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In general, winters in Hungary are cold, cloudy and damp or windy, and summers are warm - sometimes very hot. July and August are the hottest months (average temperature 26°C) and January the coldest (-4°C). The number of hours of sunshine averages between 1900 and 2500 a year - among the highest in Europe. The average annual precipitation is about 650mm.

For information on specific weather conditions nationwide, contact the national weather forecast service (1-346 4600, 06 90 504 001; www.met.hu in Hungarian).

When to go

Hungary has a temperate climate with three climatic zones so there is a certain amount of variation across the country: Mediterranean in the south, Continental in the east and Atlantic in the west.

Without taking regional differences into consideration, every season has its attractions in Hungary. But do yourself a favour and drop the 'romantic' notion of a winter on the puszta (Great Plain). Aside from being cold and often bleak, winter sees museums and other tourist sights closed or their hours sharply curtailed.

Although it can be pretty wet in April and May, spring is just glorious throughout Hungary. The weather is usually mild and - a boon for independent travellers - the crowds of tourists have not yet arrived.

The Hungarian summer is warm, sunny and unusually long, and the resorts can get very crowded in late July and August. If you avoid Lake Balaton and the ever-popular Mátra Hills, you should be OK. As elsewhere in Europe, Budapest and other Hungarian cities come to a grinding halt in August, which Hungarians traditionally call 'the cucumber-growing season' (because that's about the only thing happening here).

Autumn is beautiful, particularly in the hills around Budapest and in the Northern Uplands. In Transdanubia and on the Great Plain it's harvest and vintage time. November is one of the rainiest months of the year in certain parts of the country, however.