If you are in Budapest during the hot summer months, the only way to escape the heat is leave the burning asphalt behind and venture outside the city. There are many cool day trips that you can take from Budapest. You’ll discover that the countryside of Hungary is just as impressive as its capital city.
Best Summer Day Trips from Budapest
While the Hungarian capital is undoubtedly a very attractive city, there are many beautiful day trips that you can take from Budapest that will will help you discover the charm of the countryside and other historic places. Unfortunately most tourists never think of going beyond the capital.
If you have more than 3 days in Budapest and finished seeing the Budapest highlights, here are some excursions you can take outside the city o help you make the kánikula (heatwave, in Hungarian) more bearable and even enjoyable:
1. Day Trip to Eger
Eger is small town just a couple of hours away from Budapest, well worth a day trip. Visiting Eger will give you a different perspective of Hungary to the one offered by its capital city. There are quite a few things to do in Eger, so you should start early.
Visit Eger Castle
Eger Castle was the home of the episcopal seat in the region. It also served as a fortress. In the 16th century, the Hungarians gathered here under the leadership of István Dobó managed to withstand the Turks for five-weeks. The event is remembered as The Siege of Eger
The castle is in pretty good shape. On the castle grounds we came across people dressed in medieval costumes and various exhibits that illustrate the historical traditions of the fortress. From the ramparts you have a sweeping view of the Eger town down below.
Visit the Church of St. Anthony of Padua
The Minorite Church of St. Anthony of Padua was founded in the year 1715 by a small group of Franciscan friars from Italy, who belonged to a monastic order and called the Minorites.
The original church built by the friars was flooded several years later. Around 1758 the church was rebuilt in the Baroque style you see today. St. Anthony of Padua is one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Europe and really worth visiting.
Go Wine Tasting
Because it is located in the heart of Hungary’s wine country, the little town of Eger is more famous today for its wine than it is for its castle. People tend to forget history. The famous Egri Bikavér (Bull’s Blood) wine is something you should definitely try while visiting Eger.
Visit Eger Thermal Baths
A couple of hundred meters away from the the castle of Eger are the thermal baths. Located in a beautiful park with platan and cyprus trees several hundred years old, the pools display a luscious vegetation.
Because of their high content in radon and calcium-magnesium-hydrogen carbonate, the waters are recommended for rheumatic conditions, central nervous system condition, metabolism problems, skin and gynecology conditions. The water temperature varies between 27-38 C.
Compared to the stunningly elaborate design of the Gellert and Szechenyi Baths in Budapest, Eger Baths will appear quite modest. They are however very beautiful and a great way to cool yourself off on a hot summer day away from the crowded city.
We visited the place on a weekend so we had to battle the local crowds. My advice would be to take this excursion during the week days when there are far less people.
How to Get to Eger from Budapest
Eger makes a very easy day trip from Budapest because it’s well-served by public transportation. Trains, and busses are frequent and inexpensive in Budapest. You can reach Eger by bus, by car, or by train.
2. Day Excursion to Szentendre
Despite looking a little touristy, Szentendre is actually quite cute. The lovely cobblestone streets with colorful houses will take you back in time to an era when horse drawn carriages were the main means of transportation in Europe.
The town has a very interesting history. This area was initially populated by Illyrians, then some celtic tribes moved in and then the Romans came and built a castle here and called the town Ulcisia Castra.
Later on the Avars, Serbs, Hungarians and Bulgarians arrived. Much of the town’s history is connected with the Serbs who built eight orthodox churches here. Today Szentendre has about 25,000 inhabitants.
Szentendre is small enough to be explored on foot. From the train station it takes only a few minutes to reach the the main square and the promenade. There are quite a few fun things to do in Szentendre to justify a day trip from Budapest.
Brouse the Souvenir Shops and Art Galleries
You can wander around the whole day looking at the art galleries, browsing the arts and crafts shops, or tasting the local foods.
Visit the Churches and Museums in Szentendre
There are some great churches that you can visit and numerous small museums. We particularly liked the Marzipan Museum which has a very interesting collection of pastries made entirely out of marzipan. There is also Margit Kovacs ceramics museum (the most famous ceramic artist in Hungary) and the Mikro Art museum that has very unique collection of microminiature works.
If you want to buy authentic artisan souvenirs like table linen, handwoven kitchen towels, or old crochet laces, Szentendre is the best place to find these country style articles.
