When you think of Hungary most people think of Budapest, the country’s picturesque and bustling capital. Although there’s much more to this beautiful country; adventure outside of Budapest and you’ll find that the countryside in Hungary is just as impressive as its capital city. Hungary’s countryside holds many charming destinations filled with outdoor attractions and natural beauty.
If you have the time, I recommend taking a day trip or even an overnight trip or longer excursions to enjoy a different part of Hungary and to see the countryside, villages and small or bigger towns outside of Budapest.
You can read some of my recommendations here.
Hungarian Castle Tour (3 days)
Day 1: Early departure from Budapest. First stop will be Tata Castle. It was built at the end of the 1300s, today it is one of the jewels of Tata. Its prospering can be dated to the reign of Zsigmond Luxemburg and Mátyás Hunyadi as the summer resort of the king. The walls of the castle reflect the marks of romantic style which is due to the Eszterházy family used to live here. The building at the shore of Old Lake is a beautiful sight still today. Then we will visit Pannonhalma Abbey, and you will have a guided tour in the oldest Hungarian building in existence. Rare documents and records from the earliest centuries of the Hungarian State are preserved in the archives. The library consists of over 300,000 volumes. In the art gallery, there are 16th-18th-century works. Continue to the beautiful Baroque and Neo-classic town of Győr. Walking tour in the city centre. Overnight in Győr.
Day 2: After breakfast, we will go to Fertőd, the Hungarian Versailles and visit the Eszterhazy Castle. Then we will travel to the historic Baroque town of Sopron, second richest Hungarian town in historic monuments. Continue to Kőszeg, walk around on Jurisics Square and visit St. James Church from the 14th century, Ambrozy House and Jurisics castle. A short visit to the impressive castle of Sümeg. Then wine tasting and dinner. Overnight in Sümeg.
Day 3: After breakfast, we will travel along the northern shore of Lake Balaton to the Tihany Peninsula. We will visit the Abbey Church founded in 1055. We will go to Veszprém, where you will see the Castle district, Gizella Chapel and the Cathedral. In the late afternoon, we will return to Budapest, drop off at your hotel(s).
Szentendre- Visegrád – Esztergom (Danube Shore Tour)
This tour includes 3 towns along the River Danube. It takes one day and first we visit Szentendre. We take a walk in the town. Szentendre is like an Italian artists’ place with several small houses and narrow streets. That is the shopping paradise for handicraft fans. After Szentendre we continue our journey along the Danube, and in a short time, we reach Visegrád Castle. Visegrád was the Hungarian royal seat for 200 years. On top of a hill, the ruins of the kings’ fort and castle give a fantastic view on the Danube Bend. Recommended lunch in the enchanted and panoramic Hunter’s Lodge on top of Visegrád Hill. Lunch break (optional).
Then we continue to Esztergom. Esztergom was Hungary’s first capital. With the biggest and most remarkable Basilica of Hungary, it is the seat of the Hungarian cardinal. We can visit the crypt with the tomb of the famous Cardinal Mindszenty, and the stunning treasury with amazing works of art. In the end, we drive back to Budapest.
Keszthely – Hévíz – Őrség – Sümeg -Veszprém-Székesfehérvár (3 days)
1. Day Budapest-Keszthely-Hévíz (200 km)
Keszthely is the largest town by Lake Balaton. Its main highlight is the Festetics Castle, one of the most beautiful baroque palaces of Hungary. The castle astonishingly avoided damages during the Second World War and it has been serving as Helikon Castle Museum since 1974. Its library of 100 000 volumes is the only complete aristocratic collection in Hungary to have been left intact. In the Helikon Castle Museum, we visit the beautifully restored and furnished rooms, the Library, a Hunting, a Carriage and a Historical Railway Model exhibition, the House of the Balaton Wines and take a walk in the huge, romantic park.
We have a walk then in the charming, baroque downtown of Keszthely, and in the early afternoon, you can enjoy a real Hungarian fish soup or a fish- speciality made from Balaton fishes, before taking the waters in the bath of the famous Lake Hévíz. Overnight in Héviz.
