If you’re planning a trip to Hungary’s beautiful capital, you might be wondering why the heck you even need day trips from Budapest.
I mean, c’mon! Look at the place! There’s so much to do there, whether it’s lounging in thermal baths, climbing up to castles or monuments, or just sitting in a cafe and eating a whole heap of cake. I’ve spent a total of nine days in Budapest, and there’s still things there that I haven’t seen. Why on earth would anyone need a day trip off to somewhere else?
Two reasons. Firstly, Hungary is a diverse country, full of surprises and wonders which you simply won’t see if you stay put in urban Budapest. Want to see a valley famous for its wine and women, an inland sea, or a great plain which has eagles wheeling across it? You’ll need to head out there, using Hungary’s efficient public transport. But secondly, Budapest is also an international crossroad on the wider transport network, making a jaunt into neighbouring countries an absolute breeze.
So let’s check out the best day trips from Budapest: not just to other locations in Hungary, but exploring how you can travel from Budapest to Vienna, Bratislava, Zagreb, and beyond!
The best day trips from Budapest!
In our first section looking at Budapest day trips, we’re going to check out trips within Hungary. Then we’re going to hit the road, and check out visiting other countries from Budapest! For the latter, remember that Hungary is in the Schengen Area – this means that if you’re visiting fellow Schengen countries, you won’t face any passport checks. If your preferred destination isn’t on this list, you’ll need to take it along for inspection – yes, even if you’re on the train!
Day trips from Budapest within Hungary
You may not know a great deal about Hungary before you arrive there – but trust me, you’ll soon love it!
Hungary is a country of different landscapes, from wild hills to grassy plains, from huge lakes to cities with an almost Mediterranean feel. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to experience all of them! Whilst a number of them are easily reachable by public transport, there’s a few that are worth booking a place on a tour – namely, because the tours like to take you to multiple places on this list on the same day, meaning that you get more bang for your buck! I’ll let you know which ones you should definitely consider seeing on a tour as we come to them.
Let’s check them out!
Eger is a stunningly beautiful city in the north of Hungary, and is famous for three things. Firstly, the minaret in the town center. Secondly, for being in a valley renowned for its beautiful women. Thirdly – wine. Lots and lots of lovely wine!
If the first two interest you more, head into the city center. The minaret was built in the 17th century, back when this part of the world was under the control of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and was originally used to call the faithful to prayer at an adjoining mosque. The mosque was converted into a Catholic church (and eventually pulled down entirely) when the Austrians retook Eger in 1687, and the minaret was slated to follow. However, the locals tried to pull it down using 400 oxen and couldn’t shift it, so it was decided to keep it in place and has become a symbol of friendship between Hungary and Turkey instead. Which is rather lovely, if you ask me!
However, most people visit Eger for the wine! Quite literally – check out the number plates of cars anywhere in town, and you’ll see a huge number of them are from neighboring European countries, because the wine is just that good. A short 20 minute walk out of town is the Valley of the Beautiful Women (yup, that’s its actual name) where you find wine cellars carved into the surrounding cliff faces, providing you with cool, atmospheric cellars in which to sample the local produce. The most common is Egri Bikavér, also known as “Bull’s Blood”, which is the area’s specialty, but you’re absolutely bound to find a wine you’ll love.
If you’re looking at taking just a single Budapest day trip, this is the one to do. You can reach Eger by train, but it’s a slow journey – it’s a much better idea to go on a tour, as they’ll take you to all the best wine cellars, and not judge you if you come back laden with wine bottles. And trust me, you will – my boyfriend came away with three bottles, despite telling me on the way there that he didn’t like wine. It’s that good!
Less than one hour from Budapest by train, the small town of Szentendre is a must-see!
This place may be small in size, but it’s certainly big in history and character. It feels completely different to Budapest, or many of the towns surrounding it, thanks to the almost-Mediterranean architecture – a leftover of the town being a refuge for Serbian and Croatian settlers during a war against Turkey. This splash of character, and its quiet streets, led to it becoming popular with artists seeking to get out of the bustle of Budapest, and it’s stayed that way ever since!
