Visiting Budapest in Winter

January 31, 2013 by

Things To Do

Sprawled across the River Danube, the two halves of Budapest in winter look fetching under a coating of snow, but temperatures drop well below freezing so wrap up warm. But there is plenty to do and accommodation prices slide down in Hungary after New Year.

Thermal baths in Budapest, Hungary

Széchenyi thermal baths in Budapest. Photo courtesy of karaian on Flickr.

1. Skiing

Although Hungary is not famous as a skiing destination, it is possible to board and ski at Dobogókő, with just a few runs and T-bar lifts. Check the snow reports before you make the 50-minute journey from Budapest. Closer to the city, skiing is sometimes available at Normafa, although facilities are very limited. Both areas are good for inspiring confidence in novice skiing families.

2. Skating

The lake in Városligeti Műjégpálya (City Park Lake) becomes an ice rink in winter; other temporary rinks are found outside the Hungarian Parliament and also on the first floor of the West End City Center Shopping Mall.

3. Ruin Pubs

Grab a couple of beers in one of Budapest’s on-trend ruin pubs, usually found in buildings abandoned after the fall of Communism. There’ll be decent beer, a casual vibe, and live music from local bands. Szimpla Kert, the original ruin pub, in a battered old building on Kazinczy utca, has maintained its functional surrounds but serves great Hungarian beers and is heaving every night.

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Danube cruises in Budapest

A night-time cruise down the Danube in Budapest, with Buda Castle in the background. Photo courtesy of decade-null on Flickr.

4. Danube Cruises

Take to the River Danube for dinner and an evening cruise to see Buda Castle twinkling on top of its hill. Boats sail underneath the famous Chain Bridge and pass the vast Baroque bulk of the Hungarian Parliament, magically floodlit at night. Folk dancers and gypsy bands provide traditional entertainment.

5. Wine Tasting

Book ahead to try some excellent Hungarian wines and local pálinka fruit brandies in the gothic surroundings of Buda Castle’s Faust Wine Cellar. Pogácsa (savory scones) are served along with world-renowned Eger and Tokaj vintages.

6. Spa Baths

Take to the bubbling waters of one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths to rejuvenate after a day’s sightseeing. The Gellért, Király, Rudas, Széchenyi, and Lukács baths are all open for mixed and single sex bathing, saunas, and spa treatments daily.

Contributed by Sasha Heseltine

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