Your comprehensive travel guide to Hungary - All in one place!
Statuesque castles, stunning lakes, extraordinary caves, thick forests, and magnificent churches, Hungary is more than just its glittering capital ‘Budapest’. The myriad places to visit in Hungary are fast turning one of the most popular countries in Eastern Europe into a hot and happening tourist destination. The country has been heavily influenced by its conquerors, which is evident in its interesting architecture and culture.
History and Government
In 896 Ugrians, today’s Hungarians, led by Arpad from the area of the Lower Dnieper and the Danube, crossed the Carpathians and settled in the area of today’s Pannonia between the Danube and the Tisa and established the state. Very soon, during the reign of Saint Stephen, Hungarians accepted Christianity in 1001.
At the end of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, the Habsburgs invaded Transylvania and Ottoman territories in the Pannonia, so all Hungarians came under the rule Habsburg. In 1867 the Habsburg monarchy was transformed into the Austro – Hungarian Empire and Hungary was given a large degree of autonomy. In the booming economic development after the revolution and the creation of the dual monarchy, Buda and Pest were being developed into a European capital. Independent cities Pest, Buda and Obuda were merged into one city called Budapest in 1873.
By the end of World War II from 1945 to 1989, Hungary was part of the Soviet sphere of influence and the Warsaw Pact. Major changes in the political life of Hungary occurred at the end of 1989, greater freedom in organizing and political action, agreement on the withdrawal of the Soviet army was signed and the state changed its name to the Republic of Hungary. Communists lost the power and Hungary became a member of NATO and the European Union.
Hungary is a mostly flat country, dominated by the Great Hungarian Plain east of the Danube. The plain includes approximately 56% of the country's land. The terrain ranges from flat to rolling plains.
The land rises into hills and some low mountains in the north along the Slovakian border. The highest point, located in the Matra Hills, is Mt Kekes at 3,330 ft.
The lowest spot is 77.6 m above sea level, located along the Tisza River in the south of Hungary, near Szeged.
The Danube is the major river, as it divides the country almost in half, and is navigable within Hungary for 418 km.
Hungary has three major lakes. Lake Balaton is Europe’s largest freshwater lake.
Hungary has been inhabited by many people over its long history, including the Celts, Romans, Slavs, Huns, Avars, and Gepids. Today, ethnic Hungarians account for the largest ethnicity at 84% of the population, followed by Romani (3%), Germans (1%), Slovaks (0.3%), Romanians (0.3%), and Croats (0.2%).
Christianity is the most common religion in Hungary, although it has no official religion. Most Hungarians became Lutherans following the 16th century, then the country turned largely to Calvinism. Hungary was home to a large Jewish population at one time. While some Hungarian Jews escaped the Holocaust, up to 550,000 were deported to concentration camps or murdered in the country. Budapest remains the center of Hungary's Jewish population today.
The official language used in Hungary is Hungarian, with the additional use of English at 16%, German at 11.2%, Russian at 1.6%, Romanian at 1.3%, and French at 1.2%, in use among the population as well.
The rich culture of Hungary is strong in folk traditions and has its own distinctive style, influenced by the various ethnic groups including the Roma people. Music of all kinds, from classical to folk, is an important part of everyday life, as is the country’s rich literary heritage. Crafts such as ceramics and embroidery, Hungary’s distinct, traditional cuisine, strong fruit brandies, dance and the ever-popular spa treatments all reflect the heritage of this fascinating country.
Hungary’s 10 million people are vibrant, friendly and value the family above all else, with generations living in the same household under one roof and grandparents having a strong say in the upbringing of their grandchildren. Hungarians are a nation of horsemen due to their ancient nomadic past, and visitors often receive an invitation to go riding from their new local friends. Hospitality is a major part of the culture here, and personal questions about your life are all part of the getting-to-know-you process.
Food and Drink
When you think of Hungarian cuisine, it's likely that goulash and chicken paprika spring to mind. However, there a lot more traditional Hungarian food than these two tasty and iconic dishes. The food of Hungary has a long history with many influences including those from neighboring Slavic countries, along with Germany, Austria, and France. Paprika, Hungarians' favorite seasoning, is used generously, though mild paprika is more commonly used than is spicy paprika. No matter what the dish, it is most often spicy and rich, a reflection of Hungary's past and its cultural influences.
Hungary is truly the land of cultural experiences. The people of Hungary have a lot of great traditions and they love to celebrate their festivals in a grand way, and every month has some great festivals celebrated in the country,. From folk festivals, religious festivals and even cultural festival, you can experience it all on your visit to this wonderful country.
Best Time to Visit
Protected by the Carpathian Basin, the weather in Hungary can be changeable. Overall summer is warm with high precipitation and winter is cold and somewhat drier. March to May is a lovely time to visit Hungary with pleasant daytime temperatures and the countryside in bloom with flowers. The autumn months of September to November are another great time to visit when the leaves turn brilliant shades of red and orange. On average this time of year can often be warmer than spring and without the same crowds, you'll find in the peak tourist season of June to August.
Winter in Hungary is cold and grey with temperatures hitting below freezing. The nights are particularly cold though the countryside and cities can be especially pretty when dusted with snow. At this time of year, Hungary's ski resorts attract the vast majority of visitors.