Facts you should know about Hungary before you plan your trip


Facts you should know about Hungary before you plan your trip


Welcome to Budapest & Hungary

Stunning architecture, vital folk art, thermal spas and Europe's most exciting city after dark are the major drawcards of Hungary and its capital, Budapest.

Super Structures

The beauty of both Hungary and Budapest is not all God-given; humankind has played a role in shaping these pretty faces too. Architecturally, Hungary is a treasure trove, with everything from Roman ruins and medieval townhouses to baroque churches, neoclassical public buildings and art nouveau bathhouses and schools. And you won't just find all that in Budapest. Stroll through Szeged or Kecskemét, Debrecen or Sopron and you’ll discover an architectural gem at virtually every turn.

In Hot Water

Hungarians have been 'taking the waters' supplied by an estimated 300 thermal springs since togas were all the rage and Aquincum (Roman Budapest) was the Big Smoke. They still do – for therapeutic, medicinal and recreational purposes – but the venues have changed somewhat. Today they range from authentic bathhouses dating from the Turkish occupation and art nouveau palaces to clinical sanatoriums straight out of a Thomas Mann novel. More and more popular are ultramodern wellness centres offering a myriad of treatments.

Eat, Drink & Be Magyar

Hungarian food remains the most sophisticated style of cooking in Eastern Europe. Magyars even go so far as to say there are three essential world cuisines: French, Chinese and their own. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Hungary's - and especially Budapest's - reputation as a food centre dates largely from the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th and, despite a fallow period under communism, Hungarian cuisine is once again commanding attention. So too are the nation's world-renowned wines, from the big-bodied reds of Eger and Villány and white olaszrizling from Badacsony to honey-sweet Tokaj.

Folk Culture

Hungary has one of the richest folk traditions still alive in Europe. With exquisite folk paintings found on the walls and ceilings of the tiny wooden churches of the Bereg region and the wonderful embroidery that the women of Hollókő stitch to decorate smocks, skirts and slippers, this is often where the country comes to the fore artistically. Traditional music, played on a five-tone diatonic scale on a host of unusual instruments, continues to thrive as well, especially at táncházak (dance houses) – peasant 'raves' taking place regularly in Budapest and other cities, where you'll hear Hungarian folk music and learn to dance too.

Budapest's Nightlife

Budapest can now claim to be the number-one nightlife destination in Europe. Alongside its age-old cafe culture and hallowed music halls, it offers a magical blend of unique drinking holes, fantastic wine, home-grown firewaters and emerging craft beers, all served up with a warm Hungarian welcome and a wonderful sense of fun. Unique are the romkocsmák (ruin bars) and kertek (gardens) that pop-up all-over town in the warmer months.


Hungary’s architectural waltz through history begins with the Romans in Budapest and Sopron, moves to the early Christian sites in Pécs, climbs up to the castles of the Northern Uplands, and into the many splendid baroque churches across the land. Neoclassicism steps in with some fine public buildings in Debrecen. But taking centre stage is the art nouveau/Secessionism found in abundance in Budapest, Szeged and Kecskemét.

Budapest Wander through Budapest’s historical heart and see how many different architectural styles you can spot within several blocks.

Pécs Home to the most significant architectural relics of Turkish rule, an early-Christian World Heritage Site and baroque structures.

Kecskemét This city claims a stunning assemblage of art nouveau and Secessionist buildings on its leafy squares.

Synagogues There are some fine example of Jewish houses of worship, especially in Szeged, and places like Pécs, Eger and Esztergom.

Castles Some of the best castles can be found in northern Hungary, at Hollókő and Eger.

Plan Your Trip

Eat & Drink Like a Local

It’s not difficult to live like a local while travelling in Hungary. The natives are friendly, the food is excellent (and never too strange) and the wine even better. And there are lots of things here that many people everywhere like: fresh produce, sweet cakes and fruit-flavoured brandy that kicks like a mule.

The Year in Food

Food festivals take place year-round, celebrating everything from asparagus and honey to the lowly pumpkin (vegetable marrow, if the truth be known) and, of course, the grape.

Winter (Dec–Feb)

The selection of fresh vegetables and fruit is not great but the hunting season is on, and mushrooms and nuts have been collected. Budapest's Christmas markets are excellent places to nosh.

Spring (Mar–May)

A late-winter menu of preserved foods is consigned to the rubbish heap as the spring begins, starting with lettuces, spárga (asparagus) and then all the soft fruits. Ham figures largely at events like the Hollókő Easter Festival.

Summer (Jun–Aug)

The bounty continues with strawberries, raspberries and cherries giving way to plums. Count on lots of grills and gulyás (a thick beef soup) cooked in a bogrács (cauldron) at the Hortobágy Bridge Fair.

Autumn (Sep–Nov)

Dozens of wine festivals occur during the harvest. The most important one is the Budapest International Wine Festival.

Food Experiences

There is so much fresh produce in Hungary and so many interesting and unusual specialities that you might need some guidance. Fine-tune your culinary radar with the following edible musts:

Meals of a Lifetime

AIkon, Debrecen Arguably the most inventive restaurant in provincial Hungary; unforgettable foie gras and rabbit cooked in lecsó (savoury mix of peppers, tomatoes and onions).

APadlizsán, Esztergom A dramatic setting below a cliff, soft music at night and modern, very imaginative Hungarian dishes.

AMacok Bistro & Wine Bar, Eger An award-winning, very stylish eatery at the foot of Eger Castle with a top-notch menu and wine list.

AZeller Bistro, Budapest Enlightened traditional dishes of meat, fish and produce sourced from the Lake Balaton area, served in a lovely candlelit cellar.

AZsolnay Restaurant, Pécs Flawless service, an award-winning menu of creative Hungarian dishes and an emphasis on local ingredients.

ABaraka, Budapest Beautifully presented seafood dishes with Asian, French and Hungarian elements, along with a stellar bar and wine list.

Cheap Treats

Some hentesáru boltok (butcher shops) have a büfé (snack bar) selling boiled or fried kolbász (sausage), virsli (frankfurters), hurka (blood sausage/black pudding), roast chicken and pickled vegetables. Point to what you want; the staff will weigh it and hand you a slip of paper with the price. You usually pay at the pénztár (cashier) and hand the stamped receipt back to the staff for your food. You pay for bread, mustard – even water.

Food stalls sell the same sorts of things, as well as fish when located near lakes or rivers. One of the more popular snacks is lángos, deep-fried dough with various toppings (usually cheese and sour cream), available at food stalls throughout Hungary. Pogácsa, a kind of dry, savoury scone introduced by the Turks, is the favoured snack among beer drinkers.

Dare to Try

Hungarians will happily consume libamáj (goose liver) and, to a lesser extent, kacsamáj (duck liver) whenever the opportunity presents itself, be it cold zsírjában (in its own fat), roston sült (pan-fried) with apples, or as pástétom (pâté), but they generally eschew other forms of offal. The most unusual Hungarian dishes are meatless and quite inviting. Cold fruit soups such as meggyleves (sour cherry soup) or less-common fahéjas-almaleves (cinnamon apple soup) are a positive delight on a warm summer's evening. Dishes such as makós metélt (vermicelli topped with poppy seeds) may look bizarre and fall neither in the savoury nor sweet category, but you won't soon forget the taste. Clean your teeth afterwards!

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