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Cruises, spas, and urban adventures – A perfect winter's day in Budapest

We smell snow for this week, which is bound to make your stay in Budapest even more magical. If you've been wondering how to get the most out of your time in the Hungarian capital this time of the year, we have some ideas. We've put together an experience-packed 10-stop 'adventure tour' for you if you're looking to do some urban rambling before Christmas. The list is full of exciting places and ideas, and it's also a good way to just browse through it, not necessarily to do it all in one go. You're in for a special Asian dinner, a cruise, a stroll around the City Park and Naphegy, skating, exhibitions, and delicious breakfasts.

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But first, breakfast!

There is no better way to start a day than with a hearty breakfast, especially when you are on holiday. So first things first, it is time to find a breakfast spot. There are plenty of inviting cafés in Budapest, so you'll definitely find one you like anywhere in the city. Once you've stepped out of the warmth of your hotel or apartment, try Franziska's delicacies or the hidden gem of the Palace District, the Aranypinty, where you can sip your morning coffee from clinking lead crystal and porcelain cups. For more festive vibes, head to the posh Edison & Jupiter for a brioche bun for brunch. If you're feeling a bit pickier, this article features some great breakfast and brunch spots where you can get into the Christmas spirit and can even have champagne with your breakfast.

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Take a stroll in the City Park

After a nice breakfast and some rest, you'll surely enjoy a walk, and why not do it in the No. 1 public park in Budapest, and even in the world? The City Park is not only a great place to enjoy in the spring, but also an ideal walking spot on winter days. To get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, wander along the various paths. Make sure to visit the Vajdahunyad Castle and the House of the Hungarian Millennium on the way. While you're there, it's worth walking to the top of the Museum of Ethnography to see the rooftop garden and get a fascinating panorama of the city and the Buda hills. And if you like heights, try the Balloon Viewpoint, where you can admire Budapest from a 150-metres height.

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Plunge into El Greco's world

This year, we saw some great exhibitions around the city, including paintings by Bosch, Matisse, Cézanne, and János Vaszary. But we are still spoiled with the work of world-class artists: The Museum of Fine Arts's temporary exhibition now features over half a hundred paintings by the Crete-born El Greco. Having painted mostly biblical subjects, portraits, and altarpieces, all of his works are permeated by a strange, mystical aura. In fact, admiring some of his paintings, they seem so expressive that you can feel the figures come to life, move or look into your soul. The exhibition includes not only the well-known El Greco paintings but also two of his works that had never been moved from their original locations before.

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Glide on the City Park Ice Rink

If you're looking for some active leisure, which also happens to be an iconic winter adventure, grab your skates and take a few laps around the City Park Ice Rink. The rink was established in 1869, originally built as a small hall designed by Ödön Lechner, which was later demolished and replaced by the neo-Baroque main building you can still see today. It's a real treat to skate in such a beautiful setting, not only because you're gliding past a palace-like building, but also because you can admire the Vajdahunyad Castle.

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Get something unique at a second-hand store

Shopping in a second-hand store is like a treasure hunt. No matter which shop you choose, you will leave with a piece of clothing or accessory (or more) that has value and history. And chances are that you won't see it on anyone else. Sure, sometimes it can be tiring to push hangers and browse, but it's worth it, because where else can you get an original '30s outfit or a pair of Wesco boots? Larger shops might surprise you, but we suggest you try the smaller and often more exciting ones – just like Franc.

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Hot drinks and festive vibes on the board of Duna Cruises

A sightseeing day can be stressful, even if it's full of great experiences and things to explore, so it's nice to stop for a while and let the moments settle in. A boat tour by Duna Cruises is a great choice to wind down from the more active part of the tour. It's also nice to warm up on board on a colder day while sipping holiday drinks and enjoying the beautifully lit Budapest. The elegant interior offers comfortable seating, an exclusive onboard bar, table service, and unique winter drinks such as mulled wine based on their special recipe, white hot chocolate with gingerbread flavouring, apple punch, and specialty drinks such as Cinnamon Bourbon. (x)

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Wander among the villas of Naphegy

An adventure on the Gellért Hill would be an obvious choice, but we think it can be just as exciting to explore the hills of Naphegy. There are plenty of turn-of-the-century and modern villas here, and you'll even find a German-style house that might as well be in an Alpine village. In the early 20th century, it was the home of many famous artists and celebrities, such as Béla Balázs, Margit Kaffka, Józsi Jenő Tersánszky and sculptor László Marton.

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Take a walk through the winding streets of the Castle District

The Castle District is a place we visit relatively rarely, even as Budapesters, but it's full of hidden corners and romantic little streets that are great to explore. We strongly recommend that you approach the area from the stairs leading up from Víziváros, say, the Ilona Stairs, because you'll get a wonderful panorama and view of buildings. And you'll also get to explore a non-touristy garden hidden from the public. And once you get to the top of the stairs, it's worth meandering among the colourful medieval and Baroque houses, where you can feel like you're walking through a colourful painting come to life.

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How about supper at Badhanna?

Once you've taken your fair share of walking and taken in all the sights you can, top off the day with a trip to Badhanna, which is like taking a trip to exotic Asia. A fusion bar and restaurant that evokes Hong Kong's dark alleyways and bars, where you can sample food and drink specialties from Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, and China. It brings together the laid-back seaside vibe and the bustle of a cosmopolitan city. The varied textures are reminiscent of the progressive Asian street food, so do try a variety of dishes and drinks in Far Eastern style and dare to indulge in comforting or even surprising flavours. In addition to the dishes, the interior is also a journey to mystical Asia, with details and furnishings that give the place an authentic feel. You can dance to the hottest house and funky tunes after Friday and Saturday dinner, sipping delicious cocktails from 11 pm, to leave the dull weekdays behind. (x)

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Relax & unwind after a long day at Rudas Baths

If you have reached the end of our list and completed at least some of the adventures, well done. Now you deserve a break to recharge, and there is no better place for it than a spa. One of our favourite ones is Rudas Baths, the oldest thermal bath in Budapest (although its spa section was only built at the end of the 19th century). It's just a few steps from the cliffs of Gellért Hill and fed by 21 hot springs nearby. The eight-column hall is made even more magnificent by the coloured glass windows in the dome, which, when the sun shines through, colour the pool water at noon. Make sure to try the panoramic Jacuzzi on the roof!

Cimkék

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