Once part of a vast empire, this Central European country is now a large republic that highlights the glory of its imperial days in its spectacular architecture.
Hungary has one of Europe’s most dynamic histories. Continually invaded and then occupied by the Ottoman Turks, Hungary eventually regained its independence and built up into an empire of over 50 million people. This empire was shattered by World War I, but Hungary maintained its grand architecture from its imperial and medieval days. Today, see the country’s buildings telling its epic history, while its culture tells a much quieter story of folk traditions and a relaxed spa culture.
Find Hungary’s grandest buildings in the imperial capital of Budapest. Notice the hilltop Buda Castle, which has existed in some form on the Danube River’s west bank since the 13th century. Explore other grand structures on Castle Hill (Varhegy), including the pointed towers of the Fisherman’s Bastion offering panoramic views of the Danube and the Hungarian Parliament Building on the east bank.
The architecture in Hungary’s smaller towns reflects its ancient history as well. Northeast of Budapest, visit Eger to see the grand Eger Castle, built to repel 16th-century Turkish attacks. In the southerly town of Pecs, look for the historic Mosque Church.
Take a break from Hungarian history at one of many geothermal spas scattered throughout the nation. The most famous is Széchenyi Thermal Baths, one of the largest bath complexes in Europe. For the most natural experience, relax in the 101.3-degree-Fahrenheit (38.5-degree-Celsius) waters of Lake Héviz, a very large geothermal lake.
As a result of the geological activity that causes its hot springs, Hungary also features many underground cave networks. Aggtelek National Park outside of Eger features Baradla Cave, the largest of Hungary’s limestone caves.
Reach Hungary by plane via the international airport outside Budapest. For a more memorable experience, arrive by Danube ferry from Vienna or Bratislava. From Budapest, you can also take Danube cruises through the flat Hungarian countryside.