Szentendre sees plenty of tourists, and it accordingly has plenty of souvenir shops at your disposal. But these are a something a little different: you’ll find plenty of places offering traditional Hungarian dress (which you can easily fit pieces of into everyday outfits, in case you don’t want to go the whole hog), and loads of artisan crafts, clothes, and pottery. Szentendre is also the home of Skanzen, an ethnographic park highlighting traditional Hungarian buildings and lifestyle.
Although the town is simple to reach by train, you might still wander to consider doing a “Danube Bend” day tour. That way, you’ll also get to see Visegrad and Esztergom in the same day – from personal experience, it’s well worth doing! But if you’ve already seen the other sites, simply get a train from Batthyány tér in Budapest; the price of the ticket is negligible.
Like your history? Sweet; you’ll be fancying a trip to Visegrád! And the good news is that again, it’s less than an hour from Budapest by train!
Although the town itself is pretty darn small these days, Visegrád was once the capital of Hungary, thanks to the fortress which was built on a very high hill above it. You can spot it as you approach by train, perched right up on the top of a steep, almost sheer hill, with the Danube winding below it. It’s basically one of the most ridiculously defensible spots in Europe, and King Charles I was all “yup, I’m having some of that” back in 1325.
Although it didn’t stay the capital very long, Visegrád is still a hugely important place in Hungary’s history, and the upper and lower castles are both open to the public. The upper castle is the more interesting of the two, with a real “castle feel” and historical re-enactments (not to mention some stunning views), while the lower castle is largely ruined, or hosting exhibitions about the history of the area.
I highly recommend that you visit Visegrád as part of a Danube Bend one day private tour. As interesting as the castle is, there’s not huge amounts of things to do, meaning that you may be a little bit disappointed if you make the trip just to see Visegrád alone. However, it’s a perfect stop when combined with Szentendre and Esztergom on a day tour – especially as you’ll often be taken to a local restaurant, Nagyvillam, which serves up both delicious food and fantastic views of the castle!
The last of our Danube Bend day trips is Esztergom, situated right on the border with Slovakia – and home to some seriously impressive views!
If you enjoyed all that lovely Hungarian history in Visegrád, the city of Esztergom is going to be right up your alley. It’s actually one of the oldest habitations in the whole country, having been around since Roman times, and when you look at it, you can understand why. Just like Visegrád, it features a high hill right next to the waters of the Danube – perfect for fortifications. In this case, however, pride of place on the top of the hill didn’t go to a castle (although there was one nearby). Instead, the Hungarians decided to build one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the land.
Esztergom Basilica stands on the former site of these earlier churches, and is both the largest church and tallest building in Hungary. That’s why it’s one of the most popular day trips from Budapest: you don’t need to be a massive church-goer in order to enjoy it. The interior of the basilica is stunning, with beautiful carvings and decorations, and the burial site of Cardinal Mindszenty, who opposed fascism and communism in Hungary for over fifty years.
But it’s the exterior which really steals the show. Head out of the church and take the paths leading to the left; you’ll eventually come to a lookout platform with a large statue of St. Stephen, overlooking the beautiful surrounding countryside of Hungary and Slovakia. And yes, if you visit Esztergom as part of a tour, they’ll drive you over the bridge to Slovakia so you can take photos of the Basilica from its best angle!
Yes, I know the name makes it sounds like some sort of bodybuilder’s colony. It’s not – or not that I know of, anyway! Pécs is actually a gorgeous city in southern Hungary with a distinct Mediterranean flavor, and it’s perfect for a day trip from Budapest!