2. Day. Hévíz-Pankasz-Őriszentpéter-Szalafő-Körmend-Sümeg (190 km)
After breakfast, we drive to Pankasz and look at the bell-tower a typical structure of Őrség and the working smithy. From there we go to Őriszentpéter the “capital” of Őrség. It is part of the Őrség National Park. The characteristic layout of scattered settlement in “small districts” (szeres) can be studied in the town. The collection of local history, which can be found in the Community Centre, comprises remarkable items of folklore and folk art in this region. The Catholic church was built around 1230 in Romanesque style. The remains of a medieval brick-works can be seen near the church. Its old avenue of lime-trees near the centre of the town is protected. (Every year the Őrség Folklore Fair is traditionally held on the last weekend of June.)
We continue to Szalafő the most archaic settlement in Őrség . Visit the Reformed Church, the Szalafő Country House and Outdoor museum. Lunchtime and you can taste the famous Szalafő Pálinka and pumpkin seed oil.
After resting, we go through Felsőmarác to Körmend. The town is especially well known for its castle, which used to belong to the Batthyány family, one of the most important aristocrat families of Hungary. Blessed Ladislaus Batthyány-Strattmann (1870–1931), a famous ophthalmologist who was beatified by the Catholic Church, lived in the castle with his family for nearly 10 years. He turned one of the wings of the castle into an ophthalmology clinic where he treated poor patients free.
We drive to Sümeg. Walking, sightseeing, free time, dinner. Overnight.
3. Day. Sümeg-Veszprém-Székesfehérvár-Budapest (180 km)
Breakfast, then visit the Sümeg Castle built in the mid or late 13th century by Béla IV of Hungary. The Castle is situated atop a mountain called “Castle Hill”. During its existence, it has been expanded several times. In the 15th century, it was fortified, and the second of the two towers was built. It has been under siege several times. Later we got to Veszprém the town of queens. The formal Royal Fortress stood on the 40m high and 500m long dolomite rock backbone in the 11-13th century. Today we can find the Baroque Castle District there. We’ take a walk, visit the Archbishop’s Palace and the Cathedral, have a beautiful view over the Valley of the Stream Séd, walk down to the Old Town Square. Free time in the beautiful downtown. We continue to Székesfehérvár, which is so closely linked with the beginnings of the Hungarian monarchy as hardly any other town. It is the oldest seat of the monarchy and possesses the former coronation church of the Hungarian kings. Székesfehérvát situated between the foothills of the Bakony Forest and the Velencei Mountains has a well-preserved inner town, which is almost provincial Baroque in appearance with numerous places of interest. Dinner (optional). Back to Budapest.
Come with me and spend a fabulous day in the Puszta! What is Puszta exactly? It is the Hungarian Great Plain where you can see and feel the typical countryside life. We drive from Budapest to the baroque town of Kecskemét. We walk around the beautiful downtown and visit the most important sights: the Main Square with the famous City Hall the Theatre and the churches (guided walk). From Kecskemét, we drive to a traditional Hungarian farm. After receiving the greetings of the horse(-herds)men, you can taste the famous Hungarian welcome drink, “pálinka” (Schnapps) and the “pogácsa” (salty scone). The horsemen will take you around and through the Puszta by horse-carriage. The program continues with a traditional horse show, which includes several breathtaking field performances. You are then invited for a three-course lunch of course including the famous Hungarian goulash soup while listening to Hungarian gipsy music. The program offers the possibility to ride the horses. The tour ends in the city centre of Budapest or at your hotel.
Győr (link of the city homepage) and Pannonhalma (one day or two days)
Come and see the picturesque city of Győr that is my hometown on a one-day tour from Budapest, and enjoy its well-preserved buildings Take a stroll to see squares and streets in the old town look at beautiful bay and bow windows typical of the early Baroque. Discover the baroque architecture of Győr. Go to Győr Cathedral to see the reliquary of the Saint King Ladislaus I of Hungary. You can also discover where Napoleon stayed during his Hungarian engagements. We can even go and visit the huge Pannonhalma Abbey complex to see one of the most historic monuments in Hungary.
Budapest – Tata- – Neszmély -Komárom/Fort Monostor – Győr -Sopron -Vienna (if you want) -Lébény -Pannonhalma – Budapest (3-6 days)
We start our tour in Budapest. We have a photo-stop at Tatabánya at the Turul statue. The Turul is the most important bird in the origin myth of the Magyars (Hungarian people). It is a divine messenger and perches on top of the tree of life along with the other spirits of unborn children in the form of birds. The Turul became a symbol of power, strength, and nobility, and it is still used today on the coat of arms of the Hungarian Army, the Counter Terrorism Centre and the Office of National Security. The Turul is probably based on a large falcon, and the origin of the word is most likely Turkic and it means a medium to large bird of prey of the family Goshawk or Red Kite.
