Planning a visit to Budapest in Winter? Continue reading to find out everything you need to know, including all the best things to do in Budapest in Winter to plan that perfect cosy trip.
Budapest is one of Europe’s most spectacular cities- especially in winter. From the twinkling lights adorning the city’s iconic landmarks to the steaming thermal baths around the city, Budapest in winter casts a spell that is both enchanting and unforgettable.
Located on the banks of the Danube River in Central Europe, Budapest in winter makes for the perfect city break. The summer crowds make way for crisp winter air and festive cheer that welcome travellers wanting to explore the city’s more local side and hidden gems.
With plenty of things to do in Budapest such as exploring the city’s enchanting landmarks and soaking in centuries-old thermal baths, you’ll also be able to experience the brilliance of the Christmas markets in December.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Budapest in winter from the weather to all the best things to do in Budapest. Find our recommendations for where to stay and all the top spots to eat for the perfect Budapest winter itinerary.
*This ‘Budapest in winter things to do ’ guide contains affiliate links meaning I might make a small profit if you choose to book at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep providing you with top-quality content for free.
Why Visit Budapest in the Winter?
Budapest is one of Europe’s best cities to visit in winter. Yes, it might be cold and you’ll definitely need to wrap up warm, but the city is filled with festive cheer in December and beyond, a magical, local atmosphere.
While Budapest’s Christmas Markets might not be as famous as Germany’s they still offer a magical, festive treat for visitors in the city at this time.
Visiting Budapest in winter also means far fewer crowds at the city’s most famous landmarks. Also, the city isn’t massive, so you don’t need as much time to see it well as you would, say, London or Paris. This makes it a great option for a long weekend or short city break.
Finally, there are the thermal baths. The Hungarian capital is famous for its wide selection of thermal baths and bath culture. I mean, is there anything better than soaking in a steaming, outdoor thermal bath while looking out over a snowy, crisp cityscape? I think not.
The Weather in Budapest in Winter
Winter in Budapest typically spans from December to February, bringing cold temperatures and occasional snowfall. The weather during this time can be quite chilly, with temperatures often ranging between -2°C to 4°C (28°F to 39°F).
However, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop below freezing, especially during the coldest months of January and February.
Snowfall is a regular occurrence in Hungary in winter, transforming the city of Budapest into a picturesque winter wonderland.
It’s also worth noting that Budapest experiences relatively shorter daylight hours during the winter season, with the sun setting earlier in the afternoon. If you are planning to visit Budapest in winter you might want to add an extra day or two to your Budapest itinerary to account for the short days.
Weather in Budapest in December
Average High: 4°C (39°F)
Average Low: 0°C (32°F)
Precipitation: 40mm of rain ( 12 days), snow is likely.
December marks the beginning of winter in Budapest and the start of the festive holiday season too. The weather is generally cold with many clear and crisp days. In fact, winter also means a drier time of year in Budapest.
Temperatures in Budapest Hungary in December sit just above freezing so you’ll need to wrap up well, especially when heading out early in the morning, late at night or when exploring the outdoor Christmas markets.
Snowfall is possible in December but it’s much more likely in January and February.
Weather in Budapest in January
Average High: 3°C ( 37°F)
Average Low: -2°C (28°F)
Precipitation: 40 mm of rain ( 11 days), snow is expected.
January in Budapest means the coldest time of year in the city. The average temperature hovers just above or below freezing but January is one of Budapest’s driest months.
Budapest in January (after New Year) is quiet and you’re not likely to see many crowds. This is the best time to explore popular attractions like the thermal baths and Fisherman’s Bastion.
Visiting Budapest in January means having to bring plenty of layers as it does get cold.
Does it snow in Budapest in January? It can, but it’s not guaranteed. When I visited in early January there was no sign of snow anywhere.
Weather in Budapest in February
Average High: 6°C ( 43°F)
Average Low: 0°C ( 32°F)
Precipitation: 30 mm of rain ( 7 days), snow is expected.
Budapest in February weather continues to be cold and full of wintery charm. Budapest temperatures in February range from 0 – 6 degrees Celsius with the city having the most potential to be covered in snow.
