Folk traditions are treasured in Hungary, and you’ll see lasting influences in the buildings and everyday life. Folk paintings and beautifully embroidered Holloko stitched clothing are a common sight, while traditional music can be heard in táncházak or dance houses – where the local people meet to enjoy the music, and visitors are welcome to take part too.
You can see Hungary’s history in its varied architecture, with Romanesque, Gothic, Turkish, Baroque and Renaissance influences. You’ll find some of the best examples in the cities – especially Budapest, which is home to the Gothic-influenced Buda Castle. For Renaissance architecture, visit Visegrád Palace, while Esztergom Castle features Romanesque influences.
A little-known fact about Hungary is it boasts more than 1000 natural hot springs – giving you the perfect excuse to enjoy a rejuvenating treatment in one of the thermal baths. There are plenty of spas and thermal baths to choose from, with the better-known being Gellert Spa and Bath in Budapest offering opulent Art Nouveau surroundings, and Sárvár’s Spa and Wellness Centre providing two types of geothermal water.
Traditional Hungarian dishes are the perfect way to get a taste of the country, and you’ll certainly have plenty of choice. As well as delicious goulash, which is a must, another great dish is spicy Fisherman’s Soup that’s usually made with carp caught from the Danube. For food on the go, lángos is a common street food consisting of a deep-fried dough topped with sour cream and grated cheese. If you have a sweet tooth, then you can’t go wrong with somlói galuska, a sponge cake topped with cream, walnuts, raisins and lashings of chocolate sauce.
Comprising two cities – Buda and Pest – set either side of the Danube, Budapest’s charm is in its architecture and history. Explore on foot and the Baroque and Neoclassical buildings can be fully appreciated, pause in one of the restaurants or cafés before venturing to the Royal Palace, the waterfront Parliament building, Memento Park and the Great Synagogue. Take the funicular railway up to Buda Castle where you can also visit the Fisherman’s Bastion at the same time and get a fascinating glimpse of views that look as if they’re straight out of a story book. When night falls, the city is beautifully illuminated making it an inviting place for an evening stroll or river cruise on the famous Danube.
Virtually destroyed by a flood in 1879, Hungary’s third largest city was rebuilt with help from across Hungary and its international neighbours. The then King exclaimed “Szeged will be more beautiful than before” and today you can stroll along boulevards and avenues lined with elegant mansions that prove the king’s foresight as being correct. The Votive Church, Reök-Palota and the city’s ornate synagogue are some of the highlights you’ll need to keep an eye out for.
Hungary’s identity is in its folk traditions, so be sure to seek out some of the folk art during your holiday. Pottery, lace and embroidery are common crafts, with older pieces now displayed in museums. Buda Castle in Budapest holds an annual festival dedicated to folk art, and there’s a number of museums in the city that are well worth exploring, just to appreciate the skill involved in making these art works. A sweet little piece of pottery, or some elaborate embroidery also make great mementos to take home from your holiday.
Hungarians are keen meat eaters and their cuisine is embedded in true comfort food, with Hungarian goulash epitomising the style of fare you can expect during your holiday here. Tucking into goulash will certainly satisfy you after a day exploring, as this delicious beef and onion stew is boiled very slowly so the paprika broth creates a rich and intense flavour. Usually potatoes, carrots, peppers and tomatoes are also added to create a hearty dish that certainly fills the stomach, and other red meat variations can also be found, including deer and venison.
Picturesque Esztergom is a delight to explore and has a slightly slower pace compared to that of Budapest and Szeged. It’s easy to get here from Budapest – either by road, train or even hydrofoil There’s plenty of history to discover, with the Basilica being the main draw for visitors. Surrounded by Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical buildings, Széchényi Square, the city’s central plaza, is also a highlight, especially if you’re a keen photographer.
The summer months (June to August) attract the most visitors to Hungary, and the weather is usually warm and sunny. While in spring and autumn you can enjoy fine weather, and smaller crowds.
If you hold a British passport, you won’t need a visa to enter Hungary. For the latest information on travel regulations, visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/hungary/entry-requirements
In Hungary, the currency is Hungarian Forint (HUF).
The main language spoken in Hungary is Hungarian.