Hungary isn't just one of the most picturesque vacation spots in Europe. Sites and attractions vary from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Buda Castle to Pannonhalma Archabbey, the second largest territorial abbey in the world. Hungary is also famed for its many natural hot water springs and is home to the largest thermal bathing complex in Europe, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Here are the best things to do in Hungary.
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Andrassy Avenue was completed in 1885 as a way of connecting the city center with the city park. The avenue is surrounded by neo-Renaissance houses and palaces that were constructed by renowned artists and were the homes of Hungary's elite. Because public transport was limited to conserve the site's beauty and character, Andrássy Avenue also became home to the first subway line in continental Europe, the Millennium Underground. Today, visitors can explore the avenue, which is separated into four distinct parts: The Oktogon, which is filled with residential and office buildings; Kodaly Korond, which has some stunning residential villas; Bajza Utca, home to a few embassies and palaces; and Elizabeth Square, which is mostly commercial buildings, shops, and upscale boutiques, including Burberry and Louis Vuitton.
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A historic castle that once housed Hungarian kings, Buda Castle used to be called the Royal Palace. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was first completed in 1265 and can be found in Hungary's Castle District. There are many walking tours available for visitors to better explore the castle and its grounds, especially parts of the castle that house the National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the Szechenyi Library. Visitors can learn of the castle's construction, it's design, architecture, and history. The outside grounds are renowned for offering breathtaking views of the city, surroundings, and the River Danube.
Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-458-3000
3.Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden
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One of the oldest zoos in the world, the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden opened in 1866 and is the oldest zoo in Hungary. There are over a million visitors annually who come to see the 1,000+ species that live there. Some of the more famous residents of the zoo are the Komodo dragons and the wombat. The zoo's exhibits are separated into zones that highlight animals from that region, including America Tropicana, the Savannah Zone, Australia, India, and the Janos Xantus House, which is a building named after the zoo's first director and is filled with East Asian flora and fauna.
Budapest, állatkerti krt. 6-12, 1146 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-273-4901
4.Castle of Diosgyor
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The Castle of Diosgyor was first built in the 12th century and then destroyed during the Mongol invasion. The Gothic castle was then rebuilt and served as a wedding gift for Hungarian queens. Over the years, the castle once again fell into ruins and what visitors see today is the medieval-style reconstruction that was done in 2014. The castle is a great experience for visitors of all ages, as costumed animators and period furniture bring the castle alive. There are many traditional programs and historical games that visitors can participate in as well.
Miskolc, Vár u. 24, 3534 Hungary, Phone: +36-46-533-355
5.Castle of Egri
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The Castle of Egri
has a rich history that includes being ruined during the Mongol invasion, getting utilized as army barracks, and repelling a Turkish attack during the Siege of Eger. What stands presently is the Gothic-style palace that was built in 1470. Visitors can explore not only the architecture and decor of the castle but also the several museums that are housed within it. Some of the museums are Dobo Istvan Varmuzeum, which takes visitors on a journey of the castle's history, the Egri Keptar painting exhibition, the Panoptikum wax museum, and the Kazmatak museum, which takes visitors through the maze of cellars under the castle.
Eger, Vár 1, 3300 Hungary, Phone: +36-36-312-744
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The Szechenyi Chain Bridge, popularly called Chain Bridge, is a 1,230-foot suspension bridge crossing the Danube River. The bridge was designed by renowned English engineer William Tierney Clark and was opened in 1849; currently, it is one of the two surviving bridges designed by Clark. Made from wrought iron and stone, the bridge was a modern engineering wonder during the time of its construction and became a symbol of advancement. Visitors from around the world visit the attraction annually; it's also the site of the Red Bull air races, during which flying under the bridge is a popular maneuver.
Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary
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Extending from the Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Bridge to the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the Danube Promenade offers visitors stunning views of the Danube River and its surroundings. The promenade has always been a popular location for Hungarian aristocrats and was lined with famous hotels such as the Carlton, the Ritz, and the Bristol. Today, there are many luxury boutique hotels that recreate the pre-war ambiance for visitors to enjoy. Other than the panoramic views and luxury hotels, visitors will also come across a number of outdoor cafes that are perfect for people-watching on a summer day.
