11 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Hungary
Many first-time visitors to Hungary are overwhelmed by the large cities and grand museums that seem to pop up at every corner. And it's easy to find Budapest itself and other major sights on a tourist map.
But Hungarian sights are usually in the small towns—cities like Szeged and Debrecen, for example—and they're often easier to get to from Budapest. They offer many of the same pleasures as Budapest, such as a lively and affordable restaurant scene.
Furthermore, many of Hungary's lesser-known gems are located near the larger cities and offer attractions that you can't experience in the capital, like bathing in thermal springs or making your own chocolate.
The important thing is to be willing to get off the beaten track. The regions of the country are so diverse, with sights like the rustic villages of the Tatra Mountains or the medieval architecture of Eger. In fact, so many sights are outside the capital that in most cases, it's better to see them on a day trip or side trip from Budapest.
Enjoy Hungary with our list of the best places to visit in Hungary.
Budapest is unique in a number of ways. It was the first capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, a world power for more than a century, and now boasts a stunning castle-like opera house. On a short trip, you can easily see what makes this city so special. Highlights include Pest's stunning Palace of Arts, the Gothic Style Parliament building, the Museum of Natural History and the sublime St. Stephen's Basilica. The city's vibrant nightlife can be enjoyed in a number of ways, with the most popular activities including the impressive Széll Kálmán baths, Széchenyi thermal baths, The Buda Hills Botanical Gardens, and the Millennium Walden Haus. The Inner City District (DIS) to the north of the city center is an impressive district with all of its shops, restaurants and cafes. There are some incredible galleries here, like the Gellért Baths (Gellért Fürdő) Art Gallery, which hosts over 30 exhibitions each year.
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Located on the western end of the Danube River and bisected by an almost-100-mile river flowing from north to south, Lake Balaton is the third-largest lake in Europe. The name Balaton means "Big Lake," and the truly enormous 2,285-square-mile (6,200-km2) body of water offers year-round fun for all. The best time to visit is in autumn and winter, when the days are still warm but the cool nights give way to pleasant days. Although there is nothing truly remarkable about the city of Balatonfüred, a city established in 1671 on the eastern shores of the lake, it does have a picturesque setting and the small town of Ásotthalom, on the northwestern shore of the lake, is especially pretty.
Stroll through an inviting fairy-tale forest of statues and fountains surrounded by majestic mountains and discover the legacy of Budapest's ancient kings on Visegrád Castle. History buffs can delve into its fascinating exhibits, or just sit in the lush gardens and enjoy the air-conditioning. Don't miss the castle-viewing terrace, which boasts fabulous views of Hungary's second-largest city and country. Visegrád is a green oasis in the center of the nation's capital. It's one of Budapest's most popular parks for walking, jogging, picnicking, and outdoor movie screenings during the summer. It's an ideal spot for families, with playgrounds and activities for all ages.
This is Hungary's oldest parliament, and one of the last remaining royal castles in the country. Its history as a seat of government dates back to 1341, though the castle was originally built in the 12th century as the royal residence of the Kingdom of Hungary. It is made up of a large, circular, castle keep which was built in the 12th century. The castle is surrounded by two walls, on which two churches were built. The castle once boasted 36 towers, but only 13 remain today. This castle has a special place in the history of European culture: Stephen, king of Hungary, escaped imprisonment in the castle in 1235 and in 1241, while in his rooms, in a feast prepared for the coronation of his son, Prince Béla IV, the first Hungarian king, contracted the dysentery. Béla later died there in 1270. In 1812, the castle was used by Napoleon to imprison the Hungarian troops who had liberated it from the Austrians. Napoleon issued his famous order here, known in Hungarian as the Árpád order, where he appointed and deposed different government ministers. At the same time he asked Emperor Francis II to crown him as Emperor of the Hungarians.
Margaret Island, Pest
Situated in the Budapest Bay between Buda and Pest, Margaret Island is one of the most beautiful places on the lake and is perfect for those seeking a natural backdrop. This island, as well as the mainland, is peppered with remains of a Roman-era town, Barlatar. Explore on foot as it's only a short distance from the city, and hire a boat from the pier opposite the city's old town to hop onto a ferry to the island. If you want to explore further on the island, stop by the Balogh Museum of Regional History, which has an interesting collection of exhibits on local history and an ethnographic exhibition.
