16 Off The Beaten Path Destinations In Hungary
Off the beaten path destinations in Hungary are not that hard to find – though it depends on what exactly counts as “off the beaten path”. If it means being not well-known among foreign tourists, then any place outside of Budapest is off the beaten path. If it means that it’s a place where you meet almost no other visitor, then it’s quite hard to come by.
Hungarians travel a lot inside Hungary (and also, Hungary is not that giant in size), so there are lots of places that are popular among Hungarians but barely known by foreign visitors. We tried to find a balance when writing this post, so if you’re familiar with Hungary, maybe not all the places on the list will be new to you. But we hope, even if you’re Hungarian, you can find some you’ve never heard of, or at least never thought of being worthy of a visit. Let’s see:
1. Royal Palace of Gödöllő, Gödöllő
Even though there are countless castles and fortresses in Hungary, finding well-preserved castles is not such a straightforward thing. Lots of them were destroyed or seriously damaged during the World Wars, or in earlier wars in the 18-19th century. The ones that remained were often used as hospitals during and after the World Wars, so their interiors were not preserved.
One of the few exceptions is the Royal Palace of Gödöllő. It’s located in the Budapest metropolitan area and can be reached by suburban train from Budapest. The amazing Baroque palace was given to Emperor Francis Joseph I and Queen Elizabeth (Sissi) as a coronation gift, and it was one of Sissi’s favorite residences. The furnished rooms showcase the castle in different eras, and there’s also a permanent exhibition about Sissi’s life.
It’s one of our favorite days trips from Budapest.
2. Bory Castle & Székesfehérvár
Székesfehérvár is one of the most ancient cities in Hungary with a nicely walkable historical center. Our favorite place in the city is a bit further from the center though: Bory Castle. It’s not a real castle, rather a monument of art and love. Jenő Bory, an architect and artist built it in the 20th century, based on his own design and mostly with his own hands. It was not only the home of the Bory family, but also an art studio. Today it tells the story of Jenő Bory’s love, and we can also see works of his wife, Ilona Komócsin, who was a painter. It’s open for the public from March to November.
3. Brunszvik Castle & its English park, Martonvásár
The interior of Neo-Gothic Brunszvik Castle is sadly not preserved, but the building still looks fabulous from the outside. It houses a Beethoven Memorial Museum today. Its park is probably the most spectacular English park in Hungary, with a small pond and large shady trees of several special species – a nice place for romantic walks and family picnics.
4. Esterházy Castle, Pápa
The Esterházy family built quite a number of castles in Hungary. The most famous is probably the one in Fertőd, but there’s a pretty, nicely renovated and furnished 18th-century Baroque palace in the small town of Pápa, as well. We enjoyed our guided tour through the elegant rooms where actors played the former noble owners of the palace. There’s also a cute puppet theater at the end of the tour.
Not particularly small (compared to cities and towns in Hungary, I mean) but not at all touristy is the city of Győr about halfway between Budapest and Vienna. It has the most beautiful Baroque city center in Hungary, and its cobbled streets, colorful houses and nicely renovated mansions tempt for romantic walks – or photographing architecture.
If you’d like to combine sightseeing with hiking in Balaton Uplands National Park or enjoying the beaches of Lake Balaton, Veszprém is a great choice. Its Baroque old town is tiny, but quite picturesque as it’s located on a hill. The castle district is one street – but it’s one of the most preserved Baroque streets in Hungary!
7. Zirc Abbey
The 12th-century Cistercian abbey in Zirc can be visited on a guided tour, both the church and the old wooden library. There’s a nice botanical garden right next to the abbey, as well.
8. Boldogkő Castle, Northern Hungary
This impressive fortress stands on an irregularly shaped mountain top. No one knows when it was exactly built, but it should have happened around the 12th century. Its renovated towers reward with great views of the area, and the castle hosts military and coats of arms and flags exhibitions, prison and torture chamber.
9. Rákóczi Heritage Trail in the Zemplén Mountains, Northern Hungary
Rákcózi Heritage Trail is a 60+ kilometres long walking trail that takes you to all the natural and cultural sites that are connected to II. Rákóczi Ferenc, a significant figure of 18th century Hungary. Completing this trail means exploring all the noteworthy sites – towns, ruins, castles – in the northeastern region of Hungary.
We’ve hiked only part of the heritage trail so far, from Telkibánya to the Amádé castle ruins. It rewarded us with the coolest ruins we’ve ever encountered in Hungary though: the abandoned ruins of a Pauline monastery from the 14th century, hidden in the forest.
10. Füzér Castle, Northern Hungary
Another mighty fortress standing proud on a mountain top, not far from Boldogkő Castle. Part of 13th-century Füzér Castle has been renovated recently, but there are plans to extend the current exhibitions that tell about everyday life in the old times.
11. Lake Hubertlaki, Bakony Mountains, Balaton Uplands National Park
A unique lake that’s rarely known even among Hungarians: Lake Hubertlaki in the Bakony Mountains. It’s not a large lake, but it’s filled with dead tree trunks which make it kind of the little brother of Transylvania’s famous Red Lake. They also make it a beloved spot for photographers in any season.
You can reach Lake Hubertlaki by a short walk from Hotel Odvaskő, past the village of Bakonybél. You’ll find other pleasant forest trails in the area, and Bakonybél is a cute and neat little village.
12. Ördög-árok gorge, Bakony Mountains, Balaton Uplands National Park
Hungary doesn’t have that many gorges with waterfalls, and the famous one near Budapest is quite popular. It’s called Rám-szakadék, and it’s jam-packed with hikers on any weekend when the weather is acceptable. Lovely, but too busy. Not like its sibling in the Bakony Mountains: Ördög-árok gorge.
The trail starts at the scenic ruins of Csesznek Castle, and runs along a stream with some chain-secured sections and nice waterfalls. It’s a comfortable day hike, about 14 kilometres long.
13. Körös-Maros National Park
Körös and Maros are rivers of the Great Hungarian Plain, and this barely known and very young national park (established in 1997) consists of 13 smaller areas with its center in the town of Szarvas.
Körösvölgyi Visitor Center is a good place to start exploring Körös-Maros National Park. It hosts a small exhibition about the park, and we could also rent a canoe and spend the rest of the day on water. The calm backwaters of Körös River are just the perfect place for beginners, and we enjoyed the tranquil scenes and the neat little holiday homes along the river.
14. Fertő Lake
It’s at the Austrian–Hungarian border, shared by the two countries, and offers both cultural and natural treasures: rural villages and 18th-19th-century palaces. The lake is surrounded by reeds that’s a habitat for wildlife, especially birds. You can sign up for guided canoeing tours to take a closer look.
15. Abandoned bauxite mine of Gánt, Vértes Mountains
This one is a cool half day trip from Budapest for any outdoor lover. The abandoned bauxite mine of Gánt can be explored on an easy, 1 hour loop trail, and rewards with views like those on planet Mars! The mine worked from the early 1900s to the 1980s. Today the place is called the Bauxitföldtani Park of Gánt, and an educational trail was established to give access to the otherworldly landscape of the mine.
16. Cliffs of Madárszirt, Biatorbágy
Looking for lesser-known hikes in the Bud Hills? This easy loop trail starting from the small town of Biatorbágy takes you to the photogenic rock formations called Madárszirt and Nyakas-kő. It’s about 13 kilometres long, see a trail map here.
Sooo…. which one looks the most tempting?