A 2.5 hour train journey from Budapest’s Kelenfoeld Station will deposit you in the city of Pecs, right near the Croatian border. This university town has such a mix of cultures and styles that you really feel like you’re somewhere on the sunny Med; check out the architecture on pretty Szechenyi Square if you don’t believe me – doesn’t it give you that Italian feel? If that’s not enough, head along to Pécs Cathedral with its four distinctive towers, and muse on how it manages to look Hungarian, Turkish, and vaguely Italian at the same time.
There’s plenty of museums to look around (including an early Christian mausoleum, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site), and pottery shops abound for souvenir hunters. But another great reason to visit Pécs is the food! The city is a cultural melting pot, and you’ll accordingly find plenty of options – there’s everything from traditional Hungarian in rowdy pubs, to the best of the southern regions at the Balkan Bistro, to many Italian choices. There’s even a Czech pub! And because this isn’t Budapest, you’ll discover that everything is extremely reasonably priced, allowing you to eat somewhere just a little bit fancy for way less than you’d expect!
Pécs is an easy day trip from Budapest by train, although with so much to do, and a very kindly climate, you may be tempted to stay for a few days!
Fancy lounging on the beach, or swimming in fresh waters, but frustrated by Hungary’s distinct lack of coastline? Meh, who needs the sea when you’ve got Lake Balaton!
Best reached by car, Lake Balaton is huge – 78km in length, to be precise – with a multitude of towns and things to do along its coastline. Aside from swimming in the blue waters (and the town of Siofók is the most popular place to do that, with sandy beaches and weather that’ll have you half-believing you’re somewhere in Spain), there’s also a multitude of historic sites for you to go exploring. The town of Tihany is situated on a peninsula which juts out into the lake – it’s picture-perfect,and understandably has the highest property prices in the country!
How about days filled with spa baths, wine, and gazing out at lake views? If that sounds right up your alley, you’ll be wanting a trip to Keszthely, the largest city by the lake, where all of the aforementioned attractions are available in spades. Or is a stylish resort with thermal waters for bathing in more your thing? In that case, you’ll be wanting to visit Balatonfüred! Every town based around the lake offers something unique, and thanks to their popularity with Hungarian wanting to get away for a bit, they’re fully geared up for visitors.
If you want to see a little bit of everything that Lake Balaton has to offer – and as you can see, it’s pretty diverse – you’re better off signing yourself up for a tour from Budapest. These generally pick up a good number of the lake’s star attractions – and often throw in a yacht ride too; perfect for finishing up a sunny day!
You’ve probably never heard of Györ, but if the thought of a charming Old Town, and a plethora of museums and churches appeal, then this is one of the perfect day trips from Budapest for you!
Situated bang in the middle of Budapest and Vienna, Györ is considered one of the most important cultural sites in Hungary. Its position means that similarly to Pecs, the town became a melting pot of cultures and architectural styles – but also meant that it became hotly fought over. Nearly every nation in the area who has ever had any kind of influence over the centuries has had a pop at Györ. The Hungarians fought over it, the Turks fought over it, the Austrians got involved over it, and even the Allied forces in WW2 had a go it it. Even Napoleon had a quick attack for funsies.
Remarkably, considering everything its been through, the Old Town survived – and thank goodness for that, because it’s beautiful! Cobbled streets are lined with pastel-colored houses, and handsome squares have stately cafes along their edges, perfect for stopping in and doing a bit of people-watching. Best of all, the town is still largely undiscovered by tourists, and the locals are super-welcoming! They’ll be more than happy to point out the places you should visit, including an incredible amount of churches, and a veritable forest of statues and fountains.
Györ is easily reachable from Budapest, with regular train services departing from Kelenfoeld station. The majority of services are local ones run by the Hungarian rail service (MAV), but bear in mind that you may end up on long-distance trains run by Austrian Railways (OBB) or Romanian Railways (CFR) – these trains tend to be much busier!
Aggtalek National Park
Yeah, we all like towns and cities. All those facilities and buildings and souvenir shops; yadda yadda. But how about getting out into the great Hungarian countryside, and checking out a national park which is also a world heritage site?
