We visited Budapest in December and one thing is for certain, it is very cold. When we arrived it was very foggy and continued to be for the next day. So December definitely isn’t guaranteed for weather. Once the fog cleared it unveiled a beautiful city.
On the first day we took a tour of the city while it was still foggy, this was good to get your bearings and see the highlights of the city. If you are stuck for time then a tour of the city will show you all the important bits you need to see.
The tour guide explained that there are two sides to the city. Buda, on the West side of the river is the hilly more historical side with the palace and Castle. Pest is on the east side of the river, it has newer buildings and is flatter. It houses parliament.
On the second day we decided to explore ourselves. It was great to discover all the back streets and also see all the highlights of the tour once the fog had cleared. One of our favourite sites was Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side.
There are great eateries in the Jewish district on the Pest side.
We found a place called Cafe Vien, they have an extensive cocktail menu, and they do a great old fashioned. And the chocolate fondant dessert was AMAZING!
For a bit of a pricier night, there was a steakhouse called La Pampa. They serve a wide selection of wines including some Hungarian wines too. This place is definitely one to get dressed up for.
Right near to the main train station was a restaurant called Sir Lancelot. Inside is decorated like an old castle with coats of armour and waiters and waitresses in medieval style dress. The tables are long benches, drinks come served in goblets and food comes on a giant platter to be shared and eaten with your fingers with scantily clad women dancing in the aisles. One word of warning to keep in mind is you are not necessarily guaranteed your own table, you may have to share with a stranger. Definitely an experience though!
A river cruise at night shows off the city beautifully. You can marvel at all the buildings lit up whilst enjoying a cocktail or two.
Budapest is home to some of the largest hot spring baths. We treated ourselves to a massage in the Szechenyi baths. Within the baths there are multiple difference bathing areas ranging from outdoor heated baths to indoor whirlpools. Hours can be spent relaxing in there. A word of advice though, take flip flops or sandals, the floor is very cold! You can hire towels and buy swimwear at the baths so worry not if you don’t have a towel with you.
As we went around Christmas there were festive markets on whilst we were there. Offering mulled wine to warm up and festive food as well as souvenirs to take home.
Just outside of the city is a shooting range. Unlike most of Europe, firing a gun is allowed in regulated ranges. You can choose from just shooting a basic pistol or select guns such as the desert eagle, Moisin Nagant, Dragunov sniper rifle and ak47.
Also just outside the city are some pretty awesome caves. You have to be relatively fit to do it as it does require crawling and squeezing through tight spaces. But don’t get me wrong, I managed it and I haven’t been to the gym in years! Caving was our favourite activity while in Budapest. The tour guide was so knowledgeable and made the whole trip fun whilst very safe.
From speaking to locals the best time to visit is September or October as the heat of summer has calmed but it is still sunny and warm. However the magic of Christmas certainly does have special effect on the city.