Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness on Wednesday, November 11th, 2017.
Are you planning a trip to Budapest in the winter but worried about not finding any fun and interesting activities in the city? Then we have good news: Budapest is a great city for a winter vacation and to prove that we put together a list of 9 activities that you should absolutely do if you want to get the most out of your trip. But first, watch our video and find out what the locals do in Budapest during wintertime.
1. Relax at a secret bath
The central pool at Veli Bej Bath. Photo: epiteszforum.hu
2. See a ballet or an opera
Now that it’s winter, you’re probably longing for the outdoor concerts and festivals. However, if you’re coming to Budapest in the summer, you miss out on a great activity: going to a Nutcracker performance. Unfortunately, the Hungarian State Opera House is currently closed for renovation, but you still get tickets for one of the performances at the Erkel Theatre, which was renovated in 2013, and has been part of the Opera House since its reopening. Click here for the detailed program and ticket information.
The Nutcracker. Photo: opera.hu
3. Get a taste of the Hungarian Holiday Season
Coming to Budapest around the Holiday season gives you a great opportunity to explore the culinary traditions. So here is a quick list of foods that you should try while in Budapest: fisherman’s soup, fried fish, potato salad in vinegar, stuffed cabbage, beigli (traditional Christmas pastry with walnut or poppy seed), pork and cooked sausage on New Year’s Eve, and lentil soup on New Year’s Day – the latter is supposed to bring your great wealth in the new year.
Yummy beigli with nuts and poppy seeds. Photo: beatrixcukraszda.hu
4. Hunt for treasures at the Christmas markets
If there is one thing that we should be happy about during wintertime, when it gets dark so painfully early, is that it’s also the season of Christmas markets with all their pretty lights and decorations. And luckily Budapest has a number of great markets, where you can find the best Christmas presents. Our favorite Christmas market is the one front of the Basilica. Want to explore the wonderful Budapest Christmas markets? Join this small-group tour with a local guide and other curious travelers. The tour includes plenty of food and drinks, enough to serve as lunch!
Christmas Market at St. Stephen’s Basilica. Photo: dailynewshungary.com
5. Ice skate in a fairy tale setting
Imagine an ice rink in a beautiful park surrounded by a pretty castle. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Well, this fairy tale is actually reality in Budapest. In fact, ice skating on the City Ice Rink is a popular activity among locals during wintertime so make sure you don’t miss out on it!
The City Ice Rink with the Vajdahunyad Castle in the background. Photo: budapest.varosom.hu
6. Try the Hungarian mulled wine
Drinking mulled wine (forralt bor) in Budapest during wintertime is a must. Luckily, Hungarian mulled is excellent as it’s never too sweet and has just the perfect amount of spices, so we are happy to give in to this tradition.
Forralt bor (mulled wine). Photo: femcafe.hu
7. Grab your sled and/or skis and hit the mountains for some winter fun
Did you know that the hilly Buda side is excellent for some great winter fun? Check out Normafa, where you can enjoy the beautiful view over the city, while skiing and/or sledding down the hill. It is also at Normafa where you can get the best rétes (strudel) in Budapest. During wintertime, Normafa Rétes is open between 10am and 4pm.
8. Stay warm at the legendary coffee houses
Coffee houses in Budapest give you a great chance to explore what it was like to be living at the turn of the 20th century – often referred to as the golden age of Budapest. While sipping your coffee, you can literally feel history as some of these coffee houses date back to the late 19th century. So escape from the cold, have some coffee and try the great selection of delicious cakes!
The interior of Művész Coffee House (est. 1898). Photo: muveszkavehaz.hu
9. Enjoy the ruin pubs open also in the winter
Who hasn’t heard of the great Kerts (meaning gardens in Hungarian) aka ruin pubs in Budapest. You’ve probably seen pictures of these great outdoor places where the atmosphere is laid back, the design is a mixture of old and modern, and where everybody seems to be having a blast. But did you know that many of these places are also open during wintertime? Make sure you check them out.