Budapest has become one of the trendiest European destinations in recent years. It attracts a diverse range of tourists from stag and hen do’s to families and couples and has attractions to suit all ages. Recently we spent 4 days in this amazing city absorbing the culture, fitting in as many activities as possible and eating everything in site.
We booked this holiday through British Airways on their European Christmas Market Breaks website in total it cost us £390pp for return flights, baggage, 4 nights in a 4 star hotel, junior suite and breakfast which is absolutely fantastic. This is our second winter break with British Airways and both have been flawless from take off to landing.
The hotel we stayed at was spectacular. We had high expectations before we arrived due to the excellent dominated tripadvisor reviews, but these didn’t even justify the service, cleanliness and coziness of the boutique accommodation. When booking Hotel Palazzo Zichy through BA we opted for a junior suite and then contacted the hotel to enquire about the possibility of accessing our room early and to see if we could have a room with a balcony. They replied to me swiftly and promised to cater to our requests if they could, but warned us it depended on previous guests as they were a small hotel and only had one room with a balcony. When we arrived at around 1:30pm we were told our room was ready for us and it was stunning! 2 large double windows flooded the space with light and in the corner, our balcony! From then on we were met with comfortable, quiet night sleeps, delicious breakfasts including Prosecco and Smoked Salmon, a fabulous bathroom with the worlds best shower and generally helpful, happy staff. If we ever return to Budapest we will be staying here again and I advise anyone reading this who’s thinking of going to Budapest to book with them ASAP.
Now without further ado, Continue reading for 15 things to do during winter in Hungary’s capital, Budapest!
1) Evening River Cruise on the Danube
One of our favourite things to do in Budapest was the Danube River Cruise. This trip was over an hour and took you on a headset tour pointing out some of Hungary’s most famous buildings which were stunningly lit up on the banks. The trip included a complimentary drink of champagne, beer or wine and was undercover but also had the option of sitting and standing outside which we took up for a few minutes to grab some pictures, but then hid inside from the cold. As the cabin is dark the reflection from the windows don’t interfere with the views or the pictures which was my initial worry. My advice for these boat cruises is to arrive early for the best seats, although we were late and found our less desirable seats didn’t affect our experience one bit.
2) Dinner at Dionysus Taverna
Ok, this might not be the Hungarian cuisine you expected when reading about Budapest but this restaurant was incredible. The aesthetic is to die for, especially the bathrooms which sounds weird but trust me, check them out! The restaurant is right on the bank of the Danube so you can grab a bite to eat here right after your river cruise. For starter we shared some Halloumi and some cheese strudel which was amazing and then for main I had the chicken gyro which was delicious. When leaving the restaurant they give every lady a single rose, I loved this and thought it made the experience one of a kind and special. I would advise fitting this restaurant in to your itinerary at some point when visiting Budapest.
3) Coffee and Cake at Gerbeaud
Right on Vorosmarty Square next to one of Budapest’s best Christmas Markets sits one of the city’s most famous cafes, Gerbeaud. This cafe dates back to 1858 and sells the most delicious cakes in a truly regal setting. After checking out the market, pop inside for a latte and a piece of Dobos torte and people watch through the grand windows. Even though this cafe is not the cheapest I feel it’s worth it to take in some real Hungarian history and culture whilst eating something truly tasty.
4) Visiting the Christmas Markets
The Christmas Markets in Budapest are truly beautiful. The lit up stalls selling hand made trinkets, hot chocolates and Hungarian cuisine really stand out compared to other European markets. The two main ones to visit are Vörösmarty square and St Stephens Basilica. Both are similar but also stand out on their own. My favourite feature of Vörösmarty is the food, they really do sell something for everyone including vegetarian cuisine whereas the Basilica market has a beautiful light show at night and some lovely bars around the market to enjoy a glass of wine in the warmth. We visited a lovely bar/restaurant called 0,75 bistro. We sat in the warm conservatory and selected a trio of wines from their wine tasting menu along with a platter to share of cheeses. This was an unexpected treat that we found by coincidence but was one of out favourite pit stops. I really advise you give this place a try, the food looked tasty too! We were lucky when visiting the markets as we got to experience a snowy wonderland which really made them, but either way these markets are worth your time when visiting Budapest.
5) Visit St Stephens Basilica
St Stephens Basilica is situated in front of one of the Christmas Markets. It is a beautiful building and is really worth the small donation to have a look inside. We took a short walk around this building and took in the breath taking architecture. This isn’t a long excursion but is definitely worth fitting in when visiting the market. For a longer trip pay the extra and climb the tower for a stunning view.
