City guide
12 off-beat urban winter escapes in Budapest
Photo : Sóker salt chamber

It’s winter! Brrrrr! But no need to worry. Around Budapest, there are any number of attractions where you can warm up, chill out and be entertained, either on your own, as a couple or with the whole family. From the panoramic hot tub atop Rudas bath to the Himalayan salt chamber of Sókert, not to mention a tropical palm house, a lesser-known Turkish spa and a century-old film palace, the Hungarian capital is awash with escape destinations when outside is cold and gloomy. Here we suggest a dozen of the best, all in the city center or an easy tram hop away.

Admire the Pest skyline from the rooftop tub of the Rudas Bath Discover exotic plants at a Botanical Garden Sip fine teas amid vintage treasures at Cydonia Enjoy an underground adventure at Pál-völgyi Caves Find breathing space at the Sóker salt chamber Cozy up at an arthouse cinema Read a book and get your caffeine fix at Kelet Café Visit the lesser-known Turkish bath of Veli Bej Visit tropical South America at the Palm House Enjoy a slow-paced dinner at Dobrumba Catch a hockey game at Tüskecsarnok Warm up with a cuppa at Zhao Zhou

Admire the Pest skyline from the rooftop tub of the Rudas Bath

Photo: László Balkányi / WLB

Rudas Bath stands as a historic landmark in an idyllic location. A swimming pool, several other heated tubs of varying temperatures up to 42°, and a sauna and steam cabin await inside. Rudas is especially popular because the new wellness wing is open until 10pm on weekdays, while on Friday and Saturday you can soak here between 10pm and 4am as well. The star attraction here is the rooftop panorama pool, where bathers can admire the entire Pest skyline while peacefully soaking away their worries.

Rudas Bath
  • 1013 Budapest, Döbrentei tér 9.

Discover exotic plants at a Botanical Garden

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi / WLB

A true gem close to Budapest’s city center, the botanical garden of the Eötvös Loránd University, called Füvészkert, lies hidden in the heart of District VIII a few steps away from Klinikák metro station. The botanical garden houses 8,000 different plant species and variants, while the garden’s Palm House is one of the oldest in the country, dating back to 1865, with a tropical atmosphere and a small pond inside. Here you can find various kinds of palm trees, as well as avocados, aloe vera, coffee, papaya, dragon fruit and bananas growing on various trees and plants. This garden is charming spot in any season, and was an important location in the famous Hungarian novel Paul Street Boys by Ferenc Molnár.

ELTE Füvészkert
  • 1083 Budapest, Illés utca 25.
  • Closes at 4pm between 1st of November and 31st of May.

Sip fine teas amid vintage treasures at Cydonia

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi / We Love Budapest

The Cydonia is a cozy place all year round, but in winter it becomes a real oasis for you to escape the gloom. Selective English leaf teas, homemade cakes, and the timeless atmosphere of the 1920s and 1930s help create a real home from home, the shelves lined with original relics from bygone eras. Cydonia is also a vintage boutique, the perfume bottles, velvet evening dresses and silk garments keeping with the tone and style of the establishment.

Cydonia Tearoom & Vintage
  • 1072 Budapest, Akácfa utca 37.

Enjoy an underground adventure at Pál-völgyi Caves

Photo: László Balkányi / WLB

Tucked up in District II, the show caves of Pál-völgy are a part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park and known for their beautiful stalagmite and stalactite formations. The Pál-völgyi Caves are easy to reach by bus 65 from Kolosy Square. Those looking for an introduction to caving in Budapest can enjoy an easy 45-minute tour of a smoothly paved cavern with permanent lighting. Braver visitors may don protective coveralls and headgear before joining highly trained caving guides who lead physically demanding three-hour expeditions into the natural crevasses and crannies of the cave system, starting on the other side of the canyon. More details

Pál-völgyi Cave
  • 1025 Budapest, Szépvölgyi út 162.
  • First tour: 10.15Last tour: 16.15For groups reservation is needed.

Find breathing space at the Sóker salt chamber

Photo: László Balkányi / We Love Budapest

Found just steps away from Andrássy Avenue, this subterranean refuge is lined with chunks and blocks of salt to offer a sedate urban escape from downtown bustle and to provide natural aid for respiratory problems. You can retreat to this underground cavern for a 60-minute therapy session or sign up for on-site yoga classes and even singing-bowl sessions, all surrounded by pink-hued Himalayan salt. As you do, the kids can play in an oversized salt box, set up near the lounge room.

Sóker Salt Cave and Green Turmix Bar
  • 1066 Budapest, Mozsár utca 7.

