11 day trips from Budapest
Full to the brim with the main, now familiar sights of Budapest, the economic and cultural hub of our country? Once your appetite has been sated with the attractions of our wondrous capital it’s time to venture a bit further, not necessarily to the back of beyond, but at least on a memorable day trip. You can choose to access some destinations flexing your muscles on bikes, or chatting up locals on a variety of trains, buses and alternative means of transport like hitch-hiking, boat and magic carpet!
1. Szentendre – Esztergom
A must if you love arts, churches and picturesque spots – the traditional Danube Bend trip along the river Duna. Accessible by train, boat or even by bike along the E6 bike route, the treasures of orthodox religion are showcased in Szentendre (St Andrew’s) while Esztergom is home to the biggest Basilica in Hungary.
Marek Dziwior / commons.wikimedia.org
2. Tata – Tatabánya
Tata means ’Godfather’. It is the town of waters and mills. Two large lakes (Old Lake and Cseke Lake) and a castle dominate the landscape. The Romans had military camps in the area but in the open-air geological museum, we can find much older witnesses of history, like remnants of a 110 million-year-old rocky coastline. In Tatabánya the most spectacular sight is the largest bird statue in Europe, the so-called Turul – a mythological creature based on a large falcon.
EtelkaCsilla / commons.wikimedia.org
Like Tata, you can access the town of golden-age medieval coronations and royal burials in an hour by train from Déli Station. A paradise for archaeologists as the various layers of a huge Basilica was found underground, where our first king István (Steven) was laid to rest and exhumed to be canonized. Venturing to the suburbs, we bump into an amazing, fairy-tale like a castle (Bory vár), which was made by a sculptor madly in love with his wife: it’s a place where the stones speak to us.
Globetrotter19 / commons.wikimedia.org
30 km from Budapest by suburban train, the secrets of Sissy and her turbulent life are revealed in her Baroque summer residence. Did you know that a lesser known bunker lies beneath one of the palace wings?
If you want to know more and in-depth about the Habsburgs, you can search (in English or German) at the website of The World of the Habsburgs.
5. Balatonfüred – Tihany
Hungary boasts the biggest freshwater lake in Central Europe but if you want to swim properly you need to go to the northern side. Balatonfüred has been the most luxurious resort where even Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet had his heart condition treated. If you’re in Füred, make sure to visit the Tihany Peninsula (by bike or boat) where an 11th-century Benedictine monastery awaits you. Every summer a Lavender Festival is held here.
A significant city dating back to the Roman and the Ottoman era – near the Southern border of Hungary. In the mild, Mediterranean climate world famous wine types are produced – have you heard of Cabernet Sauvignon?
7. Aggtelek – Szinpetri
Well, the cave system right near the Slovakian border in Aggtelek is unbeatable! Breathtaking stalagtites, 21 types of plants and 262 animal species make this place unique in Europe, with outstanding acoustics for concerts. And just about 20 minutes drive from Aggtelek you can bump into a book that weighs 1420 kg, it’s almost 4x4 metres in size: an amazing achievement of a local.
©Béla Varga & Gábor Varga / largestbook.wordpress.com
You definitely won’t hear of this place from large travel agencies – few people visit here, as it is hidden in the back of beyond in the Bükk hills. You need to hire a car to visit one of the most infamous gulags – work camps – of Hungary. It operated in the early fifties, in entire secrecy. You didn’t need a sentence to get here: one of the captives was a meteorologist, for instance, who had forecast ’mild winds from the West’ and ’icy invasive ones from the North East, the Soviet Union’.
A UNESCO World Heritage Benedictine Monastery awaits you with the biggest monastic library of the world, where the first fragment of Hungarian text can be found.
For those who like hiking and are enthused by esoterics rather than Catholicism, I need to impart the following information: it is in Hungary where the heart chakra of the World can be found, in the Pilis Hills, about an hour away from Budapest only. This was also the centre of our ancient Shamanism by the way – we pursued our pagan practices and adored the forces of nature in a mystical valley here.
A city right on the Austrian border, with a medieval feel and an abundance of monuments. It’s also called the ’The Most Faithful City’, as after the 1920 Versailles Treaty when the territory of Hungary shrank to its present size, a referendum was held where the local populus decided to belong to Hungary instead of Austria. The fools, many say now. Still, Sopron continues to prosper and you can expect prices to be higher here, but it’s definitely worth visiting!
Have you perhaps felt struck by one of these places of this small country already yourself? I'm eager to hear your impressions and ideas to extend the bucket list of destinations in Hungary's countryside! If you haven't visited here yet let these locations make your heart beat vigorously and your mind wander – get your boots on!