6) Drinks at Szimpla Kert
Any trip to Budapest should involve a pit stop at a ruin bar. We stopped at the world famous Szimpla Kert and it was so fun! The drinks are very cheap with a glass of champagne costing the equivalent of around £2. Grab your drink and then take a tour of the many rooms in the old warehouse. I recommend going twice, once during the day so you can really experience the place and take lots of photos and once in the evening to take in the cool atmosphere. We had a sit in each of the rooms and I even managed to add my name to the graffiti room!
7) Electric Scooter Guided Tour
Now, this one sounds a bit strange but dotted around Budapest are electric scooters. You download the app lime and then pay a small fee to use them. They are pretty speedy so be careful but they are definitely worth a zoom around on for the experience. We used them twice, once to get to the ruin bar and another time to get to the Christmas Markets. My advice is to check the map to make sure you are not heading towards a no stopping zone, this happened to us and it’s an absolute pain as you have to then take them back to a parking zone. Even with the negatives these are worth a go!
8) Visit the Citadella
On the Buda side of he city sits the Citadella. This is an amazing view point of the city. We got a Bolt taxi here and then walked through Jubileumi park towards Fishermans Bastion and Buda Castle. At the top of the Citadella you can grab a glass of mulled wine and then take in the whole of Budapest, definitely one of the best photo ops in the whole of Budapest. This trip also gives you a chance to experience the Buda side of the city.
9) The Funicular at Buda Castle
If you decide to visit Buda Castle it is definitely worth grabbing the Funicular up to it. You can walk, but this way is a lot more fun and offers another incredible view. The ticket prices are a little steep for the length of the journey which is probably no longer than 2 minutes and there is a small que but my advice is just pay the money, it is worth it. Try to grab the front carriage as this offers the best view, if you can’t get on this one go at the back so you can watch the rope pull the carriage up the hill side.
10) Buda Castle
Any trip to Budapest should include a trip to the castle. Once you reach the top of the funicular have a good look around and take in the historic castle built between 1749 and 1769. If you’re in luck there might be a guard change which is impressive. Next to the castle is the Hungarian National Gallery which we didn’t add to our itinerary but is worth noting if you have some extra time. Once you’ve seen the castle follow the signs to Fisherman’s Bastion
11) Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion is a truly impressive work of architecture. Built between 1895 and 1902 it is the closest you’ll find to a fairytale castle. You can pay to go in and look around or if you’re pushed for time you can simply climb the famous stairs and take in the surroundings and grab a great photo or two. This is a must for your trip so try to plan it in to your day along with Buda Castle, The Citadella and The Labyrinth. Try what we did and add all these items to a walking tour, it will take a good part of your day but is thoroughly enjoyable.
12) The Labyrinth
Now, if you’d like a thoroughly enjoyable spooky experience try the Budapest Labyrinth. Prior warning, this is not good for anybody with claustrophobia but if you can manage it, go for it. Once entering the attraction you have a good 30 minutes of underground walking through old tunnels. There are twist and turns along with dead ends and a constant feeling that you’ll never make it out, but it really is fascinating. There are foggy areas which creates a great atmosphere and there is one bit that is pitch black. I must confess I was a wimp and turned my phone torch on numerous times so apologies if I ruined the dark experience for anybody out there!
13) Central Market Hall
This market is amazing for all things food. You can buy meats, fish, vegetables, alcohol and world famous paprika. We stopped here for a spot of lunch and found an amazing canteen. Here I grabbed the Beef Stew and a glass of delicious local red wine and sat and watched the locals grab their weekly shop. I loved this experience and really recommend that anyone visiting Budapest try’s this out, especially the canteen or one of the other food stalls.
14) Ice Skating at City Park
Next to the famous Budapest Baths sits City Park. In the winter this turns in to a Christmassy Wonderland with Europes biggest ice rink. We hired some ice skates and zoomed around for over an hour. This was a really fun experience and it’s great to see some truly spectacular skating from the locals too! My advice is to wear lots of thin layers as you will get warm and be prepared to fall as unfortunately there is no side to hold on to, but in my opinion that was part of the fun as you really get pushed out of your comfort zone!
15) Goulash in a loaf of bread
Now, this sounds like a really weird one, mainly because it is a bit random but when visiting Budapest, try Goulash in a loaf of bread, or the vegetarian option broccoli soup in a loaf. This is a really hearty meal and is lovely and warming on a cold winter afternoon. not only do you get to try Goulash, the Hungarian speciality, but you also get a cheap, filling meal. Win, Win!
This really was a great trip and is definitely up there in my top ever European city breaks! I loved the culture, architecture and food so much and I am looking forward to returning one day. Let me know in the comments what your favourite winter breaks are!
Take a look a some of the delicious things we ate and drank in Budapest!