By Rick Steves and Cameron Hewitt
Hungary's "tourist season" runs roughly from May through September. Book ahead for festivals and national holidays that occur throughout the year.
Summer (July and August) has its advantages: very long days, the busiest schedule of tourist fun and special festivals, and virtually no business travelers to compete with for hotel rooms in Budapest. However, because Hungary has a nearly Mediterranean climate, summer temperatures can skyrocket to the 80s or 90s (choose a hotel with air-conditioning). And many cultural events (such as the opera) are on summer vacation.
In spring and fall — May, June, September, and early October — travelers enjoy fewer tourist crowds and milder weather. This is one of the best times to visit Budapest. However, it's also prime convention time (especially September), when hotels tend to fill up and charge their top rates.
Winter travelers find Budapest's concert season in full swing, with absolutely no tourist crowds, but some accommodations and sights are either closed or run on a limited schedule. Confirm your sightseeing plans locally, especially when traveling off-season. The weather can be cold and dreary, and it gets dark outside well before dinnertime.
Cameron Hewitt is the co-author of the Rick Steves Budapest guidebook.