With its rich history, stunning baroque architecture, beautiful national parks, and lush wine-making regions, Hungary is one of the best vacation destinations in Central Europe. Budapest boasts some of the best nightlife in the world, and some of the resort towns on the beautiful Lake Balaton are the site of a non-stop party during the summer months. However, visitors can also kick back and relax in one of the many natural thermal baths or in Lake Hévíz, the second-largest thermal lake in the world. Hungary has something for almost everyone; here are our favorite spots in the country. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
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The capital city of Hungry, Budapest is known for its scenic location on the banks of the Danube, its beautiful and varied architecture, and its relaxing natural thermal baths. The city is also an excellent destination for music lovers; it boasts a world-class classical music scene as well as a vibrant nightlife that attracts young people from all over Europe. Castle Hill is where many of the city's treasures are located, including the Royal Palace, the National Gallery, and the Historical Museum. Plenty of beautiful sights can be found along the river as well, including a number of iconic bridges.
2.Aggtelek National Park
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Located in the Gömör-Torna Karst region of northern Hungary, Aggtelek National Park was founded in 1985 to protect the unique natural assets in the area. One of the park's biggest attractions is the 26-km-long Baradla Cave, which has the honor of being the largest stalactite cave in Europe. Several other caves are open to the public, including the Imre Vass Cave and the Peace Cave, which is believed to help people suffering from asthma. There are plenty of walking trails in the park, and visitors can also take one of the special botanical or zoological tours on offer.
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3.Balaton Uplands National Park
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Created in 1997 by the combination of six already-protected areas, Balaton Uplands National Park encompasses almost 57,000 hectares on the shores of the stunning Lake Balaton. The park is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, and there are plenty of walking paths for visitors to enjoy. Each of the six areas has its own unique charm; visitors can rent small boats to paddle around in the cave system of Cave Lake in the Tapolca Basin, admire the amazing rock formations in the Bakony-Balaton Geopark, or visit Kányavár Island to climb the lookout tower and spot great crested grebes.
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4.Bukk National Park
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With its 431,300 hectares of mountainous and forested terrain, Bukk National Park is the largest national park in Hungary and is a popular vacation spot. An impressive 97% of the park is covered with trees; because of this, the area is home to 90 different species of nesting birds, several of which are endangered and cannot be found anywhere else. In addition to being home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, the karst mountains in the park boast a number of caves, including one known as Istvánlápa, which is the longest and deepest cave in the country.
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5.Danube Drava National Park
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Mostly situated inside the flood land areas of the Danube and the Drava rivers, the Danube Drava National Park is home to more than 400 species of protected plants and animals. Attractions in the park include the Abaliget Medicinal Cave, the Bat Museum, the Life on the Flood Plains Exhibition, and several informative education centers. Plenty of walking and cycling paths wind their way along the river and through the wetlands. Guided tours of the park are available by bicycle, boat, canoe, train, and horse carriage; a picnic lunch of regional specialties can be arranged if desired.
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The second largest city in the country, Debrecen has been the Hungarian capital not once but twice over the course of its history. The city's rich history can be seen in the many historical buildings that line the street, particularly in and around the central Kossuth Square. Debrecen also has its fair share of museums, including the notable Déri Museum, a national museum of arts. The summer months are a particularly good time to visit the city, as there are plenty of street festivals, including the famed Flower Carnival, which takes place in August each year.
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Located in the foothills of the Bükk Mountains, Eger is home to what are arguably the most beautiful baroque buildings in Hungary. The city is best known for its medieval castle, which helped defend the city against the Turks, but visitors can also climb to the top of an authentic Ottoman minaret, relax in the thermal baths, or visit the wine cellar hidden under the basilica. The area is also a well-known wine region, and visitors shouldn't miss the chance to tour the wine cellars in the Valley of Beautiful Women and sample the Egri Bikavér and other specialty regional wines.
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Gyor is known primarily as an economic and industrial hub, but the city has plenty for visitors to see and do. The downtown core is worth a visit for its beautiful baroque architecture alone, but there are also plenty of excellent museums and cafes. Situated on the banks of the Rába, Rábca, and Danube rivers, the city is a great place for visitors to base themselves if they're interested in touring the area by boat or canoe. If you want to relax by the water without going to the river, there is also a large, family-friendly aqua park with waterslides, thermal baths, and a sauna.
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Primarily a spa town, Hévíz is located not far from Lake Hévíz, the second-largest thermal lake in the world. The lake is believed to have healing properties, and in addition to bathing in its waters, visitors can go to one of the many wellness spas in the town that offer medicinal mud baths, mud wraps, weight baths, and other therapies. If you've had enough of relaxing and are interested in doing a bit of shopping, you can wander the town's charming pedestrian street or visit the farmer's market, which is held several times a week.
