When arriving to Hungary be sure to explore not only the unique and one of a kind capital, for there are several exceptional destinations to uncover not quite far from Budapest. Take an excursion to Szentendre, a quaint and quiet riverside town originating from the 17th century where you can find a number of charming cafés, galleries, and museums. With a direct 40-minute train ride from Batthyány Square, this is a very attainable one or two-day trip. Be sure to visit the Hungarian Open-Air Museum which showcases ancient Carpathian folk architecture. Having been there a few times with friends and family this has made a mark on our itinerary. For the first trip, we chose to take the train , while the second and third time we decided to return to the city by boat which is quite easy to book while walking down the main street. This town has wonderful Mediterranean/European charm wherever one looks. Just taking a stroll off the central streets the true essence of Szentendre can be admired.
Being the second largest city in the northern part of Hungary, Eger is a top choice to explore its ancient wine region, thermal baths adjacent to salt hills and the second largest national basilica. While here, it is an absolute must to visit the Szépasszonyvölgy (“The Valley of Beautiful Ladies”) where there are several wine cellars and tasting rooms. One will feel they’re the utmost glamorous lady after a glass or two. Each cellar is so close to one another, an entire day can be spent without much traveling to explore the numerous wineries. Ask a local about the small tourist train which departs from downtown to this valley. The train route takes visitors around Eger before arriving to the valley which is a nice treat. Keep in mind that the Mátra Mountains are close by where one can hike, ski and snowboard. Be sure to take a bottle of mulled wine with you to help relish gazing at waterfalls during this season. Also, there is an abundance of history due to the Turkish attack on the admirable Eger castle. Just a few months ago colleagues and I visited the museum where there were exhibitions about these ancient times. We stayed at the Minaret Hotel which is highly recommended for a peaceful weekend getaway due to their comfortable rooms, downtown location and generous hospitality.
Another fantastic and worthwhile trip would be in Tokaj, a world-renowned region known particularly for its dessert wine “Tokaji Aszú” which contains distinct mellow grapes. A friend and I spent two days and one night in this vineyard-filled village. (Although we did wish for one extra night upon returning to Budapest.) Great locals in pubs and family-owned tasting rooms. Looking back to the atmosphere and the genuine hospitality made this a truly memorable trip. We stayed at the Toldi Inn which was a pleasant stay. There is a nice indoor/outdoor swimming pool, a sauna and a salt room. All three were fantastic and especially the salt room had an exclusive vibe due to the mood lighting behind the panels. While exploring the village center we met a priest who showed us the church’s extremely ancient wine cellar that hadn’t been in operation for over fifty years. If one happens to come across a priest while walking about don’t hesitate to ask for a peak into the prehistoric cellar.
Lastly, the town of Mohács is simply a must, especially during February due to the annual “Busójárás” carnival. This event was held from Thursday the 8th, commending on Sunday the 13th. The festival was established to “scare away winter”. There are several residents who dress up in decorative/frightening costumes with hand-carved wooden masks and white wool coats – the name given to them is “busó”. Each year there around 500 busós who arrive by boat off the Danube river and march along the streets. This time of the year one can be whatever he or she desires. All are in hope that this festival will welcome spring due to winter being scared away. In 2009 these festivities have been added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the UNESCO.
In the previous year, we visited with a great group of friends and in a week or so will be attending with family. From Budapest there is a direct bus departing from the bus station Népliget. Our first visit to Mohács was even more amazing than expected due to how well the festival’s activities are prepared. On the final day there is a massive bomb fire placed in the town’s center where music is being played, locals are recalling the day’s activities, and visitors are appreciating the incredible experience.