Moon Budapest & Beyond
With the Danube Bend, Lake Balaton & Other Day Trips in Hungary
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- Explore In and Around the City: Get to know Budapest’s most interesting neighborhoods, like Castle Hill, South Buda, South Pest, and the historic Jewish quarter, and nearby areas, including Gödöllö, Lake Balaton, the Eger wine country, Pécs, and more
- Go at Your Own Pace: Choose from multiple itinerary options designed for foodies, history buffs, art lovers, outdoor adventurers, and more
- See the Sights: Soak in the thermal Széchenyi baths, meander through Magyar history at the Hungarian National Museum, or take in views of the city from 170 meters above the Danube. See Europe’s largest synagogue and catch a performance at the palatial Opera House. Hike to the top of the Elizabeth Lookout, or go cave-diving in the Buda Hills
- Get Outside the City: Explore the vineyards of the Valley of Beautiful Women, stroll through historic Hungarian folk villages, or go canyoning in the Pilis Hills
- Savor the Flavors: Grab a mouthwatering lángos from a food truck, tuck into a rich authentic goulash, linger over coffee at a riverside café, or indulge in contemporary farm-to-table cuisine
- Experience the Nightlife: Hop between eclectic ruin bars in the bustling Jewish Quarter or attend a Saturday “Sparty” in one of the city’s famous spas. Sample Hungarian wines at a tasting room, sip creative concoctions at a cocktail bar, and watch the sunset over the Danube with a local craft beer in hand
- Get to Know the Real Budapest: Follow honest suggestions from Budapest local Jennifer D. Walker
- Full-color photos and detailed maps, including a full-color foldout map
- Handy Tools: Background information on Budapest’s history and culture, plus tips on sustainable travel, what to pack, where to stay, and how to get around
Exploring more of Eastern Europe? Check out Moon Prague & Beyond.
DISCOVER BUDAPEST & BEYOND
MY FAVORITE EXPERIENCES
EXPLORE BUDAPEST & BEYOND
BEST OF BUDAPEST & BEYOND
WHERE TO GO FROM BUDAPEST
SZENTENDRE AND THE DANUBE BEND
EXPLORING BEYOND BUDAPEST
EGER, THE VALLEY OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, AND HOLLÓKŐ
TRAVEL LIKE A LOCAL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
WHAT TO PACK
Once three distinct cities—Buda, Pest, and Óbuda—Budapest has a long history that expresses itself in the tapestry of the city’s architecture, from the excavated remains of the Roman city of Aquincum to medieval ruins left behind from the monasteries of Margaret Island; from domed Ottoman baths and Habsburg grandeur to Communist brutalism. It’s a complex and vibrant city where you can go to a thermal bath in the early morning, spelunking before lunch, do a spot of sightseeing in the afternoon, and party till dawn. You can crisscross the city from Buda, dominated by tree-clad hills interwoven with hiking trails, to cosmopolitan Pest, where large Parisian-style boulevards are interspersed with dilapidated ruin bars and a vibrant café culture. And don’t forget Óbuda: the oldest part of the city is strewn with Roman ruins, factories, and shady beaches that lead you right down to the Danube River.
But Hungary is more than just Budapest. The country is small and compact, making it easy to branch out from the capital and see more of the country with a day or an overnight trip. Head south to recline on a beach at Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest lake. Head north and take a boat down the beautiful Danube Bend. Or jet off to other cities in Hungary if you want to escape the tour crowds. Visit Eger for its Baroque architecture and wine cellars. Discover Sopron on the Austrian-Hungarian border for its beautiful medieval architecture. Go south to Pécs for its blend of Art Nouveau and Ottoman architecture. Or, you can stay closer to Budapest with a jaunt to the picturesque towns of Szentendre, rustic Hollókő, or regal Gödöllő.
MY FAVORITE EXPERIENCES
1 Soaking in Budapest’s thermal baths. From opulent multipool complexes to low-key local spots, relaxing in the healing waters is the perfect activity on the morning after a night out.
2 Drinking a pálinka or Unicum in a ruin bar or kert in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter.
3 Taking in views over the Danube from Budapest’s Fisherman’s Bastion.
4 Cycling along the Danube to Szentendre or Vác, stopping for a few fröccs (a white or rosé wine spritzer) at one of the riverside bars along the way.