There were 3 large Turul statues, each with a wingspan of 15 metres, in Greater Hungary (before the country had its borders reconfigured by the Treaty of Trianon). The last of the three stands on a mountain near Tatabánya, Hungary, but the other two were destroyed. It is the largest bird statue in the world and the largest bronze statue in Central Europe. There remain 195 Turul statues in Hungary, as well as 48 in Romania (32 in Transylvania and 16 in Partium), 8 in Slovakia, 7 in Serbia, 5 in Ukraine, 1 in Austria. And one more as of 29 September 2012, St. Michael the Archangel’s Day erected in Hungary’s National Historical Memorial Park of Pusztaszer.
From Tatabánya, we proceed to Tata. An old Renaissance castle (called Öregvár in Hungarian that indeed translates to old castle), springs and two lakes, the water-mills from the Middle Ages, an English park and a narrow gauge railway makes Tata one of the most romantic towns of Hungary.
We continue to the wine-region of Neszmély. Lying northwest of Budapest on the slopes of the Gerecse Hill and bordered by the Danube this wine region has a special climate favourable to produce excellent whites.
Main grape varieties grown here are: Chardonnay, Olaszrizling, Sauvignon Blanc and Királyleányka.
The Hilltop Winery run by my friends is unique in that it exports the most bottles of Hungarian wine to Britain – over 6 million out of the 7 million bottles of wine produced each year. This is the world’s toughest wine market where the best estates from all around the world compete for customers. In this field, Hilltop has managed to secure a stable market and has won esteem from many quarters, including the winery’s success in 1998 when its Cserszegi Fűszeres was chosen “White Wine of the Year”. The range of products is extensive as the winery produces and bottles almost 40 varieties of wine as well as 3 types of törköly pálinka (Hungarian grappa).
The Hilltop Wine Hotel and Restaurant extends a warm welcome to guests seeking relaxation and entertainment. The restaurant with the most stunning view of the Danube in Hungary offers a wide range of food and colourful events in all seasons of the year: Vintage events, the new wine festival and the all-year-round opportunity to taste pálinka and wine.
We can overnight in the Hilltop Hotel.
The next morning after a fantastic breakfast we go to Komárom and Fort Monostor. The fort was built between 1850 and 1871, counts as the biggest Central-European fortress of modern history. This historic monument, enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, offers a magnificent sight with its monumental walls built of carefully shaped and assembled stones, its ramparts covered with soil to a depth of 3-4 metres and its several kilometres long underground tunnel system (casemate network). The building itself takes up an area of 25 hectares, together with the related shooting range it occupies a total area of 70 hectares. The floor space of the buildings amounts to 25 680 m2. The 640 rooms were once suitable for the accommodation of max. 8000 soldiers. Fort Monostor is an unrivalled example of Central European military architecture. After World War II the walls of the fortress gave shelter to numerous Hungarian families deported from Czechoslovakia. Between 1945 and 1991 the South Army Group of the Soviet Red Army converted the building into the biggest ammunition storage facility of Central Europe. After they had left the fortress, it eventually ceased to serve military purposes.
Next, we visit Győr. We can spend the night there after we enjoy the unique nightlife in my hometown or we can continue to Sopron. There are numerous things that you should not miss in that beautiful town. These attractions reflect the true flavour of Sopron and you will be happy to be introduced to it in such an exciting manner.
It is one of the cities that has the largest number of monuments in the whole of Hungary. Sopron is situated along the Austrian-Hungarian border at the foot of the Alps. The streets of the town are quaint, quiet and little. This is a historic place and the town centre itself beautifully reflects its traditional past. Here you will also find unique buildings and other historical monuments that belong to the Middle Ages. (One night in Sopron is possible.)
What can we do next? It is up to you. We can drive to Vienna and have a marvellous sightseeing program there. OR, we can go back to Budapest with stops in Lébény and explore the intact medieval town and then in Pannonhalma and have a tour in the Abbey