Budapest: it’s a world-famous city, with so much to do. You won’t get bored in Budapest – highlights include visiting their UNESCO site, the Castle Quarter, with quaint cobbled streets, pastel buildings, and the remains of a Roman city. Their underground cave system features thermal baths, and the nightlife is thriving with speakeasies and amazing restaurants, from gourmet dining to street food.
However, there are many beautiful places on the outskirts of Budapest which are worth exploring. If you want to see more while in Hungary and enjoy some of the best day trips from Budapest, there are lots of options.
From historic Hungarian cities to small rural villages, from beautiful lakes to tranquil countryside, here are the best places to visit near Budapest!
The Best Day Trips from Budapest
Situated in Northern Hungary, 46 kilometres from Budapest, is Esztergom. It’s a pretty town located beside the Danube, with buildings painted in shades of oranges, greens, and yellows, and is one of the best Budapest day trips.
A must-see is the Esztergom Basilica, the largest cathedral in Hungary. Built in the 19th century in a neoclassical design, the church features three green domes, the largest of which sits at 118 meters. Inside is a red marble chapel and a painting that is the largest painting on a single piece of canvas in the world.
Esztergom Castle sits on hills overlooking the Danube, with stone walls that rise as if growing up from the land. Inside its medieval and renaissance architecture is a museum and palace chapel. Built in the 1070s, it is a mix of styles from Roman to Ottoman. The view from the castle is of the glittering Danube, snaking through greenery and little towns, and across to Slovakia. The Mária Valéria Bridge below connects Esztergom to Sturovo.
From the castle, you can cross to Primate Island or Primas-sziget. Stroll along the streets and admire Esztergom Castle towering above it. Or visit Aqua Island where you can relax in a sauna or swim.
Vác is a baroque town, filled with churches, a castle, and – if you’re feeling macabre – a crypt. The Tagor Ignac Museum houses the Memento Mori exhibition, which is a crypt with fascinating 18th-century mummies.
Discovered under the church by accident in 1994, it houses 262 coffins. These coffins are positioned stacked on top of each other in an array of colours—some with a skull and crossbones, some with delicate flower designs. The mummies wear blue clothing, and their hands are clutched around rosary beads.
The cathedral is the main feature of the town. Inside, its towering ceilings are alive with colour. You’ll see scenes of angels amongst the clouds, their wings spreading far behind them. Or you could simply relax in the square outside, listening to the fountain and watching people.
The Former Palace of the Great Provost is a beautiful baroque building. A wrought-iron balcony is set over the doorway, placed symmetrically in the middle of this many-windowed building. Inside is the most elaborate wallpaper, with pastel colours spreading across the walls, and pictures of trees rising towards the ceiling.
A small town north of Budapest, Visegrád sits beside the Danube. There is plenty to see here, making it one of the best day trips from Budapest.
A must-see is the Visegrád Citadel. Situated on a hill, it is a steep climb to view this stone fortress. It is the highest building in the city and overlooks the murky waters of the Danube, twisting behind the green hills scattered with baroque buildings.
The Pálinka Museum is a lovely little attraction. Pálinka is a fruit spirit which originated in the Middle Ages. Taste a range of pálinka from plum, apricot, or honey. However, it is a beverage that should be sipped due to its potency!
Depending on how much pálinka you’ve had, your next stop should be the Visegrád Bobsled Track. A narrow steel track winds its way through fields and trees while little carts carry squealing people round the course. A wooden sign with a red painted ‘START’ is the beginning of this 700 meters downhill track.
Szentendre is known as an artists’ community, and is one of the easiest da trips from Budapest. This quaint town is filled with cobbled streets, colourful houses, galleries, and museums. Here, you’ll also be able to enjoy an assortment of religious buildings including allegedly the worlds’ smallest synagogue.
One of its unique features is the Szamos Marzipan Museum. The exhibit is impressively detailed with ornate buildings and scenes like ducks resting by the water with peach water lilies floating by. Look out for Superman, the Muppets, and various scenes from Disney movies.
Apparently, it’s enough to have one unique museum – Szentendre has two. The Open-Air Museum is the largest in Hungary, nestled into the foothills of the Pilis Mountains beside a nature reserve. The museum sprawls over 60 hectares and has a whopping 312 buildings. The museum gives a glimpse of how life was in Hungary 100 to 200 years ago. A lot of time can be spent strolling past the white-washed buildings with their thatched roofs.
The Old Town in Szentendre has pretty buildings in yellows, oranges, reds, and pale greens. The cobblestone streets have tables and chairs lined outside cafes. The shops here spill their wares onto the street, tempting you inside. With all the walking, you’ll want to stop at the numerous ice cream shops selling unique flavours such as lavender lemon.
Eger is the second-largest city in northern Hungary. Churches and museums are nestled through the town, and it hosts numerous festivals throughout summer.
Eger Castle stands tall, overlooking the town and river. Its turrets rise towards the sky and massive stone walls surround it. Inside are several museums and a dungeon.
Wine has been famous here since the Middle Ages, and they are proud of their produce. To get the best wine experience, tour the Kovacs Nimrod Winery with its seven continuous cellars or sample the wine.
If you’re into your music, then the Egri Road Beatles Museum is a must-see. It is the only Beatles collection in Central and Eastern Europe. There are over 2,000 memorabilia, including interviews, posters, and of course music.
Lake Velence is a popular holiday destination, and visiting it is one of the best things to do near Budapest. It is famous for being the third-largest lake in Hungary. It is a great place to relax and people watch, listening to the lap of the waves and the sun fade below the water in oranges and pinks.
Or cycle around the lake and swim or canoe in the still waters. Bars and restaurants surround the lake, so you can stay all day.
In western Hungary, Lake Balaton is another popular holiday destination. Home to beaches, volcanic hills, and protected wetlands, you’ll be busy all day at this freshwater lake – it’s undoubtedly one of the best places to visit near Budapest!
There are many hiking trails amongst Balaton Uplands National Park along with underwater cave galleries, vineyards, and fortresses.
With such a vast area, the best two places are to visit Siófok or Tihany.
The main feature in Siófok is their 45-meter-high water tower. There is plenty to keep you entertained here – including a water park, museums, and gardens. Or stroll along the tree-lined streets and take a dip in the lake.
Tihany is the oldest Medieval town in the region. Sitting on top of a peninsula overlooking the lake valley, abbey, old medieval castle, and monastery. The Old Castle Fort dates from between the Bronze to Iron Age. On the East side of the castle, you’ll find caves carved by monks.
The Best Things to do Near Budapest…
While Budapest can keep you busy, a these Budapest day trips to towns on the outskirts can enhance your experience of what Hungary has to offer. The most convenient day trips would be Esztergom or Szentendre, but if you’re prepared to go further, others have a lot to offer too.
About the author: Timi is a blogger, Londoner, self-confessed travel junkie, and lover of all good things. She helps you to travel like a local so you can live the real experience and learn something new and unique everywhere around the globe. Learn more.