Best Airline in Eastern Europe for 2006, 2007 – as voted by readers of Global Traveler magazine.
Step by Step
Best Airline in Eastern Europe
Malév Hungarian Airlines 2007 Second Consecutive Year
Direct ﬂights to Budapest from more than 50 destinations across Europe, Asia and North America. Superior onboard comfort with leather seating, complimentary catering and refreshments. One of the youngest Boeing ﬂeets in Europe. As a member of oneworld, Malév offers all the alliance’s advantages. Frequent ﬂyers are eligible for the beneﬁts of any oneworld airline’s loyalty programme. www.malev.com
Hungary with us! Size isn’t everything! Hungary may be a small country, but it packs an awful lot within its borders. There is diversity in its landscape, which ranges from ﬂat and grassy plains to lush peaks and valleys, and in its culture, which makes room for both traditional wooden churches and vibrant modern nightclubs. Budapest is a hive of top-class music and art, with one of the world’s best opera houses and a host of museums and galleries, while bustling festivals take place all over the country at all times of the year.
Lake Balaton is the largest in Central Europe, and ideal for sailing or sunbathing. Near by is the famous spa town of Hévíz, where you can wallow in a natural thermal lake even in the depths of winter. If you like to keep active and get back to nature, there are countless marked routes for hiking, cycling or horse-riding, often through stunning scenery. Hungary is rich in history and in creativity – it’s the birthplace of world-famous inventors, scientists, explorers, composers and sports stars. This is a place of variety, colour and passion. Visit Hungary and discover a love – for life. hungary.com
Who are these
Hungarians are a curious breed. Despite sitting at the very heart of Europe, they speak a language unlike that of any of the countries immediately around them. Some have suggested that Hungarians are descended from a race of aliens who landed here and chose this spot to settle. Others have argued ancestral links with Attila the Hun – hence the country’s name.
In actual fact, today’s Hungarians are the descendants of the migratory Magyar tribes, who arrived here from the east in the 9th century AD. They were excellent horsemen – the nation retains a great love of equestrianism – and were led by a chief called Árpád. His great-great grandson, King István, was crowned in 1000 AD and it was during his reign that the country adopted Christianity as the state religion. You can see this king’s mummiﬁed right hand – a holy relic – on display in Budapest’s Basilica.
In 1241–42 the Mongols swept through the country, burning settlements and massacring inhabitants as they went. In the aftermath, King Béla IV put the country back together and fortiﬁed Buda’s Castle Hill and the royal complex against future attack. Hungary’s real golden age came during the 15th century when it was a European powerhouse of Renaissance culture and art. King Mátyás – a popular ﬁgure noted for his just treatment of his subjects – established a fabulous library and a professional army. Unfortunately the good times came to an abrupt end the following century when Hungary was conquered by the Turks. Few monuments survive from their 150-year period of occupation, although you can still take a dip in a couple of original Turkish baths in Budapest.
In 1867 the Habsburgs agreed to establish a dual monarchy, and Hungary ﬁnally had its own government and a proper say in its own affairs, while operating in tandem with Austria over foreign policy. Celebrations to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of the arrival of the Magyar tribes in 1896 were appropriately upbeat.
After leading the charge to remove the Turks, the Catholic Habsburgs imposed their rule upon Hungary. The locals didn’t take this lying down, and there were failed uprisings during the 18th and 19th centuries, most notably that of 1848 inspired by the poet Sándor Petõﬁ.
The communists came to power in 1947, introducing a Stalinist dictatorship and a regime of terror. The famous 1956 revolution was eventually crushed by Russian tanks, and hundreds of thousands of Hungarians ﬂed abroad never to return. The rebellion had shaken the Soviets, however, and it sparked a more liberal form of communism afterwards. Multi-party democracy ﬁnally returned to Hungary in 1990 when the Soviet troops withdrew. Since then, Hungary has looked forward and developed rapidly, a fact made clear in 2004 when it was accepted as a new member of the European Union.
Defeat in World War I led to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire and a huge amount of Hungarian territory was conﬁscated. During the interwar years the country fell under a right-wing dictatorship headed by Admiral Miklós Horthy, and initially supported Germany in the early stages of World War II. When the Hungarian government attempted to enter negotiations with the Allies, the Germans occupied the country and at the end of the war 600,000 Jews – the vast majority of the Jewish population – had been deported to concentration camps. It was a tragic and horriﬁc part of the Holocaust, and one that the country will never forget or fail to mourn. In 1945 the Germans were pushed out by the Russians.