Well aren’t we lucky, because Aggtalek National Park in northern Hungary ticks all those boxes! It’s a truly beautiful place, with forests, cliffs, and crystal blue lakes surrounded by greenery and dappled sunlight. It’s the perfect place to visit for a day, and get away from the bustle of city life! It’s also a great spot for animal lovers: the park is a bastion of wildlife species which have faced their struggles elsewhere, such as lynx and wolves. The park is also home to Hucul horses, one of the closest relatives of ancient wild horses – if you visit the stud farm near Jósvafö, you can not only learn more about them, but see them living semi-wild near the village.
But the main event is the series of caves which wind their way through the Hungarian soil, connecting up with a system of caverns just over the border in Slovakia. Signs of prehistoric life have been found here, and you can see why ancient peoples made this their pad – the caves are simply stunning! Stalactites and stalagmites do their thing while you gawp at them – and if that’s not enough, you’ll get treated to a music and light show whilst you’re there. I don’t think I need to tell you that the acoustics are just a little bit amazing.
If you love nature, visiting Aggtalek is one of the most ideal day trips from Budapest you can imagine. It’s just about possible by train (travel from Keleti station to Perkupa, then grab a taxi) but it’s a bit of a pain. If you’ve rented out a car, the drive there will take a mere two and a half hours!
The Royal Palace of Gödölló
I know this isn’t a phrase you hear every day, but I am a longtime fangirl of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, 1837-1898. I know; so cliche. But it’s true; I even have a bust of my homegirl on the desk where I’m typing this right now. And if you take a day trip to the Royal Palace of Gödölló, you can visit her 18th century baroque party pad!
Okay, she didn’t do much partying there, but she was an extraordinary woman. She was born in Bavaria and married off to the Emperor Franz Joseph, but she despised fussy court life in Vienna. She had zero intention of being treated like a royal brood mare, was way more interested in travelling, writing, and trying to acquire a pet tiger, and eventually escaped off to Hungary to get away from it all. When she got there, she promptly learned Hungarian – a notoriously tricky language – and caused the entire country to fall head over heels in love with her.
There’s only one way to get an insight into someone that awesome, and that’s by taking a trip to her favorite home. Gödölló fell into disrepair after Sissi’s tragic death at the hands of an assassin, but it’s been lovingly restored to its former grandeur. You can skip under the beautiful chandeliers in the Great Hall, check out the artwork in the Mirror Corridor, or explore the extensive grounds around the building itself. You’re bound to enjoy it even if you know nothing about Sissi, but if you too feel a bit of a kinship with her, it’s a fascinating look into a place she loved.
You can reach Gödölló by hopping on a train at Keleti station, and travelling to the tongue-tangling Goedoelloe. Have fun pronouncing that at the ticket office!
Puszta and Kecskemét
Pop into any of the tourist information offices in Budapest, and you’ll see that one of the most popular day trips is a coach ride out into the vast Hungarian plains. This is the land which the early Magyar tribes rode through on their way to founding Budapest, and its retained a special place in the heart of Hungarians ever since.
The plain – or Puszta, as it’s known in these here parts – is covered in traditional Hungarian horse ranches, because horses are super-useful in the farming which goes on here. Plus because who doesn’t want to be a cowboy? The Hungarians certainly do, and after being treated to a hearty rustic lunch at a farmhouse, you’ll be taken off to see a horse show. This is where the locals demonstrate their absolute skill on horseback, showing that they have the absolute trust of their steeds, and looking like total badasses while they do it. It’s an exhilarating sight!
If that’s not enough excitement for you, your next stop will be Kecskemét, a market city which is at the heart of plains life. You might be expecting something a little rough and ready, but you’d be wrong – it’s actually one of the most vibrant and artistic cities in the country, with buildings which are liberally decorated in Art Nouveau style. There’s a ton of museums to look around, or if you’re after something a little more… refreshing… Kecskemét is also one of the major producers of pálinka, a super-strong liqueur. You’ve been warned!
