While it may be a small country by territory, this amazing land of the Hungarians boasts Europe’s biggest synagogue, Europe’s largest medicinal bath, Europe’s third-biggest church, and the second-biggest baroque castle in the world!
In addition, Lake Balaton, one of the country’s most scenic spots, is the biggest lake in Central Europe. And here are 10 more fantastic reasons to visit this amazing country.
Hungary produces around 300 million liters of wine annually, which equals around 1 percent of the world’s wine, making it Europe’s 7th largest producer.
While wine consumption is only about half of what the French drink, it’s twice the American per capita consumption—and most of it is local wine, so you must visit to experience the best wines this country has to offer!
SPAS AND THERMAL BATHS
Budapest is also known as the capital of spas and thermal baths, with a history of enjoying the more than 1,500 natural hot springs in the country going back to Roman times. Their settlement here was known as Aquincum, meaning “rich waters” or “wealth of waters,” and was a huge city of 40,000 people. Every Hungarian has their favorite bath to frequent, and one often finds public swimming pools filled with thermal water.
The delectable cuisine has many important and unique ingredients, like poppyseed and quark, but perhaps none as famed as paprika. Introduced by the Turks in 1569, it is available in many different versions with varying colors and hotness. Used both as a vegetable and a spice in an endless list of different recipes: soups and stews, casseroles and sandwich toppings, salamis, and sausages, or my personal favorite, topping a nice slice of bread with sour cream. Trying a proper gulyás leves (goulash), halászlé (fish soup), csirkepörkölt (chicken paprikash), rakott krumpli (sausage, egg and potato casserole) or körözött (cheese spread) should be on top of your foodie list when staying in Hungary.
No trip to Hungary is complete without sampling the local spirit: pálinka, which is a fruit brandy most commonly made from plums, apricot, pear, or grape marc, but you can find unique versions made from mulberries, quince or sour cherries. One sure way to offend your hosts is saying no to a shot of pálinka, however, with a minimum alcohol content of 37.5%, this drink is not for the faint of heart!
Many travelers talk about Budapest’s architectural beauty, which is present everywhere you go: the Parliament Building is an elegant example of Neo-Gothic architecture, while Budapest’s Art Nouveau examples add to its turn-of-the-century charm. From the lavish interior of the State Opera House and the New York Café to the grandeur of St. Stephan’s Basilica and the Buda Castle district, to the whimsical and elegant Art Nouveau structures, the city can offer spectacular photo opportunities.
Everything you can think of in the region of Tokaj is distinctive and contributes to the personality of the wines made there: rare grape varieties grown in a blend of clay and volcanic soil, south-facing slopes, two rivers (the Bodrog and the Tisza) creating the perfect micro-climate for the development of Botrytis, and the centuries-old network of rock-carved cellars providing constant temperature and humidity. Tokaji Aszú was the world’s first protected wine, Tokaj’s vineyards were classified first in 1641, more than a century before the Douro, and two centuries before Bordeaux! No wonder this region is protected as a UNESCO Historic Cultural Landscape.
Hungary is at the forefront of producing some of the finest oak barrels for wine production. The Zemplén forest in the hills surrounding Tokaj is known for its higher altitude, cooler climate, and volcanic soils, where the trees are 95% Quercus Petraea. Slower growth and hence tighter grain is believed to give wines silkier tannins in comparison to barrels from the same type of oak from, let’s say, a French forest. The largest cooperage in Hungary exports about 10,000 barrels to the United States every year!
Hungarians are loyal, honest, hard-working, and very proud of their heritage. Hungary has found itself at the crossroads of history and had to weather many tragic upheavals over its more than 1,000 years of existence. Nonetheless, Hungary produced many outstanding mathematicians, Nobel Prize winners, athletes, composers, and artists over the years. Did you know that Hungary has one of the highest numbers of Olympic medals per capita (498 in total)? They just can’t wrap their minds around how foreigners cannot speak their marvelous mothers’ tongue 😊.
THE ICONIC DANUBE
Finally comes the Danube River with its whole magnificence! Once the lengthy border of the Roman Empire and now Europe’s second-longest river, it runs through Hungary from north to south, dividing Budapest in two. They have recently completed the renovations of its oldest crossing, the stunning Chain Bridge, and let us not forget that the Freedom Bridge offers one of the best sunset views of the river and Buda and Pest. So, during your time visiting this charming country, get yourself a nice traditional drink and snack, and enjoy an amazing evening you’ll always treasure…