Hungary may sound like somewhere unusual to visit, but in fact it attracts over 20 million tourists every year. Most visitors head for the well-known capital city of Budapest with its fabulous architectural heritage set on either bank of the wide River Danube. However, the country has even more attractions for visitors including the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, the world’s largest thermal water cave system and more than 80 hot springs which bubble up to feed thermal spas. Checkout some of the beautiful apartments in lovely old buildings in Budapest and make it a base for exploring this scenic area.
Budapest is one of Europe’s loveliest cities. Buda, on the west bank, and Pest to the east were once totally separate and equally important cities. Linked by the lovely Chain Bridge across the huge River Danube, the two cities, along with the smaller village of Obuda, were united in 1872 to create the beautiful and historic city that exists today.
Highlights of Buda include the historic Castle District. Another must-see for visitors is the Royal Palace complex and St Matthias Church within it, which has the wonderful royal tombs and a gorgeous rose window. Pest has plenty of landmarks in its own right, such as the Gresham Palace, the onion-domed Clock Tower and the very colourful Town Hall building. The neo-Gothic parliament building is well worth a photograph as is the stunning State Opera House which has an auditorium surrounded by gilded private boxes.
The best time to visit Budapest is between April and October when the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny. However, being Europe, there may be light showers at any time of year. Many visitors flock to the city to attend the delightful Christmas market which is held on Vorosmarty Square. Small wooden huts host retailers selling holly wreaths, handmade toys, crafts and seasonal decorations. Bags of spiced cookies, nuts and sweets are decoratively displayed and make delightful gifts. Keep warm by sipping hot mulled wine between spells of shopping!
Visitors staying in Budapest can take a boat trip along the river to visit some of the charming old towns nearby. The historic town of Szentendre has a skyline pierced with many church spires and towers and is home to an artists’ colony. Nearby is Visegrad with its 15th century palace and castle, now in ruins, or visit Hungary’s largest basilica at Esztergom.
Further afield the Aggtelek National Park is on the border with the Slovak Republic and has underground tours of the karst cave system. Lake Balaton is popular for hiking and nature spotting along its northern shore and the Kiskunsag National Park is a collection of small protected areas in the Danube Tisza Floodplain. The swamps, marshes and lakes are popular for bird spotting with wading birds, storks and eagles in profusion.
Finally, and perhaps best of all, Hungary produces some excellent wine at very low prices, and dining out is very affordable.