I am going to show you why visiting Budapest in winter is an amazing and memorable experience you will not soon forget.
You may wonder if Budapest is fun in December, or if January is a good time to go to Budapest. In my experience, as long as you pack for the weather you can have an incredible time in Budapest even in the winter.
I actually prefer a winter visit because the crowds of tourists are more sparse. Visiting in winter is a great way to connect with locals and enjoy the beautiful views of Budapest with a dusting of snow.
Yes, Budapest is cold in the winter, but most of the days will be damp and cloudy. It does have occasional sunny, yet brisk days. Budapest has an average temperature of high/low of 38°F/29°F in December, 34°F/25°F in January and 40°F/29°F in February.
However, that really doesn’t mean you should write off visiting Budapest in winter! Quite the contrary, it is a perfect time to visit to if you want to enjoy reasonable prices and less crowded tourist destinations.
Winter in Budapest means Christmas decorations and a bunch of markets to visit. There’s a chance of snow and far fewer crowds. I want to make it quite clear, that Budapest at CHRISTMAS vs the city in WINTER [other months past December] can be different in crowds and pricing. Things get MUCH cheaper in January-March!
Additionally, Budapest in winter tends to be more budget-friendly for travelers than other seasons. Not to mention, Budapest during Christmas is something that every avid traveler should experience. With a few tips and my handy guide by your side, you will be off on your way to an enjoyable trip at one of the coolest locations in Eastern Europe during the winter months.
10 Best Things To Do in Budapest in Winter
Top Things To Do In Budapest During The Winter
Visiting Budapest in winter presents a unique opportunity to explore parts of the city that you may have otherwise passed up. While the weather is cold there are plenty of options to head indoors and participate in a variety of options in the city.
Whether you are looking to spend a long weekend in Budapest or have a week or more to visit, there is plenty to see and do! Here are a few of my favorite things to do in Budapest in the winter.
Shop the Christmas Markets
First and foremost on any list of things to do in Budapest during Christmas is to check out the Christmas markets. Christmas markets in Europe are truly special and like nothing I’ve ever seen in the States! There are two main markets in Budapest: St Stephen’s Square and Vorosmarty Square.
Both are located in district V and open up around mid-November and close on the last day of December. If you want to bring home some unique souvenirs to your friends and family – shop these markets!
Take a Dip in the Thermal Baths
When people think of Budapest the first thing that comes to mind is the famous Széchenyi Baths. It’s easy to see why Budapest got its nickname of “The City of Spas” from the 100+ natural thermal springs around town.
Just because you need to be in a swimsuit to experience these baths does not mean this experience is limited to warmer weather. No matter what time of the year you visit, you need to make sure soak in the baths is on your Budapest itinerary!
Because of the natural thermal-producing properties there’s no better time to soak in the baths than in the cold weather! Budapest spas in winter have different opening hours and yes – they keep the outdoor parts open too! What do do in Budapest in February? How about an epic spa day! Here are my best tips for experiencing Rudas Baths Budapest.
Grand Central Market
Indulge in the rich flavors of Hungarian cuisine at the Grand Central Market. This historic market, boasting beautiful neo-Gothic architecture, is a food lover’s paradise.
From hearty goulash to delectable chimney cakes, the flavors and aromas of this market are a must-experience on your trip! Stop in to warm up with a steaming bowl of traditional Hungarian soup and treat yourself to some sweet and savory delights
Ice Skate at Europe’s Largest Rink
If you ask a European what’s the most famous ice skating rink in Europe, they are probably going to say Budapest’s City Park, Ice Rink.
It’s located in front of Vajdahunyad Castle on the edge of City Park, and visitors can skate there between late November and mid-February.
While you are there, the castle is hands down one of my favorite things to do in Budapest. I have done multiple photoshoots here, it is gorgeous!
Besides being the largest rink it is also one of the oldest. Be sure to take some beautiful photos of experiencing this traditional ice skating rink! The rink’s opening hours during winter in Budapest are 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – p.m. This is one of the best things to do in Budapest in December!
Take a Tour of the Hungarian State Opera House
Whether you’re a fan of the opera or not you shouldn’t pass on the opportunity this legendary opera house. The Hungarian State Opera House is a beautiful architectural masterpiece that was built in the 1800s. It has withstood the test of time to look exactly the same for hundreds of years.
Hop On and Off the Winter Tram
No list of Budapest winter activities would be complete without talking about the winter trams! During the winter in Budapest, mainly in December and January, there are special trams running. These festive trams are covered in fairy lights that make an ethereal and visually pleasing winter scene, especially at night. The Hungarian word for this unique ride is called Fényvillamos. If you are interested in hopping on a tram to check out the town in style, you can find these lit up trams along the popular routes in Budapest.
Warm Up With a Drink at a Ruin Bar
Ruin bars are basically Budapest’s version of dive bars. They have become a part of the city’s contemporary culture which is a fun way to enjoy the nightlife if you are visiting Budapest in winter.
While they might be considered hipsters now, ruin bars have a history dating back to the WWII era. Ruin bars are a perfect spot if you want to have the opportunity to mingle with other people, both local and tourists, in Budapest. This is one of the best things to do in Budapest in January!
Arriving at Fisherman’s Bastion feels like you’ve stepped into a real-life fairytale. The architecture is simply breathtaking, with its neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style that will transport you back in time. The real treat of Fisherman’s Bastion is the panoramic view of Budapest that it offers.
