Hungary in detail

Hungary is known for

Cuisine

Hungary boasts Eastern Europe's finest cuisine. It’s very meaty, that's true, but big on flavour. Try one of the staples like paprika-laced pörkölt (a stew not unlike what we call goulash) or gulyás (or gulyásleves), a thick beef soup cooked with onions and potatoes. And don’t overlook specialties such as libamaj (goose liver prepared in an infinite number of ways) and halászlé, a rich fish soup.

Budapest Choose between Hungarian-style cafes, trendy cellar eateries, Michelin-starred restaurants and everything in between.

Fish Locally caught fish at Lake Balaton is a must-try. The most popular varieties are pike-perch, catfish and carp.

Sopron Sample locally produced red kékfrankos and white tramini in a town known for its wine since Roman times.

Szeged The city's famed halászlé with several kinds of Tisza River fish is a meal in itself.

Bereg The deep-purple szilva (plums) of this region are used to make the finest lekvár (jam) and pálinka (brandy).

Patisseries Every town offers cukrászdák (cake shops) selling rich, sweet creations; the grandaddy is Budapest's Gerbeaud.

Architecture

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.

Scenery

Hungary cannot claim any point higher than 1000m, and it’s nowhere near the sea. Yet the country has an amazingly varied topography. There’s the low-lying salty grasslands of the Great Plain, a half-dozen ranges of hills to the north and northeast, and two major (and very scenic) rivers: the Danube and the Tisza. Hungary also has well over 1000 lakes, of which the largest and most famous is Balaton.

Őrség Drive past peaceful meadows and through the hills of Őrség National Park for a glimpse of traditional village life.

Pannonhalma Head for the hilltop abbey for the all-encompassing views of the surrounding countryside.

Tihany This 80m-high peninsula is home to wild and vineyard-filled swaths of green and the most dramatic views across Lake Balaton.

Hortobágy The real Hortobágy on the Great Plain and the one in paintings and poems get mixed up, but it remains stunningly beautiful.

Bereg region This land of thatched peasant cottages, horse-drawn hay wagons and fruit trees is the Hungarian countryside at its most gentle.

Visegrád The view from the mighty fortress completed in 1259 will convince you that the Danube does 'bend'.

Folk Art

Hungary has one of the richest folk traditions in Europe. Folk art and fine art are inextricably linked; the music of Béla Bartók and the ceramic sculptures of Szentendre’s Margit Kovács, for example, are deeply rooted in traditional culture.

Budapest Check out the work of artisans from all over Hungary at the mid-August Budapest Festival of Folk Arts.

Sopron Folk art and crafts are on display at the handicraft fair during Sopron Festival Weeks from mid-June to mid-July.

Hollókő This tiny village is a treasure trove of Hungarian folk art and crafts. Visit during the Easter Festival in March/April.

Bereg region This area is the last bastion of folk life and famed for its needlework, wooden churches filled with naive murals and painting.

Szentendre A museum here is dedicated to Margit Kovács, a ceramicist who combined Hungarian folk, religious and modern themes.

Thermal Spas

Since the time of the Romans in the 2nd century AD, people here have enjoyed Hungary's abundant thermal waters. The choice of venues is enormous and much varied, but the trend today is for extra large spas with a wellness centre offering services from A to Z for the adults and a huge water park attached for the kids.

Hévíz Gyógy-tó, Europe’s largest thermal lake, is therapeutic, medicinal and filled with lotuses.

Budapest From hammams (Turkish baths) and palace-like baths to outdoor whirlpools, you are completely spoiled for choice in the capital.

Eger A massive renovation of a Turkish bath dating to 1617 has added six pools, saunas, a steam room and hammam.

Szeged The lovely Anna Baths were built in 1896 to imitate the tilework and soaring dome of a Turkish bath.

Kecskémet Thermal baths, swimming pools, full spa facilities and every wellness treatment you could imagine are at the Kecskémet Baths.

Festivals

Hungary paints the town red year-round nowadays; the days when nothing got scheduled in August during the 'cucumber-growing season' are well and truly over. Choose from among themed festivals that celebrate things like Jewish culture and folklore, classical music or jazz, and new crops of grapes (or cherries or apples).

Sopron Celebrate Sopron’s Grape Harvest in September by sampling its fine wines, accompanied by music and folk dancing.

Mohács The Busójárás carnival in February or March brings out masked creatures, lively processions, folk music and dancing.

Budapest Immerse yourself in Budapest’s distinguished Jewish heritage during the eight-day Jewish Cultural Festival in September.

Szeged The Szeged Open-Air Festival in July and August is the country's most important and showcases every branch of the performing arts.

Hollókõ Easter in this folkloric village is a special time, with women in colourful traditional costumes parading through the streets.

Debrecen The Flower Carnival here in August is arguably Hungary's most colourful festival.