The Hungarian capital is renowned for the impressively high density of heritage sites that reside within the city limits and as you’d expect, this makes it a hotbed of tourist attractions and draws in millions of visitors a year.
That being said, the area surrounding Budapest has, if you can believe it, even more to offer in the way of unimaginably beautiful nature, historic wonders and more.
Given Budapest’s location, on the banks of the Danube River, the city is an ideal spot for a base from which you can plan day trips to the seemingly endless number of villages, towns and cities that are scattered around this central part of the country.
Let’s check out some of the best day trips from Budapest:
The fact that the city of Esztergom was once originally the capital of Hungary over 1000 years ago might give you some kind of idea as to the sheer amount of historically fascinating sites and activities there are to see and do here.
Located around 60km northwest of Budapest, Esztergom lies where the Danube coincides with the country’s Central Uplands and the resulting scenery is nothing short of spectacular.
With so much to do, it’s tempting to stay for more than a day in Esztergom, but if you’re only there for one, be sure not to miss the Castle Hill area, famed for the Hungarian Royal Palace ruins and the stunning Cathedral with its iconic towers flanking its sides.
If you’ve got time, venture up into the adjacent Pilis Mountains where you can explore oak and beech forests peppered with caves and beautiful chalk cliffs.
A couple of hours train ride away, you’ll find the quaint but gorgeous town of Eger that is famous for its picturesque Cathedral and serene central Plaza where you can spend afternoons watching the sun go down.
With no less than 17 Baroque Churches and a network of thermal baths, you’ll be hard pressed not to stay another day relaxing and exploring in one of the most stunning small towns in Europe.
Some must-see sights here include the medieval Castle of Eger and the beautiful Eger Basilica, dating back to 1837 and built in a classical Baroque style with numerous towers and an unbeatable view.
As with many Hungarian cities, Eger is also home to a charming Old Town where you can spend hours wandering it’s narrow lanes and take in the sounds and smells of the buzzing central marketplace overlooked by the impressive church of St. Anthony.
3. Lake Balaton
A perfect example of the kind of unfiltered beauty that can be found in the areas surrounding Budapest, Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in Europe and has an astonishing amount of fascinating activities to do, from rolling, lush grassy landscapes to explore, to vineyards and historic towns.
Also known as the Hungarian inner sea, the lake can be traversed by cruise with one of the many tour operators that’ll take you on a journey over the glassy waters of the 50-mile long expanse.
Thanks to its size and beautiful surroundings though, there’s an endless amount to do besides this.
You can visit the stunning town of Szigliget, where you’ll discover the mysteries of Szigliget Fortress, or hike around the volcanic hills surrounding the lake which are also home to marvellous vineyards.
4. The Danube and Vác
In the west of Hungary, close to the town of Esztergom, the gorgeous Danube River sharply bends towards the south and on this bend you can find the charming little town of Vác, originally a Baroque settlement that has lost none of its quaint attractiveness.
Jump on a river cruise that’ll give you a chance to marvel at the town’s beautiful skyline from the water or simply just dive in and begin exploring.
In Vác’s historic center, you’ll find the impressive and positively enormous Cathedral of Mary’s Ascension, surrounded by streets of luxurious merchant’s homes.
With 18th Century bridges, plazas and Baroque churches, the little riverside town is both fascinating and romantic, perfect for a day trip that combines walking and ferry rides.
5. Gödöllő Palace
A mere 30km to the northeast of Budapest, you’ll find one of the largest and without a doubt, finest Baroque palaces in all of Europe.
The impeccably preserved palace was once the favourite summer getaway of Emperor Franz Joseph and walking through its grounds it’s easy to see why.
A shining example of the beauty of Hungarian Baroque architecture, the building is a quarter of a century-old and has a rich history full of infamous counts and reigning monarchs.
There are various tours that’ll give you the opportunity to explore in full the numerous gardens, stables and vast park that surround the palace.
6. Nagytétény Castle and the Museum of Applied Arts
One of the most convenient day trips to take when in Budapest is to head to the southern district of Nagytétény which can be easily reached by public transport or car.
Here, standing in the middle of a stunning agricultural region, you’ll find the magical Nagytétény Castle, an old Baroque palace that was built in the 18th Century.
