Bordered by countries as diverse as Austria, Serbia and Ukraine, Hungary is a crossroads at the centre of Europe – what was once known as Mitteleuropa – and it fuses old Europe and new in its mix of Hapsburg grandeur and Communist-era grittiness. There is a Central European solidity to its food, buildings and culture, but the more exotic, and undeniably romantic, founding myth of the nomadic, warrior Magyars from the Central Asian steppe is also key to Hungarians’ fiery national pride. Hungary’s scenery is more gentle than striking. But you can’t say the same thing about the built environment across the land. Architecturally Hungary is a treasure trove, with everything from Roman ruins and medieval townhouses to baroque churches, neoclassical public buildings and art nouveau bathhouses and schools. And we’re not just talking about its capital, Budapest.
Walk through Szeged or Kecskemét, Debrecen or Sopron and you’ll discover an architectural gem at virtually every turn. Indeed, some people go out of their way for another glimpse of their favourites, such as the Reök Palace in Szeged or the Mosque Church in Pécs. Hungarian food remains the most sophisticated style of cooking in Eastern Europe. Magyars even go so far as to say there are three essential world cuisines – French, Chinese and their own. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Hungary’s reputation as a food centre dates largely from the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th and, despite a fallow period under communism, their cuisine is once again commanding attention. So too are the nation’s world-renowned wines – from the big-bodied reds of Eger and Villány and white olaszrizling from Badacsony to honey-sweet Tokaj.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Hungary
1. Budapest – Budapest is the capital city of Hungary and, as many would tell you, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Budapest is definitely a mandatory stop whenever you are visiting the country and a home to a number of ancient buildings and cultural heritage sites, the world’s largest thermal water cave system, the world’s second largest synagogue, the third largest Parliament building, some really stunning views of the Danube a memorial to Jews killed in World War II, and much more.
2. Lake Balaton – When you are tired of walking the cobblestone beautiful streets of Budapest, relaxing at a resort at Lake Balaton is the best thing you can do. Lake Balaton is Europe’s largest freshwater one and the most popular summer holiday destination in Hungary.
3. Eger – Eger is the second largest city in Hungary, founded by Hungary’s first Christian king. As you can expect, there is a lot of cultural and historical heritage you can explore and enjoy in here including some magnificent baroque buildings, the castle and the basilica, the Valley of the Women, the Torok Kori Minaret.
4. Sopron – Over the centuries Sopron has been both Hungarian and Austrian city and you can see the cultural trails of both countries marking the specific appearance of the city to this date. Some of the most remarkable city landmarks include the Firewatch Tower, the Gate of Allegiance. Sopron is also one of the country’s major wine producing regions so make sure to enjoy some great wine while you are there.
5. Pécs – Pécs is one of the most interesting and most multicultural cities in Hungary. Thanks to the many cultural and ethnical groups living together in a piece in Pécs, the city is one of the UNESCO’s Cities of Peace. There is something for everyone in Pécs – a lot of history, a mild climate, the first university in the country, medieval streets and buildings, and cute little wine shops.
6. Aggtelek National Park – Aggtelek National Park should definitely be a part of your bucket list for Hungary. It is located only about a 3-hour drive away from the capital and a home to the largest stalactic cave in Europe.
7. Hévíz – If you are up to a really pleasurable SPA experience, the hot springs of Hévíz are right up your alley. Located near Lake Balaton, the crystal clear water of Hévíz is definitely one of the most enjoyable and popular holiday destinations in the country.
8. Debrecen – Debrecen is most probably the second most important cultural centre of Hungary right after Budapest. The city is considered the intellectual centre of the country and despite the fact it has been destroyed almost completely during World War II, Debrecen managed to turn all odds in its favour. Nowadays, the city is a home to a thriving music and art scene, the Bela Bartok International Choir competition, the Reformed Great Church, the Deri Museum, and the annual Flower Carnival.
9. Hortobágy National Park – Hortobágy National Park is the country’s first national park and Europe’s largest semi-natural grassland. A lot of different animal species along with wild horses live peacefully on this luscious land. Along with bird watching and other fun outdoor activities, some of the major spots you should visit in the park are the Nine-Arch Bridge and Karega Windmill.
10. Győr– Győr has been ruled by many different cultures during the centuries including Celtics, Romans, Mongols, Magyars, Czechs, and Ottomans and you can clearly see and feel the trails that all these cultures and nations have left in the city. At almost every turn you take in Győr you will stumble upon beautiful buildings and statues with a great cultural and historical value.