Hungary

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Hungary is an EU member state featuring a gorgeous capital city, Budapest, and the largest lake in Central Europe, Balaton. Hungary offers many diverse destinations: relatively low mountains in the north-west, the Great Plain in the east, lakes and rivers of all sorts, and many beautiful small villages and hidden gems of cities. Top this off with Hungary's great accessibility in the middle of Europe, a vivid culture and economy, and you get a destination absolutely worth visiting if you're in the region. (less...) (more...)

Population: 9,939,470 people
Area: 93,028 km2
Highest point: 1,014 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 75.24 years
GDP per capita: $20,000
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About Hungary

Climate

Temperatures in Hungary vary from -20°C to 39°C through the year. Distribution and frequency of rainfall are unpredictable due to the continental clime of the country. Heavy storms are frequent after hot summer days, and so do more days long still rainfalls in the Autumn. The western part of the country usually receives more rain than the eastern part, and severe droughts may occur in summertime. Weather conditions in the Great Plain can be especially harsh, with hot summers, cold winters, and scant rainfall.

Activities

Birdwatching

Hungary is an excellent destination for birdwatching (aka birding) holiday. There are wooded hills, vast fish-pond systems and grasslands, the puszta. Particularly good areas include the Kiskunsag and Hortobagy National Parks and the Aggtelek, Bukk and Zemplen Hills.

Horse riding

Vast areas of open countryside coupled with the long traditions of horsemanship make Hungary an ideal country for riding. Wide open plains in the south and forested hills in the north offer varied riding terrain.

Baths

Thermal waters abound in Hungary with over 1000 thermal springs in the country many of which have been turned into baths and spas. The most famous being the Szechenyi baths in Budapest. There are, however, hundreds of individual baths all around the country. The cave baths at Miskolc-Tapolca and the spa at Egerszalók are some nice examples.

See Budapest#Baths, Nyíregyháza#Do for details. More thermal bath and spa from Hungary: [14] [15]

Food

Main courses in menu are normally 2000..4000HUF in touristy places in Budapest, 1500..2200HUF outside it, or in towns like Eger and Szentendre (Jan 2014).

A two courses lunch with a soft drink in Budapest is from 1500 to 8000 HUF per person, and half or third of that outside Budapest (Chinese fast food menu is around 900 HUF - januar 2014).

In restaurants, a service charge is frequently included into bill, 10% or even 12%, but this has to be clearly pointed out on the menu. If it's not mentioned, the place has no right to include a service charge in the bill.

Even if there's no service charge, unless the service was preposterous most Hungarians tend to leave a generous tip (10% minimum). Unlike in most western countries, tip is usually not left on the table, but rather the amount is specified to the waiting staff when you pay.

There were some places (mainly in downtown Pest) that tried to rip off drunk tourists at night by charging ridiculously high prices for drinks. Most of these places are closed now, but it's still a good idea to always check the prices on the menu before ordering.

In major cities and next to the highways you can find restaurants of the major international chains such as KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hutand TGI Friday's last two just in Budapest.

Cuisine

Hungarians are quite proud of their cuisine (Magyar konyha), and most of the time not without a reason. Food are usually spicy (but not hot by general standards), and it's tasty rather than healthy — many dishes are prepared with lard or deep-fried. The national spice is paprika, made from ground sweet bell peppers and which actually has some flavor when fresh. The national dish is, of course, goulash, but Hungarians call the thick paprika-laden stew known as goulash elsewhere by the term pörkölt and reserve the term gulyás for a lighter paprika-flavored soup.

Meat is popular- especially pork (sertés), beef (marha) and venison (őz). Less common is lamb and mutton. The best fish in Hungary are river fish: carp (ponty), zander (fogas/süllő) and catfish (harcsa), though many restaurants will serve fish from far away, another typical hungarian fish meal is roasted hake (sült hekk). Chicken (csirke) and turkey (pulyka) are common, and you will also find game birds excellent in smarter restaurants and country areas- Pheasant (Fácán), Partridge(Fogoly) and duck (Kacsa). A typical meal will involve soup, often like a consommé (erőleves), meat with potatoes (burgonya) and a side salad, and a dessert like pancakes (palacsinta).

Less well known in the rest of the world are csirke paprikás, chicken stew in paprika sauce, and halászlé, paprika fish soup often made from carp.

Goose is also quite popular in Hungary. While tourists gorge on goose liver (libamáj), still cheap by Western standards, probably the most common dish is sült libacomb, roast goose leg. Stuffed (töltött) vegetables of all kinds are also popular, and Hungarian pancakes (palacsinta), both savoury and sweet, are a treat. Common snacks include kolbász, a Hungarianized version of the Polish kielbasa sausage, and lángos, deep-fried dough with a variety of toppings (mostly sour cream, cheese and/or garlic).

