Budapest, Hungary – For decades, Hungary has been a sleeper traveler destination in Europe. It doesn’t get the publicity of France or Spain, but savvy travelers rave about what Hungary has to offer. People who take the time to visit come away with a real appreciation for Hungarian food, culture, and natural beauty. Hungary is known for its famous food (goulash) as well as world-renowned wines. And of course, its cities are absolutely mesmerizing.
Thousands of years of civilization, including periods under the rule of the Roman, Mongolian and Ottoman empires, make it a true melting pot country. Visitors to Hungary can literally walk the streets and learn more about how the modern world we know now came to be. There are plenty of amazing sites to visit in Hungary. People who travel there spend days, weeks and even months in the country, while some others decide never to leave. Whether your time is long or short, here are four of the most amazing places you shouldn’t miss during your trip to Hungary.
Budapest should be the anchor for any Hungarian vacation, and is often recognized as one of Europe’s most beautiful city on top of being the country’s cultural and economic center. The city is located on the shores of the Danube, so there’s plenty of river walking with sparkling blue water on one side and centuries’ old buildings on the other. There’s plenty to see and do. Budapest has Europe’s third-largest parliament building and the second largest synagogue in the world. For some historical understanding of what Hungary went through in World War II, spend some time at the Shoes of the Danube, a memorial to the city’s Jewish population killed during the war.
Now, you’ll no doubt find a thousand articles on the best things to do and see in Budapest, so we won’t add yet-another to-do list, but rather give you a quick focus on one of our favourite spots in the city: if you’re a fan of the opera, you’re in luck. But even if you’re not, the Hungarian State Opera House is definitely worth a stop. The opera house was constructed in 1875 in the heart of the city. Needless to say, it’s one of the most exquisite opera houses in the world, with ornate Carrara marble columns and a grandiose marble staircase. The staircase is a fitting entrance to the palatial venue. The white marble staircase with red carpet is surrounded by pink patterned marble. It transports visitors back to a more formal time when the opera was the place to be seen.
After stuffing and shopping yourself out in Budapest, head out to Lake Balaton for some relaxation. The lake looks like it belongs to a fairy tale with its beautiful homes and green landscapes, and is one of the most popular week-end getaways for people living in the country. Lake Balaton is the biggest freshwater lake in Europe and is lovingly referred to by locals as the Hungarian Sea. Because it’s a lake, most of the shorelines are grassland, per Lyhpa. However, some effort has been made to construct sandy beaches to draw in more tourists. Visitors can sit by the lake during the day and visit surrounding wineries and fine dining restaurants in the evenings. In short, one of our favourite trips in Central Europe if you’re tired of overcrowded city centers!
The fifth largest city in Hungary, Pecs was named a UNESCO City of Peace years ago because of its ethnic diversity. This charming and breathtaking city in south-western Hungary has done a great job welcoming refugees into Hungary, and so far, the results have been good. Knowing how to deal with foreign cultures, languages, and attitudes is, after all, part of Pecs’ history. Christians, Romans, and Ottomans had stewardship over the city at some point, made obvious by the stunning medieval buildings and museums.
Some of the largest attractions are Pecs Synagogue, Pecs Cathedral and the Mosque of Pasha Gazzi Kassim. There’s truly something for everyone in Pecs, and it’s also a great stop for a few days if you’re thinking about continuing your trip further south in the Balkans. And the best part of it? It’s home to the most beautiful tree in Europe!
Hortobagy National Park
Hungary has got a lot for nature lovers looking to get out of the city. In 1973, Hungary created its first national park, Hortobagy National Park. It’s the biggest protected area in the country at over 800 square kilometers and became, in 1999, one of Hungary’s numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The park’s famous among bird watchers because over 300 species of birds live in Hortobagy. To mark the visit, make sure to stop at Nine-Arch Bridge for a picture. The bridge has been around since the 1800’s to help transport people and animals during floods. Visitors can also learn a bit about why some Hungarians have negative feelings about the area. During the Soviet era, Stalinists sent political opponents to Hortobagy to work forced labor.
Hungary is a microcosm of all that Europe has been through with wars, the changing of empires, and international trade. The meshing of cultures, foods, music, clothing, and people breathes life into Budapest and other areas of the country as the economy continues to grow. The cost of living in Hungary is still relatively low compared to other parts of Europe, so travelers from all around the world will see their money go further. The country and the people are welcoming to visitors and love to share what’s great about Hungary with others.