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Overview of Hungary

Hungary Travel Guide

Hungarian culture is renowned for its uniqueness and the Hungarian nation for its scientific and cultural successes. "Small country, great culture!" - that's what most would say about Hungary.

Hungary is one of the oldest states still standing (founded in 1.000 AD by King Saint Stephen, whose authority was also recognized by the Vatican at that time).

 

Architecture, gastronomy, wines, cultural events, sports events, spa travel/wellness travel, rural tourism, river and lake cruises are the main reasons for visiting Hungary.

Hungarian wines are World-renowned, especially the Tokaji Asszú wine. Many tourists take romantic cruises on the River Danube either within the Budapest segment or between cities. The spas attract millions every year: Budapest is capital with the most natural hot springs and therefore public hot water baths.

 

The Puszta is a flat grassland covering about half of the country and it is famous for its rural attractions, its fishing lakes and its talented horsemen.

 

Budapest, the Hungarian capital has one of the most beautiful skylines in Europe and has spectacular architecture, not to mention lots and lots of events held especially in spring and summer.

 

  

Hungary Travel Factsheet

State, geography 

Official name:

Magyar Köztársaság (Hungarian Republic)

Government type:

Parliamentary republic

Location:

Central Europe, inside the Carpathian Basin.

Area/surface:

93.030 km² or 35.919 sq mi

Geography overview:

Landlocked country with mostly flat terrain. Some low mountains are located in the north and central west as well as in the southwest of the country. Major rivers Danube and Tisza cross the country and there's also the large Lake Balaton (Central Europe's largest fresh water lake).

Demographics, population

Official language(s):

Hungarian

Locally used languages:

German, Romany

Other widely spoken languages:

English, German, etc.

Nationalities, ethnic groups, races:

98 % Hungarian; 1 % Roma; 1 % Other (primarily German, Jewish, Chinese)

Population:

10,02 million

Population density:

12.5/km² or 31/sq mi

Capital city & population:

Budapest (central area: 1.712.000, urban area: 2.503.000, metropolitan area: 3.271.000)

Largest city & population:

Budapest (central area: 1.712.000, urban area: 2.503.000, metropolitan area: 3.271.000)

Other large cities & population:

Debrecen (central area: 205.000)

Miskolc (central area: 180.000)

Szeged (central area: 170.000)

Pécs (central area: 156.000)

Győr (central area: 130.000)

Nyíregyháza (central area: 117.000)

Kecskemét (central area: 110.000)

Székesfehérvár (central area: 101.000)

Religion(s):

52 % Roman Catholic; 20 % Protestant (Calvinist, Lutheran, Unitarian mainly); 28 % other (various other religions and atheist)

Economy

Currency:

1 Hungarian Forint (HUF) = 100 Fillér

Symbol/sign: Ft

Foreign currencies widely used:

Euro (EUR), United States Dollar (USD)

GDP (nominal):

155.930 billion USD

GDP per capita (nominal):

15,522 USD

Other data

Time zone:

Central European Time (CET): UTC +1 h

Country telephone calling code:

+36

Internet TLD(s):

.hu

Electric power system:

Voltage & frequency: 220-240V/50Hz

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Plugs/sockets/outlets: C, E, F

Driving system:

Right-hand drive

 

Hungary Interactive Map

 


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Places to Visit & Things to Do in Hungary

Budapest

A spectacular skyline and green mountains on the western part. It's was initially composed of 3 cities: Buda, Pest and Óbuda, which have merged in the 19th century. The city has suffered massive destruction during the wars with the Mongols, Turks, Austrians and especially during World War II, when about 85 % of the city was destroyed or heavily damaged. Then there was the 1956 Anticommunist Revolution, which brought Russian tanks blast their way through the city quarters. Despite all this, the over 1.000 year-old Hungarian city still managed to conserve many of its riches and is considered to be one of Europe's most beautiful capitals.

We'll try to present you the most important (recommended) places to see and things to do in the Hungarian capital...

The Hungarian Parliament Building (you won't see a more beautiful parliament anywhere), the Buda Castle Hill (Budai Várhegy) - there you will find the Royal Palace (Budavári Palota) - home to The Hungarian National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galéria), the Fishermen's Bastion (Halászbástya), Sándor Palace (Sándor Palota) - home of the Hungarian President and the Mathias Church (Mátyás Templom), the Dohány Street Synagogue (Europe's largest synagogue), Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy Út) - with many beautiful 19th century buildings, including the Opera, and, at the end of this avenue, you will see the Heroes Square (Hősök Tere) with a complex statues representing 7 Hungarian rulers, nearby you will find 2 museums: The Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum), the Arts Museum or Hall of Arts (Műcsarnok), you also will find many spas in Budapest, among them the Rudas, Széchenyi, Gellért.