A Hungarian meal is almost always — even at breakfast — accompanied by Hungarian pickles called savanyúság, literally "sourness". These are often dubbed saláta on menus, so order a vitamin saláta if you want fresh veggies. Starch is most often served as potatoes, rice or dumplings (galuska' or nokedli), the primary Hungarian contribution in this field is an unusual type of small couscous-like pasta called tarhonya.

It is worth to visit a "Cukrászda" if you are in Hungary. These are very popular with delicious cakes and coffee. Try the traditional Krémes (with vanila cream), Eszterházy (lots of nuts) or Somlói Galuska. You should visit Auguszt, Szamos or Daubner if you want the best! Daubner is a little out of the way, Auguszt Cukrászda is an absolute must. They have a shop downtown near Astoria metro station, founded in 1969.

Another favourite is Lángos, it is basically deep fried bread, similar to "whales-tail or beaver-tail" but in Hungary, it can be served with any fillings imaginable. Most common is plain, with salt, garlic (fokhagyma) and soured cream (tejföl). If you do come across a Langos stand, there are usually a large number of options from pizza langos, or eggs with mayo or nutella and bananas.

Vegetarian food

Vegetarians and Vegans will have about as much ease eating out as in any other western country. Budapest is not a problem, as there is a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, but in an ordinary Hungarian restaurant the non-meat mains on the menu are pretty much limited to rántott sajt (fried cheese) and gombafejek rántva (fried mushrooms).

However, in recent years, Italian food has become a lot more popular, so as long as you don't mind a pasta heavy diet as a vegetarian you will find a wider choice.

If one self-caters from supermarkets or local shops and markets, however, the selection of fruits and vegetables is quite good, especially in summer.

There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and a lot's of healthfood stores that offer all sorts of vegetarian/vegan products (including cosmetics). Regular stores like Groby among other brands sell everything from vegan sausages to mayonnaise. A good place to start is looking at Budaveg and Happy Cow for specific information.

Over all, apply the same rules as you do at home, and you should be well fed.

Drinks

Wine

Hungary has several famous vine regions, most known are Villány, Eger, Badacsony, Tokaj, Szekszárd. Prices are reasonable.


  • Egri Bikavér (Bull's Blood of Eger) (HUF 1000 for a good one) is a strong red Hungarian wine which supposedly saved a clever Hungarian girl from her fate with a Turkish sultan. During the time of the Turkish occupation, it is said a young girl was summoned to become a member of the local sultan's harem. Not wanting this fate for his daughter, her father gave her a bottle of Egri Bikavér to take to the sultan. He told her to tell the ruler it was bull's blood, and would make him invincible. The sultan, being Muslim, was unaccustomed to alcohol, and proceeded to pass out, leaving the daughter unharmed. There is another story connected to why Bull's Blood is called so, and it also comes from the Turkish era. According to that one, the defenders of the different castles used to drink this red wine. When they saw the color on the mouths of the Hungarians, they thought that it must have been from a bull, thus the name.
  • Tokaj is known for its sweet dessert wines (Tokaji aszú), (HUF 2000 < x < 6000) which acquire their distinctive taste from grapes infected by the "noble rot" Botrytis cinerea. The favorite tipple of aristocracy, past fans of Tokaji include Louis XIV (who called Tokaj as "The king of the wines, the wine of the kings"), Beethoven, Napoleon III and Peter the Great — which is still reflected in the steep pricing of the best varieties. Almost uniquely among white wines, Tokaj keeps very well for long time.

If new to Hungarian wine, be aware that both champagne ("pezsgő") and wine, red or white, are quite likely to be sweet ("Édes" or "félédes"). If dry wine is your preference, look for the word "Száraz" on the label. When buying bottled wine, don't bother with types cheaper than 6-700 HUF, as these are usually very low quality (maybe not even produced from grapes). In wine cellars, however, high quality may be available at surprisingly low prices.

Liquor

In Hungarian, pálinka denotes strong brandy-like liquor distilled from fruit. Pálinka is a very social drink: just as the English drink tea, the Hungarians, especially in rural areas, will offer pálinka to guests upon arrival. The best-known varieties are barackpálinka, made from apricots, körtepálinka from pears, and szilvapálinka made from plums. Factory-made pálinka is widely available, but keep an eye out for homemade házipálinka. Pálinkas usually contain around or above 50% of alcohol, often more for the homemade ones. Pálinka bottles marked mézes will be heavily sweetened with honey. (HUF 3000 for something good)

Unicum is a strong digestif made from a secret mix of over 40 herbs. It comes in striking black bottles emblazoned with a red and white cross, and has a very strong and unusual taste. Unicum Next has a lighter, citrusy flavor, and is rather more palatable. Definitely worth trying, the spherical bottle (affectionately called "the Holy Hand Grenade") itself may also be used for decoration, and keeps very well for a long time. It is available in every bar in Hungary but it is rare to see someone drinking it.

