Best Time to Visit Hungary
Short Answer: March through mid-November
Longer Answer: If you are visiting Budapest, then I’d say anytime of the year will be a good time to visit although I’d avoid summer personally.
If you visit Budapest in January and February, it can be cold but you’ll have less tourist mobs. This is generally true in most of the northern hemisphere but in a touristy city like Budapest, maybe it has more benefit. As you get closer towards April, the weather will start to warm up and plants will start to bloom. Sometime in May the rain picks up through the summer.
However, May into early-June are nice times to visit before more tourists appear and while the weather is quite nice. July can be hot, with tourism is full swing, and the locals may leave on vacation. August can also be hot and deemed high season for tourism.
September and October are great times to visit Hungary. November is nice especially if you shoot for the earlier half. December is good if you want to visit the Christmas festivities/markets. Personally I favour September through November, and December if you want some of the Christmas festivity which is nice.
Some other areas, such as the Balaton, a big lake on the western side of Hungary, is best in the warmer months.
Most of the large towns and small cities you find yourself in will have Christmas markets of some size. I prefer the ones outside of Budapest. They all seem to run during December.
The Christmas Markets I’ve visited in Budapest have a much more manufactured feel to them. Those in places like Debrecen and Pecs don’t feel as put on. The latter are definitely more local feeling which is very welcome.
Miscellaneous Travel Tips for Hungary
I used to really appreciate the interior design of the restaurants and bars in Budapest. The ruin pubs, and the laid back feel, were really cool as well. However, since my first visit over a decade ago, a lot in Budapest feels super touristy and artificial. It feels like the city, at least the downtown area, lacks an identity. My thought it perhaps the surge of money and investment has replaced much of the cool, individually operated spots with “investor” concepts, perhaps of foreign origin. And similarly, the ruin pubs feel like just a tourist crank to me now.
There are still cool spots, of course, but you aren’t generally going to stumble into them as easy as you used to. Even in the touristy neighborhood, there are some cool spots. But if you are looking for a “Hungarian” experience, my suggestion is to leave Budapest, or if you can’t, to get outside in the outer neighborhoods of Budapest.
Note that you used to be able to get to Hungary by train from Belgrade except now (as of 2021) it is under construction for a while as the Serbians have taken a Chinese loan to re-do the tracks. As such, it is not nearly as easy as it was.
Train travel is quite good in Hungary and tickets are cheaper if you book them online (www.mavcsoport.hu/en) versus at the station.
Some good things to buy in Hungary are the salamis, cheeses, wines and pepper-related products such as paprika, pepper paste and crushed pepper. The salami and sausage can be fun. You may also find some woodcrafts, like cutting boards, and other such things at the Christmas markets.
If you want a more traditional environment to buy products, skip the shopping malls & supermarkets and seek out milkstores (tejbolt), butchers and so forth. An all in one method is to find the “piac” or market where sellers come to sell produce, meats, cheeses, etc. This would be the same idea as the Market Hall in Budapest, but at a much more local level.
As far as where in Hungary to go? There are several wine regions which you can visit. One such town that might appeal is Eger. Also, you can head to the Balaton region which has wine and scenery. I liked the city/town of Pecs in southern Hungary for its architecture although I can’t say the people were very nice. Debrecen was not very interesting to me, although at least it wasn’t touristy. It did have a nice Christmas market.
My social interactions in Hungary have been less than what you’d find in more friendly countries. Isolation and a feeling of being unwelcome do present themselves to me more than I’d prefer in Hungary, but that hasn’t detracted from finding good things to eat and fun things to do.
It has beautiful countryside, very nice architecture and some interesting food and wine. It is easy to get around and generally makes for a nice country to visit.
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