What to Pack for Budapest: A Guide for Every Season

Bennett Collins

Budapest, and Hungary at large, aren’t as stuffy as their Western European counterparts in keeping up with the latest fashion trends. You can certainly get away with a smart casual look and blend in easily.

Oh Budapest, you’re so underrated.

Everyone loves to compare you to your sister city down the Danube – Vienna. Why can’t they just take you as you are?

Budapest so many Roman ruins that they put bars in them and more hot springs than any city in Europe. A post-Soviet grit that make Berlin hipsters swoon juxtaposed with a royal European Baroque beauty that makes American retirees sprint off their Viking river cruises, cameras in hand. In terms of style, comfort trumps latest fashion trend.  It’s a wonder that I haven’t just picked up and moved there… yet.

Yes, ladies and gents, Budapest is a treasure; one that I just discovered recently. I can’t praise the city enough because, everything about this city, its history, language, and its people, are so different.

When it comes to blending in fashionably, I’ll just say that it doesn’t take as much effort as in other Western European cities. Nevertheless, there are still some fashionable and practical tips to follow in Hungary’s largest city. 

What to Wear in Budapest vs. the rest of Hungary: A Summary

As in Vienna, there are two worlds in this central European country: Budapest and the rest of Hungary. One thing they certainly have in common: jeans. You can get away with jeans most places anytime of the year. At the same time, leave the sweatpants and shorts at home (unless you’re hiking). 

In general Budapest asks for a more semi-formal, or smart casual outfit. Budapestians seem to look to Vienna, Paris, and London for fashion inspiration. The city certainly does not have the Viennese death stare or Parisian eye roll if you stand out as a tourist, but there is a thin veil of coldness, which shouldn’t be mistaken as judgement. It just takes a greeting or conversation to get people to open up. As opposed to dressing down for the rest of Hungary, I like to keep things smart casual no matter where I go just in case.

Shoes

Hungary is an old country and Budapest is an old city, and it’s no secret that a lot of infrastructure needs updating. Not to mention, there are cobblestone streets galore. In other words, bring comfortable shoes. In Budapest, a pair of well-polished ankle or shin-length leather boots will do the trick and help you fit right in. If you’re opting for more color, a pair of good Vans or brand sneakers are also widely seen on 20 and 30 somethings.

Swimwear

Collectively, Hungary and Budapest have 450 thermal baths. If you are inclined to go to one of the mixed gender or single gender spas or saunas, you should definitely bring your own swimwear, towel, and flip flops (I never trust the hygiene behind public flip flops). At most thermal baths towels, flip flops, bathrobes and other bathing acoutrements can be rented.

For men, a pair of swim trunks are completely fine and quite common. However don’t be surprised that the crowds at the baths around Budapest are sporting their speedos. For women, one-piece or two-piece swimsuits are both common. During the summer, the swimwear for both sexes can be pretty brief even by European standards. 

Basic Budapest Packing List

What to Pack for Budapest in Summer

Hungary deals with a continental and arid climate. However, you’d never think the country was arid in the first half of summer, which can be laden with thunderstorms.

Be prepared to bring an umbrella and/or raincoat, particularly during the months of May and June. The temperatures will stay high so, while there’s no need pack too many warm clothes, it’s smart to leave dresses and summer lounging gear at home.

From July to August when temperatures stay high and the rain lessens, it’s the time to get out the sun dresses, lighter pants, shirts, and blouses.

 

What to Pack for Budapest in Autumn

The first half of autumn is, by far, the best time to visit Budapest. Less rainy than the summer months long sunny days stretch out between September and October. This means you can continue wearing summer wear as long as the temperatures permit.

Start thinking about breaking out some light pullovers and cardigans as you creep into October.

Once November comes, it’s time to break out the umbrella and raincoat again as the rains come and set in until it’s cold enough to snow.

In this second half of autumn, guys and gals, it’s time to break out the layers of shirts, t-shirts, and sweaters with fitted pants. Ladies, pashmina scarves become popular around this time as they add a little color to the dreary months and dresses are only necessary for formal events.

What to Pack for Budapest in Winter

When winter comes, it is dry, cold, and it tends to snow. Make sure you avoid the heavily salted sidewalks and roads to preserve any leather footwear! Pack lotion and chapstick as the weather will certainly dry out your skin.

In terms of what to wear, dark and muted colors are the most commonly seen amongst Budapestians. Hats, scarves, pashminas, and gloves are all in order. From December to February, it can brutally cold, so lined, warm jackets are always a good idea!

What to Wear in Budapest in Spring

Once March comes and weather warms up just slightly, the rains come too. Luckily though, the rains in March and April aren’t as bad as the months ahead.

You can certainly shed layers in these months. However, I’d recommend that you dress still for comfort while keeping with the usual semi-formal vibe.

Layering a warm sweater, a shirt underneath, and a raincoat underneath should suffice. During Spring or Autumn months, anywhere, light gloves and a scarf are never bad ideas to pack in a day bag if you want to sit outside for longer periods.

Jenn and Taylor, from Team Tortuga, spent a week in April in Budapest. They recommend the following highlights:

  • Easter markets! Perhaps Europe’s best kept secret!
  • Rent bikes, Budapest is a cyclist’s dream
  • Margaret Island: buy a cotton candy as big as your torso!
  • Boozy ice cream. Find it.
  • Thermal baths: go more than once
  • Food: just shut up and eat all the things

TL;DR: Your Budapest Packing List

Shoes: 

Should be practical for the many cobbled streets of Budapest. As usual, with most European cities, you can never go wrong with a pair of leather boots with thick soles.

Swimwear, a towel, and flip flops:

These are necessities in a country with 450 thermal baths. Don’t be surprised if locals dress down in the warmer months of the year!

The beginning of summer: 

Is rainy and warm so bring your raincoats and umbrellas, and you definitely shouldn’t be wearing any lounging gear quite yet. In July and August, the rains ease up and you can begin wearing more casual and lighter clothes.

The beginning of autumn: 

Is the best – long, dry, sunny days. So you can continue wearing summer clothes and gradually layer up with lighter pullovers and sweaters as October and November roll around. November certainly requires rain gear.

Winter is dry and snowy: 

Make sure you’re taking care of your skin during this time! If you feel no need to stand out from the crowd, then muted and dark colored winter jackets are the smart choice. Otherwise, layer up with warm hats, scarves/pashminas, and gloves.

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