Memento Park was designed by Eero Saarinen and funded by US tycoon and developer Harry F. Guggenheim. Built in the 1960s, the theme park is a reminder of the new nature-focused architecture style which swept America and it is a testament to Eero Saarinen's innovative design sense. Heavily inspired by the US space program, Saarinen's eye for the distinctive and colourful was coupled with a keen knowledge of the classics: the park consists of nothing but Roman structures, including a Roman amphitheatre and a triumphal arch. The site contains over 500 architectural structures, each of which relates to a theme. The section of the park containing the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre was built for the Italian film producer Dino de Laurentiis and is thus named after him. The sculptures are striking and well preserved and cost 5,000 forints (about £40) to visit. A number of the smaller structures around the site, built to relate to other themes such as zoo, sports and military, are less well-maintained.
Heroes' Square, Budapest
There is only one Heroes' Square in the world, and no wonder: it is the beating heart of Budapest. Built on the banks of the Danube River, it is bordered by six monuments to Hungarian history, the best known of which is the magnificent equestrian statue of Franz Joseph I on his white charger. The square's monuments are rounded off by a Hungarian political-party political headquarters and a Russian embassy, both from the communist era. There are plenty of things to do in Budapest and its gorgeous nightlife draws many people. The city is well known for its excellent thermal baths, and for its beautiful 19th-century buildings on Gellert Hill. Many of them have been converted into exclusive hotels. One of the best ways to see Budapest is on a bike. It is easy to rent a bike in the centre, from which you can take in the sights and wind through the Royal Buda hills.
Built in 1260, Eger Castle (Egerszállás) is among the best-preserved fortified towns in Hungary. It lies about 40 km northwest of Budapest. The Castle is set high in the Körös valley near Eger and is now a museum of Hungarian history. Although the castle's internal architecture has been restored, its location on top of a steep hill has led to the preservation of most of the original design and the massive white-walled walls and towers are still intact today. The castle walls and the inner courtyard are also home to a number of exhibitions that focus on the history of the city and country. A small souvenir shop, wine bar, and snack restaurant is also available. You'll find a number of ways to get here, including public transportation, taxi, and train from Budapest. There is also a bus that runs along the route from Budapest's M1 metro, which can be caught outside Budapest's Keleti Station.
This charming Budapest neighborhood was once a leper colony, and its 15th-century Leper Asylum, with its abandoned wards and houses where the patients once lived, is a major tourist attraction. Another fun tour is the funicular, which takes visitors from the ground to the promenade, along which the entrance to the neighborhood is located. Inside the grounds you can find the Fishermen's Bastion, which dates back to 1510, and the Domus Veneria, the five-story residence of Magna Moravian Zsolt, a member of the Hungarian parliament who helped refugees from the former Yugoslavia. The Fishermen's Bastion features a garden of exotic orchids, the largest in Europe, and the Zsolnay Cafe, a traditional coffeehouse in the former refectory of the hospital. Of particular interest is the XIXth-century beer cellar, below the bastion, which is said to be the world's second largest cellar.
Located in the northwestern part of the kingdom, Esztergom is the seat of the Archdiocese of Esztergom and the headquarters of the Institute of Canonical Studies. Situated on the banks of the River Szamorad, the church was dedicated to Saint Stephen, King of Hungary, who is remembered for converting the pagan, German-Hungarian tribe in the area. The much-revered building has retained its Romanesque-Gothic style and is one of the few in Hungary that was spared the Turkish attacks. Its most notable feature is the massive stone semicircle that encloses the whole area of the church. In the 1960s, the site was expanded with a series of shrines, monasteries and even an underground lake, as part of a 40-year project known as the Esztergom World Park. Although Esztergom is best known for its centuries-old church, there are a number of other major attractions in the town. The nearby Dalmáki Patak is the largest underground river in the world, and contains several small villages located in the rift that opened when the Vihanga River flowed across the Earth's crust some 6,000 years ago. In April, Esztergom hosts the Esztergom Carol Festival, celebrating the arrival of spring with theatrical shows and folk dancing.
Situated in central Hungary, Pécs is a UNESCO world heritage site, attracting thousands of visitors every day. Originally founded as a Roman settlement during the 1st century BC, the city's well-preserved Roman Forum is the oldest and largest such archaeological site in Europe. Breathtaking Pécs Castle dates from the late 15th century and was the residence of the Calvinist bishop who ruled in Transylvania for eight years. As one of the largest and most beautiful castles in Hungary, it has been the seat of government and tourism since 1864 and can be visited by visitors.