Winter in Central-Eastern Europe conjures images of snow, mulled wine, and wearing an entire wardrobe so that you won’t feel cold outside. Over the past years, winter is quite mild in this area but the cold spells can show up anytime (like the 2016-2017 really cold temperatures in late December have proven).
While most of the romantic things to do during winter don’t include going out, I can assure you there are very good reasons why you should pack your bags and visit Budapest during winter.
It’s free to visit some sights
Winter, since it’s low season for travel (with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s), comes with a lot of places to visit for free . Once such place we love in Budapest is Fishermen’s Bastion, with its magnificent views over the Danube and Pest. Try not to climb it when it’s windy though unless you have a very good jacket and wear mittens.
Visit a Christmas Market
Between late November and mid-January, Christmas Markets pop all over Budapest. Some close right after Christmas, but the one on Vacy utca is open until late in January. Plan to explore all of them and find interesting souvenirs or decorations. If you like to skate, there are quite a lot of ice skating rinks at these markets.
Tip: visit the city in early to mid-December and you don’t only benefit from very affordable accommodation, but you can also enjoy the less crowded Christmas markets. Depending on what area you choose to stay in, there is accommodation available for as little as $20* a night (in a private room with private bathroom).
Try the mulled wine
When you do get cold, either try the mulled wine at the Christmas market or hide in one of the wine bars to try it. Expect it to be hot and spicy, just like Budapest.
Spent a colorful New Year’s Eve on the street
Plan your trip for the winter holidays ahead of time and enjoy New Year’s Eve on the streets. It can be brutally cold – as it happened to us some years back – but there’s nothing like the energy of the crowd on such a night. After you see the fireworks, stay for some concerts or head back to the accommodation and enjoy a quieter night.
Have the city for yourself
You’ll be surprised to see that except for the New Year’s Eve and day, the city is quite deserted. So you can take photos without having to dodge fellow travelers and enjoy the quieter side of it.
Warm up at one of the many baths
Still cold? Choose one of the many thermal baths to warm up. No matter what budget you have for this, there will be a place to match it.
Try the traditional Hungarian food
The Hungarian cuisine is hearty and certainly suitable for winter. Try gulyás (goulash ), halászlé (fisherman’s soup), rakott krumpli (layered potatoes) and töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage). For dessert, choose a Dobostorta (Dobos cake), rétes (Hungarian strudel), bejgli (spiral strudel) or kakaós csiga (chocolate snail)
*price valid at the time the article as written; search done for Dec 16-17, 2017.