From its striking architecture to its spectacular culinary scene, Hungary marches to its own beat, holding on to its rich culture and history. While Budapest is the calling card for most visitors, it’s well worth devoting an extra day or two to exploring outside of the capital. From discovering the historic towns of Esztergom and Eger to entering the caves of Lillafüred and wine tasting in Tokaj, Hungary offers many diversions for discerning travellers. Here are our top 10 things to do in Hungary.
Before Budapest was named the capital of Hungary, Esztergom held the torch. The historical town is the birthplace of the country’s first king, St Stephen, and is, naturally, full of beautiful palaces. It also has major religious significance and is home to some of the country’s most cherished churches, including the Neo Classical Esztergom Basilica – the seat of the Hungarian Catholic Church.
While Budapest’s thermal baths are a definite highlight for visitors, head outside of the city for a more natural bathing experience. Just two hours from the capital is the largest biologically active thermal lake in Europe, Lake Heviz, where the water is a constant 38.5°C, so visitors can enjoy a dip at any time of year.
Increasingly prominent across the globe, Hungarian wine – and particularly, sweet Hungarian wine – has been gaining respect and notoriety in recent years. The country’s principle wine region for sweet wine is Tokaj, an area that’s been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its winemaking history, which surpasses 1,000 years. Book a tour to get the most out of the area and visit leading wineries for tastings.
Two hours from Budapest, in Bükki Nemzeti Park, is the small town of Lillafüred, known for its incredible natural caves. Explorers can take a guided tour through the protected formations – named Anna Cave and St Stephen Cave – for a small fee and discover their distinctive characteristics up close.
To gain a glimpse of Hungarian life in the 17th and 18th centuries, you don’t need to visit a museum. Instead, take a trip to Hollókő, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed village that has been perfectly preserved as a traditional rural Palócz settlement. A number of events take place at Hollókő throughout the year, such as a three-day Easter celebration (27th – 28th March 2016), during which there’s a parade, music, dancing and unusual traditions such as water throwing.
Whatever you’re passionate about, Aggtelek National Park has something to entertain visitors of all ages. From hiking and biking to caving, canoeing and horse riding, the park is a playground for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts.
Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast or an oenophile, a trip to Eger is without doubt one of the best things to do in Hungary. The historic town is home to the beautiful Eger Castle, Baroque palaces, and the remains of Turkish settlements, as well as plenty of great wine bars – make sure to sample a glass of Hungary’s most famous red wine, Bull’s Blood of Eger, while you’re in town.
Coined the ‘Ibiza of Hungary’, Siofok, on the shores of Lake Balaton is the country’s summer party capital. During peak season, when the sun is shining, the town’s beaches are packed with sunbathers. But at night it’s all about the beach bars and club nights.
One of the most-visited cities in Hungary after Budapest is Pécs. The university town is home to a number of colleges, museums and churches, and also has a thriving nightlife scene. Situated close to the Mecsek Hills, visitors can enjoy beautiful walks through rolling valleys and quaint villages.
Kecskemét may be known for its fruit agriculture, but the ‘garden city’ is also a burgeoning cultural hub, with a number of museums to explore. Don’t miss the Hungarian Museum of Naive Artists, which showcases exhibitions featuring works by Hungarian painters and sculptors.