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How to spend the perfect winter’s day in Budapest

Writers

  • Zsanett Fürdős

05/01/2022 10.00am

If you’re here this winter and not sure how to best spend the day, here are ten great suggestions for what to do when it’s chilly outside but cosy indoors.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Start the day at the Aranypinty

1/10

The Palace Quarter behind the National Museum is an attrative part of town all year round, with plenty of cafés worth popping into for a warming snack or mid-morning coffee. The Aranypinty on Puskin utca is one such place. After breakfast amid the Herend and Zsolnay porcelain, surrounded by French chansons, you can head to your next destination.

Photo: Juhász Norbert - We Love Budapest

Browse for secondhand books

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Opposite the National Museum, a row of secondhand bookshops offers treasure a-plenty. Not just books, including many publications in English, but also maps, vintage posters, postcards, drawings and prints. Each boutique feels cosy and lived-in, overseen by helpful staff. Even if you’re looking for nothing in particular, it’s a great way to kill an hour out of the winter cold.

Photo: Bódis Krisztián - We Love Budapest

Admire the Ervin Szabó Library

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Another bookish attraction in the vicinity is the Ervin Szabó Library close to Kálvin tér. It’s housed in the Neo-Baroque Wenckheim Palace, built in the late 1880s, students from the faculties nearby poring over sturdy editions beneath chandeliers in beautiful reading rooms. No wonder it has doubled up as a set for several film shoots. If you don’t have a reader’s ticket, don’t despair, because there are also visitor’s tickets.

Photo: Juhász Norbert - We Love Budapest

Stroll in City Park

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Now replete and ready for the day, you’ll be up for a stroll, and where better than expansive City Park behind Heroes’ Square. Brimming with new attractions such as the House of Hungarian Music opening to the public from late January, Budapest’s most popular green getaway offers an atmospheric ice rink in winter alongside age-old favourites such as the Zoo, Vajdahunyad Castle and the Széchenyi Baths.

Photo: Bódis Krisztián - We Love Budapest

Soak at the Széchenyi Baths

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After your stroll, you’ve earned a couple of hours at the Széchenyi Baths, Budapest’s biggest and most ornate spa. Győző Czigler conceived the Classicist and Neo-Renaissance design for the largest spa complex in Europe in the late 1800s. You can dips in 11 pools, indoor and outdoor, of varying temperatures, but there are also steam rooms, saunas, plunge pools and relaxation areas.

Photo: Mudra László - We Love Budapest

Visit the Museum of Fine Arts

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If you opt for culture over the spa, there’s plenty to see at the Museum of Fine Arts alongside Heroes’ Square. Currently two exhibitions merit a visit. This week, it’s your last chance to see Discovery of the Pharaoh’s Tomb, showcasing unique treasures from Ancient Egypt and the story of the French archaeologist who found them in 1898. The show closes on 9 January. Under the same roof, until 13 February, is the exhibition From Cézanne to Malevich, exploring the relationship between the Post-Impressionist artist and the French Avant-Garde of the early 1900s.

Photo: Major Kata - We Love Budapest

Take tea in luxury

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If you’re here for a winter weekend, it’s worth booking a tea party at the exquisite cocktail bar at the high-end Gresham Palace hotel, Múzsa. For one afternoon only, you can feel like royalty amid the Art-Nouveau splendour, where the turquoise mosaics, stained-glass windows and atmosphere evoke the elegance of the early 1900s.

Photo: Dorka Bartha

Discover the villas of Gellért Hill

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For a winter walk with a difference, Gellért Hill is dotted with beautiful villas, hiding behind rich foliage all year round, except during winter, of course. This is when the Neo-Baroque façades of the former bourgeoisie become visible. Many also have fascinating histories, such as the exact replica of a Genoese place on Orom utca and the villa on Berc utca where the main commander of the Waffen SS in Budapest lived during World War II.

Photo: Normafa Síház / Pap Dávid

Relax at the Normafa Ski House

9/10

Where better to end a winter wander than at the Normafa Ski House, imbued with the atmosphere of an Alpine chalet, where you can warm body and soul with a hot drink in your hands. As much as you might love the bustling city, a forest walk high above it and the silence around it always provide peace and quiet. This is why Budapest is such a great place, because you don’t have to go too far to be in nature. Normafa, of course, shows its true charm when covered in soft snow, so here’s hoping for a few flurries this winter to build a snowman, go sledging or fashion the perfect snowball. Between sleigh rides, head to the Ski House for friendly conversation over mulled wine, mingling or finding your favourite winter read on the communal bookshelf. (x)

Photo: Csudai Sándor - We Love Budapest

...or at secret cocktail bar, The Duchess

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While rooftop bars and cocktails are more of a summer pastime, in winter you can enjoy a much more magical view of the city bathed in light. The cocktail bar at the top of the Matild Palace awaits with delicious snacks and wonderful cocktails even in the colder months – just follow the key logo after you enter the hotel to find your way to The Duchess. It’s a whole adventure where you’ll forget that you’re in the heart of town as you bask in the 360-degree panorama, sample the special taste of festive cocktails and indulge in majestic relaxation. (x)

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