Who are these Hungarians? 2|3
The Hungarian Holy Crown
Hungarians: the Great and the Good Hungarians are a talented and resourceful bunch, and they feature heavily in lists of internationally signiﬁcant inventors, musicians, artists and sports stars.
Hungarians: the Great and the Good 4|5
The splendid State Opera House in Budapest hints at the importance of culture and music to life in Hungary.
Hungarian inventions range from the lifechanging to the purely entertaining. Albert Szent-Györgyi was the ﬁrst to discover vitamin C, after extracting it from paprika in the 1930s, and Ede Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb. László József Bíró invented the ballpoint pen.
Three men stand out from the crowd. The wildhaired Ferenc Liszt needs little introduction; the 19th-century composer and pianist is one of the greats in the canon of classical music, and established a musical academy in the capital. Béla Bartók took inspiration from the traditional folk music of the country’s villages for his compositions during the early 20th century. Zoltán Kodály, born just a year after Bartók, was similarly fascinated by folk songs. As well as writing, Kodály famously devised a unique and radical way of teaching music to students. However, there are also many contemporary musicians who have left their mark on the cultural landscape – among them Márta Sebestyén (the folk singer who performed on the sound track to the ﬁlm The English Patient), Andrea Rost (the opera singer who has taken leading roles at the Royal Opera House and La Scala), Zoltán Kocsis (pianist, composer and conductor) and Béla SzakcsiLakatos (jazz musician). Look out for albums by the Benkó Dixieland Band, or productions featuring the fabulous dancer Yvette Bozsik.
Hungarians have continued to feature in the public eye during modern times too, carrying the torch for their high-achieving predecessors. The Jewish author Imre Kertész – whose novel Fateless was based on his real experiences in a concentration camp – was a Nobel Prize winner in 2002. Tony Curtis, Paul Simon and Jerry Seinfeld all have Hungarian blood. Hungarians have featured prominently in the world of ﬁlm: István Szabó is a successful director, responsible for ﬁlms including Being Julia (for which Annette Bening was Oscar-nominated in 2004), while Andy Vajna has contributed as a producer to many Hollywood ﬁlms. The country has a proud Olympic tradition, and has fared particularly well in the sports of water polo, fencing and pentathlon. Ferenc Puskás, captain of the all-conquering Hungarian football team of the 1950s, passed away in 2006 having staked his claim to being one of the greatest footballers ever.
It was Ernõ Rubik who came up with the world’s best-known toy – the coloured cube puzzle.
Budapest: a truly capital city
Budapest ranks among the world’s most romantic and entertaining capitals. Nicknamed the ‘Paris of the East’, it is a place of broad boulevards and green parks, grand Art-Nouveau mansions and brightly painted churches, lively cafés and top-class music venues. The city is divided into two parts by the River Danube, which is spanned by several elegant bridges.
Buda Buda falls on the western side of the river, where you’ll ﬁnd the tourist sights of the cobbled Castle District. Sitting atop Castle Hill, the area can be reached by riding the funicular railway up the hillside. There are two excellent museums within the majestic Royal Palace. The enormous Hungarian National Gallery contains the country’s leading collection of Hungarian art, ranging from medieval painted altar pieces to modern sculpture. In the Budapest History Museum you can look at artefacts surviving from the very earliest of the royal palaces on this site. Be sure also to visit the Mátyás Church in all its Gothic glory.
The Fishermen’s Bastion.
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To the south of Castle Hill lies Gellért Hill, with its beautifully decorated thermal baths and a church carved into the rock. To the north is Aquincum, where you can visit the rich ruins of the Roman town that thrived here between the 1st and 4th centuries AD. Behind all this stretch the leafy Buda Hills, which are the lungs of the city, and can be cycled, hiked or visited aboard a clattering cogwheel railway. Travel out another 15km to Statue Park and its remarkable collection of communist monuments that once looked over the capital’s streets and squares.
Pest The ﬂatter Pest is the country’s political and business stronghold, and it is livelier than its twin across the water. Here you’ll ﬁnd the bulk of the restaurants, bars and cafés, as well as classy boutiques and grand 19th-century mansions. Stroll the tree-lined Andrássy út, stopping for a visit to the moving House of Terror in the former headquarters of the secret police. Take a tour of the enormous Parliament building, which displays the Holy Crown (Hungary’s national symbol), and the Basilica with its exterior dome gallery offering breathtaking city views. Browse the many stalls of the colourful and bustling Central Market Hall.