This is a popular day trip from Budapest, so you won’t have trouble finding tour operators to take you there. It’s a much better option than trying to do it independently, especially if you want to check out the horse shows!
Debrecen is the second-largest city in Hungary – and as it’s located on the other side of the country, it’s an ideal way to see what city life outside of Budapest looks like!
It’s another Hungarian city which has had a bit of a tough life thanks to its location. Being close to the Eastern frontier, it’s been in the hands of Turks, Romanians, and Soviets over the centuries, and it was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War (if you don’t know about how tough life was in Hungary around that time, check out the House of Terror in Budapest; things were bad). But like the rest of the nation, Debrecen rose like a phoenix, and reclaimed its status as one of the most culturally-important places in the country.
As you’d expect, there’s plenty to see! Whether it’s the grandeur of the Great Church or the family friendly fun of the Kerekerdo Adventure Park, you’ll find something you’ll love. My personal favorite, however, is the Deri Museum – it’s the best kind of museum, in that it has a bit of absolutely everything. Egyptian artifacts? Yup, got those. Priceless and vast pieces of artwork? Here in abundance. A surprising collection of Samurai armors and weaponry? Hey, why not!
As you’d expect, it’s super-easy to get from Budapest to Debrecen. Catch a train from Budapest-Nyugati, and you’ll arrive in your destination a mere two and a half hours later!
Day trips from Budapest to other countries
Budapest is perfectly placed in central Europe, almost as if its a halfway point for some of the most beautiful and important cities on the continent. Luckily for us travel lovers, that means it’s the perfect base for exploring some of those cities as a day trip, saving us the exorbitant hotel costs of actually staying there! (lookin’ at you, Vienna!)
I urge you to do at least one trip from Budapest to another country – Hungary is so distinct from its neighbors that you really will feel the difference, . It makes you appreciate both your day trip destination, and gives you an increased love of Budapest when you return! Although Vienna and Bratislava are the easiest to reach, there’s some magical places available to those who can go a little further afield.
Let’s look at those lovely options!
Day trips from Budapest to Vienna are a tried and tested favorite, and it’s an ideal way to explore a city which is famously beautiful, as well as famously expensive!
It’s an easy trip by train (head on down to Kelenfoeld station for regular services, but top tip: try to get a reserved seat if you can, because this service gets BUSY), and you’ll be in fair Vienna in 2 hours and 20 minutes. A short walk from Vienna’s main station is the Old Town, the beating heart of the city, and one of the most ridiculously beautiful places in the world. You won’t lack for things to do, whether you fancy a spot of luxury shopping on Kohlmarkt, seeing the historic sights of St. Stephen’s Cathedral or the Hofburg, or just kicking back with cake and coffee at Hotel Sacher.
If you don’t mind a little more public transport, take a bus from the train station, and visit Schönbrunn Palace. This has to be one of the most extraordinary places I’ve ever visited – if looking around 1,441 room of history isn’t enough, it’s located in vast grounds which put any other public space in the world to shame. We’re talking gigantic fountains emptying into a vast basin, rose gardens for miles, a hill which leads up to a glorious viewpoint, and even it’s own zoo in the middle. You can easily spend a day here, and it’s one of the most fascinating places in Europe, let alone Vienna.
There’s so much to do in Vienna, and you’ll need to narrow it down a bit before you travel! Take a look at my guide to Vienna Instagram spots, which will help you pinpoint those perfect sights!
Second-most popular on the list of day trips from Budapest to other countries is Bratislava, located a mere stone’s throw away from Vienna. It may not have the same glamorous reputation as Vienna, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s not worth visiting – you’ll quickly fall in love!
