Official language: Hungarian
Welcome to the land of Blue Danube, Baroque architecture, goulash and Bull’s Blood Wine!
Unique in every sense of the word, Hungary is culturally and linguistically nothing compared to its most immediate neighbors. As the odd one out in Central Europe, Hungary is a world filled with well-preserved castles, seriously good wines and massive pride. The natural landscape with its low-lying mountains, oak forests and thermal springs is what sets Hungary apart from the rest. Southwest of Budapest lies the famed Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake with waters averaging around 20 degrees Celsius in summer time. Winter times are when thrill seekers flock to Hungary’s northern region to the Bakony Hills to ski through the forests before warming up again in the thermal spa.
Budapest, the capital city, is splendid in its own right. Sometimes referred to as the “other Venice”, it’s a city of elegance, style and liveliness that come together to create two very distinct sides of Budapest. On the one side of the Danube River, hilly Buda is a haven of impressive architectural marvels while on the other side, sprawling Pest is the commercial center lined with art nouveau architecture and the renowned ad-hoc party scene.Hungary truly is a hidden gem nestled between countries like Austria and the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Romania. You simply cannot afford to miss out on the great value, stunning natural landscapes, rich history, hearty food and exploration opportunities on offer here!
Must see places in Hungary
With an almost Mediterranean climate, Europe’s northernmost mosque and serious nightlife, Pécs is the second biggest and buzziest city in Hungary. Okay so it’s not the second biggest by size, but everything else makes up for that. From hear you can head to the nearby town of Villány to sample some of the finest red wine produced in Hungary. A lot of the local wineries offer tours and tastings, so you should definitely opt in on that deal!
Known as the spiritual home of Hungary, Esztergom is charming and it’s Basilica that overlooks Slovakia on the one side and Danube on the other is a site well worth seeing. Esztergom is one of Hungary’s oldest towns, which means history all but takes physical form around every corner.
As the largest cave system in Central Europe, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aggtelek resembles a mix of enchanted forest and fairyland. Make sure to find out if you’ll be able to pass into the Slovakian border to check out the other half of the caves which aren’t in Hungarian terrain.
If you’re keen on visiting a Hungarian village that still exists in the traditional way of life, be prepared for a mind blowing experience in Hollókő. Its set among a scenic natural backdrop and the beautiful old houses and colorful traditional costumes take you back to a time that seems lost to the rest of the world.
On the northern shores of Lake Balaton you’ll find the Felvidék plateau, which happens to boast more attractions that you ever imagined! From breathtaking volcanoes to vineyards, cultural festivals and meandering bike paths, the attractions almost make you forget about the great lake itself. Make sure you head over to close by Tihany Abbey that sits quietly on a hilltop overlooking the lake. It’s one of the most picturesque environments of all the Hungarian churches!
Tokaj Wine Region
The desert wine produced in the Tokaj region of Northeastern Hungary is rightfully called the “wine of kings”. Most cellars offer tours and tastings, and it’s an attraction you can’t afford to miss. While you’re in the area, Mád has some of the best hotels and restaurants around!
Debrecen is Hungary’s second largest city and the capital of the Eastern Plains. Some call it the Calvinist Rome and the locals made sure they earned that rep! They built a massive church on the town square which is definitely worth seeing.
A hop and a skip away from Budapest, Szentendre seems worlds away from “normal” Hungarian villages. This is where Hungarian artists and bohemian folk prefer to live, among the cobblestoned streets and quaint cafes. It’s a total tourist magnet though, which means you can’t afford not to see it. While you’re in Szentendre, make sure you head over to Videgrád castle in the vicinity.
If you though Ibiza was the party capital of the world, you might be reconsidering after you’ve paid a visit to Siófok on the Southern shores of Balaton. Yes, Europe’s largest lake is a party town of sorts and during the summer months in Hungary sees sun, fun and clubbing until the early morning hours. If you’re keen on and EDM festival, make sure to check the dates for the next Balaton Sound, held just a scoot away from Siófok in the village of Zamárdi.