You can boat on City Park’s lake in the summer and skate on it in winter, while bathers can wallow in the thermal waters of the Széchenyi Baths at any time of year. Other highlights not to be missed are the Hungarian National Museum (the largest in the country), the Museum of Fine Arts (one of the leading collections in Central Europe) and Váci utca (the main shopping street). Be sure to stop at one of the city’s traditional cafés, and refuel with some strong coffee and delicious cake.
Alternatively, head for one of the city’s many international restaurants – if you fancy cuisine from Africa, India, Japan, Russia, Italy or France, you’ll ﬁnd somewhere to satisfy your craving.
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Budapest by Night Budapest rarely sleeps, and there’s plenty to keep you entertained after the sun drops behind the hills. Start with a good meal. There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from. Take a seat at a traditional Hungarian restaurant and dine to the strains of a live gypsy band. After you’ve eaten, you can quench your thirst in a sleek designer bar or ﬁnd an outdoor table on the ever-popular Liszt Ferenc tér. The clubbing scene is equally vibrant, particularly in summer when venues include atmospheric courtyard gardens and artiﬁcial riverside beaches. If you’d prefer something more cultured, enjoy an evening of ballet or opera at the opulent State Opera House or a performance of classical music at the award-winning Palace of Arts.
Towns Beyond Budapest While Hungary isn’t a large country, it’s stuffed full of sites of interest. No place is more than a few hours away, and you’ll ﬁnd settlements ranging from impressive Baroque towns to rustic villages complete with thatched cottages decorated with traditional motifs. As such, it’s well worth venturing beyond the capital to explore some of the other highlights on offer.
A short distance to the north of Budapest is a region known as the Danube Bend – so-called because it falls at the point where the river takes a sharp turn southwards. The views of the riverscape from the surrounding hills are as good as any you’ll ﬁnd in the world. The ﬁrst town you’ll reach on the bend is Szentendre (St Andrew) (D2). This was once a popular spot for migrant Serbs ﬂeeing the Ottomans, and several 17th-century Serb Orthodox churches remain. It’s now best known for its artistic associations, however; the colourful buildings and favourable light encouraged artists to establish a colony here in the early 20th century, and the narrow streets are lined with little galleries. A particularly exciting time to visit is during the Szentendre Summer Festival (end of June to end of August), which features art exhibitions and a programme of theatre and music.
Gödöllő (E2) lies to the east of Szentendre, and boasts the country’s biggest and bestpreserved Baroque palace. It was the work of an 18th-century nobleman, and was much loved by Erzsébet (or Sissi), the popular wife of the Habsburg Emperor Ferenc József, who used to spend much of her time there. The interior contains contemporary furnishings and an exhibition detailing the building’s history, and the beautiful ballroom is the venue for classical concerts.
Further around the Danube Bend is Visegrád (D2), which was for several centuries the royal seat of Hungary. The Renaissance King Mátyás enlarged on the existing palace during the 15th century and created a stunning ediﬁce measuring over 500 metres in length. During July, the medieval-themed Visegrád Palace Games include performances of jousting and archery. Tight on the border with Slovakia, Esztergom (D2) was the place of birth and coronation for King István, the founder of the Christian State, and the royal capital until the 13th century. Its church is the country’s largest, while the Mária Valéria Bridge – which crosses the river to Slovakia – was reopened just a few years ago after having been destroyed in World War II. During the summer, there is an open-air drama festival in the Castle Theatre.
The Danube Bend
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Spectators visit nearby Mogyoród (E2) for entertainment of a different sort in summer – this is the location of the Hungaroring, home to the Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Mohács (D5) is celebrated for the annual Busójárás, when townsfolk don ﬁerce masks and participate in a colourful carnival marking the end of winter and the coming of spring.
Szeged (F5) is the most striking city on the Great Plain. It was levelled in 1879 by a terrible ﬂood, and had to be rebuilt almost from scratch with the help of foreign aid. It is now a lively place with pleasant squares and intriguing ArtNouveau architecture. During the Szeged OpenAir Games in July and August, a huge stage in the main square showcases music, dance and drama, and attracts thousands to the city.
The country’s second-largest city is Debrecen (H2), containing a signiﬁcant student population and providing the focal point of Hungarian Calvinism. Its Flower Carnival – held to celebrate St Stephen’s Day on 20 August – features ﬁreworks and ﬂoats bedecked with ﬂowers. The prehistoric site of Ipolytarnóc (E1) was preserved when volcanic ash covered the area 23 million years ago; today you’ll see fossilised leaves, vast cypress trees and animal footprints.
