Photo: Budapest in Autumn | Budapest in Autumn Memento Park © iStock/harmatoslabu
The leaves may be turning but the Hungarian capital’s cultural and culinary scene is in full bloom during the autumn months. The city bustles with arts and gastronomy festivals, its thermal baths offer an ingenious way to warm up and its legendary landmarks are attractively burnished by the autumnal sun. Here are seven reasons to visit Budapest during the autumn months.
1. Soak in a thermal bath
Temperatures are still mild during autumn in Budapest, and summer’s crowds are thinning out, so you won’t be jostling for elbow room at one of the city’s iconic bath houses. Enjoy a restorative toasty dip in the steamy waters of the grand outdoor Széchenyi Baths in City Park, or slip into the medieval Rudas Baths, which are (mercifully) indoors, in case of rain showers.
2. Enjoy a culture fix
Autumn is when Budapest’s cultural scene ignites. For two weeks in October, Cafe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival draws trailblazing talent from across Hungary and beyond. With an eclectic line-up that includes art exhibitions, chamber concerts, theatre, film and dazzling avant-garde circus performances, this is an event that endeavours to suit all tastes. Don’t miss the four-day Art Market Budapest showcasing international contemporary art in the broad sweep of Millenáris Park.
3. Take an autumnal stroll
Budapest’s parks and outdoor spaces are pretty in every season, but the crisp autumn air and sinking light adds a special ambiance. Crunch through russet leaves as you stroll through Memento Park, populated with imposing sculptures that document a who’s who of communism. The Japanese maples on the Danube’s Margaret Island are a riot of scarlets and ochres at this time of year, while a wander around the leaf-blanketed tombs of Kerepesi Cemetery is an atmospheric dip into Budapest’s deep history.
4. Tuck into Hungarian comfort food
Steaming bowls of rich goulash; crispy slabs of fried dough smothered in cheese; mince-stuffed cabbage leaves—Hungarian cuisine was made for cooler climates. Discover hearty fare that favours a generous sprinkle of warming paprika at Budapest’s many traditional restaurants, of which Kék Rózsa near Dohány Street Synagogue is a firm and very reasonable favourite. Wash it down with Egri Bikavér—a bolshy Hungarian red wine, or pálinka—brandy made from plums, apricots, pears and apples.
5. Shop the harvest at Great Market Hall
This cavernous 19th-century neo-Gothic hall is packed full of the season’s harvest at this time of year. Shop for local meats, warm lángos pastries and freshly picked fruit and vegetables, and enjoy the market’s convivial atmosphere.
6. Venture out along the Danube
Head out into nature to witness the changing hues around the Danube Bend. Hailed as the most beautiful stretch of the entire Danube River, see its waters snake through the valley as its hills turn from green to chestnut brown. The charming, arty village of Szentendre at the foot of the Pilis Hills brims with quaint galleries and museums, while the Buda Hills offer endless scenic hiking trails.
7. Take a tram tour of the city
See the city’s autumnal colours by day or the magnificence of the Hungarian Parliament building’s twinkling illuminations after dark on the scenic Tram Number 2. It glides along the Pest side past plenty of sights worth seeing, including Buda Castle and the Danube’s famed bridges. From a comfortable—and very reasonable!—perch, take in the gorgeous architecture and discover the enchanting history of this sublime city.