Budapest Landmarks © iStock/neirfy
Budapest is a notoriously picturesque city, but there’s something extra special about it when it’s blanketed in snow. During the winter months, between December and February, temperatures frequently fall to well below zero; ice blocks drift lazily along the Danube, and the domes and spires of the parliament building and St. Stephen’s Basilica are lightly dusted, as if sprinkled with sugar. All this is a feast for the eyes, but in order to make the most of it, ensure you’ve brought the correct attire. Here are our suggestions for what to pack on a winter break in Budapest.
Hat, scarf and gloves
All the usual wintry suspects of hats, gloves and scarfs are essential when visiting Budapest during the colder months. However, we would recommend fingerless gloves for visiting the city’s Great Market Hall, so there’s no need to remove them to tear into a delicious doughy lángo or a chocolatey kakaós csiga.
A thick coat
Perhaps it goes without saying, but a good, warm coat is essential when visiting Budapest in winter. It’s almost impossible to be too warm while walking the streets of the city in the colder months, so don’t fool yourself into thinking something more lightweight (or enough glasses of pálinka brandy) will do. Supplement your coat with plenty of woolly and thermal layers—there’s always the option to remove a layer or two when you go inside if necessary.
Boots and thick socks
There are plenty of days in Budapest’s winter when snowflakes thicken the air and settle in pristine sparkling layers across the city. Locals will agree that these are some of the prettiest days, when the city takes on a pristine atmosphere that’s enchanting to stroll through. However, wet shoes and soggy socks will severely impinge any delight to be had in wandering the snowy streets, so be sure to wear sturdy waterproof boots. They will also give some assistance when negotiating icier areas on the roads.
Winter and swimming don’t usually go together, granted. But run the chilly gauntlet between changing room and water, and there’s a privileged opportunity to luxuriate in one of the city’s famous outdoor thermal baths. Even if you decide against taking a dip, baths like the Széchenyi Baths in City Park are sights to behold: the water is 38°C, and steam plumes up into the cold winter sky.
Budapest is sometimes called ‘Paris of the East’ for its chic boulevards and elegant restaurants, and the city in winter is not all about thermal layers and sturdy weatherproofs. Visitors to the grand Budapest Operetta Theatre, the Danube Palace or the Erkel Theatre tend to taking dressing up seriously. Pack something extra special for a night out in the city – even if it is hidden beneath a hefty coat en route to your destination.