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Hungary Travel & Holiday Tips

Hungary does not regard itself as a Balkan or a Slavic country, and the Magyars who settled there from central Asia have always identified with western values. The country has survived the devastations of the Tartars, Turks, Habsburgs and Russians, retaining its unique language and culture. In Hungary, admitting that you're a tourist is positive and people will often want to meet, talk and help visitors to enjoy their country.

The pride locals have for their nation is immense, but it doesn’t spring solely from the stalwart strength of their nation. Hungary is also home to historic urban centres and evocative landscapes, not to mention quality wines, rejuvenating thermal springs and a thriving arts and music scene.

Budapest, the capital, is a fantastic city split in two by the Danube. Buda is older, hillier and more graceful, while Pest is the commercial centre dotted by gorgeous art nouveau buildings. Budapest contains the country’s best bars and clubs, and has been a long time haven for writers, artists and musicians. Other centres, such as Eger, Pécs, Szentendre and Sopron, to name but a few, are vibrant cities with rich histories and stunning architecture.

The Puszta, a seemingly unending prairie topped by big skies, is the country’s defining landscape, but Hungary’s outdoor beauty doesn’t stop there. There are 11 national parks and hundreds of protected areas to explore, along with Lake Balaton, Europe’s largest body of fresh water, a multitude of meandering rivers and thousands of acres of vineyards and orchards. And at the end of a hard day sightseeing, there’s no better place to relax than in one of Hungary’s 150 thermal spas, some of which date back to Roman days.


The capital city was originally two cities on each side of one of the most beautiful stretches of the Danube river – Buda, the older, more graceful part, with cobbled streets and medieval buildings, and Pest, the commercial centre. The ‘Pearl of the Danube’ is a lively city which has long been a haven for writers, artists and musicians.


In Buda, Gellért Hill gives a wonderful view of the city, river and mountains. On the hill is the Citadella, a fort built after the unsuccessful 1848 uprising, and a number of thermal baths including the great Gellért Baths adjoining the hotel of that name. The Royal Palace, fully reconstructed after being bombed during World War II, houses the National Gallery, with collections of fine Gothic sculpture and modern Hungarian art, and the Historical Museum of Budapest, containing archaeological remains of the old city as well as furnishings, glass and ceramics from the 15th century. Also on this side of the Danube is the rampart of Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion), so called because it was the duty of the city’s fishermen to protect the northern side of the Palace during the Middle Ages, and the great Mátyás templon (church) with its multicoloured tiled roof.


On the Pest side are the Parliament; the Hungarian National Museum, containing remarkable treasures ranging from the oldest skull found in Europe to Franz Liszt’s gold baton; the Belvárosi Templom, Hungary’s oldest church, dating from the 12th century, the Museum of Fine Arts housing European paintings and the Ethnographic Museum. Margaret Island, connected to both Buda and Pest by bridges, is a park with a sports stadium, swimming pool, spas, a rose garden and fountains. Budapest has about 100 hot springs.

The Danube

The Danube Bend upstream from Budapest has long been a favourite summer retreat from the humid heat of the capital. Three historic towns draw most of the visitors. A few miles further up river, Szentendre is an old market town originally inhabited by Serbian refugees fleeing from the Turks. Churches had to face east regardless of their position on the streets, producing unusual layouts, and the Serbian house styles added greatly to the village’s charm. Due to trade restrictions and floods, the town was abandoned, only to be rediscovered and settled by Hungarian artists in the 1920s. The Margit Kovács Musuem has a remarkable display of the work of Hungary’s greatest ceramicist. The Béla Czóbel Museum shows paintings from the 1890s and the Károly Ferenczy Museum contains historical, archaeological and ethnographic collections as well as paintings. The Serbian Museum for Ecclesiastical History contains many fine examples of ecclesiastical art from the 14th to the 18th centuries. The Ethnographic Museum (skanzen) is a large open-air addition from the 1960s, still being added to, of reconstructed folk villages from all over the country.

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