Around its imposing capital Budapest, Hungary has numerous other cities worth seeing, but also impressive stalactite caves, idyllic national parks and healing thermal springs to offer.
Hungary delights travelers with beautiful nature and a turbulent past under the rule of many peoples. The architectural legacies of the Romans, Ottomans, Mongols, Magyars, k.u.k monarchy and Soviets are still present, some dating back to the 10th century.
Since Hungary freed itself from communism in 1980, it has become increasingly visible as a destination on the tourist map of Europe. The surprising diversity of the small country inspires party tigers and active vacationers as well as culture enthusiasts and travelers who simply want to escape from everyday life.
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Magnificent Budapest impresses with imposing architectural monuments, first and foremost the gigantic Castle Palace, the adjacent Castle District and the monumental Heroes' Square. A cruise on the Danube reveals the immense size of the Parliament building and the elegance of Budapest's striking Danube bridges. For an overview, climb the idyllic Gellért Hill for sensational views of the city or climb the 96m-high dome of St. Stephen's Basilica.
Tip: About 100km north of Budapest lies the small village of Hollókő, a quaint village that has not been changed since the early 20th century. The nest of 400 inhabitants with its castle ruins and traditional houses made of clay and straw is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Balaton (Lake Balaton)
No. 2 of the most visited sights in Hungary is occupied by Lake Balaton in the west of the country. The only 12m deep, but largest inland lake in Central Europe invites to swimming, fishing, sailing, surfing and wine tasting. While almond trees blossom on the Mediterranean-style northern shore, the family-friendly southern shore offers one of the most beautiful sunsets in Europe.
Bathing vacationers enjoy its long beaches and its summer water temperature of up to 27°C, nature lovers discover about 250 bird and 800 butterfly species in the Balaton Uplands National Park.
Capital of Culture Szeged
If Budapest is too crowded and too noisy for you, you should get to know the sunny student stronghold of Szeged! Hungary's third-largest city on the border with Serbia and Romania has an incomparable attitude to life and a unique cuisine, because the Szeged fish soup with the famous paprika spice is known far beyond the country's borders.
Szeged's city center is bursting with sights. There are for example:
- the magnificent Dóm tér with the 91m high Votive Church (the fourth largest church in Hungary), the Bishop's Palace, the Pantheon, the University and the Musical Clock
- the central square Széchenyi tér with the art nouveau town hall
- the second largest synagogue in Hungary
- the shopping street Kárász utca with a popular coffee house at Klauzál tér
- the Ferenc Móra Museum, founded by the writer of the same name, which is interesting both historically and artistically
Wine town Cheb and its castle
Those interested in history should definitely pay a visit to the oldest city in Hungary! The most important sight in Eger is its gigantic castle, whose history is presented in the Gothic Bishop's Palace.
Other places of interest are the mighty Eger Cathedral, the central Dobó Square, the best preserved minaret in Hungary and the numerous wine cellars where, among other things, the locally pressed Eger Bull's Blood is served. Marzipan museum and thermal bath also provide for the physical well-being.
St. Adalbert Cathedral in Esztergom
Those who were impressed by the dimensions of the cathedral in Eger will be even more amazed in Esztergom, where its St. Adalbert Cathedral right on the banks of the Danube is even bigger. The largest church in Hungary is also the Roman Catholic center of the country. Particularly impressive are the 100m high dome, the enormous organ and the largest painting in the world above the altar.
Aggtelek National Park and Baradla Cave
The deciduous forests of Aggtelek National Park in northeastern Hungary are home to over 200 species of birds, which can be discovered on extensive hiking trails. However, the most visited attraction in Aggtelek National Park is underground, where the largest and most beautiful stalactite caves in Hungary are hidden. About 200 in number form the largest cave system in Central Europe with the 25km long Baradla Cave. Home to the highest stalagmite in the world, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.
Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma
Near Győr in the northwest of the country lies the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma, the oldest and largest monastery in Hungary. Guided tours of the monastery include the magnificent basilica, the historic cloister and the valuable library with the oldest manuscripts in Hungarian. The exquisitely equipped wine cellar and the picturesque medicinal herb garden can be explored on your own.
About 40km north of Budapest, on a 247m high hill at a spectacular bend of the Danube, the imposing castle ruins of Visegrád are enthroned. The defiant fortress was built in the 12th century under King Béla IV for protection against the Mongols and Turks. Parts of the time-honored walls have been preserved until today. The historical stronghold can be explored without a guided tour and offers unforgettable views of the Danube bend.
National Park Bükk
Hungary's largest national park is named after the numerous beech trees that thrive in its 430 square kilometer area and form the country's green lungs. In Hungary's highest mountain landscape, forests, mountain meadows, gorges and karst areas form a spectacular hiking area with impressive flora and fauna.
Its highlights include the highest waterfall in Hungary, over 1,000 caves, including the longest cave in Hungary, the picturesque Lillafüred Castle, a cliff almost 1000m high, the Szalajka Valley with narrow-gauge railroad and forest museum, and the natural cave bath near the town of Miskolc.
Hungary thermal baths
Speaking of baths: After so much sightseeing, relaxation is the order of the day! How fortunate that Hungary is Europe's country with the most thermal spas. The capital Budapest alone boasts 21 thermal baths and resorts.
Among the most famous and beautiful thermal baths of Hungary are:
- the historic Széchenyi Spa in the City Park at Heroes' Square in Budapest
- the Gellért Bath on the mountain of the same name, the local mountain of Budapest
- the thermal spa of Hévíz near Lake Balaton on the largest natural thermal lake in the world
- the already mentioned "cave bath" Barlangfürdö near Miskolc in the National Park Bükk
- the sinter terraces of the thermal bath Egerszalók 5km west of the wine town Eger, which inevitably remind of the Turkish Pamukkale