A special attraction is the Saint Stephen's Basilica (Szent István Bazilika), where the right hand (relic) of the King Saint Stephen of Hungary is kept and football legend Ferenc Puskás is also buried here.

Particularly beautiful are Budapest's Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) and the green Liberty Bridge (Szabadság Híd) - both very old, constructed in the 19th century, are among the main attractions of the city. Several other modern bridges are also interesting to see.

In the old centre, on Pest side, it will be a great experience (not to be missed!) to walk on the Váci Street (Váci Utca) - filled with shops, old buildings, even casinos.

The Ferenciek Tere is a square just near the Váci Street, you should admire the buildings there, you will never find that sort of architecture anywhere!

Various palaces decorate the Danube's bank, among them the Gresham Palace, just in front of the Chain Bridge.

The New York Szálló (New York Hotel) is a famous old hotel and coffee house with unique architectural characteristics, it's the place where George Bush stayed during his visit in 2006.

The Millenáris Park (Millenary Park) is a place where modern art and scientific exhibitions are held, sometimes interesting presentations of futuristic inventions...

Budapest also has old Roman ruins, you might find interesting to visit the Aquincum ruins, but expect to see only ruins, a few statues, not much is left of the ancient Roman settlement.

Modern artistical hotspots are the Palace of Arts (Művészetek Palotája), the National Theatre (Nemzeti Színház).

An interesting attraction is the Great Market Hall (Nagy Vásárcsarnok), an old market building near the Liberty Bridge.

Gellért Hill is a rock formation on the Buda side, from here you can get the best view over Budapest. Perhaps, this is the first thing you should do when in Budapest.

Budapest holds many festivals: Wine Festival (Borfesztivál) and Beer Festival (Sörfesztivál). Also many cultural events (concerts, temporary exhibitions). The city is also visited for the annual Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix (held at the Hungaroring Circuit near the town of Mogyoród), the Sziget Festival (held on Óbuda Island in the River Danube).

The Hungarian National Day on August 20th celebrates the creation of the Hungarians state.

Hungarian National Day Celebrations & the Budapest Red Bull Air Race

It's best to visit Budapest in August and see the National Day Celebrations on August 20th.

On the same day is the Red Bull Air Race held above the River Danube, the aerial acrobatics are performed above the the Danube's section between the parliament and the famous cliff, Gellért Hill. 

Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix

A major attraction every August. therefore, perhaps August is the best time to be in Budapest, you can catch several festivals, events, the National Day Celebrations and the Formula 1 race as well.

Booking tickets in advance is advised.

The Hungaroring circuit is located near the small town of Mogyoród, northeast of the capital.

Danube Bend Region

This place is located north of Budapest and it's called this way because this is where the River Danube turns southwards between the Visegrád and Börzsöny Mountains. It's a magical place with green mountains, dense forests and the wide River Danube below.

You can travel by car and visit the cities and other places in this region. Or, you can take a cruise ship that takes you from Budapest to Esztergom city, where a huge basilica stands.

Places to see in the Danube Bend Region: Visegrád Royal Castle Ruins, Visegrád Fortress (up on a steep mountain overlooking the blue Danube), Visegrád Palace Games (Visegrádi Palotajátékok) - see reproduced fights between medieval soldiers, Vác (small town with interesting squares and a huge church), Szentendre (colourful houses, folk art, great place for souvenirs), Esztergom city (the center of Hungary's Roman Catholics) - has a an immense basilica, which is the country's largest, well preserved remains of a fortress several old churches and museums. Esztergom and Visegrád were formerly capitals of Hungary.

Kecsekemét Air Show & Kecskemét City

A international military air show kept at an air base near Kecskemét. The show is held every year and attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers.

The city of Kecskemét itself has many interesting buildings, worth visiting. A single day visit is enough to see the attractions.

The Tokaj Region

Tokaj is located in the northeastern part of the country, near the mountain with the same name.

It's the "wine capital" of the country, it is here where the Tokaji Aszú wine is made. It's a unique taste wine that doesn't resemble anything and is impossible to reproduce in any other place than the Tokaj Mountain region, due to the unique composition of the soil, the fungus called "Botritys Cinerea" and the secrets regarding preparation. 

Eger

A small town with great history. The main attractions are its old baroque churches and the Eger fortress, which is still partly intact and well restored. Exhibitions, was museum and other attractions, such as the Palace Games, which are held in general in July are interesting to see.

Miskolc & the Bükk Mountains

Suffered major destruction in World War II, most of the city perished during the bombings.

Not as visited as Szeged or Pécs, but it also has unique wonders: it's close to the Bükk Mountains, which reach heights close to 1.000 m, the city also has an ancient fortress, quite well preserved: the Fortress of Diósgyőr.

