As much as there is to see and do in Budapest, taking the time to explore outside the city bounds is well worth it, particularly if you want to get a real flavour of life in Hungary. Luckily, you don’t have to go far, so even if you’re only here on a short holiday don’t let that stop you taking a quick day trip or two. Here are few ideas:
You might have heard that Hungary makes world class wine – easily as good as anything the French and Italians can squeeze from its grapes. Finding some of the good stuff isn’t particularly hard in Hungary, but if you want to try something a little special you should seek out Tokaji wine, a deliciously sweet tipple made in the village of Tokaj and its surrounding vineyards.
Tokaji wine is made from one of six different grape varieties – with Furmint being the most popular – that have been affected by noble rot. Other factors, such as unique weather due to proximity to the Carpathian Mountains, highly contrasting seasons and a soil of volcanic origin, with high concentrations of iron and lime, all contribute to the wine’s distinctive taste.
A trip to Tokaj offers you the chance to explore a typical sleepy-yet-idyllic Hungarian village and hop from wine cellar to wine cellar sampling different families offerings. And, when you get hungry, Halászlé, a fish soup is a local favourite.
Easiest way to explore the region: Book a Small-Group Wine Day Tour.
Photo: Taste Hungary
While locals naturally do their best to forget the city’s time under Socialist rule, it’s still a fascinating part of the country’s history. If museums are not your thing, Memento Park very well might be. Opened in 1989, it’s a field with dozens of old Communist statues unceremoniously removed from the streets of Budapest after the end of Soviet rule.
Visit the park and you’ll find statues depicting every cause célèbre of the era – including Marx, Lenin and Engels – as well as rotating exhibitions and film screenings to help give some context to what is on display. You’ll even get to see the famous Stalin’s boots, which serve as a monument to a much bigger Stalin statue that was torn down during Budapest’s October Revolution.
Easiest way to get there: Take the metro 4 line to Kelenfold then get bus 101 or 150 to “Budateteny vasutallomas” (Campona).
Photo and featured image: Flickr user Jorge Gobbi
Szentendre is a charming town located just north of Budapest along the Danube river and is one of the country’s most popular day trip locations for both locals and tourists. Whether you choose to take the train, a boat or even cycle (there is a marked path from the city centre), you’ll be treated to stunning views of the river bank all along the way.
The town itself has all the trappings of a tourist hotspot, with bars and restaurants lining both the main pedestrian streets and the riverfront, and it’s a great place to try traditional Hungarian food or sip a beer and people watch. Also worth it is the walk up the hill to the church for a stunning view of the surroundings.
Easiest way to get there: Take the HÉV (suburban train) from Batthyány Square. Train leaves roughly every 10 – 20 minutes and gets you there in 40 minutes.
Photo: Flickr user Rego Korosi
For those that enjoy the fresh air and nature, Normafa (Norma’s Tree) is the place to be. Nestled up in Buda Hills, it’s an area of extraordinary beauty, offering you the chance to hike, picnic, ski in the winter and take in the stunning views of Budapest. This area is practically still in Budapest, which makes it very easy to access. Also, Normafa is an ideal destination if you want to get out of the city without without actually leaving Budapest.
There is plenty else to do in the area, including climbing the Erzsébet Tower, the highest point in the city (great for those must-have panoramic photos), checking out the nearby cogwheel railway or even taking a ride on Budapest’s famous children’s railway, a must have retro experience in Budapest.
Easiest way to get there: Take the metro, tram or bus to Széll Kálmán and then take a bus from there.
Photo: Flickr user David Nagy