Eger (F2) has cobbled streets and quaint Baroque architecture, and is therefore among the country’s most popular towns. This is where Bull’s Blood wine is produced, and its castle was the site at which the town’s womenfolk famously joined a small number of soldiers to repel a vast Turkish force in 1552. Near by is the Valley of the Beautiful Woman, which has scores of wine cellars dug into its sides and is an ideal place for wine tasting. The town has a variety of summer events, featuring wine, music and medieval re-enactments. www.hungary.com
Pécs (D5) is universally loved, and was a leading centre of power during both Roman and Turkish times. You’ll still ﬁnd Roman ruins, including some early Christian tombs, and there is more surviving Ottoman architecture than anywhere else in the country. A cultural stronghold, the city has a street lined with museums, and in 2010 will take up the mantle of European Capital of Culture. pecs2010.hu
A short distance north of Lake Balaton, Nagyvázsony (C3) holds the sturdy Kinizsi Castle. During the 15th century, the captain of this fort was Pál Kinizsi, who was famed for his phenomenal physical strength. He is said once to have danced while carrying the bodies of two slain Turkish soldiers. Visitors can watch daily jousting displays near the castle walls. Not far away is Veszprém (C3), surrounded by the hills and valleys of the Bakony region. This was one of the earliest bishoprics, and Hungary’s queens were crowned in its cathedral during the medieval period – hence it’s label as the ‘City of Queens’.
To the east, Tata (D2) is situated around the Old Lake, which has a castle at the northern side dating to the medieval period. The town is famous for its clutch of 18th-century watermills.
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You’ll ﬁnd a lovely round church – thought to have been constructed from the bastion of a medieval castle – at nearby Öskü (C3).
Tés (C3) has a pair of working windmills to admire.
© Attila Vécsy
Beethoven stayed at the 18th-century mansion in Martonvásár (D3) on several occasions while visiting the aristocratic Brunswick family. There are concerts held in its grounds in July.
The leading porcelain manufactory is in the village of Herend (C3), and the pieces made there – from delicate ﬁgurines to graceful sets of tableware – have been admired across the world since the 19th century.
A fascinating archaeological site lies at Tác-Gorsium (D3), 10km to the south of Székesfehérvár. This was the Roman settlement of Gorsium, which developed here over the course of three centuries, and included a magniﬁcent palace, an amphitheatre and cemetery. The site hosts a series of plays in summer.
Szombathely (B3) was an important Roman settlement, and among the remains from that period is a portion of the ‘Amber Road’, the famous trade route connecting Italy to the Baltic Sea. One of the country’s prettiest towns, it stands on the border with Austria.
To the northeast of Lake Balaton, Székesfehérvár (D3) is where Árpád, the leader of the Magyar tribes who arrived here in the 10th century, is believed to have settled. For several hundred years a basilica established by King István was the venue for the coronation of Hungarian kings. It was destroyed during the period of Turkish occupation, but the foundations are preserved in a ruins garden.
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Sitting at the foot of the Kőszeg Hills close by is Cák (AB3), which has a row of romantic thatched wine cellars.
Sopron (B2) has a 17th-century ﬁretower, and is entered from the north via the Gate of Fidelity – so-named when the people voted to remain a part of Hungary (rather than joining Austria) in a referendum after World War II. Sopron County was the place of Liszt’s birth, and there are regular festivals of music and culture.
Napoleon himself fought a battle at Győr (C2) in the early 19th century; today the city’s highlight is its cathedral, which contains a striking gold bust of King László sculpted
The Esterházy Palace at Fertőd (B2) is a Rococo masterpiece built by the hugely wealthy aristocrat Miklós Esterházy in the 18th century and modelled on Versailles. Haydn lived on the duke’s estate for several decades, and many of his pieces were performed for the ﬁrst time here; some fabulous concerts are hosted at the palace, including the Haydn Festival each summer.
at the start of the 15th century. Among Győr’s many annual events is an autumn Baroque Festival featuring 17th- and 18thcentury music and art. Fertőd
A Heritage to Treasure The natural, cultural and historical riches to be experienced in Hungary are reﬂected in its high concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Hortobágy National Park in the Great Plains is the home of the Hungarian cowboy. You can see ancient breeds of cattle, and catch breathtaking demonstrations of horsemanship as brave herders ride ﬁve steeds at the same time.
The renowned village of Hollókő (E2) is a living museum, its inhabitants remaining faithful to the traditions of the Palóc people. The wooden cottages are overlooked by the hilltop remains of a 13th-century castle. If you coincide your visit with the Easter Festival, you might struggle to stay dry – it is customary for the menfolk to sprinkle the women with water or perfume. The Aggtelek Caves (F2) on the border with Slovakia spread over many kilometres, and contain some truly wondrous stalagmites and stalactites that have taken shape over millions of years. In one chamber you can even watch a light display and listen to performances of classical music.
