Everyone from the Celts to the Ottoman Turks have called Hungary home at one point in history. And they all left their mark on the land, her people, and their culture. This beautiful, fascinating Central European country boasts outdoor adventures, historical monuments, and the chance to discover something truly wonderful.
Budapest has long been a center for trade between East and West, a heritage the Great Market Hall flaunts proudly. Sitting on the banks of the Danube, this market has something for everyone. Local farmers sell their fresh fruit and produce daily on the first floor, while you'll find cafes and shops catering to visitors upstairs. If you're in the mood to explore more miscellaneous wares, the basement is full of a dizzying array of sellers.
Natural thermal vents keep the mineral water here in the mid-80s, and the pools have been a destination for centuries by pilgrims hoping to bathe in the reportedly healing waters. A few modern amenities have been added, including tiled floors and an area offering more traditional spa services. You still have to get here by wading through a cave complex, though!
This sight-seeing rail line has much to recommend it. The cars are comfortable, the trains run frequently enough to be convenient to most schedules, and the landscape is gorgeous. But what sets this railway apart from all others are the workers. They're all children! Every person running the train is between 10 and 14 years old. But don't worry, they're all well looked after and only work a few hours a week.
Who would think that an abandoned stone quarry would one day be voted 'The Most Beautiful Place in Hungary'? Well, it's true! Abandoned in 1907, Mother Nature slowly reclaimed this land and restored it to its former beauty, causing the government to declare it a protected site in the 1970s. The gorge has become a natural lake, and lush forests promise many miles of rewarding hikes. Bring your camera and your hiking shoes; if you enjoy the outdoors, you won't want to miss this preserve!
Originally built to house Soviet soldiers and their families stationed in Hungary, the town was gradually abandoned after the fall of the Soviet Union. The buildings remain, however, and can be freely explored by those with an interest in abandoned buildings. Delve into old barracks, restaurants, schools, and other spaces. But be careful! No one takes care of this place, and venture in only at your own risk.
Found in the nearby town Esztergom, the Dark Gate is a tunnel originally built to connect a seminary with student housing. Now, it leads from the seminary to the city proper. Though originally pitch black, the Dark Gate is now illuminated year-round with haunting light that makes it the perfect backdrop for selfies. And while you're there, don't forget to sample some of the area's wonderful wines!
If you're a lover of the great outdoors, don't pass up the chance to visit Duna-Ipoly, Hungary's largest and most biodiverse natural park. The local caving club conducts regular tours of Pilis Hills, a network of limestone caves. If you enjoy hiking, take the moderately difficult trail up to the summit of Prédikálószék. And if waterfalls are more your thing, visit the stunning volcanic formation of Rám-Szakadék.
Hungary might be landlocked, but the country still enjoys playing along the shore of Lake Balaton. Lay out on the sandy shore and soak up some sun during the summer, or charter a boat to take you out fishing or sailing. Swimmers of all stripes enjoy splashing in the cool waters. And during the winter, the lake features ice skating and ice fishing.
Though most people don't think of Hungary when they think wines, the region produces some truly exceptional varietals, including the sweet Tokaj. Many wineries hold regular tours and tastings, where visitors can sample the local specialties. Some of these tastings come complete with a historical or cultural exhibition related to the wine and the area, including traditional dance and music performances.
Discovered in the 1950s, Gorsium is a remarkably well-preserved ruin of a Roman settlement, built thousands of years ago. The remains of roads, walls, and building foundations convey a sense of history, as many survive well enough to be recognized as shops, living spaces, or barracks. Visitors are welcome to wander through the space, soaking up the history and getting a feel for what life in a Roman settlement must have been like.
When the Ottomans occupied parts of Hungary, they brought with them their hamans or Turkish baths. Many of these survive and are still in use today! While the most well-known bath-house is Szechenyi in Budapest, nearly every major city has their own. Visitors can swim in hot or cold pools, relax in a sauna, get a massage, or enjoy a variety of more modern spa treatments.
This one isn't for the faint of heart or easily frightened. Dating from the 4th century, these tombs are some of the earliest examples of Christian artwork in the region. Nearby, Romans interred their own dead in a small cemetery. Visitors are welcome to wander respectfully through the crypts and mausoleums, studying the grave artwork worked loving into the walls. Though no bones are visible, this is definitely a place of the dead.
Below Castle Hill in Budapest is a network of underground tunnels and caves, once used as dungeons by the ruling Ottomans. They imprisoned many Hungarian nobles, including Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. This very spooky cave is not for children or the claustrophobic, as you're left on your own to wander through the tunnels without a guide. Bring good shoes, and charge your phone in case you need a good flashlight.
If you're looking for a nice romantic walk or an easy hike, Gellert Hill is here for you. At the summit is the Citadella, a fortress with historical significance due to its ability to observe both banks of the Danube. But if fortresses aren't your thing, wander a bit further into the sculpture garden, including the Garden of Philosophy piece.
Once a mulberry grove, this garden was home to Hungarian artists during the Belle Epoque. It's now full of whimsical sculptures, innovative architecture, and even a whole chapel transported stone by stone! Many of the mulberry trees remain, overgrown, and spilling into the art spaces. Visitors be advised, however, that the garden is only open a few times a year.