Beer

Hungarian beer is quite average compared to other Central European countries like Germany and the Czech Republic as it has long been a wine culture. The most common beers are Dreher, Szalon, Borsodi, Soproni and Arany Ászok, available in the styles világos (lager) and barna (brown). All of Hungarian breweries are owned and managed by international brands such as: Dreher Sörgyár (Budapest) - SAB-Miller; Heineken Hungaria (Sopron and Martfű) - Heineken; Borsodi Sörgyár (Bőcs) - Interbrew; Pécsi Sörfőzde (Pécs)- Ottakinger. They cost about 200-300 Forints at a store and 400-600 at a bar. Some expensive club can charge up to 900 in Budapest.

Imported beers like Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Budweiser-Budvar (the Czech variety) are widely available in bars and markets for not much more than the ubiquitous Hungarian brands.

When offering a toast with beer, be warned that most Hungarians will politely refuse. This is due to an old tradition due to remembering soldiers executed by the Habsburgs of Austria in the 1848 revolution, whereby it was decreed no Hungarian would toast with beer for 150 years. It's been so long, however, that most Hungarians no longer know the origins of this tradition or that they've been free to make toasts over beer for the past ten years.

Coffee

Cafe culture is alive and well in Hungary, although it may never recover the romance of its turn-of-the-century intellectual heyday. Unless asked, it's a good idea to specify what kind of coffee you prefer. The word kávé means the strong, espresso like coffee to most Hungarians, although American-style coffee (known as hosszú kávé in Hungarian, usually translated as "long coffee") is now also available at most places.

Tea

Tea houses are now getting popular in cities, especially among the young. There is a growing number of tea houses, mainly in Budapest and some bigger cities where people can buy several types of loose tea. As it is quite fashionable to spend time in a tea house, more and more people will be able to serve good tea even at home. The best teas to go for are the herbal and fruit varieties. In restaurants and cafes, lemon juice is frequently served in a small bottle. In traditional restaurants or cafes however, good teas are hard to find, as coffee and beverages are preferred.

When you ask for a black tea in a budget cafe, frequently Earl Grey is served instead—remember to specify if that does matter for you.

Mineral water

It is widely available and good practice to have with you a bottle during hot summer.

It should be noted though that as it is the case of most European countries, in Hungary, it is safe to drink tap water anywhere, even 'remote' settings, however, due to the cleaning process the taste of the water can be really unpleasant. Best idea is to try before changing to the bottled water. Bottled waters has a large selection, both the fizzy (blue bottle cap) and still (red/pink bottle cap) water and it is cheap (starts from less than 100 HUF for one and half liter). The only notable exception of the drinking water are trains where the tap water is not drinkable and other places where tap water is labeled as such.

Shopping

Money

The unit of Hungarian currency is the Forint abbreviated HUF or Ft. Bills come in HUF20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500 denominations; coins are HUF200 (two colored, similar to €1), 100 (two colored, similar to €2), 50, 20, 10 and 5.

Euros are now accepted at most hotels and some of the restaurants and shops. Make sure you check the exchange rate though, sometimes even well known places (like McDonald's) will exchange at unrealistic rates. Forint is scheduled to disappear in coming years in favor of the euro, but no date and realistic way is fixed yet.

You can use major credit cards (EuroCard, Visa) in major shops and larger restaurants, but never expect that without checking first. Small places cannot afford to handle cards. ATMs are available even in small cities, the coverage is good.

While completing any monetary transactions, it is best to pay in HUF when you can. Some restaurants and hotels charge a steep rate for Euro exchange and often due to the fluctuation in HUF, cost and services stated may vary drastically.

Money Exchange

There are 226 forints to the USD and 307 forints to the euro (7 Feb. 2014). Shopping in Hungary is extremely cheap for people from the US and Euro-zone. An exception to this rule is that luxury goods are often at higher prices than would be encountered in the US or Western Europe.

Exchange rates for euros and USD are roughly the same within downtown (at least in Budapest and Eger). Rates will likely be much worse in airports and large train stations - so change exactly what you need to reach downtown. A good habit is to compare the buy and sell rates: if they are drastically different, you're best going somewhere else. Official exchange offices always give a receipt and normally have a large glass between client and a cashier making all steps transparent for client.

Travellers report that unofficial money changers operating nearby an official money changing booth offer unfavourable rates—and recommend to use official exchange offices. It's worth noting that such exchanges are illegal and there is the possibility that you will receive other than Hungarian currency or nothing at all.

