This Eastern Bloc country is now in the throes of a magical Renaissance. Home to rustic villages and ancient folk traditions, today's Hungary is perhaps best known for the cosmopolitan charms of Budapest and the natural spring thermal waters that have earned it the title of undisputed spa capital of the world. Discover Hungary with our Hungary travel guide providing information about Hungary travel & tourism, tourist attractions, places to see, things to do, culture, as well as guides to cities in Hungary.
Located in the heart of Europe, Hungary brings to mind, among other things, the meandering blue Danube River dramatically splitting in two the arresting city of Budapest; paprika, goulash and strudel; famous mathematicians and inventions (did you know the Rubik's cube was invented in Hungary?) It also brings to mind terrible devastation suffered during World War Two and the country's tumultuous history afterwards during the Cold War, especially their turbulent 1956 uprising and subsequent invasion by the Soviets. Even when they shucked off communism in the early 90s their economy didn't improve. In fact, the standard of living declined so much that Hungarians voted a return to socialism, not the totalitarian regime of the past, but socialism nonetheless. Things have now improved and Hungary is one of the new stars of Europe, showing off a vibrant culture and an intelligent, diverse population.
While some neighboring European nations can boast more ancient monuments or a dramatic countryside, Hungary has other virtues, especially of the outdoor variety: thermal baths, fishing, bicycling, birth watching and hiking. When Hungary was under the control of the communists, government funding was focused on Budapest. This meant that tourists hardly ever left the city to see, for example, the rolling farms on the southern plains or the culturally beguiling Northeastern Hungary or the vineyards of Southern Transdanubia or Orseg in the far west, all of these steeped in culture and ethnically diverse, and all worth visiting.
Budapest is called Europe's most beautiful city and for good reason. The Buda Hills lie on one side of the Danube and the Great Plains lie to the east. In the city itself, the architecture is a treasured jewel, replete with baroque, art nouveau and neoclassical. Parks are filled with museums, strolling paths, children's exhibits and picnickers, while along the Danube, pleasure boats cruise and toy boats sail. And don't miss out on the thermal spas throughout the city. Budapest is famous for its curative powers. The country is still relatively inexpensive. Food and wine are cheap in fact. In the summer, people flock to kerteks (gardens) for outdoor parties. On the darker side, Budapest has been hit with some of the more negative aspects of the West, such as litter, graffiti smearing the old architecture, and fast food joints tainting parts of town which was once beautiful. But a lot of this can be overlooked, especially on a sunny day when you decide to stroll along the Danube and realize the beauty of the city is simply impossible to destroy.
Whatever else you do in Hungary, you must 'take the waters'. It is a unique and typically Hungarian experience to lounge in the therapeutic waters of any of the country's thousands or so thermal spas - all of which claim remarkable powers to promote wellness, fitness and beauty - and to emerge from your soaking utterly relaxed and rejuvenated. Many of the enchanting spa resorts such as Siofok, Keszthely, Heviz and Cserszegtomaj are gathered within reach of the shores of Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Europe. Other busy and popular spa centers, such as Harkany in Southern Hungary, and Hajduszoboszlo and Miskolctapolca to the the north east attract bathers in their droves, too. Highlights also include Hortobagy National Park - a wild, romantic region where horses, cattle, sheep and buffalo are herded on vast plains by cowboys, cattle herders and shepherds.