The Abbey of Pannonhalma (C2) dates back over 1,000 years, a church having been built on the hill by monks invited during the reign of King István.
The underground tombs at Pécs (D5) date to the early Christian period, and include wall paintings of Jonah and the whale, Peter and Paul, and a Roman wine jug.
The refreshingly peaceful Lake Fertő (B2) – which crosses the border with Austria, where it is known as Neuseidlersee – is a vital wetland habitat and supports thousands of migratory water birds. You can enjoy them from special viewing towers or by taking to the lake in a rowing boat with a qualiﬁed guide.
The village of Tokaj (G2) in the northeast of the country is world famous for its wine, which Louis XIV declared ‘the wine of kings, the king of wines’. Take a tasting in the impressive Rákóczi Cellars, which date to the 15th century, or go on a tour through some of the other atmospheric wine villages in the surrounding foothills.
© The Abbey of Pannonhalma
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Budapest (D2) itself is included on the UNESCO list, its place secured in recognition of the importance and beauty of the medieval Buda Castle quarter, the romantic Danube riverscape at the city’s heart and the graceful sweep of Andrássy út.
Natureâ€™s Playground Hungary can only delight lovers of the great outdoors. This is a place to cycle and horse ride, to hike or boat, to go in search of birds and butterďŹ‚ies. There are ten national parks in total, as well as many more protected reserves.
The biggest and most famous national park is that in the east of the country at Hortobágy (G2). It is understandably associated with ﬂat grassland or puszta – it contains the largest area of such habitat in Central Europe – but it also contains forests and marshes. A huge number of migrating birds alight here to rest and feed, and the sight of thousands of European cranes arriving in autumn is a special treat. The plains also support traditional livestock like grey cattle and the ‘hucul’ horse.
Körös-Maros National Park is notable for playing host to the biggest single population of great bustards in Europe. This large bird – weighing 20kg – is globally endangered; you can be guaranteed to see it by stopping at Dévaványa, where there is a reserve dedicated to protecting and breeding the species. The western part of the country is the wettest, and Őrség National Park has marshlands, peat bogs and thick forests that harbour beautiful orchids and butterﬂies.
The Duna-Dráva National Park lies in the south of the country, along the lower section of the Danube and the River Dráva. It features oxbow lakes and ﬂoodplain marshes, and is home to a large population of black storks. The Duna-Ipoly National Park covers the Danube Bend and reaches to the border with Slovakia. It’s a popular place for walking, but also has narrow-gauge railway lines running into the Börzsöny Hills.
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Sitting right on the border with Slovakia, the Aggtelek National Park is best known for its limestone caves; there are over 250, some of them boasting dazzling dripstone formations.
Fertő-Hanság National Park in the northwest was established to protect the Hungarian part of Lake Fertő, a salt natron lake containing reed beds that support a diverse range of waterlife. Channels have been cut through the reeds, and visitors can navigate them in rowing boats. The centrally located Kiskunság National Park bears certain similarities to the Hortobágy, including a large section of puszta. Among other habitats in the region are areas of marshland and ancient juniper forest. The Balaton Uplands National Park includes the valuable wetland area called Kis (Small) Balaton. Near here is the Kápolnapuszta Buffalo Reserve, where you can see a herd of the beasts ﬁrst brought over by tribes from Asia. The bulk of the Bükk National Park in the north of the country is covered in thick forest, and it also harbours hundreds of natural caves and limestone rock formations. An open-carriaged narrow-gauge railway runs through the Szalajka Valley, whose stream has eroded a beautiful stepped waterfall measuring over 15 metres.
Splashing around: rivers, lakes and water parks
Hungary, of course, is locked at the heart of Europe with not a coastline in sight. Despite that, however, it is a country that revolves around water and there are abundant opportunities to have a bit of a splash, swim or sail.
Lake Balaton (C3-4)is the most-popular spot for watersports and lazing in the sun. This is the largest lake in Central Europe, so sizeable that it is nicknamed ‘the Hungarian sea’. The southern side is a lively haven for families and youngsters, with all-inclusive resorts, safe and shallow bathing areas and the main concentration of bars and nightclubs. The north is quieter and more reedy, and attracts those interested in cultural pursuits – visiting the abbey at Tihany (C3), the magniﬁcent Baroque mansion at Keszthely (B4) and the vineyards at Badacsony.
