This post covers the top things to do in Budapest in January (updated for 2023), including nighttime activities, free things to do, and family-friendly options.
Be sure to read our master post on things to do in Budapest for even more ideas.
January is a great time to visit Budapest. While the weather is cold outside, there's plenty to do inside.
We've made a list below of the top 10 things to do in Budapest in January, with a variety of indoor and outdoor activities for you to enjoy.
1. Go Ice Skating
A huge open-air ice rink at City Park sees hundreds of people skating across the massive 12,000 square meter Varosligeti Ice Rink.
This is often called the oldest ice rink in Europe and is one that is backdropped against the beautiful Vajdahunyad Castle.
There are also cafes nearby, perfect for dipping into to warm up or grab a hot chocolate.
It's truly beautiful to experience and behold day or night.
For tickets and additional information, visit the City Park website.
If you want to experience a traditional Hungarian show or just hear some good-for-your-soul classical music, there is plenty of music to find in January.
A few of the shows on offer that month include:
- Organ Concert in St. Stephen's Basilica
- Classical Music Concert in St. Stephen's Basilica
- Classical Music Concert in Matthias Church
- Classical Music Concerts in St. Anne's Church
Meals with A Show
- Medieval Dinner Show
- Danube Cruise with Hungarian Dinner and Live Music
- Dinner Cruise with Operetta and Folk Show
Note that some of these shows book up quickly, so you'll want to purchase tickets as soon as dates open up.
3. Take a Walking Tour!
There's no better way to explore a new city than on foot!
Explore the history and stories of Budapest on a free walking tour.
And, in the video below, Zsuzsi from Budapest Personal Guide takes you on a virtual walk of the streets of Pest, one-half of Budapest.
You'll have expert local guides showing you around and teaching you things the guidebooks can't tell you. They are great for all ages!
For more family-friendly ideas, check out our things to do with kids section.
4. Visit the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts
Built between 1900-1906, the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts is in Heroes' Square and has over 100,000 pieces of art.
The art collection is made up of international art and is showcased in 6 departments: Egyptian, Antique, Old Sculpture Gallery, Old Master Paintings Gallery, Modern Collection, and Graphics Collection.
To learn more, click here.
5. Warm up in a Bath House
Budapest is well known for its bathhouses, even nicknamed the "City of Spas".
They're great places to enjoy a soak and warm up on a cold day!
There are a number of bathhouses around the city, and each one caters to different tastes and ailments you might have.
The most popular ones are:
Most bathhouse entry fees range from $10-$30 depending on the place and when you go.
6. Take in Some Magical Lights
Every night in January, the park on Margaret Island comes alive with millions of tiny fairy lights.
This holiday event, called Lumina Park (Illumination Park), is in Budapest for the first time, having traditionally taken place in Polish cities.
In the 2022-2023 season, you'll find all sorts of illuminated creatures such as dragons and elephants, as well as other light displays.
This festival of lights is open until late February 2023.
Hours are from sunset until 21:00 (9:00 pm), with the last entry at 20:00 (8:00 pm).
7. Attend an Opera
The Hungarian State Opera recently underwent a $30 million renovation which included the refining of her already impressive acoustics.
This neo-renaissance-style building was opened in 1894 and was at one point under the direction of Gustav Mahler.
It stands as one of the grandest buildings in Budapest.
A number of shows are on offer in January 2023, including The Nutcracker, Il Campanello, and Die Fledermaus.
A list of performances can be found here, and tickets can be purchased directly through the website.
If you'd just like to tour this amazing building, 60-minute tours are available in a number of languages and include a short concert.
Private tours are also on offer. Visit the website for more information.
8. View Works by Vaszary
A special exhibit of the works of Hungarian painter János Vaszary is taking place in January.
The Hungarian National Gallery, at Buda Castle, has 70 of Vaszary's paintings on display.
These include 24 works that have just recently been discovered hidden in drawers in a storage room of the museum.
After a thorough restoration, his colorful post-impressionist and sometimes dramatic paintings have been brought back to life.
It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see them hanging together in one space.
You can visit the exhibit until January 15th, 2023.
For more information, visit the Hungarian National Gallery's website.
Note that the Gallery is included on the Budapest Card discount pass so is then free to visit.
While you're on Buda Castle grounds, you might want to delve into the life of Harry Houdini.
Harry Houdini, the world's most well-known magician, was born in Budapest.
After immigrating to America with his family, where they lived in uncertainty and in great poverty, Houdini spent years building his repertoire.
He would eventually become one of the most famous men in the world.
This small museum, built by a Hungarian escape artist named Merlini, celebrates the life of Houdini.
It houses authentic memorabilia such as his straight jackets, handcuffs, letters, and more, and includes a 15-minute live magic show.
The price of tickets runs about $9 for adults and just over $6.00 for children (under age 11).
If you have the Budapest Card, other buildings in the complex are free.
10. Climb to the top of St. Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen's is a stunning basilica located in the center of Budapest.
It's the third-largest church in Hungary and one of its most important.
