Looking for a dose of winter fun in Budapest? Winter is a great time to visit Budapest and the city certainly doesn't shut down when the weather gets cold. If you are a foodie, you will love Budapest's winter festivals, but there are also plenty of indoor activities to stay warm. Here are some 'cool' ideas for things to do in Budapest in the winter.
For Sporty Types
- Ice-skating at Budapest's main skating rink, and the largest outdoor skating rink in Europe, is a must try. Műjégpálya, in operation since 1870, has an idyllic setting at the foot of Vajdahunyad Castle, surrounded by the trees of City Park. This is where all of Budapest skates. The music coming from the overhead speakers sets the mood and keeps you going on cool winter days and nights. Another favorite ice-rink is Ice Terrace, located on a former race track next to the Arena Plaza Shopping Mall. See more ice-skating venues.
- If there is enough snow to slide, head to Normafa, a popular sledding spot in the Buda Hills. With its many trails, Normafa is also a good place for winter hikes. It can get crowded on the weekends, but the scenery is beautiful and the air is crisp and clean. To get to Normafa, take bus No. 21 or No. 21A from Széll Kálmán tér to Normafa.
- If you are into winter sports you'll like the annual Fridge Festival showcasing snowboarders and freestyle skiers competing for the Fridge title. This four-day long festival, held in November, is usually the first winter-themed event of the season in Budapest.
Winter Festivals in Budapest
- True foodies who appreciate high quality locally sourced ingredients will love the Mangalica Festival, dedicated to the Hungarian heritage breed pig. The Mangalica Festival is usually held in early February in Szabadság tér.
- Fish Festival, Budapest's new gastro festival is held in February. It offers plenty of steaming hot soup and some pálinka tastings along with live concerts to keep visitors warm.
- Visit one of Budapest's Christmas markets to get into the holiday spirit. The scent of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts will guide you to Vörösmarty tér, where the city's largest Christmas Fair is held. The best time to visit is at night, when the square is all lit up with sparkling Christmas lights. Another Christmas Market to visit is the one in front of the Basilica, where you'll also find a small ice-rink.
- If you are visiting with kids or if you feel like one, be sure to take a ride on Santa's tram (on Dec 4, 5 and 6) or the Christmas tram (Dec to Jan), both operated by the Budapest Transit Company on the A2 line along the Danube Promenade. The Santa Express, a train operated by the Hungarian Railway Museum, runs between Nyugati Station and the Railway Museum on Dec 5 and 6.
- A cold winter calls for hot thermal waters! Baths and spas are one of the best features of the city. Relax in one of the historic thermal baths Budapest is so famous for. If you feel adventurous, visit Széchenyi Baths on a cold day and immerse yourself in the steaming hot water in one of the outdoor pools.
- Warm your spirits with some spirits at one of Budapest's wine bars, the latest hotspots on the city's entertainment scene. Not only do they feature a wide range of local vintages, but during the winter months they all serve mulled wine to keep you extra warm.
- This being Hungary, classical music, jazz and opera are always on the program. A performance at the Budapest Opera House or a concert at the Palace of Arts will both be unforgettable experiences.
- Whether it's one of the legendary coffee houses, a small pastry shop or your beloved Starbucks, cafes in Budapest are a great place to warm up and catch up on your social activities both on and offline. There are many coffee houses to choose from (my favorite is Auguszt) and they serve more than just hot drinks. The delicious cakes and pastries are definitely worth blowing your diet for.
- Take a unique tour and get to know the locals or sign up for a cooking course to learn how to make hearty Hungarian dishes like Goulash Soup and Chicken Paprikash. Indoor activities can be a lot of fun too and you get to learn about Hungarian culture and meet new people.