Just east of the Alps, Hungary has freezing cold weather hovering near -1 degrees with snow and sleet. When the weather warms up a bit in March, the snow turns into rain. The summers are sunny and warm and occasionally humid.
When to fly to Hungary
Peak season at Lake Balaton and most of the countryside is the summer months, June through August. The weather is usually good.
Budapest is a year-round destination, despite cold temperatures in the winter. There is a plethora of attractions to be visited inside, and the city is picturesque in the snow.
Outside Budapest, there is little tourism in the winter months. Some find off-season Balaton more appealing than it is in peak season as the cold months see various winter activities taking place on the lake, such as ice swimming. Hungary flights and accommodation are likely to be cheaper during the winter months.
Getting around Hungary
Both in the main cities and through the countryside, transport is excellent. In Budapest there is a choice of underground trains, trams or buses. Taxis are relatively cheap.
The bus service throughout Budapest is very extensive. There are long-distance buses or short route town-to-town services. Both are cheap, easy to use and relatively fast.
The rail service is good, though the network does not cover as much space as the bus network. If you’re planning on travelling a long way by rail, buy a pass which saves a lot of money on individual tickets.
Hungary insider information
- Eger has two main draws for the tourist: its spectacular 13th-century castle and the finest red wine in Hungary, Egri Bikaver (Eger Bull’s Blood). After touring the castle, take some time to sample the wine. You can buy it from all restaurants in town, but more fun is to visit one of the many cellars that sells wine direct from barrels. Take along an old bottle and have it filled up, or just a buy a jug to drink then and there. Prices are low, so it shouldn’t set you back more than a couple of euros.
- Lake Balaton’s popularity with foreigners has grown in recent years, thanks to new routes opening from low-cost airlines. The lake is the largest in Central Europe, often referred to as the Hungarian sea and its shores are lined with beaches and resorts as you would expect on an actual coastline. The surrounding area, however, provides a bit more culture than you might expect at beach towns. Take a day trip to visit ruined castles, such as Szigliget, the Abbey at Tihaney and its hermit’s caves or the nearby Kali Basin and Lake Heviz’s thermal spas.
- Budapest has enough to keep any culture vulture busy for weeks. After admiring the museums, relaxing in one of the thermal baths, visiting Buda Castle and climbing Gellert Hill, use the evenings to explore the city’s nightlife. The restaurants and bars in Budapest are legendary. From the amusingly named “Fatal Restaurant” (where the food is actually exquisite and very healthy) to the many jazz clubs, there is food, drink and good times throughout the city every evening.
- Hungarian food is far from delicate and many visitors expect to overwhelmed by stodge and cabbage. In fact, the food, though “hearty”, is often delicately flavoured. Meat is still the primary focus of most meals, and vegetarians may struggle to find dishes on the menu. Try pheasant stew, dumplings, goose, goulash, salami or anything cooked in the ubiquitous paprika for a flavour of the country.
- 15 March is National Day in Hungary, to commemorate the 1848 revolution. Festivities take place throughout the country, many of the largest taking place in its capital. Celebrated since 1860, this is an event worth seeing.