Splashing around: rivers, lakes and water parks 20|21
Lakes and rivers can get a little chilly outside summer months, but manmade aquaparks offer opportunities for family fun all year round.
Lake Tisza (F2) on the Great Plain was formed around 50 years ago after the damming of the River Tisza. Parts of it fall under the protection of the Hortobágy National Park, and are superb for birdwatching. Other areas, however, are excellent for ﬁshing and watersports, with the main settlement at Tiszafüred (G2). Lake Fertő (B2), crossing the border with Austria, has a small recreational area (at Fertőrákos) but is better known as an important habitat for waterbirds. You can get close to them by hiring a guide and taking a boat into the reeds. Between Balaton and Budapest, Lake Velence (D3) offers recreation – sunbathing, swimming and ﬁshing – on a smaller scale.
The River Tisza – which passes through Lake Tisza – is also much loved by ﬁshermen and canoeists. In early summer, huge numbers of mayﬂies swarm above the surface to mate – a spectacular wildlife display. The River Danube is Hungary’s main artery, dividing the country in half. The Danube Bend – the point above Budapest where the river suddenly changes course from east to south – represents one of the prettiest scenes you can hope to see. If you’re looking for aquaparks, the Aquaticum Centre at Debrecen (H2) is located beneath a massive dome, while that at Hajdúszoboszló (G2) even has a Mediterranean-style beach. Perhaps the leading complex is Zalaegerszeg’s (B3) Aquacity, which ranks among the biggest in Central Europe and boasts 18 water slides (measuring up to 400 feet).
Aquaticum Centre Debrecen
Hungarian water is not just for splishing and splashing – it can be soothing too. The country is blessed with an abundance of natural thermal springs, which emerge at a temperature of 86°F/30°C and are full of salts and minerals. These springs have supported a bathing culture dating back to Roman times; whether you’re after relaxation, refreshment, rejuvenation or recovery, Hungary can’t fail to meet your needs.
Many towns have thermal baths of some sort, providing not only the chance to soak away those aches but also to take advantage of massages, saunas and perhaps more advanced treatments such as pearl baths and Kneipp treatments. The water can be used to ease speciﬁc medical complaints (including muscular, arthritic, gynaecological and skin conditions) or simply to pamper the body. In addition to the public baths, over 50 spa hotels have been constructed, allowing guests to tailor their holidays around the beneﬁcial effects of the springs.
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Another evocative spot can be found on a hillside at Egerszalók (F2), where the natural pool is surrounded by steaming terraces of snow-white calcium crystals deposited by the water. A new spa hotel has recently opened there. Nature provides healing remedies beyond the springs. Hévíz and Hajdúszoboszló, for example, are also centres for medical mud treatments, which alleviate locomotor complaints.
Budapest (D2) itself has more thermal baths than any other world capital, and so this is a perfect place to take a spa break. There are several spa hotels offering guests speciﬁc spa packages. Alternatively, you can drop in at a public bath after a hard day’s sightseeing. Two of the grandest bathing complexes – the Széchenyi and the Gellért – date from the turn of the 20th century, while there are also atmospheric baths built during the Turkish period.
Beyond the capital, there are some real bathing treats from which to choose – some of which promise a truly unique experience. The world’s largest thermal lake suitable for bathing is located at Hévíz (B4), in the west of the country. Because the water temperature never drops below 79°F/26°C – even in the depths of winter – you can take a dip here at any time of year.
The humid air in caves at Abaliget, Budapest, Tapolca and Jósvafő have been proven to soothe respiratory difﬁculties. At Tapolca you can row a boat on its cave’s crystal-clear waters, while Jósvafő is part of the Aggtelek National Park and is a World Heritage Site. The mofette at Mátraderecske is a particular curiosity. Naturally occurring gas emerging here has been shown to have a positive effect when allowed to permeate the skin; visitors who can beneﬁt from a ‘dry bath’ in the gas include those with heart and circulatory problems and chronic skin complaints.
Leisure for land lubbers With all the talk of watersports and thermal springs, it’s easy to forget that there are activities to enjoy on dry land too! Indeed, Hungary’s terra ﬁrma has a great deal to offer the active visitor.
The country is bound to satisfy cyclists, with marked tracks stretching over several thousand kilometres and plenty of places to hire bicycles. If you’re after a short ride during a break in Budapest, you might cycle along the Danube or into the Buda Hills. For those with more energy to burn, there are countless routes that could occupy a cyclist for weeks or months at a time – from the path around the edge of Lake Balaton to the undulating tracks through the forests of the Northern Uplands.