The small town of Vác, located in the North of Hungary on the Danube River bend, is the perfect place to get away from the city buzz. Vác is also known as the Hungarian City of Culture since it boasts more than its fair share of exhibitions like the Greek Church, the Cathedral and the Memento Mori Crypt to name just a few.
The castle of Sümeg
Sümeg Castle is one of the nicest, unharmed remained Hungarian castle built on sümeg’s bald hill. The oldest part was constructed in around 1260. The castle of Sümeg was being built from 1262 through different eras until the episcopate of Pál Széchenyi in the 17th century. Rákóczi’s troop occupied the castle in 1705. In 1709 the Austrians recaptured it, and burned it down a few years later. It was abandoned for a quarter millennium, until in 1957 the National Office of Cultural Heritage explored and conservated it. Since 1989 the castle has been continously renovated, while exhibitions and medieval programmes are held for the visitors.
Located near the Austrian border, the small town of Sopron is best known for its wine and beer production. The lovely little town’s architecture is a sight you don’t want to miss out on, and if you’re in luck, you might catch the Voltz Fesztival (one of Hungary’s biggest festivals) to see the famous musicians and millions of visitors.
Coming in as the plainest of the Great Hungarian Plains, Hortogáby is about as plain as it comes, but there’s still a lot to see though! The amazing sunsets and the wells operated by a long pole (shadoofs) along with the amazing feats of horsemanship demonstrated by the Hungarian Cowboys (csikós) all come together to make it a tranquil yet unmissable destination. Also make sure that you catch a glimpse of the Nine Holed Bridge (Kilenclyukú híd), one of Hortobágy’s iconic landmarks.
Famed for their Bull’s Blood drink, the town of Eger has a lot on offer. With its quaint cobblestoned streets and historic charm, you’ll want to stay a while to see if bull’s blood is merely an old wives tale. Just outside of Eger lies the Valley of Beautiful Women, boasting more than 150 wineries that store their produce in caves and operate tasting tours for discerned travelers.
If you dare to travel a little off the beaten track, the Hungarian region of Őrség that borders Slovenia is the perfect escape from city life. Take note that cellphone cover is a lucky-to-have luxury item and the villages around these parts reflect that they haven’t really moved along with technology with their preserved traditional lifestyles. While there are many charming villages in the Őrség region, Oriszentpéter is one you can’t afford to pass by.
Close to Budapest lies the island of Sziget, located in the Danube River. Each year during August the island plays host to one of the wildest (Europe’s largest by the way) music festivals around and sees thousands of Dutch, French and Italian youths descend on the tiny island for a jamming weekend.
Pick the time right!
Tourists travel to Hungary from April to October
Hungary’s summers are preferred among visitors, when they’ll get at least 9 or 10 hours of sunshine a day, although short, violent storms aren’t unexpected. Budapest is a bit uncomfortable during the peak summer months, and the massive crowds don’t help the situation at all. Budapest is best seen during the spring and autumn since they even have great festivals, sight and culinary delights on offer, which kind of urge you to head down during the off-season.Except for Budapest, Hungarian cities don’t have much to offer during the winter time. May is a great time to see the Danube Bend, Tihany or Sopron, although the weather is warm but wet. June through September is hotter and drier.
Did you know?
Helló is the Hungarian word for Hello
- Goulash - a stew with meat and potatoes, colored with paprika and served in a cauldron
- Regfeli - Hungarian breakfast usually featuring eggs and salami plus bread and jam
- Palacsinta - pancakes
- Rétes - strudels
- Kukorica - corn on the cob
- Geszrenya - roasted chestnuts
- You’ll probably be able to rely on just English in Budapest, but the language barrier elsewhere in Hungary might become a problem if you don’t familiarize yourself with some basic Hungarian or German phrases
- Always dress respectfully whenever visiting a place of worship
- While you’re out and about, it’s always a good idea to keep your passport with you