Located within an hour or two of Budapest, there are many interesting tourist attractions to be explored. If your interests lie with history and culture you will not want to miss visiting towns like Eger, Gyor, Esztergom and Kecskemet, all of which are filled with historic sites and wonderful old architecture. To learn a bit about rural Hungary in the 1800’s you can visit the Open Air Museum, while the wonderful Pannonhalma Monastery offers a great day out for both historians and foodies. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore Lake Balaton, Velence Lake, Hortobagy National Park and Sarvar, which has a great spa and water park. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Aggtelek National Park and the Baradla Cave
The fascinating Aggtelek National Park is located just less than three hours from Budapest and was the first Hungarian national park established to protect a stunning natural asset, the Baradla Cave. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the seemingly-normal landscape of the park hides no fewer than 1200 caves. Besides joining a guided tour of the amazing Baradla Cave system, you can also join an extreme caving expedition in some of the other caves. Other activities in the national park include equestrian adventures and walking, hiking or biking an impressive network of scenic trails. Guided nature walks are also offered.
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Debrecen is a bustling city located just less than three hours from Budapest. If you enjoy viewing historic architecture you can visit the Main Building of the University of Debrecen, the Debrecen Reformed Church (1538) and the historic Old Town area which is home to Piac Street and Kossuth Square. If you are travelling with the family you can all have some educational fun at the Agora Scientific Adventure Center, the Debrecen Zoo and Amusement Park and the Water Tower Adventure Center. Sample some delicious Hungarian food and learn about the history of Hungarian cuisine on a Debrecen on Food Tour.
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Located in the city of Miskolc in north-eastern Hungary, about two hours from Budapest, the Castle of Diosgyor is an impressive medieval fortress which is thought to have been built as far back as the 12th century. To learn all about the history, myths and legends of the castle you can join a guided tour. The guides are all in period dress to add authenticity to your visit and you can choose an English tour. A large part of the castle has been renovated and offers an authentic look into the lives of the former inhabitants. To add a little extra interest one of the towers has been left un-restored.
Diosgyor Castle, Miskolc, Varu u.24, 3534 Hungary, Phone: +36-46-53-33-55
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Located just two hours by train from Budapest, the charming town of Eger is an ideal destination for a day trip. The town’s main claim to fame is that 2000 of its residents withstood the advances of a determined army of 60,000 Turks in 1552. (However, the Turks later returned in 1599 and controlled the city for nearly a century). Highlights of your visit should include a visit to the castle (here you will find museums, dungeons and more), a stroll through the attractive Baroque old town and perhaps a visit to the lively indoor market for an authentic taste of local delicacies.
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The historic city of Esztergom was formerly the capital of Hungary and is still the headquarters of the country’s Catholic Church. Established in 972AD, Esztergom is one of the oldest cities in Hungary, boasting many historic sites to excite all history and architecture enthusiasts. Various day-tours from Budapest include Esztergom in their itinerary but if you would like more time to explore the city you can travel there directly by train or hydrofoil. The main historic highlights of the city are the Esztergom Basilica (third largest church in Europe), the Royal Palace and Vizivaros (aka Watertown) which is scenically located on the banks of the Danube and is home to several Baroque churches and various ruins.
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The town of Fertod is home to another of Budapest’s seriously impressive castles which you should not miss seeing. Esterhazy Castle is located on the shores of Lake Ferto, close to the Austrian border and is sometimes referred to as the “Hungarian Versailles” for its impressive style and beauty. Interestingly, part of the castle (in fact, the servant’s quarters) was once the home of the famous composer Joseph Haydn (1766-1790) and operas were staged there several times a year until the main opera theater burnt down. A guided tour is the best way to see the castle and you can request an English fact sheet to help you appreciate all the features.
Esterhazy Castle, Joseph Haydn Utca 2, Fertod, 9431, Hungary
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The Royal Palace of Godollo was completed in the 1760’s and is Hungary’s largest baroque manor house. For many years after WWII the lovely old building, which is rumored to have been the favorite residence of the Hungarian Queen Elizabeth, was abandoned and left to decay. Luckily, renovations commenced in the mid 1980’s and today you can visit and tour 32 restored rooms spread over two floors. Highlights include the Ornamental Hall, the Queen’s Reception Room and the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Exhibit, which documents the queen’s assassination. Other interesting exhibits include the Chapel, the Baroque Theater and the WWII Horthy’s Bunker. The extensive grounds are open to the public daily.