One thing’s for certain – there’s no danger of becoming bored!
Golf is becoming increasingly popular, and several excellent courses have been built in recent years, including the Pannonia Golf and Country Club (25 miles west of Budapest) and the Birdland Golf and Country Club in Bükfürdő (B3). Some even have hotels on site. Less traditional pursuits you might try are dry bobsleighing (there are runs near Budapest, Visegrád, Veszprém and Miskolc-Tapolca), roller skating (places like Tiszaújváros have indoor rinks), paragliding (there is a centre at Balaton), go-karting, Nordic walking, paintballing, hot-air ballooning, various extreme sports and even rally racing.
Hungary has a proud equestrian tradition – the original Magyar tribes arrived on horseback from the east – and there remain many opportunities to explore the countryside on four hooves. Appropriately enough, one horse-riding stronghold is on the Great Plain, the traditional home of the Hungarian cowboy. However, there are horse farms all over the country, catering for beginners, expert riders, and all those in between. Some centres even offer the opportunity to ride in horse-drawn carriages.
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Events – top 11
Come to Hungary on any day of any year and you’ll ﬁnd a plethora of events and exhibitions taking place all over the country. Hungarians are a cultured breed, and they love gathering to enjoy festivals of art, food and wine, sport, music and dance. Some of these are local affairs celebrating regional specialities and traditions. Others, however, are internationally renowned events which attract visitors from far and wide. Why not check the calendar and time your trip to coincide with one or more of the following ‘top eleven’?
Budapest Spring Festival – March (Budapest/D2) springfestival.hu International Opera Festival – June (Miskolc/F2) operafestival.hu Open-Air Festival – July–August (Szeged/F5) szegediszabadteri.hu
Balaton Sound – July (Zamárdi/C3) balatonsound.hu
Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix – August (Budapest–Mogyoród/E2) hungaroring.hu/en
Sziget Festival – August (Budapest/D2) sziget.hu/en
Flower Carnival – August (Debrecen/H2) fonixinfo.hu
St Stephen’s Day – 20th August (all over the country) Celebrations including Red Bull Air Race in Budapest
Jewish Summer Festival – August–September (Budapest/C2) jewishfestival.hu European Convival Wine Song Festival – September (Pécs/D5) winesongfestival.hu Budapest Christmas – December (Budapest/D2) budapestinfo.hu/en
So what should you be sure to look out for when browsing the markets and stores? Typical Hungarian foodstuffs are salami (including the ubiquitous Pick brand from Szeged), paprika (used in all Hungary’s classic dishes – such as goulash – and available in a range of strengths from mild to spicy) and goose liver. The country has 22 wine regions, and long-necked bottles of the golden-coloured Tokaji make particularly good gifts. Those with a taste for something stronger will appreciate pálinka (fruit brandy made from plums, apricots or pears) or the infamous Unicum, a bittertasting herbal liqueur.
You might take home some pieces of traditional craftwork, such as embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys or vases decorated with ﬂoral motifs. Different regions have different specialities; the people of Hollókő, for example, are noted for their embroidery skills, while a place like Nádudvar near Hajdúszoboszló is a centre for pottery production. Perhaps the most reﬁned of gifts, however, is a piece of hand-crafted Herend porcelain. If you’re on the hunt for antiques, you should take a stroll along Budapest’s Falk Miksa utca, a street crowded with shops selling furniture, jewellery, clocks and paintings. You might ﬁnd a bargain at one of several ﬂea markets in the capital too. An exciting newcomer to the scene is the monthly WAMP design market, which is hosted in Erzsébet tér and promotes contemporary Hungarian design (offering jewellery, textiles, glassware and more).
