Five Things First Time Travellers To Hungary Should Know
- Ditch your Euros. Hungary is a member of the European Union but doesn't use the Euro as its currency. Not all restaurants accept foreign cards, so it's wise to make sure you have cash you as well.
- Don't clink your beer glass. After the Austrians celebrated their victory over Hungary in 1848, they celebrated by clinking glasses of beer. In defiance, the county vowed to never toast with a glass of beer for the next 150 years. Despite it being almost 170 years since the incident, the locals are not keen to let go of the tradition.
- Public toilets in Hungary are not free. Make sure you keep HUF 200 to HUF 300 on you while exploring. The country's restrooms are also not known for being in the best condition. If you can, stick to the ones in restaurants or shopping malls.
- The tap water in Hungary is safe to drink. Instead of spending extra money on bottled water, bring a reusable bottle with you and fill up as you explore.
- Tipping is part of the culture. If drinks are brought to your table at a bar, you'll need to leave 10% of your total bill behind. For hotel staff, a HUF 200 to HUF 300 tip is applicable for daily housekeeping. At restaurants, a 12.5% service charge is often included in the bill, but if it's not, tip 10% to 15%.
Best Time To Visit Hungary
The best time to visit Hungary is during its shoulder seasons. From March to May and September to November, the weather is mild, and the crowds are minimal. You'll also find more affordable room rates and cheaper flights. Autumn is the annual grape harvest and should not be missed by wine lovers.
June to August is Hungary's high season. Travellers from all over Europe flock here for the summer holidays, driving up prices for everything. If you're planning a trip during this period, you'll need to book your accommodation months in advance. There will also be long lines outside the country's top attractions. Try to get there as early as possible or buy tickets online so you can avoid the queues.
If you're looking for the lowest possible prices, visit Hungary in winter. From December to February the temperatures drop, and the country is covered in a blanket of snow. If you don't mind bundling up, you'll have the top attractions all to yourself and room rates will be at their lowest.
Some sights will reduce their operating hours or close for this period. Make sure to do your research beforehand and plan your itinerary accordingly.
Budapest is the capital and largest city in Hungary. Located on the banks of the Danube river, people have been living here since the Stone Age. Its streets are lined with Turkish, Gothic and Roman architectural styles that have made it one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
Make sure you stop for a drink at Budapest's famous "ruin" pubs. These pop-up bars in old cinemas and apartment buildings are cheap and an excellent introduction to the city's nightlife.
Eger is the second largest city in Hungary. Founded by the country's first Christian king, the town is full of beautiful baroque buildings.
Eger's top sights include Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Apostle and Castle of Eger, built to repel the invading Turkish forces. Other notable attractions include the Valley of the Women and the Torok Kori Minaret.
Founded in 1367, Pecs is one of Hungary's most ethnically diverse cities. Over the centuries, refugees have flocked here, earning it a spot on UNESCO's Cities of Peace list.
Its historic religious buildings are Pecs's biggest drawcard. Make sure you visit the Pecs Cathedral, Pecs Synagogue and the Mosque of Pasha Gazi Kassim.
Top Attractions in Hungary
Buda Castle is one of Hungary's most famous historical landmarks. Built in the 18th century for the Habsburg monarchy, it boasts more than 200 rooms. The castle was badly damaged during World War II, with much of its interior destroyed. Luckily, after years of work, most of the building has been restored to its former glory.
This impressive piece of architecture is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The parts that are open to the public contain fascinating museums and art galleries. Make sure you block out a full day to explore the Budapest History Museum, the Szechenyi National Library and the Hungarian National Gallery.
Cathedral of St. Peter
Located in the city of Pecs, the Cathedral of St. Peter is a spellbinding example of religious architecture. Originally built in 1009, the church was damaged from Mongol attacks and years of neglect.
In 1891, it was rebuilt, and its varying architectural styles display the cultural influences of the people that live in the city.
Inside the church, you'll find a collection of Romanesque sculptures and graves from an Early Christian cemetery. There also fragments of the cathedral's original wall paintings that have survived its turbulent history.
Even if you aren't religious, it's one of Hungary's finest architectural landmarks and well worth the visit.
Visegrad Royal Palace
Located in Hungary's beautiful Danube Bend, the ruins of Visegrad Royal Palace are an easy day trip from Budapest. Built during the reign of Charles I in 1316, it became the country's first royal palace.
Today, it's only a shadow of its former self, but still has a lot to offer curious history buffs. The palace contains over 350 rooms, although not all open to the public. The most impressive are the royal suits which give you a glimpse into life at court.
Once you've become tired of Hungary's cobblestone streets, head to Lake Balaton. Called the "Hungarian Sea", it boasts picturesque landscapes, underwater caves and beautiful vineyards.
The volcanic hills are full of minerals, making it prime real estate for growing wine. The region is considered the next wine frontier and no visit here would be complete without an afternoon of tastings.
Other notable attractions near the lake include the hot springs used by the Romans 2,000 years ago and the underwater galleries. Discovered in 1903, the caves are 3 km long and boast countless chambers and karst formations.
Aggtelek National Park
Aggtelek National Park is home to the largest stalactite cave in Europe. Located three hours away from Budapest, the caves are over two million years old.
While some parts are still off-limits to tourists, there are more than enough marked trails to explore.
One of the park's most unique experiences is its concerts. Hosted inside the Baradla cave, musical performances are held here throughout the year thanks to its excellent acoustics.
Besides the caves, Aggtelek National Park also has a variety of flora and fauna, as well as beautiful villages to visit within its boundaries.
Major International Airports in Hungary
- Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport
- Debrecen International Airport
- Gyor-Per International Airport
- Nyíregyhaza Airport
- Heviz–Balaton Airport