Gödöllo Palace, Grassalkovich-kastely 5852, 2100 Hungary, Phone: +36-28-41-01-24
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Gyor is certainly well off the regular tourist radar and even within Hungary the town is not very well known. This is all the more reason to put it on your day trip list and learn about it for your-self. Gyor is located just over an hour from Budapest and on arrival you will find a charming small town which boasts a generous helping of interesting baroque architecture and historic monuments. You can easily spend a few hours exploring the attractive Old City’s cobbled streets and squares before setting off to immerse yourself in the winding lanes of the Episcopal District of Kaptalan Hill. In every nook and cranny of the city you will find interesting churches, synagogues, museums and other attractions. Round off your day by visiting the Exhibiting Center at the Audi factory.
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Located just 100km from Budapest, the little village of Holloko is a perfectly preserved UNESCO World Heritage example of what a rural Hungarian village looked like before the 20th century. The village was originally settled back in the 17th and 18th centuries and, unlike many living museums, this village is still inhabited and thriving. As you take a walk around the Old Village you can admire 58 traditional houses and perhaps visit the Doll Museum and the Village Museum. Do take the time to stop in at one of the traditional restaurants to taste delicious regional specialties and admire their interesting interiors.
You can also visit the 13th century Castle of Holloko which is located just outside the village.
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10.Hortobagy National Park
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When you need a brief break from the almost-overwhelming history and culture which abounds in and around Budapest you can head to the Hortobagy National Park for some outdoor recreation. Do not expect this national park to be a place for hiking and biking – it is more of a heritage site which protects and showcases authentic Hungarian pastoral and rural traditions. A highlight of your visit will be watching the Puszta (Hungarian cowboys) entertain visitors with a wonderful show of equestrian skills. You will also be able to take a Jeep excursion to see unusual wildlife like the unique Raka sheep, which have huge V-shaped horns. Bird-watching is also very rewarding in the park.
Hortobagy National Park, Debrecen, Sumen u.2, 4024 Hungary, Phone: +36-52-52-99-20
Located about an hour by train from Budapest, the town of Kecskemet is famous for its museums, secessionist (non-typical) architecture and for being the birthplace of the composer Zoltan Kodaly. Two of the best examples of the city’s architectural style can be seen in the Cifra Palota (Ornamental Palace), which now houses the Kecskemet Gallery and the Old Synagogue which is now home to the House of Science and Technics. There are many interesting museums to visit including the Hungarian Photography Museum, the Leskowsky Musical Instrument Collection and the Zoltan Kodaly Musical Institute. If you are travelling with children you can take them to have some fun at the Kecskemét Fun Baths and Water Slide Park.
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Located in western Hungary, close to the Austrian border, the town of Koszek is one of the prettiest towns in the country and is a popular day trip destinations for locals as well as visitors. The town has received several awards for maintaining the integrity of its beautiful architecture through restoration and preservation, and offers an accurate glimpse of what a typical historic village looked like before WWII and the communist occupation. Attractions include the unique Jurisics Castle, the ancient Heroes Tower and the Irottko lookout tower. After you have explored the main attractions you can enjoy an authentic Hungarian meal and a glass of wine at one of many restaurants and wine cellars.
Picture-book pretty, the lovely shores of Lake Balaton are surrounded by quaint lake-side houses, ancient fortresses, vineyards, villages and towns. The lake is the perfect place to enjoy a sunny day and is popular with locals and visitors to Budapest. You could easily spend a day driving from one picturesque location to the other or you could just find an ideal spot to indulge in some water sports or laze on a beach. One of the unique attractions along the lake is the Lake Caves, which extend for three kilometers into underground waterways which can be explored by boat. Other popular attractions on the lake include the Festetics Palace, the Pannonhalma Archabbey (a monastery complex) and the Heviz Spa.
Lake Balaton, Hungary
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Miskolc is one of those day trip destinations that really has something to offer everyone, regardless of your preferences. Located about two hours from Budapest, this scenic town is your gateway to outdoor recreation against the backdrop of the beautiful Avas Mountains. You can go walking, hiking or cycling through lovely forested areas or spend part of your day visiting a few of the many vineyards and wineries that cover the hillsides. If you are more interested in history and culture you can visit the Otto Herman Museum of Hungarian Art, the 12th century Diosgyor Castle or learn all about mineralogy at the Pannon Sea Museum. Round off your day with a dip in the thermal Cave Bath of Miskolctapolca.