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According to ancient legend, Kaposvár was built on seven hills in much the same way as other historic cities like Rome and Lisbon. Today, it is a peaceful, well-kept university town with plenty of historical and cultural attractions. Traffic has been forbidden on the Main Street since the late 1980s, and the beautiful Kossuth Square is a pedestrian's dream. The most impressive building in the square is the Nagyboldogasszony Cathedral, but other highlights include the historic Hotel Erzsébet and the Town Hall. Visitors looking to spend some time in nature can head to the city park or tranquil Lake Deseda.
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Perched on the westernmost shore of stunning Lake Balaton, Keszthely is the oldest city in the area and a popular tourist destination. There are three small beaches in the town, which allow visitors to relax in the sun and enjoy the warm, shallow waters of the lake. Besides the lake, one of the most popular sights here is lavish Festetics Castle, a baroque-style building that boasts 101 rooms and is the third-largest castle in the country. Visitors can easily explore the town by foot, but there is also a small tourist train that circles through the city.
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12.Kiskunsag National Park
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Composed of nine separate areas totaling approximately 50,000 hectares, Kiskunsag National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The park contains a number of unique environments, including alkali lakes and ponds, sand dunes that are believed to shift with the wind, and grass deserts. Many of these areas are fragile and only limited access is permitted, but there are plenty of nature trails and lookout points that allow visitors to experience their beauty. The primary visitors center is known as the “House of Nature” and is located in Kecskemét; it offers information about the park as well as a variety of educational programs.
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Often called the “Hungarian Sea” because of its impressive 50-mile length, Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe. With its beautiful green-yellow waters and silky mud, the lake is an extremely pleasant place to swim and is even believed to have healing properties. The southern shores of the lake boast shallow water that warms up easily and is perfect for swimming; the water has an average temperature of 80°F during the summer months. The water on the north side of the lake is deeper, cooler, and perfectly suited to boating, sailing, water skiing, surfing, and other water sports.
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Nestled right in the middle of the Great Hungarian Plain, Lake Tisza is a large man-made lake created in the 1990s by the damming of the Tisza River. Today, the lake is a popular tourist destination and the shores are lined with plenty of recreational areas, campsites, and places to rent boats, kayaks, and other watersports equipment. There are 16 islands and 10 water channels in the lake, making it an excellent place to explore by canoe or by kayak. The lake is also one of the few in Europe that permit the use of powerboats and jet skis.
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Flanked by Avas Mountain, Miskolc is the fourth-largest city in Hungary. The Szinva Creek cuts through the city's downtown core, providing a beautiful setting for many squares and terraces. There are plenty of excellent museums in the city, including the Pannon Sea Museum, the Ottó Herman Museum, and the Diósgyori Papermill Museum. Another highlight is the Greek Orthodox Church, which boasts a 16-meter-high picture-wall that is the largest in Europe. Miskolc is also a great place to base yourself if you're interested in day trips to the nearby Cave Bath or the wine cellars in the foothills of the mountains.
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16.Orseg National Park
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Situated not far from the Austrian and Slovenian borders, Orseg National Park boasts a hilly landscape dotted with forests, streams, orchards, and peat bogs. Many walking trails wind their way through the park, allowing visitors to admire the rich variety of colorful birds, one of the largest butterfly populations in Hungary, and a number of protected dragonfly species. The charming local villages are another draw for tourists; there are plenty of family-owned pottery businesses, and the friendly locals are often happy to introduce visitors to the native flora and fauna. Guided tours of the park are available on request.
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Not far from the Bakony Hills, Papa is a small city with baroque architecture beautiful enough to rival that of the country's much larger cities. Many of these buildings can be found in the downtown core, including the Great Church and the lavish Esterházy Palace. Another popular downtown attraction is the Blue-Dyeing Museum, which allows visitors to explore and learn about what was formerly one of the most important indigo dying factories in Central Europe. The city is also known for its excellent thermal baths, some of which can be found in the castle gardens next to the only 5-star camping site in the country.
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Thanks to its mild climate, Roman history, and the many surrounding vineyards, Pécs is known as the “city of Mediterranean impressions”. The city is approximately 2,000 years old, and visitors interested in history can enjoy the many museums that explain the area's rich past. Architectural highlights of the city include the Pécs Cathedral, the Mosque of Pasha Qasim, and the Sopianae Early Christian Mausoleum; many Turkish and Roman ruins can be found throughout the city as well. The nearby Mecsek Hills provide excellent hiking opportunities, and they shelter the area from the cold northern winds and allow the cultivation of many different fruits.
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One of the most popular summer vacation destinations in Hungary, Siofok is located on the southern shore of stunning Lake Balaton. Tourist attractions include the water tower, the Mineral Museum, and the Great Church, but most people come here to lounge on the beach and swim in the beautiful waters of the lake. The Petofi walkway runs along the shore, catering to tourists with plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars that provide excellent nightlife after dark. If you're not interested in a vacation full of late nights, then live music and other entertainment are often offered on the beach during the day.
