undergone a fusion with high end culinary practice, and a rethinking of Hungarian gastronomy is currently in progress, leaving us with some delicious recipes. The New York café is a wonderful little spot too, as it has that inimitable Art Deco feeling, and the glory of the interwar years has somehow stuck in the corners of my favorite café in Europe.
The Parliament and its environs
The Parliament is one of the best areas to visit in Budapest, regardless of the weather. Only short walks need to be taken, and there is always a quality café or good restaurant (or a nice bar, after all, we’re on vacation) to pop into. The Parliament itself can only be visited by prior appointment, but it’s a tour worth taking. The interior is simply breathtaking, and the history and crown jewels are world class, and give some insight into the Medieval history and grandeur of this tiny country. There are theaters and small art house cinemas in the nearby, as well as some amazing shopping opportunities as the nearby streets (especially Falk Miksa Street) are littered with antique stores and art galleries.
The Budapest Opera
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Budapest, for me, is the connection to the Habsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The fact that two world wars and a subsequent Socialist dictatorship could not eradicate this culture of nobility and pomp is nothing short of amazing, and the Opera house is one of those rare places where you can still find the relics of this bygone and amazing culture. The Budapest opera is on par with the Viennese or any other famous Opera house, both in terms of events and the building itself. There is an interactive tour I do (link to Opera tour), where you can familiarize yourself with the details.
Pamper yourself Budapest style (by Mrs. William)
Every lady knows that the winter is the best time to treat yourself to thermal baths, wellness and have some ‘me time’. Prepare for showing your best side this summer, and that means only the best self-care in the winter. Let’s see what Budapest has to offer for girl looking to have a good time.
Budapest, the city of spas
Number one on anyone’s list should definitely be the baths. There are so many baths to choose from in Budapest, all with their unique little styles and curiosities, it’s hard to pick just one. Lucky that we don’t have to! The healing thermal waters can be visited for really cheap, and with so many so close to each other, a daytrip of wellness and self-love in nasty weather has never been easier.
Winter is the best time to go shopping, and with the dour weather upon us, a little retail therapy is just the thing for a damsel in distress. Váci Street is the definitive shopping street, whether it be name brand designer clothes, haute couture, tailor made dresses (and ties!), or furs and leathers, not to mention trinkets of every sort. Andrássy Avenue is an avenue with all the large designer names; it’s a slice of Milan in Budapest. The go to place for a gift of high caliber.
Warm up with coffee, tea and a slice of cake
The best way to keep hypothermia at bay is with a slice of cake and a cup of espresso. The Viennese confectionery culture was shaped by the culinary cunning of Budapest, and it really shows. A cute café, or a “cukrászda” (confectioners shop selling pastries and cakes) awaits at every corner of the inner city. This amazing culture of sweet hedonism is enough to transport you away from the grey of the city and into the sweet bliss of the turn of the century. Művész, right across from the Opera, the century old Gerbeaud, and of course the Szamos marzipan manufacture, where they make marzipan treats before your very eyes are all excellent choices.
Active relaxation in Budapest during the winter! (by Mr. Matt)
Sometimes it’s hard to find sports and other active ways to recharge your batteries in a city during the winter. But not in Budapest! This city has lots of active ways to enjoy yourself, and lots of activities for those on the go. You don’t need to miss out on your daily exercise or skip out on your cardio. Budapest has fun ways of getting the miles in, so let’s explore!
One of the best sports activities to do indoors is Wall climbing. If you don’t know about this awesome activity, imagine a wall of a cliff that is made out of plaster with little plastic handles that make its surface easier to climb. You are in a harness, on a rope, so totally safe and no prior knowledge required. There are usually several different ones, with varying degrees of difficulty. You can find the Spider gym in the 3rd district, and the Climbing Empire in the 11th, Mountex in the 13th (near center city), and Bigwall in Újpest, just to name a few. There many places though, it is quite a popular past time.
The Buda hills are nothing to be afraid of in the winter. If it’s a nice sunny day, the temperature is totally manageable; just put on some polar, and there you go! János hegy, Istenhegy, Orbány hegy, and many other Buda hills are absolutely perfect in the winter, and it doesn’t get below -10 C during the day (usually stops around freezing point), so nothing too drastic either, especially if you’ve been cooped up and need to soak in the sun. Urban hikes can also be fun, and we recommend the Margaret Island or the Palace district as a good starting point.
The hidden gems of Budapest in the winter! (by Vanessa)
Winter is one of the best times to visit Budapest. So much is going on, it can sometimes be overwhelming. Lucky for you, I know all the ins and outs, and all the hidden gems that the marvelous Budapest Christmas season has to offer. Let me show you the hidden beauty that lies just beneath the surface of Budapest’s sometimes rugged exterior.
A nice cup of tea
Tea is a sacred drink, meant to heal the body and calm the troubled mind and the tea houses of Budapest offer exactly that. There is no time that we need it more than when the sun is so far from us, and with the help of tea, especially organic herbal tea, any cold can be conquered. Pop into Zöld Teknős or Potala Teaház and refresh yourself, while recharging your body against the cold. This way you will have all the positive energy you need to have a fruitful day, even in the worst weather.
Vintage stores and flea markets
When going to any Eastern European country (especially Hungary), I always make sure to check in to a vintage clothing store. There are some amazing, whacky and beautiful finds that you simply cannot get in the West, as they were made in a totally different era in some very different frames of reference. Typo and Antifactory are some notable mentions, but Szputnyik has the rare memorabilia and collectors stuff I really go for. Flea markets are also great places to pick up Communist memorabilia, and there are many of them, from Gozsdu udvar to the world famous Ecseri, so hoarders rejoice!
Hidden Christmas markets
We all know of the big, tourist infested Christmas markets that everyone loves, but did you know about the smaller, design centered Christmas markets in Budapest? WAMP Design Market is the absolute king of these, and they will have their doors open in the Millenáris on the 8th, 15th and 22nd of December. They sell limited edition stuff made by independent, cutting edge designers, many of them up and coming. Great quality for a low price, don’t miss out!
The best Winter parties in Budapest! (by Billy)
Everyone knows the best way to stay warm is to apply the old liquid sweater, know what I mean? Partying hard is one past time that isn’t looked down upon in Hungary, especially in the winter. Budapest is a town that knows how to get it on, and when the weather gets cold, they turn up the heat! Let’s see what the amazing Budapest nightlife has to offer in the cold months ahead.
Fellow travelers will already know that ruin bars are where the party’s at in Budapest. The cold season is the best time to go if you like huge crowds of fun loving people, friendly locals and a whole slew of travelers looking for a good time! Instant and Fogas dominate the scene, but the tried and true classics of the Budapest ruin bar scene, like Szimpla kert, Ellátóház or Ankert are all packed and jumping at this time of year.
The best pubs
Bar culture really picks up in the winter, as everyone is going indoors to stay warm and get to know each other a little better. The long nights bring out the best in everyone, I should say, and a night in one of the many pubs Budapest has to offer will prove me right. Grab a long drink at a snazzy cocktail bar, chill out at one of the cool lounges, soak in the ambience at an authentic Budapest club, go and watch the footie with your mates at a sports bar, or why not play a board game or round of vidya at one of the cool new e-sports bars?
The winter is the best time for gigs. Smaller venues and larger ones, any place with live music in Budapest will have something going on every night. Be it rap and soul, rock and heavy metal, trance and techno, DJ sets, insane bands, killer live acts, dope MCs, the live music scene of Budapest has got you covered.