Budapest, Vigadó tér, 1051 Hungary
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8.Dohany Street Synagogue
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One of the most popular attractions in Budapest, the Dohány Street Synagogue is often called the Great Synagogue. Consecrated in 1859, the synagogue can seat over 3,000 people, making it the biggest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. Visitors can spend a day exploring the stunning synagogue complex, which houses the Jewish Museum and its extensive collection of religious relics as well as the Heroes' Temple, which serves as a memorial to Hungarian Jews who lost their lives in World War I. The rear courtyard holds the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park, which has the Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs - a weeping willow statue that has the names of the more than 400,000 Jews who were murdered by the Nazis inscribed on the leaves.
Budapest, Dohány u. 2, 1074 Hungary
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Esztergomi Bazilika is the popularly used name for the Cathedral and Primatial Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary Assumed into Heaven and St. Adalbert. The ecclesiastic basilica is the seat of the Catholic Church in Hungary and the mother church of the Archdiocese of Esztergom - Budapest. Other than being the largest church in Hungary, it is also the tallest building, towering over 100 meters high. Visitors will come across some stunning pieces of art, including the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Girolamo Michelangelo Grigoletti on the altarpiece; the piece is the largest painting in the world on a single piece of canvas. Other amazing aspects of the basilica include the Old Egyptian-style crypt and many Tuscan Renaissance motifs.
Esztergom, Szent István tér 1, 2500 Hungary
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Festetics Palace is a baroque-style palace that now houses the Helikon Palace Museum and is also used as an events center. The palace has been renovated and rebuilt many times over the years, and what visitors see today is the form it had in in the late 1800s. Visitors can explore the architecture and interior decor, including the revered palace library, which has over 86,000 items. The palace is surrounded by a nature park filled with ponds, flowerbeds, fountains, and statues, some of which are hundreds of years old; there is also a large collection of carriages and coaches. Visitors who are there during the summer months can enjoy one of the many open-air concerts scheduled on the grounds.
Keszthely, Kastély u. 1, 8360 Hungary, Phone: +36-83-314-194
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One of the most popular attractions in Budapest, Fisherman's Bastion is a terrace on the banks of the Danube River. It is built in the neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic styles and offers visitors some of the most stunning views one can see in Hungary. There are seven lookout towers, which visitors may climb, each of which represents one of the seven Magyar tribes. Other aspects of Fisherman's Bastion that shouldn't be missed include the nearby ruins of the 13th-century Dominican Church and a bronze statue of Stephen I of Hungary, the last grand prince of the Hungarians.
Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-458-3030
12.Great Market Hall
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Central Market Hall, also known as Great Market Hall, is one of the oldest and largest indoor markets in Budapest. The market is at the end of Vaci Utca, a famed pedestrian shopping street where visitors can find many souvenirs. The market itself has three floors, all of which are filled with stalls that vary from meats and produce to spices and souvenirs. It's become a popular tourist attraction and visitors will often find themselves just people watching and seeing how the locals interact, or taking some amazing photographs of the neo-Gothic style architecture and everything in it.
Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-366-3300
13.Hortobagy National Park
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Hortobagy National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the country's first designated national parks. The park is one of the largest semi-natural grasslands in Europe and the largest protected area in Hungary. Rightly so, as visitors will come across some amazing cultural history in its forests, streams, rivers, plains, and mountains. There are numerous flora and fauna such as the Hungarian grey cattle, horses, and water buffalo. There are also nearly 350 species of birds that can be spotted in the park, such as the red-footed falcon, aquatic warblers, and stone curlews as well as common cranes and lesser white-fronted geese. One of the most iconic aspects of the park is the Nine-holed Bridge - a stone arch bridge that was the longest in historical Hungary until 1921.
14.Hungarian National Gallery
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The Hungarian National Gallery is locally known as Magyar Nemzeti Galeria and is located in a part of the Buda Castle. The gallery was established in 1957 and has a large collection of Hungarian art that ranges from Renaissance and Gothic to baroque and medieval. Visitors will find works from Hungarian artists, including Ervin Marton, Brassaï, Maurice Ascalon, and Miklos Izso, among many others. Some of the not-to-be-missed pieces in the Hungarian National Gallery are Christ in front of Pilate by Mihaly Munkacsy and Woman Dressed in Polka Dots Robe by Jozsef Rippl-Ronai.
1014 Budapest, Szent György tér 2, Hungary, Phone: +36-20-439-7325
15.Hungarian National Museum
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Locally known as Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum, the Hungarian National Museum is filled with art, history, and archaeology. It was founded in 1802 and is now housed in a neoclassical building designed by Hungarian-Austrian architect Mihaly Pollack. The building itself is a wonder and has stunning paintings on the ceiling and the staircase. The permanent exhibitions in the museum vary from the general history of Hungary leading back to the Avar period as well as the age of the Arpads. There is also an extensive collection of carvings, stone inscriptions, and relics. There are many temporary exhibitions that are housed in the museum throughout the year, dedicated to topics such as the Protestant way of life in the 20th century.