5 Kicking back with the locals on a Lake Balaton beach.
6 Immersing yourself in Habsburg grandeur at Gödöllő Royal Palace.
7 Visiting the Danube Bend town of Esztergom, home to a grand basilica with sweeping views, then taking the slow boat back to Budapest at golden hour (around 4pm).
8 Sampling local wine in the Valley of Beautiful Women or at the hillside wineries near Badacsony.
9 Discovering rural life in the museums of the living folk village of Hollókő.
10 Learning about the history of Hungary’s famous glazed porcelain in the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter in Pécs.
EXPLORE BUDAPEST & BEYOND
Three or four days is enough to immerse yourself in Budapest’s best sights, along with some of its more unusual ones. However, it’s easy enough to hop on a bus or a train and get out to explore more of the country. Some destinations are nearby and take less than an hour to get to: Szentendre, Gödöllő, and the Danube Bend can all be reached in just over an hour (or less) by train or bus, and they make good day-trip destinations or can be combined into longer excursions. Other destinations (Eger, Hollókő, Sopron, Lake Balaton, and Pécs) are farther afield, requiring a journey of two or three hours, so you need to either travel early or stay overnight. The good news is that all are reachable by bus or rail, so you can access them, even if you don’t have your own car.
BEST OF BUDAPEST & BEYOND
This itinerary covers the must-see highlights for any first-time visitor, with a mix of Habsburg palaces, museums, rooftop and ruin bars, and even a thermal bath. This will keep you busy from dawn till dusk on days 1 and 2, with day 3 (a short trip to nearby Gödöllő) being more relaxing. You will want to make sure your camera is fully charged for the next three days.
This itinerary is accessible with public transport. Since you’ll be based in Budapest for three days, you won’t need to worry about luggage storage as you can just keep everything at your hotel.
▪ Start your trip in style with a coffee or a decadent breakfast at the New York Café. It’s a little pricey, but it is one of the most beautiful cafés in the world, so it’s the perfect way to kick off your trip.
▪ Grab the number 5 bus from Blaha Lujza tér metro station to go to Buda. Keep an eye out for the views while you ride, especially when crossing the river!
▪ Get off the bus at Szarvas tér and head toward the river. You’ll see the Castle Garden Bazaar stretch out in front of you. Walk along and follow the colonnade leading up the hill until you reach the escalators.
▪ Take the escalators up to the top and you’ve reached the top of Castle Hill. Wander along, admire the views, and take many photos.
▪ Buy a ticket for the Hungarian National Gallery in the Royal Palace and spend a couple hours exploring the museum to learn more about Hungarian art. Make sure you climb up inside the dome of the Royal Palace (if the season permits).
▪ Stroll over the winding cobbled streets to Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. This will give you the best views in the city.
▪ If you’re hungry, there are plenty of options here; if you’re feeling spendy, Pierrot won’t disappoint.
▪ At the Vienna Gate, grab the 16 bus to Deák Ferenc tér metro station. Head south and pass the Great Synagogue and walk down Wesselényi utca till you reach Kazinczy utca and turn right.
▪ Grab some street food at Karavan, and then head into Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s most famous ruin bar, for a few drinks to wrap up the night.
▪ If you’re in the mood to party, bar-hop over to nearby Instant and Fogas Ház, Anker’t, or Doboz.
Try to make yourself get up early and go to the Széchenyi Baths before the crowds arrive. Expect to spend a good couple of hours here—the complex is massive and the architecture is stunning inside and out.
▪ Once you’ve had a good soak, explore the surroundings at City Park. Wander the grounds of Vajdahunyad Castle and pay a visit to the Anonymous statue.
▪ Head to Bagolyvár for a filling lunch.
▪ Now, it’s on to some major sightseeing. First, walk over to Heroes’ Square and snap a few pictures.
▪ Take metro 1, also known as the Millennium Underground, to Opera. Keep walking down Andrássy Avenue until you reach Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út. Cross over and head to St. Stephen’s Basilica. Try to get up to the viewing platform at the top of the dome.
▪ Walk a few blocks northwest toward the river until you get to the Hungarian Parliament building. Take it easy and just admire the exterior.
