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Why Budapest Is the Perfect Pick for a Winter City Break

28/02/2024
The iconic Szechenyi Baths in Budapest, the perfect thing to do on a winter city break in the city.

The offbeat city of Budapest has been on my bucket list for so many years now, so I was delighted to finally visit in January. Despite initial concerns that it may be just a bit too cold – and perhaps too off-peak! – I soon discovered that Budapest is one of the best picks for a winter European city break.

Not only is it budget-friendly (which is great if you’re travelling before or just after Christmas!), but there are so many fun and quirky things to do in Budapest – whatever the weather!

Absolutely! Budapest is beautiful all year round and each season offers different benefits. During winter, it’s a little quieter because it’s off-peak, which means it’s even more affordable than usual. If you’re lucky, you may get snow too, which makes for great photo opportunities, particularly around Castle Hill and Buda’s Old Town. The thermal baths are also especially great during the cold winter weather, as is Budapest’s famous Chimney cake, which is arguably a true winter treat! Finally, Budapest is a really convenient place to travel to, with easy direct flights under three hours. Our Jet2 flights to/from Budapest took just two hours and 45 minutes. It was a really smooth process from the moment we got to Birmingham airport to the second we arrived in Budapest.

If you’re planning a trip to Budapest soon, I’d definitely recommend booking with Jet2holidays. It was my first time travelling with Jet2 and I was so impressed. They really helped our city break be as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Jet2CityBreaks and winter city breaks include your hotel, return flights and 22kg baggage all in one easy package! The flight times were also super convenient. We had a morning flight out of Birmingham and an early evening return flight, which gave us maximum time to explore Budapest.

At any given time, I could log onto their Jet2 app and manage my booking, where I could check-in online, upgrade my room and access everything I needed for our trip. I could even use their handy travel checklist! Their website has plenty of helpful resources for things to do in Budapest, how to get around and even foodie recommendations.

Budapest is one of the top winter city breaks offered by Jet2 alongside other winter destinations such as Iceland, Rome and Venice. They offer a great range of winter sun destinations too, like Lanzarote, Algarve and Gran Canaria.

If you think Budapest can only be enjoyed in the summer, think again. The stunning views from Fisherman’s Bastion are just as beautiful in winter, offering a great way to marvel at the city’s architectural wonders. Budapest is also famously known for its thermal baths, which are just that more appreciated when the weather is cold outside!

Here are some of the best things to do in Budapest in winter.

The sights along the Danube River are absolutely stunning, especially at night when you can see buildings like the Hungarian Parliament Building lit up in all its glory. It’s so pretty that it’s even worth braving the cold weather for and sitting on the open-top deck of the boat! There are so many river cruises to choose from in Budapest, from unlimited beer and pizza to dinner and cocktail cruises. We chose the unlimited prosecco tour with the add-on of focaccia and dips (to line our stomachs of course).

The Hungarian Parliament Building lit up at night, as seen from one of Budapest's Danube River Night Cruises.

We flew to Budapest towards the end of January so we sadly just missed the Christmas markets. But I’d love to return one day for these alone. Christmas markets in Budapest are some of the best – and most certainly the prettiest – in Europe. You’ll find a mixture of smaller and bigger ones throughout the city. Many of them focus on being as authentic as possible, offering many hand-made and traditional gifts.

We didn’t know that Budapest had its own outdoor ice skating rink until we stumbled across it on our last day! The huge open-air ice skating rink is in City Park, with views of the gothic Vajdahunyad Castle in the background. It’s one of the largest and oldest rinks in Europe! It’s really romantic and can easily be combined with a visit to the Szechenyi Baths (just across the road) before or after. I’d also recommend wandering around Vajdahunyad Castle – it’s very beautiful in a haunting, dark acadameia way. See if you can spot the lonely Dracula statue if you do!

The Szechenyi Baths on a cold winter day, with hot steam coming from the water and the iconic yellow building in the background. In the water, many crowds of people are swimming.

