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For a nation at the heart of Europe, Hungary is a relative unknown to many. Even those who’ve sampled the delights of the Tokaj wine region, tested the curative waters of Budapest’s baths or napped by the shores of Lake Balaton might not know the extent and beauty of the mountains, lakes, plains and charming cities beyond them. And there are plenty of surprises and grit too. The nation’s Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Soviet past is evident in mosques, imperial residences and the odd communist-era block. There’s also an embarrassment of riches in the form of abbeys, castles and medieval towns. Despite its varied geography and places to swim, hike, climb and cycle, there’s not much that can’t be reached within a three-hour drive. There’s an Austrian flavour to the north and oddly Mediterranean air in the south but there’s also a homegrown confidence and edge that’s all its own. Hotels are nestled beside time-tested vineyards, while cookery, craft and art are being refined by a savvy new generation. With this in mind, it’s time we introduced you.

Hungary map

Getting around

How to get where you’re going, the lay of the landmarks and a bird’s eye view of the nation’s best bits.

Budapest

Capital ideas

A whistle-stop trip to sample Budapest’s baths, top tables and plumpest pillows for the night. Plus: a cultural tick-list.

Northwestern Hungary

Pannonhalma and the northwest

From stop-offs in sleepy abbeys to contemporary takes on hospitality, our editors’ top tips from the region.

Lake Balaton and around

Balaton and nearby

Perhaps Hungary’s best-kept secret, the lake is apt for a paddle and some of the nation’s best appointed towns are here too. Anyone for a dip?

Southern Hungary

Pecs and the south

We survey the Medieval town of Pecs (pronounced Petch) plus nearby must-sees and a few fetching factories still making gloves and porcelain the old way.

The Danube Bend

Szentendre, Zebegeny and beyond

Hunched around a crook of the famed river just north of the capital, this impossibly pretty area is home to spas of distinction, winsome wine and much to explore.

Northeastern Hungary

Eger and surroundings

Treehouse hotels, pretty independent pensions and plenty to eat, drink and see – not to mention a few ways to work up a sweat then unwind afterwards.

Eastern Hungary

Tokaj and surroundings

Its wine is coveted across the world but there’s also a bubbling food scene, ancient castles and spas to sample here. Plus: bike tours and the great outdoors.

Essential experiences

Final words

Some parting suggestions for rounding out a trip, from the Etyek wine region south of Budapest to typical street food and a shot of palinka (fruit brandy).

Editor
Josh Fehnert

Reporters
Ivan Carvalho
Alexei Korolyov

Guide photographer
Felix Brüggemann

Photo editor
Shin Miura

Senior designer
Maria Hamer

Chief sub editor
Lewis Huxley

Special thanks
Eszter Kovacs
Julia Ferenczy
Adam Lebor
Tommy Seres
Tamas Koros
Tamas Millin
Reka Nagy
Zsofia Kiraly
Thomas Reynolds
Luke Courtier
Hungarian Tourism Agency

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  • The Urbanist