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With a fascinating history that includes helping to bring about the fall of the Iron Curtain, Sopron is one of the oldest cities in Hungary. It's also often considered to be the most beautiful city in western Hungary; the medieval Inner Town is mostly intact, and its cobblestone streets wind their way past impressive buildings, such as the neo-Gothic Ursuline Church, the historic Firewatch Tower, and the ornate City Hall. The region is also a popular destination for lovers of fine wine, as the land around the city is filled with lush vineyards and excellent wineries.
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Known as the “City of Sunshine” because it has more yearly sunny days than any other city in Hungary, Szeged is a lively university town with a youthful feel and a bustling arts scene. The city has plenty for visitors to enjoy; the old town boasts a number of beautiful palaces, the peaceful main square is full of trees and park benches, and the large pedestrian-only area is lined with inviting cafes and restaurants. Plenty of special events take place during the summer, and in July and August, Dóm Square is transformed into an open-air theater.
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Located on the bank of the River Tisza, Szolnok is the cultural epicenter of the Great Hungarian Plain. The city is somewhat lacking in historical architecture; because it was bombed a dozen times during the Second World War, it has no buildings that date back further than the 18th century. However, it is home several churches and to the Tiszavirág Bridge, the longest footbridge in Central Europe. Beyond this, the city boasts several eclectic museums, two rivers and three lakes with excellent fishing, and the annual Goulash Festival, which draws participants from all over Europe.
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Inhabited by only 25,000 people, Tata is a charming baroque town easily accessed by the Vienna-Budapest motorway. The city's best-known attraction is its Renaissance fortress, but other notable buildings include the Esterházy Palace, the town hall in Kossuth Square, and the parish church. Science-minded visitors will appreciate the open-air geological museum, while anyone interested in the city's rich past can visit the local history collections. Plenty of exciting festivals, sporting events, and live music performances take place during the summer months, and there are also several outdoor swimming pools perfect for cooling off on hot summer days.
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Visegrad was the summer home of King Matthias during Renaissance times, and the small town still retains much of its medieval charm to this day. The Royal Palace of Visegrad is the main attraction in town; visitors can climb to the top of the hexagonal Solomon Tower, explore the citadel, and learn about the castle’s history in the adjoining museum. The town is an excellent destination all year round, but the best time to visit is during the Royal Palace Festival in mid-July. Many participants dress in medieval costumes, and visitors can observe festivities such as knights' tournaments and dance performances.
Thanks to its location on the edge of the Zala Hills, Zalaegerszeg is a popular destination for anyone looking for fresh air and a tranquil atmosphere. There are plenty of sights for visitors to admire in and around the town center, including the Sándor Hevesi Theater, a beautiful fountain decorated with a Göcseji Tulip, and the Mary Magdalen Church. The church is particularly notable because of its clock tower, which houses a 200-year-old piece of clockwork displayed under a glass cover. Another highlight of the town is the Göcseji Village Museum, the first open-air folk museum in the country.
25 Best Places to Visit in Hungary
- Budapest, Photo: Courtesy of Tsiumpa - Fotolia.com
- Aggtelek National Park, Photo: Courtesy of tainar - Fotolia.com
- Balaton Uplands National Park, Photo: Courtesy of skovalsky - Fotolia.com
- Bukk National Park, Photo: Courtesy of oliverleicher - Fotolia.com
- Danube Drava National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Gudellaphoto - Fotolia.com
- Debrecen, Photo: Courtesy of Andrey Shevchenko - Fotolia.com
- Eger, Photo: Courtesy of adonis abril - Fotolia.com
- Gyor, Photo: Courtesy of bwagner - Fotolia.com
- Heviz, Photo: Courtesy of Horváth Botond - Fotolia.com
- Kaposvar, Photo: Courtesy of Spectral-Design - Fotolia.com
- Keszthely, Photo: Courtesy of petertakacs - Fotolia.com
- Kiskunsag National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Karlos Lomsky - Fotolia.com
- Lake Balaton, Photo: Courtesy of sonyakamoz - Fotolia.com
- Lake Tisza, Photo: Courtesy of oliverleicher - Fotolia.com
- Miskolc, Photo: Courtesy of Roxana - Fotolia.com
- Orseg National Park, Photo: Courtesy of gaborphotos - Fotolia.com
- Papa, Photo: Courtesy of nyiragongo - Fotolia.com
- Pecs, Photo: Courtesy of Thomas Launois - Fotolia.com
- Siofok, Photo: Courtesy of dima4to - Fotolia.com
- Sopron, Photo: Courtesy of Posztós János - Fotolia.com
- Szeged, Photo: Courtesy of DBtale - Fotolia.com
- Szolnok, Photo: Courtesy of nyiragongo - Fotolia.com
- Tata, Photo: Courtesy of Horváth Botond - Fotolia.com
- Visegrad, Photo: Courtesy of Grafvision - Fotolia.com
- Zalaegerszeg, Photo: Zalaegerszeg
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Tsiumpa - Fotolia.com
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