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There is no better introduction to a tour of Hungary than Budapest, where you can visit ‘ruin bars’ opened in abandoned buildings, admire Tivadar Kosztka’s paintings at the Hungarian National Gallery, and take a warm bath in the famous Szechenyi Spa. But beyond the capital city, there are many more things to see and do. From admiring the religious art at Esztergom’s Christian Museum to exploring the fairytale caves and beautiful trails of Aggtelek National Park and finding out why the ancient town of Kalocsa is Hungary’s paprika capital, here is a list of the best things to do in Hungary.

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1. See the beautiful churches of Budapest

Visiting the Chain Bridge in Budapest on a sunny day is one of the top activities in Hungary.
There is a lot to discover in Budapest, from history to dining and nightlife.

From Baroque to Gothic, the churches of Budapest showcase more than a millennium of religious history and should be on top of your list of things to do in Budapest. The city’s biggest church, St Stephen’s Basilica, is home to the relics of Hungary’s founding ruler. Its dome offers superb views of the city. Other gems include the Matthias Church, rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 14th century, and St Anne’s Church, made in the Baroque style in the early 18th century.

Alternative destinations:

  • Gyor: Built in the first half of the 17th century, Saint Ignatius Benedictine Church is devoted to the founder of the Jesuit order. The frescoes of the chapel and stucco decorations inside are good examples of the Baroque style. Győr’s Cathedral of the Assumption was first built in the 11th century, but only the Romanesque apse of that building survives. The 15th-century reconstruction was done in the Gothic style. The church was rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 17th century.
  • Pecs: The foundations of the iconic Pecs Cathedral date back to the 11th century. Throughout its history, it was damaged, destroyed, and rebuilt several times. The present look is from the 19th century, based on the plans by Austrian architect Friedrich von Schmidt.

Best season: The best time for a sightseeing tour in Budapest is between September and October. The weather is pleasant in autumn, and you can admire the churches without worrying about too many visitors.

2. Take a cruise in Danube River

Cruising in the Danube river is one of the best things to do in Hungary.
The best thing about a Danube river cruise is getting to see highlights of Budapest, Esztergom and other wonderful cities in Hungary

The graceful Danube has been the lifeblood of Hungary for centuries. A cruise on the river is like a glide past the country’s history and landmarks and is one of the best things to do in Hungary. You can choose an exciting day cruise around the Danube Bend (which includes Esztergom, Visegrád and Szentendre) or a romantic night cruise through the capital.

Alternative destinations:

  • The Tisza: The Tisza cuts through eastern Hungary; a cross-country cruise on this river touches Tokaj, known for its wines, and the Great Hungarian Plain. The Tisza meets the Danube in Serbia. Opting for a cruise on the Tisza is the less popular option but you’ll get to see a different side of Hungary and its birdlife.

Best season: The best time to cruise in the Danube river is during the summer season. The weather is clear and sunny which makes outdoor activities amazing.

3. Dip into a cave bath in Miskolctapolca

A thermal spa in a cave in Hungary.
A bath in the thermal spa of Miskolctapolca is popular for curing joint pains as people can stay in longer due to low salt content.

The only natural thermal cave of its kind in Europe, the spa of Miskolctapolca is fed by underground hot springs. The water is around 30°C and is said to be beneficial for joint pain. But even if you’re fit and healthy, you’ll enjoy taking a dip in its soothing waters. The bath also offers a more traditional swimming pool experience.

Alternative destinations:

  • Lake Heviz: Known for its thermal properties, Lake Hevíz in western Hungary is fed by springs that create a unique bathing experience, with the temperature never dropping below 24°C.

Best season: Natural baths are enjoyable throughout the year, but there’s something about the contrast between the outside temperature and the warm water that makes them especially likable in winter (December to February).

4. Discover history in Eger

A vineyard filled with greenery on a sunny day in Eger.
Besides the historical monuments in Eger, the city is also popular for its vineyards.