February is also the driest month in Budapest, perfect for visitors who don’t like the rain.
February is a great time of year to visit for those who don’t mind the low temperatures and want to experience the city without the crowds. As February is one of the low season months in Budapest you’ll be able to find some great deals on hotels in Budapest at this time.
Best Things to Do in Budapest in Winter
Budapest has so many incredible things to do throughout the year. In the winter months, spend your days making the most of the city’s thermal baths, museums and popular landmarks as well as the creative and forward dining scene.
Here are all the amazing places and Budapest things to do in winter you won’t want to miss.
Soak at Széchenyi Thermal Bath
The number one thing on my Budapest bucket list has always been the city’s historical thermal baths and when I finally got to visit, they didn’t disappoint.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath is Budapest’s largest and most popular thermal bath. This outdoor bath’s history goes back to 1913 when it was and still continues to be one of the largest medicinal bath complexes in Europe.
The grand Neo-Baroque building with its iconic yellow facades and intricate domes is home to expansive outdoor pools, surrounded by majestic columns and adorned with steaming geothermal waters.
While the outdoor pools are the main draw to this thermal hotspot, Széchenyi Thermal Bath also has many other smaller, indoor pools, saunas, steam rooms, and various therapeutic services so make sure not to miss them (it’s easy to get distracted and just say in the main outdoor pools).
Catering to contemporary wellness seekers, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath draws upon the city’s natural hot springs, renowned for their mineral-rich waters renowned for their healing properties and rejuvenating effects.
It’s one of the most timeless holistic experiences possible in Europe.
Tickets to Széchenyi Thermal Bath can be bought online here prior to your visit or at the entrance booth on arrival.
Important Note: Make sure not to forget your swimming cap (if you want to swim in the lap pool) and your bathing slippers/sandals/flip flops- you’re not allowed in without them. Of course, don’t forget your swimsuit and towel either.
Catch a Sunrise at Fisherman’s Bastion
One of the best things to do in Budapest is to catch the sunrise at Fisherman’s Bastion. The good thing about doing this in winter is that you won’t need to get up that early with the average winter sunrise time being at about 7- 7.30 am.
The bad part? It’s pretty cold up there so make sure to wear plenty of layers.
Built in the late 19th century, this neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque structure pays homage to the medieval past of Hungary, with its seven fairytale-like turrets symbolising the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century.
The bastion’s name is derived from the fishermen who defended this stretch of the city’s walls in the Middle Ages, emphasising its historical significance and cultural resonance.
While the structure itself is very grand and beautiful, it’s the view of the city that’s the real crowd-pleaser here. The terrace offers unparalleled views of the River Danube, the iconic Chain Bridge, and the magnificent Hungarian Parliament Building.
At sunrise, the whole vista is just breathtaking and we were lucky enough to have one of the most extraordinary sunrises I’ve ever seen.
If you’re a photographer or interested in taking amazing photos of Budapest, make sure not to miss this tremendous spot. Fisherman’s Bastion is a very popular photography spot in Budapest at sunrise but in winter, crowds are manageable.
Visit Matthias Church
Right next to Fisherman’s Bastion, in the Buda Castle district, you’ll find the splendid Matthias Church so these two landmarks can easily be combined together.
Also known as the Church of Our Lady, this Catholic church has unique architectural influences from Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Known for its intricate and vibrant stained-glass windows and roof tiles, it’s certainly worth a look.
Inside the church, you’ll also find skyward- vaulted ceilings, ornate frescoes and historical artefacts.
Visit the Budapest Christmas Markets
If you’re visiting Budapest in December in the run-up to Christmas, one of the best things to do in Budapest in December is to visit the Christmas Markets.
In December, Budapest comes alive with its charming Christmas markets, dazzling decorations, Christmas lights and festive events all around the city. There’s no better way to get into the festive mood for Christmas in Budapest.
The city’s main squares, such as Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica, host traditional markets where you can enjoy local delicacies like goulash, grilled sausage, chimney cake and strudel, hot mulled wine, and various handicrafts.
Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica are the city’s main Christmas Market locations, however many other smaller markets can be found throughout the city. Erzsébet Square, Deák Ferenc Street also have smaller but great Budapest Christmas markets for you to enjoy.