Budapest, Múzeum krt. 14-16, 1088 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-338-2122
16.Hungarian Parliament Building
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The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the oldest legislative buildings in Europe and is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary. The notable landmark has become a popular Budapest tourist destination and can be seen standing prominently on the banks of the River Danube. The parliament building holds a number of records, such as being tallest building in Budapest as well as the largest building in all of Hungary, housing 13 elevators, 10 courtyards, 29 staircases, 27 gates, and 691 rooms. Inside, visitors will come across statues, sculptures, frescoes, and paintings as well as stained glass and glass mosaics by Miksa Roth.
Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Hungary
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17.Hungarian State Opera House
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Originally known as the Hungarian Royal Opera House, the Hungarian State Opera House began construction in 1875 and wasn't opened to the public until 1884, 9 years later. The neo-Renaissance opera house was designed by one of Europe's leading architects, Miklos Ybl. It is the second largest opera house in Hungary and has hosted performances by important artists, such as the famed music director Otto Klemperer and composer Gustav Mahler. Visitors can explore the neo-Renaissance style building filled with paintings, sculptures, and many other forms of Hungarian art. Depending on when they're in Budapest, visitors may also be able to attend the Budapest Opera Ball, a society event that dates back to 1886.
Budapest, Andrássy út 22, 1061 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-814-7100
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Szabadsag hid, more popularly known as Freedom Bridge or Liberty Bridge, was constructed in the 1890s and was originally called the Franz Joseph Bridge. The bridge proudly spans the River Danube and connects visitors from Buda to Pest. Both sides of the bridge end in public squares: One on Gellert Hill and the other by the Great Market Hall. The bridge is 333.6 meters long and visitors can see four large bronze statues of the Turul on top of the masts of the bridge; a Turul is a falcon-like bird popular in Hungarian mythology.
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Before it was named Margaret Island for the Dominican nun Saint Margaret, the island had many names, including Island of Rabbits, Island of our Lady, Buda Island, and Danube Island. The island has a rich history that has left its mark in the present day in the form of stunning medieval ruins and structures. Visitors can see 13th-century ruins of a Franciscan church, a Premonstratensian church, and a Dominican church and convent. The island also has many landscape and sports parks, which make it a popular recreational area. Visitors can enjoy visiting the Centennial Memorial, the Japanese Garden, the Music Fountain, and one of the more famous landmarks of Margaret Island, the Water Tower.
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Memento Park, also known as Memorial Park, was opened in 1993 and was designed by Akos Eleod, a Hungarian architect who won a competition held by the Budapest General Assembly. The park has sculpted plaques and statues of leaders from the Cold War dedicated to Hungary's Communist period. The park is divided into two sections for visitors to explore: Statue Park and Witness Square. Statue Park has 42 monuments and statues, including those of Karl Marx, Lenin, Georgi Dimitrov, and Bela Kun. One of the more popular sculptures among visitors is the replica of Stalin's Boots in Witness Square - the boots were a symbol of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
Budapest, Balatoni út - Szabadkai utca sarok, 1223 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-424-7500
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Nyireghyaza Zoo, locally known as Sosto Zoo, opened in 1974 and is now home to over 320 species of animals. It is one of the biggest animal collections in Hungary and some of the residents include wildebeests, ostriches, llamas, seals, European bison, Bornean orangutans, and Komodo dragons. The animal exhibits are separated by continent and take visitors from Africa to Indonesia and everywhere in between. The zoo is fun for the entire family as it also houses a pool, spa, and a beach, allowing the adults to take a break while the kids explore and have fun. There's even a hotel within the zoo premises.
Nyíregyháza, Sóstói út, 4431 Hungary, Phone: +36-42-479-702
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Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey is a medieval building found in one of the oldest historical monuments in Hungary. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the second largest territorial abbey in the world and is currently home to over 50 monks. Visitors can explore the various aspects of the archabbey, such as the basilica with the crypt, the baroque refectory, the cloisters, and the library with over 360,000 volumes. The arboretum is also a great place to relax; it was established in 1830 and now has over 400 bush and tree species, many of which are rare in Hungary. There is also a winery at Pannonhalma Archabbey, as monks revived their wine-making traditions in 2000. The monk-made wine varieties range from Rhine Riesling and sauvignon blanc to chardonnay and merlot.
