Beautiful architecture, a strong economy and a flourishing tourism industry make Budapest one of the best places to invest in Europe. Foreign investors have been moving into Hungary from all over the world, drawn by rising demand, attractive visa programs, and the prospect of excellent returns.
Hungary sits at the heart of Europe, and since it joined the EU, its economy has boomed. The country’s economic success has been driven by its cultural, spiritual and economic centre: Budapest.
Budapest is the ninth largest city in the EU by population and the second largest city on the Danube River. With stunning buildings, a strong cultural identity and a thriving arts scene, it’s easy to see why Budapest is dubbed the Paris of the East.
Striking architecture contrasted against the striking backdrop of the Buda Hills has helped to turn Budapest into one of Europe’s most popular city break destinations. People come here from all over the world for the food, the nightlife, the spas, and the culture. A visit to the ballet or an afternoon spent dipping in and out of the city’s numerous galleries are just a couple of the unique cultural experiences on offer in Budapest.
Hungary’s tourism industry is booming with visitor numbers on a steep upward climb. In 2022, over 14 million guests spent nearly 40 million nights in the country, reflecting a 40% increase on the previous year. Almost 4 million of Hungary’s tourists visited the capital, making it the most popular tourist destination, and 82% of all visitors to Budapest were from abroad.
Its strategic location in Central Europe makes Hungary very accessible from a wide range of destinations. People come for regular city breaks and for the many events that take place across the city. Sziget festival, for instance, is rapidly earning a reputation as one of the world’s best music festivals.
During winter months, tourists flock to the famous Christmas markets and the piping hot spas fuelled by warm natural springs. These waters were what drew the first settlers to Budapest, and they are central to the city’s appeal today. They mean that regardless of the time of year, Budapest sees a regular flow of visitors.
The cost of living is also relatively low compared to other major capitals. This makes it an attractive destination for not just tourists, but also many foreigners who come here to live or retire. Budapest offers a more affordable high-quality lifestyle for those living in Europe’s more expensive cities.
Our experts say
“Budapest offers the perfect proposition for property investors. Demand is high, and supply is limited. Additionally, policy is favourable, barriers to entry low, and the economic forecast looks good. The city has seen its status as a tourist destination and commercial hub grow rapidly over the past few years.
It’s a city which really draws you in, and property is still affordably priced and has plenty of room for capital appreciation – making it somewhat of an emerging market – as yet undiscovered by many.
For many investors, one of the biggest attractions of Budapest is the opportunity to own property in a bustling and popular capital, without the high price tag you would find across the rest of Europe”.
– Matt Lavin
How to get there
From northwest Europe, the M1 motorway from Vienna and Bratislava enters Hungary just before Győr. A trip from Vienna to Budapest would take around 3hrs by car. To the South West, the M7 motorway leads to Croatia. The M5 motorway leads south towards Szeged, where there is nearby border crossing to Serbia and Romania.
Train travel in Hungary is comfortable, safe, affordable and accessible from many European cities. Direct international trains travel from Budapest to locations including Munich, Prague, Vienna and Warsaw.
Budapest is served by three airports, the largest of which is Budapest Ferenc Liszt International, located around 16km from the city. It’s the most used airport in the city, supporting flights from airlines including Ryanair, BA, Air China, Air France, Emirates, and many other international airlines.
Cruise ships travel along the Danube to the Black Sea and many call at Budapest. Additionally, from mid-May to September, a thrice weekly ferry operates between Vienna and Budapest via Bratislava and takes around 6hrs.
Budapest offers a generally mild climate and temperatures are rarely uncomfortable – with average highs of upper 70°F in the country’s warmest months and a temperate average low of mid 20°’s in winter.
As typical in a Mediterranean climate, pleasant sunny days tend to start around March with temperatures rising to over 20 degrees come late April. Rain and thunderstorms are not unusual in May and June but tend to be short-lived.
Summers are warm and fine, with daylight averaging 9 to 11 hours a day.
Early autumn tends to be an incredibly popular time to visit Budapest. The weather is warm and pleasant, with highs of 24°C (75.2°F) and lows of 19°C (66.2°F) during the day. Winters are colder, with December – February experiencing the lowest temperatures. Snowfall can be fairly frequent, but not particularly disruptive.
The scene is set perfectly for property investors. The economy is strong, demand is high, and prices are affordable compared to other parts of Europe. As a result, entry into the market is relatively low, and bargains may be available for those investors who can move quickly.
The city itself is split into two halves, neatly dissected by the Danube. The greener, quieter Buda offers a more pleasant and easy-going way of life. Meanwhile, the bustling Pest presents more commercial appeal. Where you decide to base your property purchase will depend on what you’re looking to achieve: a second home in Central Europe, a perfect place to retire, or a lucrative buy-to-let investment in one of the continent’s fastest growing cities.
Demand for rental accommodation
Budapest ranked 5th in Holidu’s Must-Visit European Cities for 2022, with 32,500 searches per month on the popular holiday rental website. And while the tourism market is already strong in Budapest, there is a sense that international travellers are still only really beginning to discover the city.
Hotel occupancy rates are close to capacity with several developments scrambling to keep up with demand. As such, tourists often choose to rent out apartments rather than book a basic room for themselves. This means there is a steady supply of demand for short term and holiday rentals.
Although many people will point to the thriving tourism market, Budapest is the centre of Hungary’s economic life. This makes for a constant supply of young professionals moving into the city looking for rental accommodation.
Strong house price growth
Capital appreciation in Hungary has been significant in recent years. According to CEIC data, house prices jumped 23% year-on-year in September 2022, following a record-breaking increase of 24.3% in the previous quarter.
The value of newly-built apartments in Budapest has increased by over 30% in the last couple of years, yet prices remain very affordable compared to other European capitals. Newly-built homes in the city centre of Budapest cost 5,700 EUR/sqm, compared to the more pricey Vienna (12,000 EURO/sqm), Berlin (16,000 EURO/sqm), Frankfurt (15,000 EURO/sqm) and Prague (8,000 EURO/sqm).
An attractive market for foreign buyers
With the government offering support for foreign investors, Budapest is fast becoming one of the hottest tickets for property investors. Any foreigner can buy property in the city, and financing options are also attractive and can be up to 60% of a property’s value.
Foreign investors can acquire a Hungary Visa for themselves and their family members by either investing 155,000 Euros in real estate, or establishing a company in the country with provides services or trades with goods. As Hungary is a full member of the EU, visa holders have access to all 27 countries within the Schengen Area.
Those that invest in real estate can acquire a residence permit lasting 5 years, whilst those that establish a company can remain in the country for up to 3 years. After this initial period, the permit can then be renewed.
The minimum investment threshold for the Hungarian Visa is one of the lowest in Europe. Moreover, the corporate tax rate on profits is just 9% which is the lowest rate in the EU.