Visit Buda Castle
Standing tall on the Buda side of the river, Buda Castle is one of Budapest’s Grandest buildings.
Originally built in the 13th century, this majestic complex has undergone various reconstructions, reflecting a fusion of Gothic, Baroque, and Neo-Classical styles. It’s where to go to find out more about the city’s royal history.
When visiting, you’ll be able to see the castle’s regal facades, intricate detailing, and sprawling courtyards, offering panoramic views of the Danube River and the Pest side of the city.
Visiting the castle grounds is completely free and going for a walk around the castle on a nice day is one of the best things to do. For those wanting to delve a little deeper into Hungarian history and culture, inside the castle, you’ll find two museums; the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest Historical Museum.
If you prefer to see the whole Buda Castle District with a guide instead of walking around on your own, check out this superb Buda Castle District Walking Tour with a Historian for a unique city experience.
Take a Stroll Around Gellért Hill
On a crisp winter’s day, one of the best places for a stroll in Budapest is Gellert Hill. It’s one of Budapest’s largest parks, perched right on a hill, close to Buda Castle.
From Gellert Hill, you’ll get some superb views of Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament building so it’s well worth heading here for a slow stroll one morning as the city wakes up.
Soak at the Gellért Thermal Bath
While Széchenyi Thermal Bath is a must-visit, Gellért Thermal Bath was probably my favourite thermal bath in Budapest- probably for its gorgeous Art Nouveau design and setting.
Dating back to the early 20th century, these baths are renowned for their healing mineral waters, drawing upon Budapest’s longstanding tradition of thermal bathing.
Today Gellert Thermal Baths are filled with various rooms and corners with different sized pools and beautiful decorations which include intricate mosaics and tilework and marble interiors.
My personal favourites are the two side rooms, off the main pool and swimming area which are beautifully tiled and have pools of varying temperatures including a cold plunge pool on the side.
There’s never been a more beautiful place to add a bit of hot-cold plunge therapy to your European city break.
Walk over Liberty Bridge
Close to Gellert Baths is the famous olive-green Liberty Bridge or Szabadság híd. It’s Budapest’s most beautiful and famous bridge which was built in the late 19th Century.
With its unique green steel design, it’s a brilliant spot for photos and views over the Danube River.
Visit Budapest University Library
Budapest University Library is one of the city’s best hidden gems (albeit not quite so hidden anymore).
With origins tracing back to the 16th century, this esteemed institution showcases a fusion of historical and contemporary architectural styles, reflecting Hungary’s dedication to education and scholarship.
While the library itself isn’t the largest, the rooms here are completely gorgeous with historic frescos, and vaulted ceilings that feel more like a French palace than a library. You’ll also find many bookshelves adorning the walls with a collection of rare manuscripts, historical texts, and scholarly works.
Staff here are more than happy to let you through and allow you to look around.
Photograph Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library
Another grand library, probably even more so than above, the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library is a huge, grand and historic building waiting to be explored. In fact, it’s the largest library in Budapest.
While there’s an old and new wing here, it’s the old- branch that you want to look for, the main branch that’s housed in the Wenckheim Palace, a 19th-century neo-baroque building.
Here you can walk through the elegant palace rooms which today are large study rooms filled with ancient bookcases and historical archives.
Feel free to even take a seat in one of the grand reading halls (the gold one with particularly fine) and take some time to read (the library does have an English language book section) and delve into Hungary’s rich literary heritage.
Have Afternoon Tea at New York Cafe
One of the most famous, historical and photogenic cafes in Europe must be the New York Cafe. The New York Cafe is an emblem of Budapest’s culture, history and artistic tradition.
Steeped in the grandeur of the Belle Époque era, this legendary coffeehouse was originally established in the late 19th century and served as a literary and artistic hub for renowned intellectuals and creatives.
I feel little has changed since its heyday. The architecture is exquisite and golden chandeliers twinkle in the daylight while numerous waiters deliver steaming cups of hot chocolate to a sea of tables. It’s a place that immediately transports you back in time.
While New York Cafe is definitely not the best spot in Budapest when it comes to food and drink, and it’s a little overpriced for what it is, it’s the location and experience that’s just unmissable. I highly recommend grabbing a coffee, perhaps a cake and moving on.