Start your discovery of Eger’s historical monuments at its hilltop castle, built by Bela IV in the 13th century. The foundations of a once mighty Romanesque cathedral can still be seen within its walls. Inside, a statue of St. Stephen looks over the city. Check out the castle’s maze of underground tunnels, the Bishop’s House, a numismatics museum and a wax museum. Also, browse through the priceless manuscripts at the beautiful wooden library in the Lyceum. Above the Lyceum, you can spy on the city from the ninth floor using an 18th-century camera obscura. Browse our history tours in Hungary for more inspiration.

Alternative destinations:

  • Sopron: The 15th-century Storno House in Sopron once hosted royals like King Matthias through the centuries. See the fascinating Storno Collection belonging to the Swiss-Italian family that later acquired the property. It includes medieval arms, leather chairs with flamboyant designs, and elegant door frames. Climb the city’s 60-meter-high Firewatch Tower; in the Middle Ages, warnings of impending disasters would be delivered from this vantage point. Explore the exhibitions at the Baroque Fabricius House; the artifacts include a goblet from the first millennium and Roman sarcophagi.
  • Debrecen: See the famous paintings of Christ by Mihaly Munkacsy at the city’s excellent Deri Museum. Tour the Debrecen Reformed College, which has been at the forefront of Hungarian intellectual life since the mid-16th century. Check out the striking murals, the majestic library, and the museum that tells the story of the school’s history and religious art in the region. Built-in 1893, Debrecen’s renovated Paszti Street Orthodox Synagogue has ruins of a mikvah and serves as a Holocaust memorial for locals who were killed by the Nazis.

Best season: You can avoid the peak summer tourist rush and enjoy the cooler weather by exploring Hungary’s rich history in spring (March to May) and fall (September to November).

5. Sip wine in Tokaj

A spring flower blooming at a vineyard in Szekszard.
The wine district of Szekszard is famous for full-bodied and acidic wines.
Tourists tasting wine in the Tokaj wine region.
Tokaj is part of the World Heritage Sites, as well as Hungary's best-known wine region, famous for its dessert wine, the Tokaji Aszu.

Any shortlist of things to do in Hungary must include wine tasting. Tokaj is one of Europe's famous wine-producing regions, known for its complex sweet wines produced using grapes like the furmint. The best way to enjoy these wines is to tour a winery like Hímesudvar or Disznoko. Besides wine tasting, you’ll learn about the vineyard’s history and visit underground cellars.

Alternative destinations:

  • Villany: Villany is known for its full-bodied red wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Hungary’s southernmost wine region is also famous for its country cooking, whitewashed cellars, and scenic vineyards — so you can enjoy the food and scenery along with the wine tasting.
  • Szekszard: The thick loess soil on the slopes of the Transdanubian Hills produces fruity aromas of Szekszard’s wines. Taste the popular rose and white wines, and learn about the local red wines, Kekfrankos and Bikaver. Szekszard wines are still not quite as famous as Tokaj and Villainy, but you’ll get a first-hand experience of the area’s wine-producing traditions.

Best season: Special tastings are frequent in late April. Wineries invite visitors in late May, and there’s a wine festival in Tokaj in June. Check out wine-tasting tours in Hungary for more information.

6. Visit Hortobagy National Park

A bird during sunset at a national park in Hungary.
Hortobágy National Park is Hungary's largest protected area.

This 800 square kilometers park in eastern Hungary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the Hortobagy Sanctuary, where you can discover wolves, wild horses and jackals that roamed these parts before agriculture took over. Also, visit Hortobagyi Menesbirtok, a stud farm that breeds the famous nonius horses, and check out the 19th-century Nine-Hole Bridge, the most photographed stone bridge in the country.

Alternative destinations:

  • Ferto–Hansag National Park: This park in north-west Hungary is rich in natural resources. Go on the Istok Hany Nature trail, following the footsteps of a mythical character in Hungarian folklore called Istok Hany. Festo–Hansag is also a good place for birding, and you can spot species like the Greylag Goose, Northern Shoveler, Common Greenshank, Marsh Harrier, and the White-tailed Eagle at the edge of Lake Neusiedl straddling the Austrian–Hungarian border.

Best season: Summer months (June to August) are the best time to discover Hungary’s national parks. The days are long and the weather is perfect for the great outdoors.

