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Budapest in Winter

December, January, and February in the Hungarian Capital City

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Vajdahunyad in Winter

Vajdahunyad in Winter

CC BY-NC-ND León de Nemea
Winter in Budapest has plenty to offer the traveler who wants to see the Hungarian capital city during the months of December, January, and February. Though fewer visitors choose to tour the city in winter than they do in summer, the sights and experiences of this season reflect how Hungarians deal with cold weather: with festivals, decorations, and celebrations of food and drink.

Weather

The average temperatures in Budapest during the winter hover just around freezing, but do keep in mind that temperatures will drop on cloudy days and at night. Snow is possible, or rain, if the weather is warm enough.

What to Pack

Budapest is a sprawling city, and you’ll do both walking and riding on public transportation to see the sights. It’s important to pack for comfort for these modes of transportation. Think well-insulated, but comfortable, footwear, a warm winter coat, and quality winter accessories, such as gloves, hat, and scarf.

Layering pieces and a couple of trusty sweaters will come in handy. If you plan to attend concerts or performances in the evening, bring items of clothing that are a little dressier, but that will still keep you toasty. Dressy jackets and cardigans, as well as wool pants or skirts, are ideal for this type of evening entertainment.

Events

One of the Budapest winter season’s highlights is the Budapest Christmas market. This annual market, which runs the month of December, features visits from Santa Claus, children’s activities, and vendors selling food, drink, souvenirs, decorations, and gifts. A calendar of events is developed around the Christmas market, meaning you will get a different experience each time you visit!

Other events of the season include the New Year’s Eve celebrations, which are held all over the city privately and publically. Attend swanky parties or watch the fireworks on a city square. It’s good to book a hotel room near where you’ll be celebrating because it can be difficult to get a taxi on that night and other public transportation may not be running!

The annual Mangalica Festivals, held in the beginning weeks of February, is a celebration of an indigenous type of pig that, when cooked up into sausages and bacon, is tasty paired with other popular Hungarian dishes.

Things to Do

When you visit Budapest during the winter season, either take part in seasonal activities or enjoy Budapest as a regular traveler. Or, for the full experience, do both, taking advantage of regular winter travel activities when you enjoy seasonal markets, concerts, or festivals.

Budapest museums offer the opportunity to get to know the city’s history, art, and more. On the chilliest days, head to a museum and spend an hour or two savoring the cultural artifacts found within. Even if you’re not an art fan, you can still find delightful museums to appeal to your tastes, such as the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum and the Ethnography museum, dedicated to the traditional culture of Hungary.

To warm and fuel up for a round of sightseeing, visit Budapest’s cafes, which are historic meeting houses for intellectuals, artists, and other thinkers. They offer tasty traditional desserts, beer, Hungarian wine, and even sandwiches and entrees. Many are located near important sights, so it makes sense to unthaw frozen fingers and toes in world-famous coffeehouses that will give you a turn-of-the-century experience.

Tips for Travel to Budapest in Winter

If you plan to explore the city, be mindful about where you book your hotel room. The city is divided into different sections, each with its own attractions. For example, the Buda side of Budapest has Castle hill and the associated museums and churches, while the Pest side of the city is home to the famous Gothic parliament building. Other museums, squares, and nightlife districts may also be worth staying near, depending upon your interests and travel agenda.
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Be aware that an influx of visitors makes December tourist numbers increase, though crowds will decrease in January. Some visitors may also look for hotel package deals around Valentine’s Day, so if you have the same idea, book your room early and make reservations at the restaurant of your choice.

If you’re looking for other activities besides the ones found above, peruse the following list of 30 things to do in Budapest, which includes ideas such as cruising the Danube River, seeking out Hungarian culture, and visiting Budapest’s islands:

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