There’s nothing better than a relaxing soak in the Budapest baths in winter. Budapest’s thermal baths boast tons of cleansing and healing properties too. The top pick is of course the beautiful Szechenyi Baths, which is actually the largest medicinal bath in Europe! It’s worth visiting just once to experience the hot temperatures conflicting with the cold winter weather. But if you prefer something more affordable and authentic, Gellért Thermal Baths and Secret Garden Spa are great options too.

The wine bar is one of many cheap, affordable and quirky bars found inside Szimpla Kert. Random drinks and bottles are stacked on the shelves, as well as odd ball objects.

The famous ruin bars of Budapest are an absolute must. There are a few to check out (Instant-Fogas, Mazel Tov and Csendes Vintage Bar & Cafe, but the most famous is Szimpla Kert. This place is huge with an amazing atmosphere and something new to discover around every corner. Szimpla Kert is made up of many random smaller bars inside, where you can get drinks and street food for pretty affordable prices. I particularly enjoyed the wine bar, where I could get a glass for as little as around £2.50! It’s easy to spend an entire day/evening here, avoiding the cold weather. You’ll also find a farmers market held here on a Sunday morning.

Taking the trip to Aquaworld Resort Budapest was my boyfriend’s idea and not one I would normally pick, but I had the best day at this massive indoor waterpark! It was a great way to avoid the winter weather and try something a bit more active and fun. We enjoyed lazy rivers and the choice of ten other water slides here, plus an outdoor pool and a wave pool. There’s also sauna world – included in the entry price – with 11 different saunas to discover. Despite being a little busy, this water park was heaps of fun. I also found it a lot more enjoyable than the Szechenyi Baths! It was affordable and the changing rooms were so clean and high-end, with underfloor heating and plenty of room to get ready before and after your swim.

Note: the travel logistics aren’t as complicated as they seem! At first, we almost didn’t go as we thought the only way to get there would be an expensive taxi and back. But we managed to work out an easy bus route which was really cheap with a bus day pass. The journey also took us through some really lovely and lived-in areas of Budapest, which we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

We stayed in the exciting Hard Rock Hotel Budapest, which was a perfect central location. Hard Rock Hotel Budapest is within easy walking distance of many of Budapest’s ruin bars and so many great places to eat. The nearest bus stop is also a mere two-minute walk away.

I absolutely loved our stay at this adventurous and edgy hotel. The decor was amazing – especially if you’re really into your music like me. I loved that they host live music events most weekends. The hotel has a great restaurant and coffee shop, plus an excellent variety of food for room service.

Inside the foyer of Hard Rock Hotel Budapest. A red neon sign on the wall reads 'Cause Baby you're a Firework' - lyrics from a popular Katy Perry song. There's also music-related memorabilia on the walls, such as guitars and awards.

Our room was really high-tech and cool also. We could do practically everything via our TV, from checking guides to the city to viewing information about the hotel and the restaurant’s food menu. The room was open plan, with a small bathroom sink/getting ready area and two smaller rooms for the toilet and shower. The overhead waterfall shower was probably one of the best showers I’ve had in my life!

I was ecstatic at the fully stocked mini-bar, which was re-stocked for us every day. I think I had a Twix Bar from it every single day and was delighted to find the final cost was only about £8 when we checked out! Where else can you get mini-bar treats that cheap?!

Our room at Hard Rock Hotel Budapest. The open plan area has a bathroom sink and mirror in the foreground, with a large double bed behind.

Hard Rock Hotel Budapest is one of Jet2holidays’ 4.5-star rated hotels in Budapest, and I can totally understand why. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever stayed in – with such a cool atmosphere and vibe.

Budapest is one of those places that tick all the boxes. There is so much to see and do. We didn’t even get around to half of the things we added to our list! It’s the perfect mix of tourist spots and iconic landmarks, as well as really offbeat hidden gems and experiences. But it’s also one of those cities that are just really fun to walk around and explore!

The weather was never too cold during our visit. Even so, there were plenty of indoor activities to do to avoid the winter weather. We also found it so affordable, which was great for me being so close to Christmas.

That being said, I loved our trip so much that I’m already planning to head back for a Budapest city break in the summer!

Would you consider a winter city break in Budapest? Let me know!

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