Budapest is often the first place people visit while traveling to Hungary. However, while this vibrant capital has a lot to offer, it’s not the only destination you should visit on your Hungarian itinerary.
The outskirts of Budapest are diverse, with monumental palaces, charming hillside villages, and stunning natural landscapes. With so much close by, it’s easy to reach many of these areas in just under two or three hours! And you don’t even need a car, as Hungry also has a very well-connected public transportation system. So, if you’re ready to explore another element of Hungarian culture, make sure to add one of these day trips to your list.
What is the Best Day Trip from Budapest?
If you’re interested in Hungarian history, there are many fascinating palaces and castles that you can visit around Budapest, including those in Gödöllő and Visegrád. Smaller towns in the area (like Esztergom and Szentendre) where you can see a less touristy side of the country are worth exploring.
Budapest is also centrally located next to the borders of Austria and Slovakia, which means visiting another country is also possible on a day trip.
However, those destinations are just a sampling of what Hungary has in store. In this article, I’ll share a few other must-see spots for travelers visiting this fascinating country.
If you thought Budapest was the most picturesque city in Hungary, just wait until you visit Szentendre. Since the early 20th century, Szentendre has been a haven for artists, who have flocked here for the lush scenery, quaint riverside views, and laid-back atmosphere.
As a result, the city has several world-class museums, such as the Jenő Barcsay Collection, Béla Czóbel Museum, and Károly Ferenczy Museum.
But even if you’re not into art, you can still enjoy the historic old town. Simply walking around the narrow cobblestone streets admiring the colorful baroque houses and vibrant public squares will be a day well spent.
Plus it’s easy to reach by train (40 minutes) or bus (24 minutes) from Budapest.
Just 20 miles outside of Budapest sits Gödöllő, the legendary royal palace of Sissi, the Empress of Austria, and Queen of Hungary.
With eight wings of rooms, a church, a theatre, and a riding hall, the Baroque palace is one of the largest of its kind in the whole.
A tour of the palace is like taking a step back in time, with historically accurate decor and furnishings of how it looked during the late 19th century.
Make sure to leave time to wander through the English garden, where you’ll find a palm house, orangery, and maple, ginkgo, oak, and horse-chestnut forests.
On a warm summer’s day, the shores of Central Europe’s largest lake are abuzz with locals and tourists, who flock here for the calm waters and sporting opportunities. As Hungary is landlocked, Lake Balaton offers a refuge for those craving to be near the sea, including anglers, swimmers, and boaters.
Besides hanging out on the many beaches, you can also spend your day hopping between the lakeside towns. Visit Balatonfüred for the thermal springs, Tihany for the historic sights, or Siófok for the restaurants and nightlife.
There are direct trains from Budapest to Balatonfüred and Siófok, although you’ll likely need a car to explore any of the smaller villages.
Most famous for its early Renaissance ruins, the small town of Visegrád (1 hour from Budapest) is a must-see for history buffs.
The most iconic monument here is the Visegrád Citadel, which was used as the official seat of Hungarian rulers during the 13th and 14th centuries.
While most of the castle sits in ruins, its hilltop location overlooking the Danube is one of the most photographed spots in the country.
Nearby you can also visit the Royal Palace of King Matthias Corvinus. Although it was once comprised of over 350 rooms, the palace has only reconstructed roughly 20 or so.
However, the replicas of the royal bed chamber and the St. George’s Chapel offer insight into this once-grandiose 15th-century structure.
Etyek Wine Region
Hungarian wine may not be as famous as other European varietals, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find some outstanding winemakers here.
Located between the Velence and Buda mountains, the region is the ideal climate for producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.
You can’t go wrong with any wineries here, although Nadas wine, Hernyak Estate, and Etyeki Kuria Winery are a few favorites. In addition to sampling the local produce, many winemakers will be happy to show you their cellars and enlighten you on the winemaking process.
Looming over the Danube River is the magnificent Esztergom Basilica, Hungary’s largest church, and tallest building.
Its iron dome, which is 232 feet high on its own, is held up by Greek-style columns, only increasing the monumentality of its appearance. For the best views over the city and the Danube, make the 400-step trek up to the viewpoint at the top.
The basilica is also home to the country’s largest organ, with the longest pipes standing 35 feet in length.
The crypt in the basement is the final resting place for many archbishops (including cardinal József Mindszenty), which you can also see while touring the building. With a car, the basilica and surrounding town can be reached in as little as 1.5 hours.
If you’re interested in seeing another part of Europe, then you can hop across the border to Slovakia. Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital, is a mere 2 hours away and makes a great day or weekend trip for those interested in art, culture, and history.
The old part of the city is a true European gem, with winding alleys and colorful medieval buildings.
The Old Town Hall and Primate’s Palace are just a couple of architectural highlights, while the Bratislava Castle is a must for its stellar views of Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary.
Leave some time at the end of the day to try some local delicacies in town, including halušky (sheep’s cheese gnocchi) and gulášová polievka (beef stew).
Austria’s enchanting capital can also be visited by car or train on a day trip from Budapest.
Home to some of the world’s most creative figures (think Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud), it’s easy to see why Vienna is considered to be one of the most artistic cities in the world.
As such, you can easily fill your time by attending a concert, watching an opera, or visiting a museum (there are over 100 of them in the city).
However, simply walking through the historic city center will give you a feeling of being somewhere extraordinary.
Just visit the imperial Hofburg and Schönbrunn palaces, whose grandiose structures are guaranteed to make your jaw drop. Or post up at one of the many Viennese cafes while you people watch and ponder the important things in life like many of the city’s past residents.
Budapest is a must-see destination in Hungary – but as you can see, it’s not the only place worth visiting! Whether you’re a history buff, wine lover, or architecture aficionado, Hungry (and its neighboring countries) is a marvelous destination for travelers with varied interests.