What to do in Hungary
Hungary offers many diverse attractions whether you’re a culture vulture, a history enthusiast, or a nature lover, you’ll find something here, and lots more. There are castles to wander through, magnificent cathedrals to gaze at, thermal baths to soak in, and gorgeous lakeside villages providing access to a variety of water sports. You’ll even find caves to explore complete with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. This is just a short overview of the many things available to do in this enticing Central European country.
Best activities to do in Hungary
Hungary has a huge range of outdoor pursuits, history, culture, and food to enjoy. To help you narrow it down we have put together a list of some of our favorites.
Meander through Buda Castle
Who doesn’t enjoy castles? In Budapest, you’ll find Buda Castle which overlooks the city from Castle Hill. Initially built back in 1265 AD, with the oldest part still standing dating to the 14th century. It was the historical castle and complex of Hungarian Kings, with much of the original features destroyed through war during the city’s tumultuous history. Today, the huge Baroque palace occupying the site mostly dates to the 18th century. It houses the Budapest History Museum which retraces the city’s history from Roman Times, and the National Gallery, which focuses on Hungarian art from all periods.
Step back in time at Central Café and Restaurant 1887
Hungarian art and science meld at this unique cafe. A must for literary and history lovers, it was the place to see and be seen in Budapest during the late 19th century. Nestled between a library and a printing press, the intellectual elite, including big-name Hungarian artists, authors, poets, and scientists, gathered here while waiting for their works to be pressed and printed, killing time by engaging in esoteric debates for nearly 50 years from 1887 through 1944. Shuttered by war, it required significant reconstruction but was eventually restored to its original glory, complete with the original furniture, a grand piano, and a marble bar.
Take a day excursion to Hollókő
A day trip to Hollókő will bring you back in time with its charming historic buildings and castle ruins. The tiny UNESCO-listed village is only about a 90-minute drive from Budapest offering unique and authentic insight into daily life in rural Hungary prior to the 20th century. It includes two distinct areas, the New Village, which is where most residents live today, and the Old Village where the buildings are more than 100 years old. It’s like an open-air museum, with the buildings housing restaurants, shops, and museums.
Visit Pecs Cathedral
Located in the ancient city of Pecs near the Croatian border, Pecs Cathedral was built on the foundations of a 4th-century early Christian basilica. It features a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and neo-Romanesque architecture, as well as vestiges from Ottoman times. The façade was primarily from a neo-Romanesque restoration in the 1880s, based on the 11th-century plans. It flourished during the mid-11th century reign of Peter Orseolo, but 500 years later Turkish conquerors converted it into a mosque. After regaining control of the city in 1686, it was reinstated as a church. Be sure to step inside the chapels to see haunting frescoes.
Discover the beautiful Aggtelek Caves
Hungary’s Baradla Domica cave system, also known as the Aggtelek Caves, is one of the longest researched and has been visited for centuries for its speleothems. It’s Europe’s largest stalactite cave system and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 712 caves including breathtaking stalagmite and stalactite formations. They display an extremely rare combination of glacial and tropical climatic effects and, along with their surroundings, are part of the Aggtelek National Park which is spread across both Hungary and Slovakia. The above-ground terrain serves as an important habitat for wildlife, including red deer, Eurasian lynx, gray wolf, and wild boar.
Spend a day visiting Tihany and Lake Balaton
The village of Tihany lies along the northern shore of Lake Balaton, famous for its lavender garden, a stunning sight when it blooms in August, covering a 100-hectare plot. Visitors can also see the remains of an old castle fort, built between the Bronze and Iron Age. Lake Balaton which is known as the “Hungarian Sea,” offers swimming, water sports, and lovely lakeside cafes and restaurants. It’s the largest lake in Central Europe and a popular vacation destination with beaches and pretty bars and cafes lining the shore. Along the hilly north shore is a beautiful wine-growing region, and also offers hiking trails in Balaton Uplands National Park.
It’s easy to see that there is a long list of possible experiences to enjoy when visiting Hungary. For those without unlimited time, create your own adventure based on what interests you most. A rich array of offerings makes it easy to put together a personalized itinerary whether you want to be immersed in striking natural scenery, explore history, culture, or all of the above.
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