15.Nagyteteny Castle and the Museum of Applied Arts
The Budapest Museum of Applied Arts is located in a must-see architectural landmark located about 30min from central Budapest. The outstanding building was modeled on the South Kensington Museum in London (now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum) and has achieved world-wide recognition for its important and extensive collections of antiques, art works, ceramics and other applied arts. The architectural style of the museum building took inspiration from Hungarian, Eastern and Western styles and is known as one of the best examples of European Art Nouveau buildings.
The museum’s furniture collection is held in the Nagyteteny Castle, which is also a must-see architectural gem.
The museum building has been closed for restoration since 2018. Please check the website for dates of the proposed re-opening.
Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest Ulloi ut 33-37, 1091 Hungary
Nagyteteny Castle, Budapest Kastelypark u. 11, 1225 Hungary
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Located well off the tourist radar, in the north-eastern corner of Hungary, the small provincial town of Nyirbator is well worth a visit for anyone interested in catching a glimpse of what life was like on the east of the Iron Curtain. Many visitors will arrive expecting to find a bleak and featureless town, but this is far from the truth; history and architecture lovers will find plenty of interest in this town. You can learn about the region’s Bathori family when you visit Bathori Castle, which was originally built in the 14th century and completely rebuilt in 2006. There are several other interesting buildings to admire including the Gothic-era Calvinist Church and the wooden belfry which was built in the Renaissance Style.
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For a day out with a difference you can make your way to the historic town of Pannonhalma for a day of spiritual recreation. The town is located near Gyor, about one hour from Budapest and offers visitors the chance to visit a wonderful 13th century Benedictine monastery, where the monks still produce delectable local artisanal foods and wines for visitors to savor. Highlights of your visit will be touring the exceptionally fine church and art center, visiting the lavender distillery and the Abbey Wine Center. There is also a garden and herbarium to explore and delicious regional food to enjoy at the on-site restaurant. There are several thermal spas in the vicinity if you would like some pampering and relaxation.
Pannonhalma, Var 1, 9090 Hungary, Phone: +36-96-57-01-00
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You can reach the elegant and culture-rich city of Pecs in three hours by train from Budapest. Pecs was awarded the title of “2010 European City of Culture” and its calm façade hides several important historic and cultural gems for you to discover, including the newly-established Zsolnay Cultural Quarter where you can admire an extensive collection of exquisite ceramics and other art. A few of the city’s must-see architectural delights include the impressive copper-domed Mosque of Pasha Qasim (now a Catholic church), the 11th century Pecs Cathedral and the intimate Csontváry Museum which features remarkable artworks by local Hungarian artist Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka. Foodies can enjoy delicious modern adaptations of traditional Hungarian favorites at many excellent restaurants and wine bars.
The spa town of Sarvar is located about two hours (by road) west of Budapest. Most visitors come to experience the pampering and healing of the city’s several spas but there is more to Sarvar than just recreation. If you love nature and gardens you are bound to enjoy a visit to the Sarvar Arboretum, which dates back to the 16th century and features beautiful landscaping and many really old trees. Historic and cultural attractions include the Nadasty Ferenc Museum and the lovely Nadasty Castle, parts of which date back to the 13th century. After you have seen the main sights you can visit the Gyogy-es Wellnessfurdo which combines hot springs, water slides and other recreational activities for the whole family.
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Do not let the un-pronounceable name of this Hungarian city put you off. Located in central Hungary, Székesfehérvár is the country’s ninth-largest city and has several interesting and unique attractions. First up is the eclectic Bory Castle, work of the Hungarian sculptor and architect Jeno Bory, which combines Scottish, Romanesque and Gothic styles and is home to an impressive collection of Bory art. Other interesting attractions include the 300-year old Black Eagle Pharmacy Museum and the Gorsium Archaeological Park (which protects the ruins of an entire Roman town). If you care to travel a little further you will find an interesting “floating” village called the Bokod Floating Houses.
Located just outside central Budapest, Szentendre is a bustling hub of museums and other cultural attractions. This small town has retained a charming atmosphere which you can soak up as your stroll around the winding cobbled lanes lined with attractive Baroque buildings, some of which date to the 17th century. The town is at its liveliest best from June to August each year when it celebrates its Summer Festival with live music, dancing and theater performances. If you visit outside of this time you can enjoy the Open-air Ethnographic Museum (showcasing rural architecture from various regions in Hungary), the Margit Kovacs Collection of art, the delightful Marzipan Museum and the Dobos Chocolate Museum.