From the top of the bastion, you can see the Danube River winding through the city, the iconic Parliament building, and the stunning Buda Castle. It’s a view that will leave you speechless and make you fall in love with Budapest even more. I have documented all the best viewpoints and photography spots in Fisherman’s Bastion Budapest, make sure to save this for your upcoming trip! This is one of the best places to visit in Budapest in December because there will be fewer crowds lining up at these viewpoints and photo opportunities.
Basilica Light Show
The Basilica light show at St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest is an enchanting and captivating experience. It takes place every half an hour between 4:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. during the winter season.
The show features dazzling 3D animations projected onto the front of the building, creating a mesmerizing and unforgettable spectacle.
As the sun sets, the facade of the Basilica comes alive with vibrant colors and intricate designs. This is a beloved Christmas in Budapest tradition that will be amazing to experience.
Dinner Cruise on the Danube
Treat yourself to a memorable evening by embarking on a dinner cruise along the Danube River. This is a great way to savor delicious and hearty Hungarian cuisine while taking in breathtaking views of Budapest’s illuminated landmarks.
The gentle sway of the boat, the shimmering lights reflecting off the water, and the cozy ambiance onboard all contribute to a truly unforgettable experience.
Make sure to add a dinner cruise to your list of what to do in Budapest in the winter. If you get really lucky you might get to experience views of Budapest in the snow from the cruise!
Average Budapest Winter Weather
As I like to say, there is no wrong weather, only wrong clothing!
The average daily weather for Budapest in winter tends to be chilly and cloudy. While it does snow frequently during Budapest in winter, it is not an abundant amount so it should not put a damper in your plans as long as you plan accordingly.
There will be shorter daylight hours so far north, but Budapest in winter offers more time to explore the city by night and it will allow you to see a unique way to enjoy what the city has to offer.
The average temperature of Budapest in winter is actually relatively reasonable, especially for a city located in the northern hemisphere.
The average temperature of Budapest in December hovers around 38°F, the average temperature of Budapest in January is 34°F, and the average temperature of Budapest in February is 40°F.
As you can see, these temperatures are not too intense. As long as you pack appropriately the weather should not hamper your winter activities in Budapest too much. If you are looking to visit Budapest in winter, rest assured that it is no colder than any other large northern city.
You won’t show up to your Budapest winter trip and be shocked by the temperature change, especially if you already live in another place that experiences winter. I am from Florida and have visited countries during their winters and survived just fine. If I can do it, you certainly can! Remember, pack accordingly!
Check out these average highs and lows of Budapest in Winter to get an idea:
November Temperatures For Budapest: 46°F high and 36°F low
December Temperatures For Budapest: 38°F high and 29°F low
January Temperatures For Budapest: 34°F high and 25°F low
February Temperatures For Budapest: 40°F high and 29°F low
March Temperatures For Budapest: 50°F high and 36°F low
How to Get Around Budapest In Winter
If you want to fit in like a local, consider using the public buses in Budapest! The majority of people who use mass transit use the bus system. They are easily accessible with over 200 routes in Budapest and have express options if you do not want to take the local routes.
Another option to get around Budapest in winter or any time is the metro. The metro is a fast, reasonably priced, and easy way to get around, even in winter! The metro in Budapest will run rain, shine, snow, and sleet, so it is pretty reliable!
Depending on where you are and where you need to go there are 4 different metro lines you can ride. The primary hub where three of the metro lines meet is at Deák Ferenc tér station in the center of the city.
Depending on your needs and how long you are staying you can purchase different options such as a single ride, 24 hours pass, 7-day pass. Take a look here for the options and pricing based on the length of your stay.
If you are not able to walk up and down a lot of steps or you are in a wheelchair, we recommend taking a taxi as it may be easier and safer. Uber and Lyfts do not seem to run in Budapest but the taxis are cheap and fast so it should still work well with your budget.
Walking around Budapest in winter is quite enjoyable because the city will be decked out for the holidays and then may be blanketed in snow during the early months of the year. Budapest is a good sized city so if you plan to walk, remember to wear good walking shoes and to dress appropriately.
What To Pack For Budapest In Winter
If you are heading to Budapest in winter, there are a few packing tips I suggest you adhere to! Visiting Budapest in winter is quite enjoyable and magical, but you need to stay warm and dry. If you get too warm or too cold, simply add or take away a layer until you feel better.
Remember what I said above? Only wrong clothing, not wrong weather!
I suggest packing:
- Thin Long Sleeve Thermal Tops We recommend bringing 2-3 thin thermal tops for your winter trip to Prague. They are perfect for layering. Wear them underneath other tops or dresses to transform them from summer to winter wear.
- Waterproof Boots/Comfortable Walking Shoes. Budapest is a very old city with cobblestone streets everywhere. Add to the fact that it’s very cold throughout winter in Prague and you should definitely pack winter boots or sturdy walking shoes that can withstand a bit of water. We recommend a pair of these Hunter Boots or these similar ones.
- Winter Jacket I have two winter jackets, one waterproof and one more stylish but not waterproof. You can’t go wrong by packing a jacket that is stylish AND waterproof like this one here!
- Warm Gloves Try to buy touchscreen gloves so that you can still use your devices without taking them off!