A country of rolling grasslands and imposing Gothic cities built on a grand scale, Hungary is one of Europe’s most exotic treasures. Located deep on the European plain, Hungary’s history has been dominated by the shifting destinies of empires and ideologies. Ethnically diverse and culturally vibrant, Hungary has survived imperial, Nazi and Soviet tyranny to become one of the EU’s most colourful democracies – boasting a variety of attractions that will leave you captivated. You’ll find plenty of adventure in the sprawling national parks, among the largest in Europe, while Budapest – a treasure-trove of architectural and cultural delights –is one of Europe’s most popular cities.
Flights to Hungary from London take you into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport, which is a short distance from the capital city of Budapest. From the Chain Bridge, straddling the mighty Danube River, you’ll be able to appreciate Budapest’s cosmopolitan skyline. Among the boutique cafés and trendy eateries stand magnificent public buildings that proclaim the splendour of Magyar culture. One of the most impressive sights is the soaring triumph of the Hungarian Parliament building. A stupendous building, the national assembly and crown jewels are housed within a forest of Gothic towers looming over the Danube. Famous for its geothermal springs, Budapest features the largest thermal underwater caves in the world. You can enjoy warm waters at the splendid Széchenyi Thermal Bath, while the Gellért Thermal Bath promises spa luxury in lavish surroundings.
Take a daytrip to the Hortobágy National Park, a sprawling sea of grass, wild horses and remote forests. Alternatively, you can discover the multicultural city of Pécs. Featuring an early Christian necropolis, there’s also a ravishingly beautiful mosque and the regional delicacy of bull’s blood wine.
History and architecture
Hungary has a rich and complex history, with many cultures and ethnicities adding colour to its multifaceted past. The Grand Synagogue in Budapest is the largest in Europe and has a distinctly Islamic feel. This is due to the use of the Moorish style throughout the building. Ornately decorated with patterns and Hebrew heraldry, the synagogue features a poignant museum detailing the traumas suffered by Hungary’s Jewish community. Delve into Hungary’s soviet past with a visit to Memento Park, a breathtaking scrapyard of communist sculpture. All the main characters are here: a giant bronze Lenin lecturing the proletariat, a gigantic moustachioed Stalin head and Marx’s brooding presence all dominate this socialist Valhalla.
Food and drink
Famous for goulash, Hungary has a diverse and exciting culinary heritage. Magyar cuisine is hearty, wholesome and full of flavours – washed down, of course, with some excellent full-bodied wines. Budapest is an undisputed food capital, boasting an array of quality restaurants. Kisbuda Gyöngye serves traditional Hungarian dishes in a unique setting, while Kárpátia is a classy establishment offering Hungarian favourites and Transylvanian specials. Meanwhile, Macesz Huszár is a Jewish restaurant offering regional dishes such as matzo-ball soup and roasted duck in a homely atmosphere.