The Hungarian capital wears each of its seasons particularly elegantly. Once the botanical splendour of summer fades and the holidaying crowds thin, an entirely different aesthetic sets in. The city’s grand, Belle Époque architecture is powdered with the quiet glitter of frost, steam billows in great plumes from its thermal baths and its lakes are capped with glassy lids of ice. It’s extraordinarily beautiful. One of the best ways to appreciate it is from the ice on one of the city’s many outdoor rinks. Pull on some skates and join the city’s more athletic residents with a glide out across the most beautiful stretches for ice skating in Budapest.
Cut across with Lego-bright rowing boats during summer, the lake between the grand Baroque Vajdahunyad Castle and the bold sweep of Heroes’ Square transforms into the largest ice-skating rink in Budapest—and indeed, Europe—come mid-November. The City Park Ice Rink, or Városligeti Műjégpálya, is indeed enormous, and it’s a popular winter gathering ground. All ages flock here in the evenings and on weekends for a social skate beneath the stars. There’s a small fee to enter, and skates are available to hire by the hour. Once you’ve perfected your Figure Eight and skirted the endless circumference, step beyond the rink for a hot chocolate or spiced wine in very merry surrounds.
If the vast parameters of City Park Ice Rink are a little intimidating, opt for the petite, beginner-friendly Ice Terrace, aka Jégterasz. Novices and less confident skaters can try out their glide with less of an audience on this well-maintained miniature square next to Arena Plaza shopping centre. It’s not as scenic as its larger sibling, but there are free group classes in the mornings for those wishing to polish up their moves.
Csepel is the largest Hungarian island on the Danube River, commandeering a landmass of 257 square kilometres. It was swallowed up by the Hungarian capital relatively recently to become the city’s 21st District. However, thanks to its geography, Csepel has maintained a friendly neighbourhood feel. Csepel Ice Rink is one of the more laid-back options for ice skating in Budapest, and it includes a winding ice corridor that ribbons off on a pretty detour through the surrounding park. Its has a waist-high fence, which offers plenty of welcome support for beginners en route.
St Stephen’s Basilica is a Budapest landmark, its Neoclassical spires overshadowing a handsome square at the heart of the city. Come winter, the square is home to a bustling Christmas market, at the centre of which is a miniature ice-skating rink. It’s only open to children under 14, who it leads on a route around a giant decorated fir tree. As young skaters take a scenic glide through the action, parents can browse at leisure for stocking fillers from the surrounding stalls. Once the little ones have let off steam, follow your nose to the hot chocolate and mulled wine stalls for a refreshment with the family.
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