It Felt Like Narnia: 10 Unforgettable Winter Experiences in Budapest

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Daniel is a copywriter who has well and truly been bitten alive by the 'travel bug'. After ticking off several North American National Parks and exploring Europe by train, his sights are now set on South East Asia. Usually with at least one camera locked and loaded, you'll find Daniel wherever there are mountains, lakes or beaches.

Welcome to Budapest, a city that shines even brighter during the winter. From festive markets and warm thermal baths to sparkling Christmas trams and delectable Hungarian culinary delights, wrap up warm as we take a look at the 10 best experiences during the winter in Budapest!

Warm Up in the Baths

Budapest Baths
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Picture cold but crisp air filling your lungs, with maybe a light dusting of snow falling from above, as you feel soothing warm waters slowly wash over your senses and relax every muscle in your body. Sounds good, right? Well, that’s a reality for the residents of Budapest, and you can join them when visiting.

Known as the City of Spas, Budapest has 118 natural thermal springs that deliver therapeutic waters to its many, many spas. Whether you fancy joining the crowds and visiting the world-renowned Széchenyi Baths, or you want a more local experience at Dandár Thermal Bath, there is a spa for everyone!

Visit a Christmas Market

Christmas Market in Budapest
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If you’re just about anywhere in Europe during the winter season, you have to make time to visit a Christmas market. Although we do have them over in the U.S., they simply don’t compare. Budapest’s festive markets typically run from November to early January.

The Vörösmarty Square market is both one of the nation’s most popular and oldest so expect plenty of traditional Hungarian foods including Goulash, Kürtőskalács (AKA chimney cake, a sweet dough cylinder-like treat coated in butter, cinnamon, and sugar), and mouthwatering sausages.

If that’s not enough Christmas market for you, head over to St Stephen’s Basilica where you’ll find over 150 stalls packed with cakes, crafts, and traditional Christmas gifts!

Go Ice Skating

Budapest City Park Ice Rink
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

You won’t find many more picturesque ice skating rings in Europe than Budapest’s City Park Ice Rink. Sat in front of the Vajdahunyad Castle, the rink is a hugely popular destination as soon as fall gives way to winter. 

It was actually first established in 1870, making it one of the oldest on the continent and during the summer months it transforms into a lake where tourists can pedal around in boats. During the winter you can enjoy a leisurely skate across the ice before warming up with a hot chocolate and chimney cake for the ultimate cozy, fun-filled day!

Hop Aboard the Christmas Tram

Christmas tram in Budapest
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Thanks to its great public transport, Budapest is one of the easiest cities to get around. One of the best ways to take in the sites is on the trams, it’s also extremely cheap with a single trip costing 450 HUF ($1.22).

During the holiday season, several of the trams are decorated with over 30,000 sparkling lights and are known as Fényvillamos. Some of the more famous routes include the No. 2, No. 14, and No.49. They run from 5 p.m. each evening across December and early January. Ticket prices are no different from normal fares, either!

Indulge in Hungarian Food

Budapest Great Hall
Image Credit: Krisztian Tabori on Unsplash.

Budapest’s Nagy Vásárcsarnok (AKA Great Market Hall) is the place to go if you want to fill your belly with a wide variety of delicious Hungarian food. Thanks to sourcing mostly from local foods and produce, you’ll find more of an authentic tasting experience. It’s almost impossible not to try a little bit of everything as you wander around taking in the scents and sights.

Watch the Nutcracker at the Budapest Opera House

Budapest Opera House
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A beautiful building in itself, there’s no better place to watch a traditional Christmas performance of The Nutcracker than Budapest’s Opera House. Although any dress code is welcome, it can add a bit more magic to the experience by donning a nice evening dress or dark suit!

Enjoy a Nighttime Sightseeing Cruise

Budapest Parliament Building
Image Credit: Daniel John.

Hopping aboard a river cruise is a must when visiting Budapest. The city has some of the finest and most beautiful architecture in the whole of Europe, and the best way to take it all in is via boat.

But it’s when the sunsets and the city lights up that the cruise takes on a whole new level of charm and majesty. The buildings are lit up by warm, vibrant lights that make them all the more impressive and naturally create a holiday feel to them. If you fancy upgrading your experience, book on to one of the many dinner cruises where you can tuck into an exquisite meal while enjoying the sights.

Visit a Ruins Bar

Szimpla Kert Budapest
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Arguably Budapest’s coolest destination for tourists, Szimpla Kert is a ruin bar in the Jewish Quarter of the city. Made up of a bunch of bars, seating areas (even a bathtub!), and places to grab some food. When visiting in the winter, you can expect fewer crowds and more reasonable prices, making it a must-visit on any itinerary.

Take in the Views from Buda Castle and Várkert Bazár

Views from Várkert Bazár in Budapest
Image Credit: Daniel John.

After taking in the sights on a river cruise, it’s time to see them up close for yourself. Buda Castle and Várkert Bazár are two beautiful spots, both for the views of the city and the architecture. During the winter both places offer Christmas treats which include performances by authors, dancers, and poets.

Attend a Christmas Concert

Christmas concert - winter in Budapest
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Christmas concerts inside a candlelit church will get anyone in the holiday spirit, and thankfully Budapest has a few to choose from. Head over to the St Istvan Basilica for a truly awe-inspiring experience, thanks to its ornate sculptures and colorful stained glass windows.

If you’d prefer a more personal experience, try out the Matthias Church, one of the city’s oldest and most revered churches, where the Hungarian kings were coronated. Concerts run throughout December and early January so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take in a concert or two. 

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