Debrecen

The second largest city of the country, with over 200.000 inhabitants. Has many old buildings and hosts a Flower Festival (Virágfesztivál), held every August.

Debrecen is the centre of Hungarian Protestantism, so you will see many Reformed churches & other related institutions: the Great Reformed Church (Református Nagytemplom), the Reformed College (Református Nagytemplom), the Market Square (Piac Tér), City Hall (Városháza), the Golden Bull Hotel (Aranybika Szálló).

Szeged 

Located in the southeast of the country, it's the gastronomical capital of Hungary. Spicy foods are produced here, including the famous Pick salami.

Interesting buildings to see: the Szeged Dome (Szegedi Dóm), the Dömötör Tower (Dömötör Torony), the beautiful Reök Palota (a palace in Art Nouveau style) and the Mikó Palota (also A1rt Nouveau building), Móra Ferenc Múzeum, the Old Synagogue and the New Synagogue, the National Theatre (Nemzeti Színház).

The Hortobágy and the Puszta

Renowned for the skilled horsemen, talented riders who literally perform "acrobatics" with their horses. You will see them even standing up on their horses and performing complicated acts that you cannot even see on television.

There are many resorts dedicated to presenting horsemen skills to foreign tourists. the best way to see them is to go with an organized group of tourists, with guides that speak foreign languages.

The Hortobágy is a region (and also a town) west of the city Debrecen. It is well known for rural tourism, a good place to have traditional spicy Hungarian dishes. The Hortobágy is also renowned for its fauna and flora. It is a flat grassland with rivers, lakes and some areas covered with swaps. Bird watching and fishing are popular activities.

Pécs & Surroundings

Hungary's only city with Sub-Mediterranean climate. It's slightly warmer than the northern parts and is appreciated for its architectural wonders.
the best way to see this city is to walk the streets, Pécs has a beautiful 4 tower Basilica and a number of other old churches. The main square is especially beautiful, there you'll find the remains of a mosque from Turkish times (about 500 years-old), which now functions as a Roman Catholic church.

Also interesting are the Fortress of Pécs, the County Hall, the National Theatre, the Barbakán (remains of a fortress), the National Thetre (Nemzeti Színház) even the Pécs Railway Station.

Near the city you will see a mountain range, they're called the Mecsek Mountains. Quite, low, just under 700 m.

The Villány Mountains are famous for their vineyards. The place is located just south of the city, possible to reach by bus.

South of Pécs is the Fortress of Siklós and west of the city is the Fortress of Szigetvár. Both are accessible by road, you can travel there by bus or you can rent a car.

Lake Balaton and the Bakony Mountains

Balaton is Central and Eastern Europe's larges inland body of water and is often called the "Hungarian Sea" ("Magyar Tenger"). North of the lake is the region called Balaton Uplands (Balaton Felvidék), a region abundant in picturesque volcanic hills, mountains, cliffs. Small towns and villages, vineyards are scattered in the area.

It's best to visit this part during the warm months: May - September. June, July and early August are usually hot. In May, but especially in the second part of August and in September, thunderstorms may occur.

Győr & Pannonhalma 

Győr is cut through by the River Rába. The city's Main Square is a good place to start your visit. Győr has many churches and museums to visit, but the most important one is the Cathedral of Győr, which holds the reliquary of King Ladislaus I. (Szent László Király herma). Other interesting buildings to see: the Town Hall, Diocesan Treasury, The Bishop's Palace, Benedictine Church, the Synagogue, City Art Museum.

Pannonhalma is a small town close to Győr. The Pannonhalma Roman Catholic Abbey is a complex of buildings built on top of a hill. You can get there by bus from Győr.

Western Hungary 

The cities of Sopron, Szentgotthárd, Szombathely and the towns of Kőszeg and Fertőd are the most visited places in the area. You can get around on foot in all of them, but to see them all would be a too big venture. If you only have time for what's most important, then go for Sopron, which has a very well preserved old town and very close to Sopron you'll have to visit the Eszterházy Castle (Eszterházy Kastély) - some say it's Hungary's most beautiful castle. Periodically concerts and other cultural events are held in and around the building. the castle is located near the town of Fertőd.

Tour buses take curious travelers to the spot from major cities and from Sopron too. You could also rent a car and go drive there by yourself.


Transportation

By Air

You can fly in to the airports of Budapest, Győr, Sármellék/Fly Balaton (Balaton southwestern regional airport) and Debrecen.

Best connection you will find to Budapest Ferihegy International Airport. Many low cost airlines operate on it, also many major airlines that fly intercontinental. Perhaps the best way to get to Hungary is to fly to Budapest and from there to reach the rest of the country.