Guests often remark on the majesty of the neo-classical building's interior, with sculptures created using over 50 types of marble, along with relics, paintings, and stained glass.
A real treat is found when you climb the 364 spiral steps to the cupola.
Here you'll find one of the best viewing spots in Budapest, with the city laid out in all directions.
Outside the Basilica, during the winter, is one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe.
Entry is free, although a donation is suggested. For a guided tour of the site, visit here.
Nighttime is a great time for exploring Budapest.
With bars and after-dark activities, there's plenty to do around the city once the sun goes down.
Below are a few things to do in Budapest in January at night.
Enjoy the Night Life
There are a number of great bars and clubs to enjoy in Budapest.
Szimpla Kert is a kooky-atmosphere multi-level pub with a number of concerts every week.
With two courtyards and eight bars, Instant-Fogas is the biggest ruin bar in Budapest.
If you want a great view of the city, check out the 360 Bar, which features cocktails, an extensive wine list, and a rooftop igloo garden.
If the cold doesn't bother you, we recommend seeing the sunset from Gellért Hill.
There's a beautiful Garden of Philosophers on top, a peaceful place to see the sun go down.
If you're more of an early riser, you can also catch the sunset from there. It's a beautiful view of the city!
Late Night Bath Party
We mentioned some popular bathhouses to visit in the top 10 section above.
However, we want to highlight a cool thing that goes on in the Szechenyi Baths after dark on the weekends- bath parties!
At various times throughout the year, you can come out to enjoy the bathhouse after dark.
It will feature electronic music, drinks, laser lights, and more.
They are a great place to warm up hang out after dark and take place from 21:30 (9:30 pm) - 2 am.
Walk Along a Bridge
If you want a great view of the city, walk along the Széchenyi Chain Bridge connecting Buda and Pest.
It will be cold in January, so be sure to wrap up!
The view of the Danube is incredible at night and offers great photo opportunities of the city.
Budapest has plenty of free things to do!
A lot of the items we've listed in other sections like seeing the sunset from Gellért Hill are completely free to do!
Here are a few more free activities to do in Budapest in January.
Visit Great Market Hall
This indoor market is a great place to explore on a chilly day.
At over 100,000 square feet, Great Market Hall is Budapest's most expansive indoor market and is a great place to shop for food and souvenirs.
Shop meats, vegetables, desserts, and wines, and be sure to grab some paprika to take home!
They are open every day except Sunday.
Visit Heroes' Square
An iconic landmark in Budapest, Heroes' Square (Hősök Tere) is a must-see when visiting the city.
It features the Millenial Monument, which includes a 36-meter column on which is a statue of the angel Gabriel.
Around it are statues of notable men who made their mark on Hungarian history.
This is one of the most photographed places in Budapest!
Explore the Fisherman's Bastion
For one of the best views in the city, check out the Fisherman's Bastion.
It features Neo-Romanesque lookout terraces and is located right across the river from the Parlament Building, so you'll get a great view of that as well as the rest of the city.
It's free to visit, but if you want to explore the upper towers there is a charge.
Visit the Buda Castle Gardens
Buda Castle is a great place to stop on your visit to Budapest.
While there is an entrance cost, you can explore the grounds and gardens for free!
Although the garden is not in bloom this time of year, reviews from people who have visited in the winter say that the garden is a peaceful and impressive place to explore and relax in.
Budapest is super family-friendly!
There are so many things to do, there is sure to be something to fit everyone's tastes.
A few activities we've listed above are also kid-friendly so be sure to read through the other sections for more ideas.
Visit the Zoo
Budapest Zoo, which not long ago celebrated its 150th anniversary is home to over 9,000 animals.
You can easily spend a full day here visiting sloths, pandas, and other furry and not-so-furry creatures.
There are activities as well to keep children including the feeding of giraffes and a seal show.
If architecture is your passion, you might enjoy the Art Nouveau design of some of its buildings, particularly the main entrance and the elephant house.
Visit the Parliament Building
The Parliament Building is an iconic landmark in Budapest.
It's impressive from the outside and beautiful inside. January is the perfect month to take a tour of it!
Included with the purchase of a ticket is a 50-minute guided tour of the building.
There are family tickets on offer, and children under the age of 6 can visit for free.
To purchase tickets and learn more, click here.
Visit the Puppet Theater
The Budapest Puppet Theatre is one of the largest puppet Theatres in Central Europe and has been around since 1947.
The puppet theater is a great experience for children and adults alike, with performances written by Hungarian and foreign writers as well.
You will enjoy an incredible display of puppets and beautiful music for both folk story-type shows and more contemporary productions.
For a list of shows and ticket information, visit the Budapest Puppet Theater website here.
Visit the Palace of Miracles
The Csodák Palotája, or Palace of Miracles, is a really cool, interactive museum that gets kids of all ages to participate in experiments!
Their mission is to get kids to learn about the world and science in fun, relatable ways.
There are themed exhibits each month so there's something new to see no matter when you come.
This is a great indoor activity to enjoy on a chilly January day!
To learn more, click here.