▪ Head down to the Danube Banks in front of the Parliament to the Shoes on the Danube memorial.
▪ End the evening at a rooftop bar, such as the bar (or ice rink in the winter) at the Hotel President with views over the Royal Postal Savings Bank, the High Note Bar at the Aria Hotel for a vista overlooking St. Stephen’s Basilica, or return to Andrássy Avenue to 360 Bar.
DAY 3: DAY TRIP TO GÖDÖLLŐ
Get out of the city and escape to the nearby town of Gödöllő for a spot of Habsburg grandeur and opulence. Before you leave, call the Royal Palace of Gödöllő to find out if you can visit Horthy’s Bunker or the Baroque Theater. During peak seasons, large tour groups get priority, and the palace can only tell you that day whether you can visit these extras or not. Once you get the times for the tours, you can plan your day and slot in a visit to Horthy’s Bunker and the Baroque Theater when a spot is available.
▪ Take metro line 2 to Örs Vezér tere and take the suburban railway (HÉV) to Gödöllő and get off at Gödöllő, Szabadság tér 50 minutes later.
▪ If you’re hungry, grab a bite to eat at Solier Café, a five-minute walk from the train station.
▪ Head over to the Royal Palace of Gödöllő. Pay a visit to the castle interior and the elegantly furbished rooms. Once you’re done with the museum and tours (or you have some waiting time), make sure you explore the lush park grounds surrounding the palace.
▪ Once you’re done for the day, grab the suburban railway back to Budapest.
SZENTENDRE AND THE DANUBE BEND
Follow the Danube upstream from the Hungarian capital through an undulating landscape that twists and turns with the river. The Danube Bend is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, its forest-covered hills punctuated by village churches, ruined medieval citadels, and one of Europe’s largest basilicas. It has the added advantage of being very close to Budapest and easily accessible by public transport.
Although you can get up to Szentendre on the local suburban train, or take a boat, which is the best and most fun way to reach the town. Pack light, because you won’t have anywhere to store luggage while you explore Szentendre on day 1 and Esztergom on day 3. Book your ticket in advance (even if it’s just the day before) to guarantee a seat for the 10:40am hydrofoil bound for Esztergom on day 3.
DAY 1: BUDAPEST TO SZENTENDRE TO VISEGRÁD
▪ Head up to Szentendre in the morning. You can take the suburban railway (HÉV line 5, takes 40 minutes from Batthyány tér) or the boat (1.5 hours).
▪ Explore the picturesque downtown and do some shopping in this former art colony. Pay a visit to the Blagoveštenska Church to see a little of the town’s Serbian heritage.
▪ Grab lunch in Mjam before heading over to the Art Mill. Walk back through the town to the bus station next to the suburban railway stop.
▪ Get on the bus going to Visegrád (45 minutes).
▪ Check into your hotel, then grab a cab to the Visegrád Citadel for the amazing views. If you’re feeling athletic, hike down the southern side of the citadel to the Solomon Tower.
▪ Get dinner at the Renaissance Restaurant before retiring for the night.
DAY 2: VISEGRÁD TO VÁC
▪ In the morning, visit the Renaissance Palace.
▪ Take the hourly ferry over to Nagymaros (15 minutes) and get the train down to Vác (15 minutes). Check into your hotel and freshen up before you head out to explore the town.
▪ Pay a visit to Vác Cathedral and the Memento Mori Exhibition.
▪ Take a leisurely hike along the river to the Hekk Terrace if you want a long scenic walk before lunch.
▪ Spend the afternoon in Vác at your own pace. Grab a cake or a coffee and watch life go by, or watch the sun set from the riverside.
DAY 3: VÁC TO ESZTERGOM TO BUDAPEST
▪ Make sure you hop on the 10:40 hydrofoil bound for Esztergom (50 minutes). Book your ticket in advance, even if it’s only the day before, from the Mahart Passnave website to guarantee a seat. Sit back and enjoy the Danube Bend views from the boat.
▪ You’ll get to Esztergom around lunchtime. The town is small, but if you want to see amazing views of Esztergom and sneak another country in, cross the Mária Valéria bridge over to Štúrovo, Slovakia, for wonderful vistas of the basilica and the city. Cross back over and head up toward the basilica. Stop for lunch at Padlizsán on the way.
