Hungary is one of those particularly unique countries in Europe – despite being landlocked and sharing borders with seven other countries, it’s developed and maintained a quite distinct language and culture. Hungarian is well-known to be one of the most difficult languages in Europe, but fortunately plenty of Hungarians speak a little English and you don’t need to learn the language to enjoy a trip there. I found it a particularly welcoming country with friendly, helpful locals, and would love to go back there again in the future.If you’re considering a trip, here are our travel tips for what to do in Hungary
Admire Lake Balaton
When I lived in Slovakia, many of my local friends told me I should take a trip to Lake Balaton, one of their most popular holiday destinations. Lake Balaton is the biggest lake in Central Europe and there are numerous villages on its edges catering to tourists – tiny Tihany with its lovely Benedictine Abbey was one of my favourites.
Lake Balaton on a stormy day by Amanda Kendle
Enjoy History in PÃ©cs
Down towards the Croatian border, the town of Pecs is a popular destination in Hungary for its cultural and historical sites – it was even elected one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture for 2010.
Explore the Danube in Budapest
One of the highlights of Budapest and its surrounds is taking a cruise on the Danube River. You can even start way up in Germany and cruise down to Hungary if you want. Andy recommended theÂ cruise along the Danube as a unique way to see the most beautiful spots of Budapest.
River Danube, Budapest byÂ Amanda Kendle
Be Scared at the House of Terror, Budapest
One of the most popular museums in Hungary, the House of Terror in Budapest has exhibits explaining the various occupations of Hungary over the years and an explanation of the fascist and communist times the country has experienced.
Hike in Hungary
Many visitors to Hungary go there to follow some of the good hiking trails through the mountains. There’s no one best place, but some of the popular mountain ranges includeÂ the MÃ¡tra, ZemplÃ©n, and BÃ¼kk ranges, particularly in the summer season of course.
Sopron in the west of Hungary is full of heritage buildings from the medieval era and onwards, and some of its highlights are the Â Firewatch Tower, Storno House and the Gothic Goat Church.
Sopron by Emmanuel Dyan
Keszthely is one of the major resort towns near Lake Balaton and I personally found it the calmest and nicest. It includes a large palace but seems to have a relaxed atmosphere and good access to the lake and lake-based activities.
Take a Dip in the Heviz Baths
One of my personal highlights of Hungary was swimming at the Heviz Baths in the north-west. The thermally-heated water is warm all year round and apparently the fact that it’s slightly radioactive is good for our health? I’m not sure how that works but the setting is gorgeous so I highly recommend it!
Heviz Baths byÂ Amanda Kendle
Dance to traditional music in Resck
Vineyards and wine are popular tourist attractions in Hungary, and Jeremy recommends the small town of Resck for a spot of wine tastingÂ and in particular the Kohari Prince winery where there’s also musical entertainment and dancing offer.
Violinist at the Kohari Prince winery in Resck by Jeremy Branham
Party atÂ Siofok
One of the resort towns around Lake Balaton, Siofok is famous as a summer destination for young people because it’s home to numerous nightclubs. I haven’t been there myself but have heard from party-loving friends that it’s heaps of fun!
Explore Baradla Cave
The Baradla Cave (and several more caves) in theÂ Aggtelek National Park in northeastern Hungary is a great destination for travellers. These are World Heritage listed caves and the Baradla Cave is famous for being the largest stalactite cave in Europe.
Baradla Cave by rover0
Get regal at Godollo Castle
The Godollo Castle is an easy half-day trip from Budapest, and it’s become famous because it was once the summer residence of the famous Sisi! It features an impressive Empress Elisabeth exhibition devoted to her and is also a beautiful building in its own right.
Get into the groove at the Sziget Festival
One of Europe’s largest music festivals is theÂ Sziget Festival, held every August in Budapest, on an island in the Danube. It runs for an entire week and at least half of the festival attendees come from outside Hungary; in the past the line-up has included famous singers and bands including Prince, Iron Maiden, REM and Lily Allen.
See Double at Komarom
If you travel between Bratislava and Budapest by train, then you are bound to stop in the twin towns of Komarno (on the Slovak side) and Komarom (on the Hungarian side). I enjoyed a day trip here and thoroughly recommend both sides of the border for an interesting cultural comparison.
Komarno byÂ Amanda Kendle
Sample Wine in Resck
Wine tasting is an essential part of your trip to Hungary and the country has a long history of wine making following particular Hungarian traditions. Whichever part of the country you visit you will probably stumble across a wine making region (there are two dozen of them) but if you’re keen, try the areas aroundÂ Sopron, Eger and in particular Tokaj.
If you’re keen on checking out the cities of Hungary then you’ll need to add its second-largest city, Szeged, to your list. It’s an interesting university town (there are three different universities there) and because it was destroyed by a flood in 1879 it was completely replanned and rebuilt.
Experience the Gellert Baths
Thermal baths are a fantastic part of visiting Hungary and while you’re in Budapest, you shouldn’t miss the Gellert Baths. Guide books sometimes liken this to swimming in a cathedral and I had a great experience there and must agree!
Gellert Baths byÂ Amanda Kendle
Eger is another fantastic Hungarian city and it’s a good place to visit if you’re keen on historical monuments – its most famous being a 14-sided minaret.
Take time to reflect at the Gulag labor camps and Resck memorial
To explore one of the more sombre times in Hungarian history, Jeremy suggests the Gulag labor camps and Resck memorial are worth a visit. This area was home to some of the harshest camps operated by Stalin.
Take a Dip at the Szechenyi Bath
On a lighter note, another well-known thermal bath and set of pools can be found at the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest. I’ve not made it there yet but I have been keen to go ever since I owned a guidebook with a picture of men playing chess while in the water at these baths – looks like great relaxing fun!
Szechenyi Baths by PharPhoto
Â See the Great Plains at Puszta
In the eastern half of Hungary, the Great Plains (centred around theÂ HortobÃ¡gy National Park) is a World Heritage-listed area and is quite different to other parts of Hungary. It’s a place worth exploring for its unique folklore and scenery, especially in the national park where the steppe is relatively untouched.
Try Hungarian paprika
If you have even vaguely foodie interests, then you will be impressed by the paprika of Hungary. In Hungary paprika means not just the ground spice we use in cooking but the actual capsicum or pepper it’s obtained from and you will find them everywhere!
Paprika near Lake Balaton byÂ Amanda Kendle
Visit the former capital of Esztergom
Not too far north of Budapest, the city ofÂ Esztergom was once the capital of Hungary and today boasts several interesting attractions including the largest cathedral in the country and a particularly extensive Museum of Christian Art.
Warm up at Fisherman’s Bastion
In Budapest, overlooking the Danube, the Fisherman’s Bastion is a wonderful spot on the “Buda” side of the city. You can walk along the top of the walls (it joins seven towers) or if you’re like me, enjoy a hot drink inside the Bastion.
Fisherman’s Bastion byÂ Amanda Kendle
Go back to WW2 at the Hospital in the Rock
Relatively newly opened to the public, the Hospital in the Rock is part of the caves of Castle Hill in Budapest, and you can now enter some of the areas used during the siege of Budapest during the second World War.
Your Hungary tips
Have you been to Hungary, or heard of a great place to visit there? Please let us know your tips for what to do in Hungary in the comments.