HungaryTravel Guides

11 Reasons Why You Should Visit Budapest In Winter

By Matt Morelli

There’s always a long list of good reasons to visit Hungary’s capital, be it to soak in the history or crawl the ruin pubs (Check out our Guide to Budapest for all of our reasons to visit).  Winter however brings with it a special set of reasons stop by this fabulous city.

Budapest in Winter is a delight and here are our 11 reasons why you should visit Budapest in winter.

The grand staircase in the entrance hall of the Corinthia Hotel
The grand staircase in the entrance hall of the Corinthia Hotel

1. It’s cheaper! Pocket the cash or indulge in a spot of luxury

Our first reason why you should visit Budapest in Winter is affordability. Budapest is easy on the wallet at any time of year, but during the low season (Jan-Feb), it’s particularly cheap. If you’re visiting in Winter, it’s likely you might be able to afford a few more stars when it comes to accommodation. We found a great flight+hotel deal, meaning we could stay in the lavish five star Corinthia Hotel and still keep well within our budget. You’ll be surprised just how cheaply some rooms go for.

Chimney cakes cooking over hot embers
Left; Chimney cakes slowly cook over hot embers. Right: Jade displays the finished article

2. Eat lots of steaming hot Chimney Cake

Hungarians go a bit mad for Chimney Cake (or Kürtőskalács). They love it so much, they’ll happily queue up in the cold for a solid half an hour waiting for their cake to cook. Upon tasting one for ourselves, we totally understood why. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, Chimney Cake is wonderfully light and tasty. Cakes are cooked to order over hot coals (with lots of tasty toppings to choose from) be patient. It’s worth the wait!

A Wizz Air flight boards at Luton Airport
A Wizz Air flight boards at Luton Airport

3. There’s fewer visitors – fewer crowds and easier to arrange last minute cheap flights

What with it being low season, there are fewer tourists, meaning shorter queues and smaller crowds. This makes visiting Budapest in Winter also feel more authentic, which is what a lot of travellers aim for when visiting new places. Also, since there are fewer people wanting seats on planes flying into and out of the country, it’s much easier to find cheaper fares at the last minute. 

The Műjégpálya is Europe's largest outdoor ice rink
The Műjégpálya is Europe’s largest outdoor ice rink

4. Skate on Europe’s Largest Outdoor Ice Rink

Among Budapest’s many seasonal draws is Europe’s largest outdoor ice skating rink (the Műjégpálya). Set on the fringes of the massive City Park, overlooking Vajdahunyad Castle (and round the corner from Szechnyi thermal bath) there are fewer prettier spots in the world to double-salchow. Skates can be rented on the spot and prices are very reasonable.

Opening times are a bit irregular, so check the website before you go.

Related: 20 Free Things To Do In Budapest on The Travelling Pinoys

One of the many bars at Szimpla Kert
One of the many bars at Szimpla Kert

5. Crawl the Ruin Pubs

It’s never difficult to find a reason to crawl Budapest’s collection of unique, friendly, often-crazy, never-boring Ruin Pubs. When it’s freezing outside though and you’re sipping on a boozy drink, they feel even more welcoming. An added bonus is that there’s typically no dress code, so you can wear as many woolly garments as you like and there’s no risk of getting cold as you move between venues.

Vajdahunyad Castle looks even prettier in the snow
Vajdahunyad Castle looks even prettier in the snow

6. Beautiful picture-perfect scenery of Budapest in Winter

Nothing makes Budapest’s abundant collection of Art Nouveau architecture look all the more beautiful than a covering of snow. The city particularly sparkles the day after snowfall, when the clouds have cleared, the skies are blue and the sunshine bright. Snow only falls when a very particular set of criteria is met and is therefore, it’s notoriously difficult to predict. Chances are pretty good though for snow to fall during your Winter visit, and with the option of last minute cheap flights, you can just take off to Budapest when the forecast starts to predicts it.

The two of us enjoying the snowy scenes in the hills overlooking Budapest
The two of us enjoying the snowy scenes in the hills overlooking Budapest

7. Hiking, skiing, snowboarding and riding through the Buda hills

There aren’t many capital cities in the world that can boast having skiing and snowboarding resorts on their doorstep. The hills on the Buda side of the Danube aren’t as high as those in neighboring Slovakia, but there are still options available. Getting to the slopes is a short and easy bus or train ride away. You can also take to the hills on an ingenious transport loop which includes a railway run by children that takes in the pretty landscapes that surround the city centre.

Find out more: See our complete guide to Budapest for more great suggestions for things to see and do, places to eat and fantastic night’s out.

The main bath at Szechenyi thermal baths, Budapest
The main bath at Szechenyi thermal baths, Budapest

8. Enjoy a steamy soak in a outdoor thermal bath

The thermal bath houses all over the city are best enjoyed in cold weather. While you still have to endure the chilly air to actually get from the changing rooms to the warm water, the pay off is worth it. There isn’t much that can trump soaking in 39°C water as steam rises off of the surface and snow falls all around you. When you visit, make sure you don’t make plans for later that day. Once you’re in the water, you won’t want to leave.

Warm up in Budapest with a Hot Chocolate
Warm up in Budapest with a Hot Chocolate

9. Good excuse to drink mulled wine/hot chocolate to warm up

Mulled wine is available everywhere in Budapest during Winter. It’s even available in some cafes. The temperature of the wine and the warmth from the alcohol is sure to keep you toasty and in good spirits as you continue exploring the city.

A delicious chocolate tort
A delicious chocolate tort

10. Great excuse to eat lots of comfort food, e.g. goulash and cakes

It’s impossible to visit Budapest in Winter and not eat goulash. It’s the national dish and it’s sold everywhere. Expect more of a soup than a stew (the rest of the world doesn’t know how to cook it right) and expect to be thoroughly satisfied. If there’s still room after your goulash, fill in the gaps with some cake. Dorbostorta is Hungary’s signature sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel. It’s as yummy as it sounds.

A food stall at Budapest's Christmas market
A food stall at Budapest’s Christmas market

11. Twinkling Winter lights and Christmas Fayre

Budapest lays on a spectacular show when it comes to Christmas lights. Even the smallest pedestrian streets in the centre of town get decorated. The authorities lean towards white or gold lights, unifying the overall look and feel. Add in a covering of snow and you have a city that feels quite magical.

In the lead up to Christmas, Deák Ferenc square plays host to a Christmas Fayre selling traditional Hungarian dishes and a selection of hot mulled drinks. The Christmas lights are meant to be switched off on 6 January, but on our visit, they stayed on for a few days afterwards. Perhaps the authorities were feeling particular festive.

Did we miss anything off of our list? Are you now tempted to visit Budapest in Winter? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author

Matt Morelli

I've travelled to 38 countries across 4 continents, both independently and with my wife. I've been writing travel guides and making videos since 2007, all based on my real-life experiences. Here To Travel is a place for travel advice and inspiration that encourages us all to make mindful decisions. If you want to have life changing adventures that have minimal impact on the places and people you visit, Here To Travel is for you.

2 thoughts on “11 Reasons Why You Should Visit Budapest In Winter”

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for your comment, yes we loved the ruin pubs although Jade did get a bit ‘ruined’ in one! :) Thanks for including a link to your fabulous post. You’ve selected lots of our favourite places to visit in Budapest too. If you haven’t already, check out our Guide to Budapest.


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