Bratislava’s Old Town is a ten minute walk from the train station, and it’s utterly charming. Sure, Bratislava might not have the mega tourist attractions of Budapest or Vienna (the city’s castle is probably the main draw) – but seriously, that’s not what you visit Bratislava for. If you like your cities small and friendly, with cozy bars and pubs serving excellent food and beer at cheap prices, and a vibrant cafe and nightlife scene, then the city will be just perfect for you. It’s laid back, chilled out, and super welcoming.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing to see, however! Wandering the streets rewards you with achingly pretty houses and churches, broad squares filled with market stalls and quirky street performers, and statues. Actually, loads of statues. You might’ve noticed that Budapest is fairly brimming with statues, but the Slovaks take it to another level. The most famous is Cumil, the workman peeking out of the ground and seemingly watching the world go by – you can find him on Panská street, in the heart of the Old Town.
Visit Bratislava, and be utterly charmed by what you find! For all the info you’ll need, check out my guide on how to get from Budapest to Bratislava!
Okay, let’s get the vampire jokes out of the way. Something about fangs or garlic? Cool, we’re done there, because you’d be absolutely bats to miss out on seeing Transylvania (I lied about being done with the vampire jokes).
Although it’s a bit of a stretch to do the journey by train (especially as you’ll need to stop and show your passport), it’s very possible to have a grand old time in Romania if you’ve rented a car. The town of Oradea is just over the border, and is a mere 3 hours from Budapest; it’s a strikingly pretty place and one well worth exploring! If history is more your thing, Corvin Castle is one of the largest castles in Europe, and one of the Seven Wonders of Romania! It’s a bit of a drive, but the scenery is so pretty that getting there is half the fun.
If you’re looking for other Transylvanian towns to explore, Timisoara is an extremely handsome place (it has two nicknames, Little Vienna and The City of Flowers, which give you an indication of just how pretty it is). Alternatively, if you don’t mind a fairly long drive, you can visit my favorite town in Romania, Cluj-Napoca. The best place you’ve never heard of, Cluj was voted the friendliest city in Europe, and they absolutely love welcoming visitors there. The main square is liberally littered with churches and museums, and it’s incredibly easy to spend a full day there!
Curious about Cluj? You should be! Check out my guide on things to do in Cluj-Napoca, and see if it’s the day trip for you!
Much like Transylvania, day trips from Budapest to Croatia are just about possible if you’re renting a car. But as long as you remember your passport, the travel to Croatia’s capital city is well worth it!
Yes, it might not be quite as pretty as Dubrovnik, but don’t dismiss it as being less interesting. For a start, you’ve got the iconic sight of St. Mark’s Church, which symbolizes the city thanks to the heraldic crests worked into its roof (if you look up Zagreb on any travel site, this is the image to represent it!). If that’s juts not enough magnificence for you, head along to the Cathedral of Zagreb, which towers over the city, and is quite simply one of the finest Gothic structures you’ll ever see in your life.
Want something a little quirkier? Well, Zagreb has you covered there too. Enter the Museum of Broken Relationships, and be confronted by the mementos of failed romances from all over the world. It’s strangely touching to look at items which were once treasured, and are now bitter reminders of relationships gone wrong, from dolls and shoes, to sex toys and, er, scabs. It’s sentimental yet vaguely hilarious at the same time, and a trip to the gift shop is a must!
Zagreb is only a three hour drive from Budapest, and it’s a day trip well worth taking!
The best day trips from Budapest by train
Okay, one more thing before we wrap up!
Some of these day trips are far more viable by road rather than rail, and for those of us who can’t drive or don’t want to drive, I thought I’d give my recommendations for the easiest trips to take by train. These are:
So if you’re planning to take your day trips by train, you’re best off sticking to these (although do bear in mind that the Danube Bend towns are best seen on an organized tour). Rail fares in Hungary are quite ridiculously cheap, so if you’re travelling by train within the country, you’re guaranteed a great day for very little cost!
There we have it; we’ve discovered the best day trips from Budapest! Every single one of them is a fantastic day out, which will give you a better understanding of Hungarian history and culture, or a sneaky peek into the lives of its neighbors. Budapest really is an ideal spot for getting out and about!
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