By Road

Hungary has some of the best road systems in the region, but some interesting parts of the country are only accessible by going on secondary roads. Highways are well built, connect many of the major cities and the Balaton region to Budapest.

By Rail

Hungary is well connected to surrounding countries by its wide railway network. There are few higher speed trains, most have medium speed. 

On Water

It's a popular way to get in and out of Hungary, the River Danube acts like a "watery highway". The most popular route is Budapest - Vienna. 


Best Time for Visiting Hungary

The best time is the interval May - August. In late August rains will start and will continue in September. October and November are cold, but there are less rains.

The best time to visit Hungary is in the July - August 20-25 period, to catch most celebrations, festivals and avoid rain, have clear skies. The worst time to visit is anytime in winder and the cold months. Winter: December - February. Cold months: October - November and March. April might sometimes be warm like May, other times the temperatures are medium.


Risks & Precautions in Hungary

Important: We present you some of the most common risks and precautions for you to take in this country, however our list does not cover the whole typology and details of these problems that might occur.

Theft, Pick Pocketing

Even though the situation in Hungary from this point of view is not as bad as in, for example Italy, thieves, pickpockets may operate on public transportation vehicles and around tourist hotspots. Therefore we advise you to be careful with your belongings, especially because identity theft is running rampant as information becomes easier to transmit.

Swindles, Frauds 

The danger is relatively high in Hungary for this category of risks: we advise you not to travel by taxi and not to exchange currency on the streets.

If you travel, take the bus, tram, subway, trolley or other means of transportation. Swindle is very common among Hungarian taxi drivers, who often ask too much for short trips or take the tourist around the whole city only to make the taxi counter skyrocket its count. You might end up paying tens of dollars for trips that would cost 2-3 $.

Also, restaurants might overcharge you. Make sure you know the prices well before you are asked to pay.

Avoid exchanging currency with individuals on the streets, train stations and other public places. 


Interesting Things About Hungary

Hungary has one of the highest numbers of Olympic sports medals and Nobel prize winners in the World. Considered an important "fountain" of science and sports.
 

Just a few of many Hungarian inventions and discoveries, accomplishments: Vitamin C, the transformer, the hologram, the computer, the helicopter, the hydrogen bomb, the ballpen.
  

Just a few famous people of Hungarian origin: Franz Liszt (composer), Tony Curtis (American actor), George Pataki (US Dem. politician), Harry Houdini (famous illusionist, "magician"), Albert Szentgyörgyi (discovered Vitamin C), Edward Teller (inventor of the hydrogen bomb), Nicolas Sárközy (French President), János/John Neumann (invented the computer), Imre Bíró (inventor of the ball pen), János Hunyadi (Governor of Hungary and Ruler of Transsylvania/Transylvania - it's since his victory over Ottoman Turkey that churches ring their bells at 12 o'clock), Rachel Weisz (actress), Drew Barimore (actress), Adolf Cukor (founder of Paramount Pictures), Ferenc Puskás (World-famous football player), Mónika Szeles (tennis player), Andy Vajna (film producer, he produced episodes of Rambo and Terminator), Lajos Kossuth (famous revolutionary), Béla Bartók (composer).
 

The first subway on continental Europe and the second one in Europe was put into function in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.
 

The first 4x4 vehicle was manufactured by Hungarian truck company Rába.
 

Hungarian language belongs to a unique group of languages, called the Finno-Ugric group, which also includes Finnish, Estonian, Laponian, Livonian.
 

Hungarian food called "goulash" (is actually correctly called "gouyash") is a spicy food that is World-renowned.
 

Hungary is the country that had the biggest territorial losses in history ever: following World War I it was forced cede over 66 % of its territories to its neighbours.

 

Hungary was the first country in the World to rise up against communism in 1956. The revolution was brutally crushed by the Soviet army, while the Western powers hesitated to help Hungary. The 1956 revolution remains a World-famous symbol of fight against tyranny, aspiration to liberty. George Bush visited Hungary in 2006 and placed flowers at the 1956 monument in front of the Hungarian Parliament.

 

After the Soviet occupation and about 44 years of communism, Hungary again, was the first country in the World to give up communism and turn to democracy.
   

Budapest is the city with the biggest Jewish population in Europe.
 

Many armies in the World have adopted the organizational and strategically techniques of Hungary's huszárs (hussars), cavalry men. Hungarian huszárs became famous in the late 1600s for their successful fights, intelligent strategies, good organization when facing Austrian troops. French King Louis IV was the first to create his own huszárs, based on the information provided to him by Hungarian military commanders. Later in Napoleonic times, the Hungarian tactics were already widely used.

   

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