- Buda Castle: When you first set eyes on spectacular Buda Castle in Budapest, you’ll understand why so many people consider the city the “Paris of the East”. This spectacular historic landmark – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – ranks highly alongside Versailles in terms of its majestic proportions and wonderful design. Built on the site of a palace destroyed during the Siege of 1686, this newer structure was rebuilt in the 18th century for the Habsburg monarchy and includes more than 200 rooms. Its spectacular symmetrical layout focuses on the lovely 61-meter-high central dome facing the Danube, from which amazing views of the castle can be enjoyed. Parts of the original medieval building have been reconstructed, including the Buzogány Tower and the impressive 15th-century South Tower.
- The Danube: The spectacular Danube River flows through Hungary from north to south, and as it passes through Budapest, splits the city in two. One of the best sunset views of both Buda and Pest is from the lovely Freedom Bridge, a favourite spot among locals. Another great place from which to view this majestic river is at the Danube Bend, one of the country’s most popular recreational and excursion spots. This is where the river winds its way through the heavily wooded Visegrád Mountains before turning sharply south (the river’s “knee”) towards Budapest. The area is popular with hikers and nature-lovers, and is included in the many excellent river cruises that travel the Danube from as far as neighbouring Austria.
- Historic Spa Towns: If you’re looking for a vacation that combines some down time with a rich cultural experience, Hungary delivers. There are many historic spa towns and facilities throughout the country offering everything from simple bathing in regenerative waters to longer stays in lovely spa resorts. Hungary’s reputation for its hot springs and baths dates back to more than 2,000 years ago to the Romans, who highly valued the healing effects of Hungarian thermal waters. Then, during the 16th century, the Turkish baths, still in use today, were built. All told, more than 1,000 springs provide medicinal and thermal water to natural and medical spas, one of the most popular being Lake Hévíz with its 25°C yearly average water temperature, the largest biologically active thermal lake in Europe. In Budapest, excellent spa packages are available at the lovely Szechenyi Bath and Spa, and numerous other locations across the city.
- Tihany: The place is one of the most popular holiday resorts on Lake Balaton. Originally an island, this tiny peninsula – covering just eight square kilometres – boasts some of Hungary’s most extraordinary scenery. Designated as a nature reserve, the south-western section is closed to traffic, and is wonderful to explore on foot along the well-marked trail network. A must-visit landmark in the town itself is the beautiful 17th-century Benedictine Abbey with its spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding area, a particular treat in spring when the region’s almond trees are in bloom, and again in summer when the fields resemble a sea of deep-blue lavender. From the abbey, be sure to walk to the lovely old Inner Harbour with its moorings for passenger ships and pleasant lakeside promenade.
- Sopron: This beautiful city, just 64 kilometres south of Vienna and eight kilometres from the Austrian border near the eastern foothills of the Alps, is a popular destination for day trippers. Much of its allure stems not just from its attractive surroundings, but also from its many well preserved medieval and Baroque buildings. All told, the town boasts 115 officially-listed monuments and 240 protected buildings, one of the largest such collections in Europe. All the buildings in the Old Town are found within the confines of the medieval town wall built on Roman ruins. Many of these buildings are of particular interest as they contain features added from other historic periods, so you’ll never quite know what to expect as you explore this town’s many delights.
– by Lorinc F.