Discover the Hidden Part of Szentendre
But if you really want to experience the town’s flavor, you should wander off the main streets to find hidden shops, beautiful old homes and baroque churches. At the top of the hill, from the Roman Catholic churchyard, you’ll have a beautiful view of the town below and the red-tile rooftops. And before you call it a day, take a little stroll along the Danube for a blissful view of the river.
How to Get to Szentendre from Budapest
The town is ideal as it is located only 20km north of Budapest on Danube bend and can be easily accessed either by train, by boat, or by bus.
TIP: Buy your train tickets online or at the station. It’s not possible to buy tickets on the train and if the ticket inspector finds you travelling without one you could end up paying a hefty fine.
If you are a bike enthusiast, biking from Budapest to Szentendre is very enjoyable. The total riding time is 1.5-2 hours and the terrain is almost level, with mostly smooth concrete.
3. Day Trip to Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton is a long body of water stretching from east to west. It’s the largest freshwater lake in Europe and is thus nicknamed the “Hungarian Sea.” For the locals, Lake Balaton is the place to visit outside of Budapest. An escape from the hectic life, a place to relax on the water. Kind of like what Cape Cod is for the people of Messachussets.
Lake Balaton is quite beautiful, with neatly-kept pink, orange, yellow and cream cottages and two-story vacation homes. The lake’s silky-green, shallow waters are warm enough to swim in from May to October.
Visit One of the Towns Along the Shore
Visiting every single town along its shores is impossible to do in one single outing, so you should probably choose only one destination. The southeast shore of the lake is the closest to Budapest. Siófok is one of the locals’ favorite vacation spots at Lake Balaton, famous for its beaches and nightlife.
Hungarians often call the town “the capital of Balaton”, as it is the largest city on its shores and acts as the commercial and touristic hub of the region.
How to Get to Lake Balaton From Budapest
You can reach Lake Balaton from Budapest either by taking a train trip, or by bus. Trains and busses for Lake Balaton depart from the Pest side of Budapest. The easiest way to get to Lake Balaton is by car on motorway M7.
TIP: If you decide to drive to Lake Balaton, you need to purchase a matrica (a highway permit) from a gas station before getting on the motorway.
4. Excursion to Miskolctapolca Cave Baths
This cave baths in Miskolctapolca are a miracle of the nature: a thermal bath inside an actual cave. You swim and play in a large cave system, with water temperatures around 30° Celsius.
What to do in Miskolctapolca
The cave is practically a tunnel with two entrances where visitors can come in and go out, so it’s impossible to loose your way inside. One of the entrances opens onto a hall with a sculpted fountain standing below a huge stained glass dome. You can enjoy both covered and open-air pools, but the ones inside the cave are more appealing.
The other entrance will take you inside a cavern whose walls have been shaped by centuries of mineral deposits. The baths are not deep enough for a proper swim, but are very popular among the younger generation in Hungary, who enjoys playing pranks in the dark tunnels.
The Cave Bath is famous for reducing joint pain, and since it’s less salty than most thermal waters people can bathe in it for a much longer time. Because it’s so popular, the baths are always crowded but refreshing just the same. Despite being crowded however, this place still makes one of the best excursions from Budapest in summer.
How to Get to Miskolctapolca Cave Baths from Budapest
Like for mosst day trips from Budapest, you can reach the Cave Baths either by train, by bus, or by car in just under 2 hours. By car, the journey is fast and convenient, but you have to remember that motorways are are not free. You have to buy the special vignette (matrica) from a gas station before entering the motorway.
5. Day Trip to Esztergom
Esztergom was a royal seat for three centuries and also the seat of Roman Catholicism in Hungary for more than a thousand years. Esztergom is also the place where the nation’s first king – St Stephen– was born.
Budapest may brag about big churches, majestic cathedrals, and synagogues, but Esztergom won’t shy away from the competition.
The city boasts the largest Basilica in Hungary, with an inner area of 5,600 squares meter. The church is breathtaking inside and out. It’s free to enter the church with the exception of the crypts, cupola and treasury.
But the gigantic Basilica is not the only attraction in the city. While you could easily spend days exploring Esztergom, it’s worth hopping on a bus, train, or boat to visit it just for a day.
On the same grounds as the Basilica is the Castle Museum. While we did not go inside, this is another attraction that you can visit in Esztergom if you have time. Also, don’t miss the Christian Museum which has the largest collection of ecclesiastical objects in all of Hungary.
How to Get to Esztergom from Budapest
You can reach Esztergom from Budapest by train, by bus, by boat, or by car. There are also trains to Ezstergom from Budapest, but the train is not the most convenient way to get there. The train station in Esztergom is about a 30-minute walk from the center of town.
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