Hungarian ‘Takeaways’ 26|27
Public holidays 1 January New Year’s Day 15 March Independence Day (in remembrance of the revolution against Habsburg rule in 1848) March/April Easter Monday 1 May Labour Day May/June Whit Monday 20 August St Stephen’s Day (a day to celebrate the country’s ﬁrst king) 23 October Republic Day (anniversary of the 1956 revolution) 1 November All Saints’ Day 25–26 December Christmas
before you go Transport Standing at the centre of Europe, Hungary is well served by transport links from abroad. The main international airports are Budapest Ferihegy (bud.hu), FlyBalaton Airport (ﬂybalaton.hu) near Lake Balaton and Airport Debrecen in the East. Budapest is linked to 15 European capital cities by train, directly or with changes. It has three main railway stations from which you can take Express and InterCity trains to all the main tourist regions (elvira.hu). In addition, there are numerous bus routes around the country operated by the Hungarian company Volánbusz; these can be picked up from three main bus stations in the capital. You can reach Budapest by boat (see mahartpassnave.hu for further information) from Vienna and Bratislava during the summer; you can also take ferries for day trips to the Danube Bend. Major cities have effective and inexpensive public transport network. For information on how to get around in Budapest see bkv.hu
Published by the Hungarian National Tourist Ofﬁce Text: Adrian Phillips Creative design: Artiﬁcial DTP: VIVA Média Holding Map: PannonCart Printed by Komáromi Nyomda Free copy
Accommodation There’s a diverse selection of accommodation in Hungary, and you’re guaranteed to rest your head in a place to suit both your taste and your pocket. Spa hotels make use of the country’s thermal springs and offer a variety of pampering treatments. There are state-of-theart conference hotels, and designer boutique hotels oozing contemporary class. Historic hotels range from turn-of-the-20th-century ArtNouveau palaces to Baroque ‘castle’ hotels in renovated aristocratic mansions. Time Central European Time (GMT + 1) Climate Hungary has a temperate climate, similar to the rest of the continental zone. January is the coldest month (-1°C average) and August the warmest (21.3°C average).
Ofﬁcial language Hungarian, however Engilsh and German are widely spoken. Money The Hungarian currency is the forint (HUF). Cash points are widespread and credit cards are accepted in most hotels, shops and restaurants. There are foreign exchange facilities in banks, foreign exchange bureaux, travel agencies and hotels. Always avoid black-market dealers who change money in the street, however apparently attractive the rates. Opening hours Shops are generally open Monday–Friday 10.00–18.00 and Saturday 09.00–13.00 (although shopping centres will have longer opening hours, and market halls may open and close earlier). Museums and galleries generally open Tuesday–Sunday 10.00–18.00 during high season (hours might be shorter in other months); they are closed on Monday. Electricity 230V. Appliances work from the European two-pin plug. Tourinform You can ﬁnd Tourinform information ofﬁces in more than 140 places all over Hungary. Tourinform’s helpdesk employees can offer visitor information about accommodation, restaurants, sightseeing programmes and much more. tourinform.hu
Emergency telephone numbers General emergency (for English speakers) 112 Ambulance 104 Fire brigade 105 Police 107
Representation of the Hungarian National Tourist Ofﬁce Austria • Ungarisches Tourismusamt E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.ungarn-tourismus.at
Denmark • Ungarns Turistra° d E-mail: email@example.com www.ungarn.dk
Ireland • Hungarian National Tourist Office E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.visithungary.ie
Belgium • Office du Tourisme de Hongrie Toeristische Dienst van Hongarije E-mail: email@example.com www.visithongrie.be www.visithongarije.be
France • Office du Tourisme de Hongrie E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.hongrietourisme.com
Italy • Ufficio Turistico Ungherese E-mail: email@example.com www.turismoungherese.it
Germany • Ungarisches Tourismusamt E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.ungarn-tourismus.de
Japan • Hungarian National Tourist Office E-mail: email@example.com www.hungarytabi.jp
China • Embassy of the Hungarian Republic in Beijing E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.xiongyali.cn Czech Republic • Madarská Turistika E-mail: email@example.com www.madarsko.cz
Poland • Narodowe Przedstawicielstwo Turystyki Węgierskiej E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.wegry.info.pl
Romania • Oficiul de Turism al Ungariei– Reprezentanţă E-mail: email@example.com www.hungarytourism.ro Russia • Бюро Советника по туризму Венгрии E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.vengria.ru Slovakia • Vel’vyslanectvo Mad’arskej republiky Obchodná kancelária E-mail: email@example.com www.madarsko.sk Spain • Oficina Nacional de Turismo de Hungría E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.hungriaturismo.com
Sweden (with Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway) Ungerska Turistbyra° n i Norden E-mail: email@example.com www.unkarinmatkailu.fi www.ungernturism.org Switzerland • Ungarisches Tourismusamt Office du Tourisme de Hongrie E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.ungarn-tourismus.ch www.hongrie-tourisme.ch The Netherlands • Hongaars Verkeersbureau E-mail: email@example.com www.hongaarsverkeersbureau.nl
Ukraine • Посольство Угорської Республіки Інформаційне бюро «Угорщина-туризм» E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.ugor.com.ua United Kingdom • Hungarian National Tourist Office E-mail: email@example.com www.gotohungary.co.uk United States of America • Hungarian National Tourist Office E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.gotohungary.com
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