7. Explore the castle in Visegrad

The Citadel wall and stairs in Visegrad on a bright and sunny day.
The Citadel in Visegrad was redesigned in the 15th century but it was heavily damaged during the Ottoman–Hungarian wars.

Visegrad Citadel (in Visegrad) is the castle where an important peace treaty between Hungary, Poland, and Bohemia was signed in the 14th century. Resting atop a hill and surrounded by moats, the castle offers excellent views of the Borzsony Hills and the Danube Bend. See the displays of arms, royal hunting in the medieval era, the Holy Crown, and traditional trades like stone-cutting and beekeeping.

Alternative destinations:

  • Buda Castle: The grandiose Buda Castle in Budapest was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. You can still see traces of its Renaissance, Turkish, Habsburg and Communist past. For exceptional views of the city, climb up the castle terrace. The Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the National Szechenyi Library are located in the castle.

Best season: Dodge the summer tourist rush and see these beautiful castles in spring and fall.

8. Hike in the Matra Mountains

TV Tower at Kekes Mountain in Hungary during sunset.
Matra Mountains is the highest mountain range in northern Hungary.

Hungary does not have the kind of towering peaks like the Alps, but you can enjoy pleasant trails like the ones in the Matra Mountains. You’ll pass oak and beech trees and dormant volcanoes along the way. A lookout tower at the top offers panoramic views across the mountains. At 1,014 meters, Kekesteto is the highest point in Hungary.

Alternative destinations:

  • Pilis Mountains: The hiking trail in the Danube Bend is an easy 3-4 hours hike. On the way, you’ll see volcanic gorges, caves, and striking rock formations. It makes for an excellent day trip from Budapest.
  • The National Blue Trail: If you want to push yourself, try this 1,128-kilometer trail, which starts from the Austrian border and ends near Slovakia. The route includes Tapolca’s volcanoes, Lake Balaton, and parts of the Danube Bend.

Best season: Hiking is popular in Hungary during all the non-winter months, especially April to October.

9. Explore the Aggtelek caves

View of otherworldly rock formations in Baradle Cave in Aggtelek.
Aggtelek National Park is known for its stalactite caverns.

The Aggtelek and Slovakian karst comprise more than 700 exceptional caves. See stunning geological formations like stalactites and stalagmites on a guided tour. Look out for the incredible Baradla-Domica section that includes an underground river, one of the world’s tallest stalagmites, and a cavern that can accommodate 1,000 people.

Alternative destinations:

  • Abaliget: A popular attraction of the Mecsek Mountains, this cave has a 466-meter-long main passage and smaller side passages. It’s an excellent place to see natural formations like dripstones, cliffs and speleothems. At the cave entrance is a Bat Museum dedicated to studying the locally found bats. More than 40 bat species have been discovered in Abaliget.

Best season: Winter gets uncomfortably cold outdoors in Hungary. You can pair a visit to the caves with a hike in the surrounding area in the pleasant spring and fall weather.

10. Cycle around Lake Velence

Aerial view of the texture at Lake Velence in Hungary.
Lake Velence is a warm lake popular for its surrounding beaches.
A view of Lake Balaton from Tihany peninsula in Hungary.
Lake Balaton is a freshwater lake in the west of Hungary, which is famous for its volcanic hills.

Hungary’s second-largest lake has a popular 30-kilometer-long biking route. Safe and easy, it’s a great way to add a dash of exercise to your day of relaxing around the lake and one of the fun things to do in Hungary.

Alternative destinations:

  • Lake Balaton: For a more challenging biking experience, try the 200-kilometer-long route around Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe. Along the way, there are villages, towns, museums and churches. You can complete the entire distance in a day without stopping at too many places.

Best season: Summer is an excellent time to cycle around the lake and relish the warm holiday season. Here are our cycling tours in Hungary.

From visiting cutting-edge museums and exploring some of the most fascinating caves in Europe to tasting elegant wines and discovering beautiful churches, you’ll never run out of exciting things to do in Hungary, no matter what the season. Our travel experts will help you plan a trip to Hungary customized to your budget and interests. For a seasonal overview, see our article on the best time to visit Hungary.

Published by Tim Green, updated on June 10, 2024
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