Pannonhalma, Vár 1, 9090 Hungary, Phone: +36-96-570-100
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23.St. Stephen's Basilica
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The third largest church structure in Hungary, St. Stephen's Basilica is one of the more popular attractions in Budapest. The Roman Catholic basilica is named after the last grand prince of the Hungarians and the first king of Hungary, King Saint Stephen. It is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest and definitely one of the most photogenic; the Greek cross ground plan and the neoclassical architectural style offers visitors some stunning photograph opportunities. Visitors will also see Hungary's biggest bell, weighing over 9 tons, in the southern of the two large bell towers in the basilica. The basilica houses many concerts and performances throughout the year; visitors who are there during the summer months can see the basilica choir perform every Sunday.
Budapest, Szent István tér 1, 1051 Hungary
24.Szechenyi Thermal Bath
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Szechenyi Thermal Bath, named after Hungarian politician and writer Istvan Szechenyi, is the largest of its kind in Europe. The bath, which is supplied by two thermal springs, is built in a stunning neo-baroque style and can be found within City Park. Visitors from all over the world head to the bath to rejuvenate and recover from various ailments such as degenerative joint illness, chronic joint inflammations, and orthopedic post-treatments. The water is rich in magnesium, sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, metaboric acid, and fluoride acid. Bath facilities include private baths, steam baths, saunas, thermal artesian baths, and 3 outdoor and 15 indoor pools. Massage services are also provided at the Szechenyi Medicinal Bath.
Budapest, állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-363-3210
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Architecture aficionados will enjoy spending a day exploring Vajdahunyad Castle, which was designed by Ignac Alpar to copy certain aspects of various landmarks in the Kingdom of Hungary. One of the landmarks from which Vajdahunyad Castle gathers inspiration is Hunyadi Castle, which is now one of the top seven wonders of Romania. Because of its varying inspiration, the castle displays many architectural styles, including Renaissance, baroque, Gothic, and Romanesque. Visitors of the castle will be able to see famed structures and statues, such as those of Bela Lugosi, an actor who played Count Dracula, and the chronicler Anonymus by Miklos Ligeti.
Budapest, Vajdahunyad vár, 1146 Hungary, Phone: +36-1-422-0765
25 Best Things to Do in Hungary
- Andrassy Avenue, Photo: Courtesy of MatteoAttila - Fotolia.com
- Buda Castle, Photo: Courtesy of H.Peter - Fotolia.com
- Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of giangius - Fotolia.com
- Castle of Diosgyor, Photo: Courtesy of DBtale - Fotolia.com
- Castle of Egri, Photo: Courtesy of Pecold - Fotolia.com
- Chain Bridge, Photo: Courtesy of lkonya - Fotolia.com
- Danube Promenade, Photo: Courtesy of GoneWithTheWind - Fotolia.com
- Dohany Street Synagogue, Photo: Courtesy of chrisdorney - Fotolia.com
- Esztergomi Bazilika, Photo: Courtesy of T. Linack - Fotolia.com
- Festetics Palace, Photo: Courtesy of Kinkku - Fotolia.com
- Fisherman's Bastion, Photo: Courtesy of Noppasinw - Fotolia.com
- Great Market Hall, Photo: Courtesy of GoneWithTheWind - Fotolia.com
- Hortobagy National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Pecold - Fotolia.com
- Hungarian National Gallery, Photo: Courtesy of Curioso Photography - Fotolia.com
- Hungarian National Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Alex Tihonov - Fotolia.com
- Hungarian Parliament Building, Photo: Courtesy of michael jacobs - Fotolia.com
- Hungarian State Opera House, Photo: Courtesy of Panama - Fotolia.com
- Liberty Bridge, Photo: Courtesy of CCat82 - Fotolia.com
- Margaret Island, Photo: Courtesy of Andrew - Fotolia.com
- Memento Park, Photo: Courtesy of kneiane - Fotolia.com
- Nyireghyaza Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of belizar - Fotolia.com
- Pannonhalma Archabbey, Photo: Courtesy of markborbely - Fotolia.com
- St. Stephen's Basilica, Photo: Courtesy of Oleg Podzorov - Fotolia.com
- Szechenyi Thermal Bath, Photo: Courtesy of BRIAN KINNEY - Fotolia.com
- Vajdahunyad Castle, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of TTstudio - Fotolia.com