Cozy up at an arthouse cinema

Photo: We Love Budapest

Budapest may be a city of multiplex movie houses but you can still find the odd revered arthouse cinema where vintage and avant-garde films fill the agenda instead of Hollywood franchises. Even better, catch a midweek matinee and you’ll have most of the screening room to yourself – or yourselves, if you’re enjoying a cozy afternoon à deux. You can snuggle up out of the cold as a timeless black-and-white classic unfolds. Prime destinations include the historic Uránia National Film Theater, the Puskin and the Művész.

Read a book and get your caffeine fix at Kelet Café

Photo: László Balkányi / We Love Budapest

A homely hangout awaits tired travelers on Buda’s Bartók Béla Boulevard, allowing them to stop for a while and linger over a double latte. Customers come to Kelet Café to study, work on their laptops, gaze at street life through expansive windows or just read one of the books or magazines displayed on the shelves. On the menu, you find fine wines, artisanal beer and food inspired by Eastern cuisine. Cultural events are also regularly organized at this laidback locale.

Kelet Café and Gallery
  • 1114 Budapest, Bartók Béla út 29.

Visit the lesser-known Turkish bath of Veli Bej

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi / WLB

Budapest is world-famous for its thermal baths, but they can get pretty busy, even in winter. To experience peaceful recreation in naturally warm waters while avoiding rowdy crowds, Veli Bej is the perfect place. Its interior is a mixture of old and new styles. At the centerpiece is a traditional octagonal Turkish pool topped with a dome and surrounded by four small plunge pools of differing temperatures. In addition, a sauna with fresh ice, an infrared sauna, a steam room, leisure showers, a jacuzzi, a small swimming pool and a Kneipp-basin also await visitors. Veli Bej has no outdoor pools. Admission allows for three-hour visits, costing as little as 2,240 HUF on weekday mornings, rising to 2,800 HUF at weekends.

Veli Bej Bath
  • 1023 Budapest, Árpád fejedelem útja 7.
  • Cash desk closes: 11:00 and 20:00

Visit tropical South America at the Palm House

Photo: László Balkányi / We Love Budapest

Enveloped in icy silence, Budapest Zoo is a different proposition in winter. As a few adventurous pelicans battle with the slippery surface of the lake, on the shore the exotic Palm House beckons, still elegant under its modern-day guise as America Tropicana. Today showcasing both tropical plants and creatures from the American continent, the Palm House is home to spectacularly bright birds, alligators and baby geckos. Many visitors, happy to come in from the cold, first head for the aquarium downstairs, where a school of piranhas swim safely in unison within their own tank.

Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden
  • 1146 Budapest, Állatkerti körút 6-12.

Enjoy a slow-paced dinner at Dobrumba

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi / We Love Budapest

Inspired by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, this in-demand Budapest eatery entices guests to spend a leisurely night out in the heart of the city’s lively Jewish District. A selection of hot and cold mezze-style treats, including hummus tahini, salmon burek, gambas chorizo are all ideal accompaniments for gastronomic gatherings and romantic dates, dishes shared and enjoyed in a laid-back atmosphere. Dobrumba is one of the hottest restaurants right now in town and reserving a table is highly recommended.

DOBRUMBA
  • 1074 Budapest, Dob utca 5.
  • Reservations between 12 and 20 pm.

Catch a hockey game at Tüskecsarnok

Photo: MAC Budapest

Affordable and family-friendly, watching MAC Budapest is a fun evening out. With mulled wine, hot tea, draught beer and snacks available from the bar, you take your refreshment through to your comfortable spot close to the action and watch the hockey team of Budapest’s oldest sports association take on opposition from Hungary, Romania or Austria. Games take place regularly – although the season is drawing to a close, you can still catch the visits by DVTK Miskolc, the Vienna Capitals and Újpest on January 12th, 15th and 17th respectively. Check the schedule for further fixtures.

Warm up with a cuppa at Zhao Zhou

Photo: Norbert Juhász / We Love Budapest

Sourcing select tea specialties from far-flung Asian farms, Zhao Zhou near the Buda side of the Chain Bridge is a haven for those who to be warmed by aromatic leaves, some harvested from century-old trees. Tea comes served in tasteful pots, ideal for sharing for two or even three people. If you are unsure which type of tea to go with, an expert staff is there to help, while brews are also available for sampling before ordering. It’s an ideal locale for taking an afternoon break during city sightseeing in winter.

ZHAO ZHOU
  • 1013 Budapest, Lánchíd utca 5.