Inside, you’ll find the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts, a fascinating collection of artefacts with a focus on fine German and Hungarian furniture from as early as the 15th Century.
This is a perfect day trip for those looking to brush up on a little history and soak up the charm of Nagytétény Castle.
7. Velence Lake
Though not as large and well-known as its popular counterpart, Velence Lake is still the third largest in the whole of Europe and is a perfect alternative for those looking to escape the crowds at the busier Lake Balaton.
The warm water and sandy beaches offer a wonderful respite from the city during summer and it retains its magic during winter when you can skate across the frozen water.
Also on offer are hikes up into the enchanting fauna of the Southern shore, or cycling the 10km around the lake, all the while soaking up the sights.
Ever since the 1930’s, artists and creatives have been descending on and settling in the town of Szentendre, which gives you an idea of the vibrant place it is today.
A must see on any trip to the Danube Bend, Szentendre has colorful but cosy streets that lead down to the river’s edge, making for a quaint but beautiful and inspirational town.
If you’re looking for some history, then head to the impressive Blagoveshchensk Church, complete with Baroque archways and immaculate frescoes.
If you’re looking to do a spot of shopping on the other hand, head to one of the town’s markets and browse Szentendre’s famous arts, crafts and artisanal products.
Venturing out into the Hungarian Great Plains, you’ll find the impossibly beautiful city of Kecskemét, right in the middle of the country and perfectly epitomising what life in Hungary can be like when you’re not moving at the breakneck pace of the capital.
Famed for its equine roots, you can embark on tours that take you out into the Great Plains, or visit the popular horse shows at Bugac.
Characterised by ornate and colorful buildings, the city is every bit as beautiful as Budapest but feels isolated enough to attain peace and quiet, the perfect trip for those who like to explore further than the main cities of Hungary.
Reachable within an hour by car, Hollókő is one of the most spellbinding places in Hungary on account of it being one of its last inhabited towns that demonstrate and celebrate how Hungarians lived in rural communities centuries ago.
Easter is the best time to visit as there is a festival centered around traditional food, clothes and artisanal crafts that’ll make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
If you want to learn more about the charming way of life you’ll see here, head over to Skanzen where you can visit the open-air museum celebrating these same traditions.
Standing on the Little Hungarian Plain is the quaint town of Győr, just over an hour away on the train from Budapest and nestled between the rivers Danube, Rába, and Rábca.
Though it’s a small town, it more than compensates for in charm, with a selection of Baroque-style buildings to rival any European destination.
The Old Town is one of the most beautiful townscapes in the country and is home to no less than 170 listed buildings, perfect for ambling around and marvelling at architecture.
A strong contender for an overnight visit on account of how much there is to there, Miskolc lies a few hours away from Budapest in an area surrounded by stunning nature reserves.
The city’s most famous attraction is the network of thermal baths built into a cave, though with the adjacent Bükk National Park, picturesque Diósgyőr Castle and endless forests to hike through – you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to sightseeing.
13. Aggtelek National Park and the Baradla Cave
One of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this list, Aggtelek National Park covers almost 200 square kilometres and is famed for its unique flora and fauna, as well as a seemingly endless network of paths that are clearly marked and give walkers the freedom to explore to their heart’s content.
During your visit, make sure you don’t miss Baradla Cave, one of the longest and largest stalactite caves in Europe.
Only two hours from Budapest, you’ll find the small town of Pécs, known for its mild climate and popular due to its location on the slopes of the Mecsek Mountains.
With historical attractions that date back to the 11th Century and graves dating back to the 3rd Century, Pécs is not only beautiful, but a hotbed of fascinating sites.
The highlight is the medieval marketplace in the heart of the Old Town, make sure you visit it if you are in town.
15. Koszeg and the Church of St. James
Just over 200km west of Budapest is the town of Koszeg, which is home to one of the most important historical buildings in the country, not to mention one of the most breathtakingly beautiful.
Build in the 1400’s using the remains of a Romanesque church; the building takes influences from an intriguing array of time periods including Baroque, Gothic and Medieval.
Filled with wall paintings and statues, the Church of St James is a fascinating insight into the merging of architectural styles bound together by religion.