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Visiting Budapest in January

A complete survival guide to visiting Budapest in January. Includes Budapest in January weather, things to do in Budapest in January, and what to pack for Budapest in January.
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What to Expect in Budapest in January

When we moved to Budapest in 2017, we arrived in early January. Arriving in Budapest during an extreme cold snap – even the Danube was frozen – we got a first-hand look at what to expect in Budapest in winter.

Budapesters hustled from place to place, doing their best not to spend much time outside. Cozy indoor pubs, restaurants, and cafés filled up as people looked for spots to meet friends, escape the cold, and generally break the boredom of being stuck inside for a week at a time. And tourists braving the cold kept warm with cups of hot chocolate and forralt bor, Hungary’s version of hot spiced wine.

Thankfully, the cold snaps that winter never lasted too long – a week, at the most. They’d be followed up with more typical temperatures for Budapest in January, with highs and lows both hovering within a few degrees of 0°C. And we haven’t experienced a winter like that in Budapest since. The subsequent two Januaries we’ve lived in Budapest haven’t been nearly as cold, with temperatures dipping below zero °C, but not by much.

Is January a Good Time to Visit Budapest?

Typically, January in Budapest can be a bit dreary, but not unbearably cold. There’s a fair share of overcast, grey days, along with some where you’ll get brilliant blue skies. Toward the end of January, it’s not uncommon for mother nature to throw Budapesters a bit of a bone, reminding everyone that spring is just around the corner with a few sunny, mild days.

In that regard, Budapest in January is a bit of a funny beast. You’re just as likely to need sunglasses as you are an umbrella and good winter boots. The reward for this uncertainty is a city that you won’t have to share very much. January isn’t a particularly busy time to visit Budapest, and you’re unlikely to have to deal with crowds and queues. Add to that, you can probably find yourself a fairly good flight deal and hotel deal at this time of year.

Weather in Budapest in January

Budapest in January Weather Quick Facts

What is the Average Temperature in Budapest in January<

Average highs of 1°C / 34°F and average lows of -3°C / 27°F

How Much Does it Rain in Budapest in January?

January generally sees an average of 40 mm of rain or snow (1.57 inches) spread across 11 days. It’s not the rainiest month to visit Budapest, but it’s unlikely to be bone dry either. As the calendar ticks along, the chance of rain and snow decreases. Generally speaking, the beginning of January is wetter than the end of January. You’d do well to pack a good travel umbrella, rain coat, and waterproof footwear.

Will it snow in Budapest in January?

It’s not uncommon to get a but of snow in Budapest in January. For the past several years, Budapest has gotten a dusting of snow at this time of year. It’s rarely enough to disrupt city life, and looks very pretty. As long as you’re prepared with a pair of good winter boots, you should be fine!

Book Your Trip to Budapest

Save Money in Budapest

The Budapest Card includes free, unlimited public transportation for the duration of the card, and is available as a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5-day card. In addition to free public transport, the card includes free entry to many museums, a complimentary tour, discounts throughout the city, and more. Click for prices and details.

Book Your Flight to Budapest

CheapOair is our current favorite when it comes to searching for flight deals. It’s a meta aggregator, and will find the best deals and routes for you by searching airline websites and other aggregators.

Book Your Budapest Hotel in Advance

We use Booking.com when making hotel reservations in Europe. In our experience, it has the best inventory/selection of hotels and holiday apartments, and we’ve had good experiences with their customer service team when things go wrong (which has been a rarity for us, thank goodness!). TripAdvisor is also trying to get into the hotel booking game, and may be worth checking out.

Skip the Line in Budapest

Budapest is getting busier by the year, meaning you should expect to wait in line at the most popular attractions, especially in high season. If you only have a short vacation, consider getting a Skip-the-Line ticket for the most popular attractions: The Great SynagogueSzéchenyi Thermal Baths, and the Parliament. If you want to visit the interior of the Parliament, you have to pre-book. You can either use an international tour aggregator like Get Your Guide or use the Hungarian website Jegymester.hu.

Book Your Budapest Tour

We tend to book tours via an aggregator like Get Your Guide (a company out of Berlin with great selection of tours in Europe, in particular) or Viator (a TripAdvisor company).

Why use an aggregator instead of going direct? Personally, we like to compare the different tours available for each attraction, as well as read reviews. Both Get Your Guide and Viator let us see multiple, similar tours, and compare prices and past reviews before making a booking.

Getting from Budapest Airport to the City Center

Budapest’s public transportation system is generally excellent, and this extends to the airport. For a detailed post about getting from Budapest Airport to  the City Center via public transit, shared shuttle, or airport taxi, read our guide here.

If you’re arriving late at night, coming in on a long-haul and expect to be exhausted, or would rather have the peace of mind of a private transfer, you can book one here. 

Buy Travel Insurance (Just in Case)

We can’t actually  recommend a travel insurance provider. Apparently it’s against the law.

However, we can say this: we know several people who racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses during separate, life-or-death situations while traveling. They were both insured by Allianz, they both received life-saving care, and they both made a successful claim.

No one wants to need travel insurance, but you’ll certainly be glad you have it if something goes wrong. And if something does go wrong in Budapest, we personally go to FirstMed for our healthcare. Staff and doctors speak English.

Make Restaurant Reservations in Advance

If you visit Budapest in winter, you’ll probably be okay if you don’t make restaurant reservations, although we’d still recommend you reserve in advance Thursday to Saturday evenings where possible.

In summer, things fill up pretty quickly, although capacity at many restaurants increases when the city’s terraces open, usually sometime in May. It’s worth noting Budapest’s restaurants are all non-smoking inside, but get quite smoky on the terraces.

What to Do in Budapest in January?

Things to do in Budapest in January

For a complete list of things to do in Budapest in winter, read our Winter in Budapest guide.

For specific things to do in Budapest in January, check out our list below:

Christmas Markets generally close January 1, so if you’re in Budapest at the start of the month, you can catch the tail end of them.

The Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra gives an annual New Year’s concert sometime in the first week of January. 2020 dates have yet to be announced.

The Budapest Christmas Trams usually run into the first week of January, so if you arrive early in the year, you’ll be able to catch the tram!

Outdoor ice skating in City Park continues through January and is a fun way to spend a morning or evening outdoors.

There’s a mobile pop-up sauna appears each January near the end of Rákóczi Bridge. It’s organized by non-profit organisation Valyo. The wood-fired sauna sits in an old minivan. You can book online here.

Budapest always has something going on, and there are typically some interesting food and drink festivals every month as well.

What to Wear in Budapest in January

If you’re wondering how to dress in Budapest in January, think warmth and layers. Pack layers so you can adjust your wardrobe based on the weather and shifting temperatures from day to day.

One important tip I have is to bring winter boots with good grip on the bottom. Unfortunately, there are lots of slippery spots on the sidewalks/pavement in Budapest, and icy patches build up quickly. You’ll want to be sure your footwear keeps you safe and warm.

Beyond that, I recommend you pack the following for a January trip to Budapest:

  • A lightweight and sturdy travel umbrella for rainy days
  • A mid-length winter coat that will keep your core, bum, and thighs warm. Ideally, it will be waterproof or water-resistant and good at keeping out wind.
  • Breathable base layers, such as merino wool tights and undershirts.
  • Warm socks.
  • A great winter hat and gloves.

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