Gawk at St. Stephen’s Basilica
Named after Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen, this neoclassical masterpiece, completed in the early 20th century, is Budapest’s largest and most popular cathedral.
Make your way inside to see the vast space with an awe-inspiring dome and ornate interior. The basilica also has lots of stunning mosaics and several chapels to visit too.
Visitors can also climb up to the top of the dome for panoramic vistas over the Budapest skyline.
Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office just to the right of the basilica. There are many ticket options- some for just the church others that also include a climb to the dome.
For a different experience, why not come to St Stephen’s Basilica for a Classical Music concert? Buy your ticket here (you can choose from three different concerts).
Ride the Ferris Wheel of Budapest
One of the best ways to discover the city from above is to ride the iconic Budapest Ferris Wheel. Located near the Danube River on the Pest side, the Ferris Wheel is a fun experience, especially for the little ones.
You’ll be able to capture some great pictures from above including the Hungarian Parliament building and Buda Castle.
See the Hungarian Parliament Building
Gracing the banks of the Danube River with its imposing Gothic Revival design is the Hungarian Parliament building. Completed in the late 19th century, this iconic structure, inspired by London’s Westminster Palace, embodies Hungary’s enduring commitment to democracy and national pride.
While you’ll definitely see this grand building from various spots in the city, it is actually worth taking a look inside.
Guided tours offer a glimpse into the parliament’s rich interior, featuring opulent halls, the Crown of Saint Stephen, and the Hungarian Holy Crown, providing a profound insight into the nation’s political legacy and cultural heritage.
Individual tickets for tours sell out quickly so make sure to buy them online before your visit.
Catch an Opera at the Hungarian State Opera
For classical music fans, one of Budapest’s unmissable experiences is a night at the opera. The Hungarian State Opera in Budapest is a historic institution that embodies the city’s passion for the performing arts.
The beautiful, grand, neo-classical building dates back to the 19th Century and is full of opulent halls, lavish decor and intricate frescoes. One of the best ways to see the inside of the Opera House is to catch an opera there one night.
Before your trip to Budapest, head to their website here to see what’s on. Alternatively, you can visit the Hungarian Opera House on a guided tour. Tours run in English three times in day in the afternoons. For tickets and more information check here.
Have a Few Drinks at a Ruin Bar
The Budapest Ruin Bar is a unique cultural phenomenon that seamlessly blends history, art, and entertainment.
These eclectic bars, repurposed from abandoned buildings and unconventional spaces, offer an immersive, cool, experience characterized by vibrant décor, eclectic furnishings, and an electric atmosphere.
Szimpla Kert is the best and most famous and you’ll find it full from the moment it opens mid-afternoon. After a full day of exploring, there’s nothing better than to walk around, take a look at this super-cool, albeit touristy, spot and relax with a refreshing local beer.
There are many other ruin bars in Budapest if you fancy something a little less touristy. Csendes and Élesztő are other more under-the-radar options in Budapest you should definitely check out.
Visit the Light Art Museum
The Light Art Museum is one of the best creative things to do in Budapest in winter. Not only does it offer respite from the cold for a few hours, this exceptional museum explores the nature of light through several different installations by 40 artists from around the world.
Not only will you learn more about the nature of light from a more scientific perspective, but the installations are also creative and inspiring.
Visit Dohány Street Synagogue
Dohány Street Synagogue is Budapest’s and Europe’s largest and most important synagogue. It stands as a symbol of Hungary’s Jewish heritage.
The synagogue was built in the 19th Century in a Moorish style and the architecture really is striking.
It’s worth grabbing a ticket and heading inside where you’ll learn all about its history as well as see the intricate interior designs, and the poignant Holocaust Memorial, which pays homage to the lives lost during World War II.
It really is one of the most beautiful synagogues in Europe.
Visit Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest in Winter
Within the boundaries of the City Park lies Vajdahunyad Castle, a historic building worth visiting when in the area (Heroes Square and Széchenyi Thermal Bath are nearby).
Originally constructed for the Millennial Exhibition in 1896, the castle showcases a breathtaking blend of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements, capturing the essence of various historical Hungarian landmarks.