▪ When you arrive at Esztergom Basilica, make sure you go up to the dome for amazing views over the city.
▪ Get the local bus or a taxi to the train station and take the train back to Budapest (1 hour).
Get out of the city and relax on Lake Balaton for a few days with beautiful views, boat rides, and plenty of good food and wine. Balaton is not so much about sightseeing but rather taking in the little pleasures—a walk along the water, a day at the beach, or trying the excellent local wines.
All three of these towns are accessible by rail or bus, making this itinerary possible without a car. Drop your luggage off when you get into town and go exploring right away.
DAY 1: BUDAPEST TO BALATONFÜRED
▪ From Budapest, catch an early train (2-2.5 hours) to Balatonfüred. Trains depart Budapest’s Budapest-Déli train station hourly (every half hour in peak seasons). No reservations are necessary; just get a ticket and go. However, in the summer it’s best to buy a ticket in advance so you are guaranteed a seat.
▪ The train will drop you off just a 15-minute walk from the center of the town. Settle into your hotel, take a stroll along the river on the Tagore Prominade, and grab lunch at DOCK Bistro. Take it easy for the rest of the afternoon, and just enjoy the views over the lake.
▪ If you’re in an adventurous mood and don’t want to simply relax, you can grab a local bus from the train station to Tihany (15-20 minutes). Visit Tihany Abbey and get a cake at the Rege Cukrázda. Go for a walk down by the Inner Lake and pick up some lavender souvenirs before taking the bus back to Balatonfüred.
DAY 2: DAY TRIP TO BADACSONY
▪ Take the train to Badacsony, which will take an hour or less.
▪ Hike up the hill to Szőlőhegy Bistro for lunch with an amazing view over the lake. You can try a few wines here, but don’t be shy about exploring several other wineries in the area, like the nearby Laposa winery. This is not a day to run around and sightsee but to enjoy the wonderful views.
▪ Take the train back to Balatonfüred, then treat yourself to a meal at Horváth House Wine Gallery.
DAY 3: BALATONFÜRED TO SIÓFOK
▪ After a good breakfast, take a ferry across the lake to Siófok, which will take around an hour.
▪ If you can, get settled into your hotel and head down to Siófok Main Beach to catch the sun.
▪ Fuel up at Calvados before climbing up the Siófok Water Tower and riding the Siófok Ferris Wheel.
▪ At night, head down to Petőfi Promenade for the nightlife. Try the Renegade Pub if you’re looking for a lively vibe.
DAY 4: SIÓFOK TO BUDAPEST
▪ Enjoy one last walk by the lake before grabbing your luggage and taking the train back to Budapest. The journey takes approximately an hour and a half, so you have plenty of time to relax in the morning.
EGER, THE VALLEY OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, AND HOLLÓKŐ
Explore a different side of Hungary in the historic city of Eger, famous for its medieval castle, wine cellars, winding Baroque streets, and remnants from the Ottoman occupation. Then, head even deeper into the countryside to the living folk village of Hollókő in the Cserhát Hills to get a feel for rural life and culture, as well as shop for some unique folk art to take home.
It’s very easy to get to Eger with public transport, but going from Eger to Hollókő is more of a challenge. Although Hollókő is only an hour and a half by car, it can take around four hours by local bus because you need to change twice and take a detour to get there. For this itinerary, I’d recommend renting a car in Budapest before setting out.
DAY 1: BUDAPEST TO EGER
Before leaving for Eger, consider where you’ll park your car. The Hotel Park & Eger has parking for HUF 600 per night, and the Hotel Senator also includes reserved parking for guests, so if you’re booked at either of those you’re sorted for parking. Otherwise, you can park in a number of parking lots in the downtown area, like at the base of Eger Castle on Dobó István utca, or at the underground parking garage on Katona tér. Parking in Eger costs between HUF 200 and 360 per hour.
▪ Drive two hours due northeast on the M3 (via Füzesabony) to Eger. Check in, settle into your hotel, and head into town.
▪ Grab a coffee on Dobó István tér before hiking up to Eger Castle.
- On Sale
- Mar 31, 2020
- Page Count
- 284 pages
- Moon Travel