Hungary: a hidden gem in the heart of Central Europe. Known for its rich history, diverse landscapes, and unique culinary offerings, this enchanting country has much to offer every kind of traveler. Whether you’re an avid history buff, a food enthusiast, or someone simply looking to explore a less-trodden path, Hungary has something in store for you.
Budapest, often referred to as the “Paris of the East,” is a city that combines old-world charm with modern-day luxury. Divided by the majestic Danube River, it offers travelers a mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. Must-visit places include Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and the iconic Széchenyi Chain Bridge. For those interested in relaxation, the city is also home to several thermal baths such as the famous Gellért Baths and Széchenyi Baths.
Known as the “Hungarian Sea,” Lake Balaton is Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake. It’s a hotspot for vacationers, especially during the summer months, offering a variety of water sports like sailing, windsurfing, and paddleboarding. The lake is surrounded by picturesque towns like Tihany and Balatonfüred, which are perfect for enjoying local wines and exploring historic sites.
Eger is a historical city located in northern Hungary, famous for its castle, thermal baths, and the country’s oldest minaret. It’s a must-visit for history enthusiasts as it played a significant role during the Ottoman invasion of Hungary. The city is also known for its wine production, especially the famous red wine called “Bull’s Blood” (Egri Bikavér).
Often referred to as the “Capital of the Great Hungarian Plain,” Debrecen is the second-largest city in Hungary. Known for its well-preserved history and vibrant cultural life, it offers attractions such as the Great Church (Nagytemplom), the Déri Museum, and the Hortobágy National Park nearby. It’s also a city of festivals, with annual events like the Debrecen Flower Carnival and the Campus Festival drawing visitors from all around.
Located in the southwestern part of Hungary, Pécs is renowned for its rich history dating back to Roman times. The city is a fusion of cultures and religions, evident in its diverse architectural styles and historical landmarks. Highlights include the Early Christian Necropolis, Pécs Cathedral, and the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter. The city’s Mediterranean climate and vibrant arts scene make it a unique destination within Hungary.
Situated halfway between Budapest and Vienna, Győr is a city that seamlessly blends medieval charm with contemporary elegance. The city center is a vision of Baroque architecture, while the outskirts offer modern shopping and dining experiences. Popular landmarks include the Győr Basilica, the Bishop’s Castle, and the Rába Quelle Thermal Bath and Spa.
Nestled near the Austrian border, Sopron is a city rich in medieval architecture and history. Known as the “most loyal town” for its history of supporting Hungary, it offers a range of attractions including Firewatch Tower, the Goat Church, and the Lővérek, a hilly area perfect for hiking and relaxation. Sopron is also famous for its wine, particularly Kékfrankos.
Visegrád is a small castle town situated along the Danube River. It’s famous for the Visegrád Castle, which offers stunning panoramic views of the Danube Bend. The area is ideal for nature lovers, offering numerous trails for hiking and opportunities for bird-watching. The town is also known for its historical reenactments, including the annual Palinka and Sausage Festival.
With these destinations spanning from bustling cities to serene lakesides, Hungary offers a varied and enriching travel experience for all.
Hungarian Culture and History
Hungary is a nation steeped in folklore and tradition. From the captivating rhythms of Hungarian folk music to the intricate details of its handicrafts, the country offers a glimpse into a culture that has been carefully preserved over the centuries. Traditional dance forms like “Csárdás” are a spectacle to witness, especially during festivals and celebrations. The art of embroidery, often showcased in traditional Hungarian clothing, is another aspect of folklore that speaks volumes of the country’s artistic heritage.
Notable Figures in History
Hungary has been the birthplace of many influential personalities who have made significant contributions in fields ranging from science to the arts. Names like Albert Szent-Györgyi, who discovered Vitamin C, and Ernő Rubik, inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, are global figures originating from Hungary. In the realm of music and the arts, composers such as Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók have left an indelible impact on world culture. These figures serve as testament to Hungary’s longstanding tradition of excellence and innovation.
Cuisine and Food
Hungarian cuisine is a flavorful journey for the palate, characterized by its rich stews, hearty meats, and ample use of spices like paprika. Goulash, a meat stew seasoned with paprika and other spices, is perhaps one of the most iconic Hungarian dishes. Another must-try is Lángos, a deep-fried dough topped with sour cream, cheese, or garlic butter. For those with a sweet tooth, Chimney Cake (Kürtőskalács) is a popular dessert, a sweet spiral-shaped pastry often coated with sugar, cinnamon, or nuts.
Hungary is not just about meat and stews; it also offers a variety of vegetable dishes and salads. Dishes like Lecso, a vegetable stew made with peppers, tomatoes, and onions, and Hortobágyi Palacsinta, a type of savory crepe filled with meat, showcase the diverse range of Hungarian culinary offerings.
The country is also known for its rich selection of soups, like Fisherman’s Soup (Halászlé) and Cold Cherry Soup (Meggyleves), which can be enjoyed as starters or even as main courses.