The castle has a real fairy-tale aesthetic to it and it’s a popular place for evening walks and photos.
Take a Walk Around Heroes’ Square
Heroes’ Square, is a sprawling plaza that pays homage to Hungary’s rich history and national pride. With monumental statues running around its perimeter, this monument symbolises the country’s heritage through its pivotal historical moments.
The main monument on Heroes’ Square is the Millennium Monument, which features the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other significant national figures.
It’s also worth having a look at when in the area.
Need some more things to do in Budapest in winter? Check out some of the most popular tours below:
Where to Stay in Budapest
There’s no shortage of amazing places to stay in Budapest for just about any budget. Here are our picks of the most treasured stays in Budapest.
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest – One of my favourite Four Seasons proprties in Europe. Beautifully designed room with incredible river views. The lobby, restaurants and bar are all a work of art when it comes to decor. Book your stay here.
Kozmo Hotel Suites & Spa – With one of the best hotel spas in Budapest this is the place to stay for the ultimate pampering stay. Clean, modern and natural touches throughout well appointed rooms. Book a stay here.
Párisi Udvar Hotel Budapest – Where we stayed during our Budapest trip and I couldn’t recommend it more. Stunning, classical property with large, well-lit rooms. Everything was fantastic. Highly recommended. Book your stay here.
Anantara New York Palace Budapest – Located right next to New York Cafe, in fact, is part of the same property. Lavish, belle-epoque architecture, stunning rooms and above and beyond service. Book here.
Verno House – For those looking for more of a luxury boutique stay, check out the very stylish Verno House. This chic property has warm and cozy rooms, a fantastic location and great service all round. Book a stay here.
The Three Corners Downtown Edition Hotel – A great, mid-range choice in central Budapest. Modern rooms with industrial flare. Book here.
Where to Eat in Budapest
There are so many amazing places to eat in Budapest. I compiled a list of so many restaurants, cafes and bars we had to go to but of course it was impossible to cover them all. Here are the ones that stood out and the top ones I’ve got saved for the next visit.
Franziska – One of the best cafes for breakfast or brunch, this spot is just idyllic. Opt for eggs anyway you like them, pancakes, avocado toast- they have it all. Ideal location to pop in just after watching the sunrise at Fisherman’s Bastion.
360 Bar– The perfect winter rooftop bar with grand sunset views. Come here and book a table inside warm and cosy domes and sip on amazing cocktails.
NOR\MA – A Scandinavian-style cafe with mouth-watering pastries. Perfect for a quick breakfast on the go.
Mazel Tov – Casual, Middle Eastern style spot, great for lunch and dinner. Great food.
DOBRUMBA – Probably one of the best spots we ate at in Budapest. Specialises in European, Middle Eastern and Caucasian-style small dishes. Everything was just delicious here including all the hummus and dips.
Dorado Cafe – Another epic cafe for breakfast or brunch, Dorado Cafe also has some pretty lip-smackingly good coffee. Also, it has great desserts and a good wine list.
Gettó Gulyás – A local favourite with amazing local Hungarian food. We also loved their vast natural wine list. It’s easily one of the best restaurants in Budapest.
Marlou Wine Bar & Store – The place to discover the wide variety of home-grown Hungarian wine. Try many different varieties at the bar and then buy the bottles to take home.
What to Wear in Budapest in Winter
Budapest gets really cold in winter. When visiting Budapest in winter you’ll need to pack plenty of warm clothes and layers, especially if you plan to be outside quite a lot exploring the city’s parks and Christmas markets.
Budpest does have a good mix of indoor and outdoor attractions and then there are thermal baths, so there’s always somewhere to go to warm up after a few hours outside in the cold.
Also, don’t forget to pack everything you need to visit the thermal baths. A swimsuit or bikini, lightweight towel and bathing slippers (waterproof, rubber sandals work well) are essential for the Budapest thermal bath experience. A swim cap is also needed if you plan to swim in the lap pools.
Some toiletry minis are also super useful to shower after the thermal baths.
Ready for your Budapest in winter trip? Have any questions or comments about your trip? Let me know in the box below.
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