Szombathely is one of Hungary’s oldest cities, originally settled by the Romans in 43AD and well worth a visit for anyone interested in ancient history. Today visitors can see part of the original Amber Road, which formed a vital trade route and was the reason for the establishment of the town. When you visit the (reconstructed) Temple of Isis and the adjoining modern museum you will be able to admire a very significant collection of Roman artifacts. The museum is located on the pretty main town square which is surrounded by attractive pastel-colored buildings and filled with fountains and statues. Also on the square is the impressive Szombathely Synagogue which is now home to the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra.
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23.The Hungarian Open Air Museum
The Hungarian Open Air Museum is a great day trip destination within easy reach of central Budapest. Located in the Duna-Ipoly National Park, just 20km outside the city, this open-air museum will give you a detailed glimpse into the life and times of Hungary’s varied rural populations around 100 years ago. As you follow a walking tour of the museum (which covers 60 hectare) you will see examples of rural architecture from seven distinct regions of the country. You can download a phone App which will guide you through the various parts of the museum, either on foot, by bicycle or on the Skanzen Train.
The Hungarian Open Air Museum, 2000 Szentendre, Sztaravodai ut 75, Hungary
Another of Hungary’s little-known jewels, the river-side town of Vac deserves a place on your list of day trips from Budapest. The town is spread along the left bank of the famous Danube River and is filled with colorful small streets lined with picture-perfect pastel-colored buildings. You can soak up the atmosphere on the pretty (triangular) main square before visiting the fascinating Tragor Ignac Museum which is famous for its display of colorful coffins and mummies which were only recently discovered in a sealed-off crypt. Other attractions in Vac include the 1768 Bishop’s Palace, the 300 year-old Triumphal Arch and the March 15th Square, where you can learn about the factors which led to the outbreak of the 1848 revolution.
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Located just one hour from Budapest, Velence Lake is an ideal day trip destination in the summer months. Smaller than Lake Balaton, and far less touristy, Lake Velence is a popular outdoor recreation area for local residents. There are several small towns and villages dotted around the perimeter of the lake and cycling or hiking between them is a popular activity. If you enjoy swimming or soaking up the sun you can head to the small town of Gardony, which has the largest beach. Water sports like wind-surfing, kayaking and paddle-boarding are all available around the lake and fishing is another popular recreational activity.
Velence Lake, Hungary
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Budapest
- Aggtelek National Park and the Baradla Cave, Photo: tainar/stock.adobe.com
- Debrecen, Photo: Andrey Shevchenko/stock.adobe.com
- Diosgyor, Photo: skovalsky/stock.adobe.com
- Eger, Photo: siempreverde22/stock.adobe.com
- Esztergom, Photo: gallas/stock.adobe.com
- Fertod, Photo: andras_csontos/stock.adobe.com
- Godollo Palace, Photo: Alfredo/stock.adobe.com
- Gyor, Photo: Tupungato/stock.adobe.com
- Holloko, Photo: Dejan Gospodarek/stock.adobe.com
- Hortobagy National Park, Photo: Irina Papoyan/stock.adobe.com
- Kecskemet, Photo: FotoFrank/stock.adobe.com
- Koszek, Photo: Tupungato/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Balaton, Photo: AnastasiiaUsoltceva/stock.adobe.com
- Miskolc, Photo: Lucian Bolca/stock.adobe.com
- Nagyteteny Castle and the Museum of Applied Arts, Photo: RomainQuéré/stock.adobe.com
- Nyirbator, Photo: Nyirbator
- Pannonhalma, Photo: Mary Lane/stock.adobe.com
- Pecs, Photo: Pecold/stock.adobe.com
- Sarvar, Photo: Jazzabi/stock.adobe.com
- Szekesfehervar, Photo: Melinda Nagy/stock.adobe.com
- Szentendre, Photo: Bence/stock.adobe.com
- Szombathely, Photo: nyiragongo/stock.adobe.com
- The Hungarian Open Air Museum, Photo: Eve81/stock.adobe.com
- Vac, Photo: stiopacom/stock.adobe.com
- Velence Lake, Photo: Alla Ovchinnikova/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com
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