I’m a big fan of Budapest, and know from personal experience it’s a magical winter break destination. The kind of city you could fall in love with in just a couple of days, here are my top tips for a short break in Budapest…
1. Take in the views from St Stephen’s
Budapest’s St. Stephen’s Basilica is seriously impressive. Towering over the city, a stone’s throw from the commercial city centre, the most distinctive feature of the church is its striking Dome – tremendous and imposing from the outside, beautiful and intricate on the inside. St Stephen’s gets even more breath-taking when you scale the many (many, many) steps to Dome-level – the stunning cityscape is well worth the trip!
2. See the Parliament Building inside and out
Inside, outside, by day, by night… the Hungarian Parliament building is awe-inspiring. Once you’ve had the tour, be sure to walk around the back to get a full 360 degree view of the place too. Inspired by the British Parliament, its dreaming spires are gorgeously Gothic – try to see it every which way on your short break in Budapest!
3. Go ice skating at Vajdahunyad Castle
Home to a family-friendly Zoo, Botanical Gardens and the ever-popular Széchenyi thermal baths, Budapest’s city park is a lovely place to spend the day. During winter though there’s just one must-do activity here – ice skating! With a huge rink to speed around (or, ahem, slide around tentatively), it’s an utterly charming way to spend a morning on your winter break in Budapest.
4. Go souvenir shopping at the Great Market Hall
There are some big and pretty impressive shopping malls right across Budapest, but the city’s Great Market Hall is the only place to be for a more authentically Hungarian experience. Whilst the ground floor is worth exploring for its delicious local delicacies, upstairs is fit to bursting with gift stalls. Get souvenirs aplenty from here.
5. Walk the banks of the Danube by night
This majestic river comes alive at night, lit gold by the illuminated buildings and sights that line its banks. As the night draws in, be sure to stroll up the Danube – the iconic Chain Bridge, Buda Castle and the Parliament Building are never more beautiful.
6. Enjoy a night at the Opera
During the wintertime, there’s a great programme of shows with something on stage more or less every night. A large translation board above the stage makes the shows easy to follow, and the atmosphere is far from stuffy despite the excellent quality of performances. Tickets are cheap too – you can get a decent view for under €15. Not to be missed.
7. Try a warming Goulash, Hungarian style
There’s nothing nicer on a winter’s night – strong, simple, flavoursome food is a Hungarian speciality, and nothing’s simpler or more special than a good Goulash. I had one at highly-rated restaurant Kiado Kocsma, right around the corner from the Opera House – friendly, inviting and really good value for money, it’s a great choice.
Planning your own trip to Budapest? Have your own tips? Tell us in the comments section below!