If you arrive to Budapest at late nights or state holidays it is quite likely you won't be able to find any working bank or exchange office. In this case you may attempt to exchange your money with any random taxi driver. They will rip you off by 100-200 forints (around €1), but it's better than nothing. There is an ATM in the arrival hall at Budapest Ferihegy, and the rates for using ATMs with a card are often better than the bureau de change. There are many banks machines in Budapest which will accept European and North American debit/credit cards, if it becomes necessary, it maybe in your best interest to draw a sufficient amount for your stay and it will often give a more much favorable rate.

Adventurous locals in Budapest report they change euros unofficially with Arabs on a train station, but they don't recommend it to unaccompanied travelers or anyone.

What to buy?

Apart from classical tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are some things unique to Hungary or just hard to find elsewhere.

  • Cold-smoked sausages
  • Spices: Paprika and Hungarian Saffron
  • Gundel set of cheese: aged in Gundel wines or with walnut pieces or seasonings. Most easily found in 350gr sets of three kinds in duty-free of Ferihegy Airport in Budapest (at least in Terminal 2), but is likely available in Gundel 1894 Food & Wine Cellar (see Pest#Eat). Keep in mind that shelf life for this cheese is only 2 months.
  • Wines: Somlói Juhfark, Tokaji, Egri Bikavér (see Liquor), Kadarka, red wine from Villány area etc.
  • Pálinka: very famous and strong brandy made from fruits.
  • Unicum: a herbal digestif liqueur.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Hungary on Wikivoyage.

Popular cities in Hungary

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Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. With a unique, youthful atmosphere, world-class classical music scene as well as a pulsating nightlife increasingly appreciated among European youth, and last but not least, an exceptional offer of natural thermal baths, Budapest is one of Europe's most delightful and ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Szechenyi Istvan Square
  • Szechenyi Chain Bridge
  • Hungarian National Gallery
  • Buda Castle
  • Vigado Concert Hall
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Hévíz is a town located in the Lake Balaton region of Hungary.

Interesting places:

  • Lake Heviz
  • Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit
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Siófok is a town on the south coast of Lake Balaton. The charming little town is one of the most popular holiday resorts in Hungary. The population is around 35,000 people but in the summer season there is another 200,000 people being on vacation at the same time. The name of the city means Cape Sió (Sió is a ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Golden Shore (Aranypart)
  • Silver Shore (Ezustpart)
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Debrecen is the "capital city of the Great Hungarian Plain", and the county seat and largest city of Hajdú-Bihar county in eastern Hungary. It is the second largest city in the country with about 200,000 inhabitants and historically the most important city in Hungarian Protestantism.

Interesting places:

  • Protestant Great Church
  • Deri Museum
  • University of Debrecen
  • City Park (Nagyredo)
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Szeged - the city of sunshine is a town in southern Hungary.

Interesting places:

  • Ferenc Mora Museum
  • Votive Church of Szeged
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Győr is a city in Western Transdanubia in Hungary. It is in Győr-Moson-Sopron county.

Interesting places:

  • Gyor Zoo
  • Gyor Benedictine Church
  • ETO Park
  • Gyor Ice Rink
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Balatonfüred is a town on the shore of Lake Balaton, Hungary.

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Buda is the western side of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary.

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States in Hungary

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Points of Interest in Hungary

Hungary has several World Heritage sites. These are:

  • Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue
  • Old Village of Hollókő and its Surroundings
  • Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst
  • Millenary Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma and its Natural Environment
  • Hortobágy National Park - the Puszta
  • Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae)
  • Fertő/Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape
  • Tokaj and Villány Wine Regions and Historic Cultural Landscapes

Other major tourist destination is Lake Balaton, with winehills, thermal spa in Hévíz, Hajdúszoboszló and Harkány around.

There are also some amazing things to see.

  • Tiszavirágzás. In mid-June the Tisza produces swarms of mayflies which are likened to flowers. Once decimated by pollution, the population is rebounding. (They're famous for living only for 1–2 days.)
  • Busójárás. In February the people chase away bad ghosts by loud clamping on streets of Mohács, Hungary.

Szechenyi Istvan Square - Budapest

Esztergom Basilica - Esztergom

Ferenc Mora Museum - Szeged

Mosque of Gazi Kaszim Pasha - Pecs

Eger Castle - Eger

Main Square - Szentendre

Firewatch Tower - Sopron

Protestant Great Church - Debrecen

Kecskemet Town Hall - Kecskemet

Tokaj Museum - Tokaj

Lake Heviz - Heviz

Szolnok Reformed Church - Szolnok

Hungarospa Baths - Hajduszoboszlo

Sumeg Castle - Sumeg

Tihany Abbey - Tihany

Pannonhalma Archabbey - Pannonhalma

Castle Tata - Tata

Visegrad Citadel - Visegrad

Festetics Palace - Keszthely

Reformed Old Church - Hodmezovasarhely

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