Budapest is a complex and vibrant city where you can go to a thermal bath in the early morning, spelunking before lunch, sightsee in the afternoon, and party till dawn.
Three or four days is enough to immerse yourself in Budapest’s best sights, along with some of its more unusual ones. However, you can 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.
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. Expect to spend a good couple of hours exploring the museums within the castle walls. Explore the interior of this fortress-like castle along with the complex labyrinth of tunnels that snakes beneath it.
Grab lunch at 1552 before descending. The décor inside is bold, with claret leatherette seating, exposed brick set against patterned peach wallpaper, Turkish-style tiles, and bulbs hanging inside birdcages. Enjoy Hungarian cuisine, Turkish dishes (a nod to its Ottoman past), and cutting-edge culinary techniques.
Wander over to the Eger Minaret. The Turks built the minaret in 1596 following their victory. When the Habsburg army recaptured the town 91 years later, they tried to pull it down with 400 oxen, but the tower held out. The balcony at the top of the tower is worth it for the view.
Find somewhere for an early dinner, such as Depresso Kávéház és Étterem. This third-wave café wins the best terrace view in the city with front row seats overlooking Dobó Square and the castle.
Day 2: Eger and the Valley of Beautiful Women
Take in an organ concert at Eger Basilica in the morning. Eger Basilica is the third largest in Hungary, after Esztergom and Budapest. You’ll find this neoclassical basilica facing the Lyceum, looking like an overwrought Roman temple with imposing Corinthian columns. It merits a look inside, and the murals that adorn the three huge domes in bright bold colors will impress any art lover.
Spend the afternoon at the Hagymási Cellar, which looks like a church. You can also grab some snacks in the cellars from cheese plates, bread smothered in pork or duck fat, or freshly baked pastries filled with cheese and herbs.
Grab dinner at Macok Bisztró once you’ve grabbed the train back in the evening. You’ll find Hungarians and an international crowd at this eccentric restaurant that blends industrial chic with its own quirky style. But what’s even better is its modern, adventurous kitchen, offering gourmet degustation menus at excellent prices.
Day 3: Eger to Hollókő to Budapest
Leave Eger after breakfast and make your way to Hollókő. This area is a living museum for Hungarian village life and a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you wander down its cobbled streets and dip in and out of its numerous tiny museums, shops, and workshops in the historic houses, you’ll catch a glimpse into the local culture.
Grab lunch at the Muskátli Vendéglő. This centrally located restaurant feels like you’ve stepped into a magic garden and barn, where hand-painted plates and old farm tools adorn the walls. Although you can still find the Hungarian favorites, the best thing about this traditional restaurant is its focus on local Palóc dishes.
In the afternoon, explore the Village Museum, a charming little time capsule that shows you how people lived in the village back in the 1920s. Or visit the Palóc Doll Museum, home to some 200 porcelain dolls decked out in realistic folk costumes. Most of the dolls are from the region, but there are a few dolls from Slovakia and Transylvania in the collection.
Hike up and around the Hollókő Castle, a 13th-century castle for amazing views and a step back into medieval times. Although the view alone makes the visit worthwhile, you should head into the main tower and get a glimpse back into the castle’s life. Inside the tower, various chambers are decked out in reproduction furniture with the occasional wax figure. You can wander into a 13th-century banquet hall, kitchen, bedroom and the tiny bed in the guard’s watchtower.
When you’re ready to head home from your adventure, drive back on the M3 towards Budapest!
Start planning your adventure today.
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