Hungary holidays can be intoxicating. Steam fills gorgeous bathhouses, cities burst with architectural gems, feet stamp to folk festivals and wine and brandy spill from tables bursting with food. The nation is the bridge between Central and Eastern Europe, where the Alps become foothills and vast plains stretch east, the great Danube meandering through it all. Budapest is Hungary’s magical capital, and one of Europe’s most fascinating cities.
Its dramatic history, from Roman legions and Magyar horsemen through the Ottomans and the Habsburgs, can be traced through ancient fortresses, baroque churches and shimmering art nouveau hotels. History feels thrillingly alive here – the former Royal Palace houses a museum and gallery, Turkish baths offer the chance to soak in the past, and ‘ruin pubs’ have re-purposed old buildings as beer halls, offering quirky decor, sunny terraces and club nights. Several appealing destinations are within day-trip distance of Budapest.
Szentendre displays a Serbian influence and sits on a dramatic bend in the Danube where it features intriguing museums and atmospheric side streets. The town of Eger’s beautiful centre boasts a castle and minarets, with good vineyards and hiking in the hills around. Holidays to Hungary can go further afield, too. Lake Balaton is a great outdoor destination – you can visit beaches, forests and resorts that mix elegance with some wild bars and clubs. The second city, Debrecen, is a good base for exploring the Great Plains and watching cowboy shows – acrobatic displays of horsemanship that, like so much in Hungary, will make your head spin.
Spring is fine and fresh, and features two major festivals. Budapest Spring Festival stages theatre, folk and opera, while the village of Holloko celebrates Easter with traditional music and costumes.
Lake Balaton is Hungary’s party playground, and Balaton Sound ramps it up in midsummer with a hedonistic vibe and performances from big-name pop, R&B and dance acts.
Set in the charming city of Eger, this July festival celebrates the region’s rich, mellow Bull’s Blood wine. There are food stalls, DJs – and plenty of red wine.
Wander Buda and Pest
Hungary’s capital used to be two cities, divided by the Danube – explore the Royal Palace in hilly Buda before crossing the Danube for food and drink in livelier Pest.
Lie among lilies in Heviz
One of the best bases in the Lake Balaton region, this spa town is home to Europe’s largest thermal lake – a lily-covered wonder that you can bathe in year round.
Get arty in Szentendre
This charming town on the Danube is packed with museums and galleries. It’s a short hop from Budapest – make a journey of it by taking a river ferry.