Doing a road trip in Central Europe, there’s a charming town on the way from Budapest to Vienna: Sopron. Okay, it’s a small detour from the highway, but a nice addition to your road trip. Dating back to the Roman times, Sopron fascinates with its history and pastel-colored old town (cobbled streets included!). It’s also a great base to explore the area, both the Hungarian and Austrian side of the border.
Ancient roots of Sopron
A long time ago in an empire far far away… well, actually in the Roman Empire, stood a city called Scarbantia. This city was the ancestor of today’s Sopron. Walls and foundations from the Roman Empire are still common in the city today, and they nicely blend together with the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque structures.
It’s worth walking along the ruins of the ancient city wall, we found the loveliest tiny streets and cafes this way. Not that finding lovely places is a hard task there. Sopron’s city center is full of pretty, cobblestone streets: Új Street, Kolostor Street, Templom Street, just to mention a few. Új Street means New Street in English, and in fact it’s one of the oldest streets of Sopron.
Best view of Sopron: Firewatch Tower
If there’s only one building you visit in Sopron that should be the old Firewatch Tower. It became the symbol of Sopron, and it offers the best panorama of the city center. Try to count the church towers from above, it’s fun. The Firewatch Tower is located on Fő tér (Main Square) that’s worth a visit, anyway. Sit out somewhere with an ice-cream and let it steal your heart. Orsolya Square and Petőfi Square are the other two highlights of the center.
Here’s a fun game for you to explore the most beautiful buildings in Sopron. I have a list about our favorites: churches, fountains, palaces. The task is simple: find all of them, and while you’re doing so you will see all the nicest parts of Sopron. Deal? So here it is:
- Town Hall (Main Square)
- Goat Church and Holy Trinity Column (Main Square)
- Storno House (Main Square)
- Fabricius House (Main Square)
- Petőfi Theatre (Petőfi Square)
- Old Casino (Petőfi Square)
- Theater Fountain (Petőfi Square)
- Eggenberg House (Szent György Street)
- Esterházy Palace (Templom Street)
- Bezerédj House (Templom Street)
- Mary Fountain (Orsolya Square)
- Cézár House (Hátsókapu Street)
Do you want to taste the best chocolate in Sopron?
A must-see (and must-taste) attraction for any chocolate addict is Harrer Chocolat, a family-owned chocolate factory in Sopron. They work with their secret traditional recipes, use natural ingredients, and their chocolate is just the best!
Are you the festival person?
Then there’s VOLT for you. Music festivals are not really our thing, but even people like us who never go to these festivals know about one of the most famous ones in Hungary: VOLT. It’s held in Sopron each year since 1993, and it has become more and more popular not just among Hungarians but also internationally.
The best day trips from Sopron
About an hour drive from Sopron, you find another pretty little town: Kőszeg, with its amazing Baroque historical center, and the lovely forest trails of Kőszeg Mountains. We like them the best in October when the seasonal forests are in their fall glory.
Esterházy Palace, Fertőd, Hungary
Our favorite castle in Hungary! It’s a colorful Rococo palace, sometimes called the Hungarian Versailles. Once the family nest of the Esterházy family, nowadays it’s operated by the government as Esterházy Castle Museum.
Its beautifully furnished and renovated rooms can only be visited on a guided tour – and this is a good thing! We were told a bunch of exciting stories about the history of the castle and the people who lived there. Guided tours are available in Hungarian, German or English. Though if you need a German or English tour, it’s a good idea to call them in advance, because foreign language tours are organized on an on-demand basis.
Esterházy Palace, Eisenstadt, Austria
Half an hour drive from Sopron lies the Austrian city of Eisenstadt, and its beautiful Baroque palace. Yes, another palace of the Esterházy noble family, constructed in the late 13th century.
We visited its elegant, nicely furnished rooms on a guided tour, and our favorite place inside was Haydnsaal. This grand, gorgeous banquet room is a piece of artwork in itself. It got its name after the famous composer Joseph Haydn, who worked for about 40 years in the service of the Esterházy family. Haydnsaal is used as a concert hall from time to time today – and it’s said to be one of the most beautiful and acoustically perfect concert halls in the world.
Esterhazy Palace has a lovely garden with large trees, flowers and ponds. It’s free to take a walk there.
More day trips from Sopron
We’ve already told you about the day trips we’ve done, but this area offers much more. It’s rich both in natural and cultural attractions (lots of castles and ruins!), and here are even more options we’re yet to explore there: Széchenyi Castle in Nagycenk, Burg Forchtenstein, Burg Lockenhaus, Burgruine Landsee and Lake Neusiedl – Seewinkel National Park in Austria.
Hiking Schneeberg or Hochwechsel in Austria might be worth more than a day trip, but they’re also about 1.5-2 hours drive from Sopron.
Some final useful info
Sopron is 2.5 hours drive from Budapest and about 3 hours by train. The city center is small, and it’s easy to explore everything on foot.
How much time do you need to see Sopron? If you’re in a hurry, you can leave from Budapest in the morning, arrive in Vienna in the evening, and see Sopron during the day. If you’d like to have a comfortable pace, give it a weekend. And, of course, add more days if you’d like to take day trips.
So, which of these places look tempting to you?
This post was updated in January 2021.
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