Hungarian cuisine, with its mix of flavors and ingredients, serves as a delicious reflection of the country’s history and cultural influences.
Best Time to Visit
When it comes to visiting Hungary, timing can be everything. Each season offers a unique experience, allowing travelers to choose based on their interests and what they hope to get out of their trip.
Spring is a delightful time to visit Hungary, especially from April to June. The weather is mild, making it an excellent time for outdoor activities and sightseeing. Budapest in spring is particularly beautiful, with cherry blossoms and outdoor cafes offering an inviting atmosphere.
Summer, from June to August, is the peak tourist season, especially for destinations like Lake Balaton. The weather is warm, and you’ll find a range of activities like sailing, swimming, and outdoor festivals. However, some may find the summer heat in the cities to be intense, and prices for accommodations can be higher due to demand.
Autumn, from September to November, offers a more tranquil experience. The fall foliage in areas like the Buda Hills provides stunning natural beauty, and the weather is still pleasant enough for outdoor activities. Wine festivals are common in this season, making it a great time for oenophiles to explore Hungary’s wine regions.
Winter in Hungary, from December to February, is cold but magical. Budapest transforms into a winter wonderland with its Christmas markets and lights. Winter sports enthusiasts will find opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in the mountainous regions. Thermal baths also gain an added layer of charm in the cold weather, offering a warm respite from the chilly temperatures.
Choosing the best time to visit Hungary ultimately depends on what you wish to experience—each season has its own unique offerings that can make your trip unforgettable.
When planning your trip to Hungary, some practical tips can make your journey smoother and more enjoyable. Whether it’s understanding public transportation or learning some basic phrases, a little preparation goes a long way.
Hungary has an extensive and reliable public transportation network. In Budapest, the metro, trams, and buses are convenient ways to explore the city. Tickets are generally interchangeable between different forms of transport within the capital. For long-distance travel, trains and intercity buses are widely available and can take you to most parts of the country.
Language and Communication
While many Hungarians, especially in urban areas and among the younger population, speak English, it’s always a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in Hungarian. Not only will this help in rural areas where English is less commonly spoken, but it’s also a nice way to show respect for the local culture.
Hungary uses the Hungarian Forint (HUF) as its official currency. While some places, particularly in Budapest, may accept euros, it’s advisable to have Forints on hand. Currency exchange services are available at airports, train stations, and city centers, but ATMs generally offer a better exchange rate. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, especially in larger cities, but it’s good to carry some cash for smaller establishments or rural areas.
By keeping these travel tips in mind, you can focus on enjoying all the rich experiences Hungary has to offer. From navigating the streets of Budapest to sampling the local cuisine, these practical insights will help ensure your trip is memorable for all the right reasons.
Hungarian Forint current exchange rates
- 100 HUF = $0.29 or $1 = 348.02 Hungarian Forint
- 100 HUF = €0.26 or €1 = 378.88 Hungarian Forint
- 100 HUF = 0.23 British Pounds
- 100 HUF = 0.43 Australian Dollar
- 100 HUF = 0.39 Canadian Dollar
- 100 HUF = 3.00 Swedish Krona
- 100 HUF = 1.14 Polish Zloty
- 100 HUF = 6.41 Czech Koruna
- 100 HUF = 371.82 South Korean Won
- 100 HUF = 2.03 Chinese Yuan
- 100 HUF = 42.19 Japanese Yen
- Hungary Tourism Official Website – The official site for tourism in Hungary, offering comprehensive information on attractions, events, and travel planning.
- Lonely Planet: Hungary – Renowned travel guide offering in-depth articles, tips, and itineraries for Hungary.
- Rick Steves’ Hungary – Known for practical travel advice, Rick Steves covers Hungary’s must-see spots and local secrets.
- TripAdvisor: Hungary – User-generated reviews and tips on accommodations, restaurants, and attractions in Hungary.
- Budapest Public Transport – Official website for public transportation in Budapest, offering maps, ticket information, and schedules.
- Hungary Today – A news portal that also features articles on Hungarian culture, history, and events, helpful for understanding current affairs during your trip.
- Currency Converter – Quickly convert your currency to Hungarian Forint.
- Seat61: Train Travel in Hungary – Detailed guide for train travel within Hungary and beyond.
- Weather.com: Hungary – Reliable weather forecasts to help plan your trip better.
- Hungarian National Parks – Official site for Hungary’s national parks, offering information on natural attractions and activities.
Hungary is a country that captivates its visitors with a blend of natural beauty, rich history, and diverse culture. Whether you’re exploring the vibrant streets of Budapest, soaking in the serene landscapes around Lake Balaton, or delving into the folk traditions and culinary delights, Hungary offers an array of experiences that cater to all types of travelers. Armed with the travel tips and resources provided in this guide, you’re well-prepared to embark on a memorable journey through this fascinating Central European nation.