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Szentendre is one of the most popular cities of Budapest’s agglomeration. It is easily accessible by a 40 minutes HÉV ride from Batthyány tér, which takes you to the edge of the old town. Szentendre is known as the town of painters. True to its name there are many art galleries, such as the Művészeti Malom, which is a repurposed windmill, now exhibiting modern art of local artists. If you want something less traditional the town has a Marzipan Museum and a Christmas museum/shop.
For an amazing and authentic meal, I recommend ÁlomLángos, which is hidden in the alleyway leading from the main square up to the Templom tér. After some nice museums and a big lunch there are plenty of ways to relax. If you want some quiet time visit the Japanese Garden, where you can enjoy the peaceful shade of the amazingly kept garden and lake. If you want something more active, Szentendre has multiple free beaches which are perfect for a cold dip in the Danube on a hot summer day.
Another city of the agglomeration is Gödöllő. Gödöllő is the final station of the H8 HÉV line, which gets there in 45 minutes. If you are looking for something even quicker the train from Keleti train station gets there in 30 minutes. The biggest attraction of the city is the Royal Palace of Gödöllő. It was the favorite summer palace of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and has been recently renovated and restored to its former glory. Now it houses multiple permanent exhibitions showing the life and secrets of its inhabitants throughout the ages. Besides the exhibitions it also has a Baroque theatre and the bunker of Miklós Horty. The Palace Park is a 26 hectares, extremely well-kept garden, with promenades and Pavilions to explore. For more nature you can visit the Botanical Gardens, which offers all kinds of programs depending on the season, like ‘pick it yourself’ lavender harvest.
Visegrád was very shortly the royal capital of Hungary in the 14th century and is now famous for its citadel. The train from Nyugati only takes 40 minutes to get to the town. From the Danube it is an easy, 45 minutes hike to the Citadel. The Citadel has one of the most beautiful views of Hungary, looking down the River Bend. The castle also has multiple permanent exhibitions about the royal crown, Medieval history, weapons and hunting. It is worth to keep an eye on their websites because during the summer and autumn months they organize tournaments and palace games, with performers coming from all around Europe. However, once you come down from the hill the city still has more to offer. You can visit the Royal Palace built by King Matthias or the Palinka Museum which offers tasting and factory tours for its guests.
Esztergom was the royal capital of Hungary for 200 years and it still holds many treasures worth seeing. It is only an hour by train so there is plenty of time left to discover the city. The biggest attraction is the Basilica which is the largest church of Hungary. Once there you should see the Christian Art Museum, which has an impressive collection of artifacts. And a must for all is climbing up to the dome of the Basilica. After climbing 400 stairs to the top there is a breathtaking view of the Danube and the town. The city also has the renovated remains of a Turkish Mosque and the summer house of Mihály Babits. If you are bored of Hungary already just cross the bridge and you will find yourself in Slovakia where you can walk around Párkány.
The city of the beloved Hungarian classic, Egri Csillagok (Crescent Moon) is a bit of a longer trip from Budapest. The train ride takes an hour and 40 minutes one way, but it is 100% worth the time. The city is famous for its Castle. The buildings have been restored and reserved really well, making you feel like you were transported back in time. The Castle has multiple great exhibition and programs all year around. Another noteworthy sight is the Basilica which has one of the most beautiful domes inside. If you are a music lover then Eger has just the thing just for you, the Beatles Museum. In the museum you can see relics, figurines and all kinds of collectables. And of course, one cannot leave Eger without trying Egri Bikavér, which is offered in many famous wineries all over the city.
One of the longest travel time belongs to one of my favorite cities. The 2 hours and 40 minutes long trip is doable but you should get up early to make most of the day. Pécs has an impressive number of religious sights, starting with the massive Basilica. After admiring the inside, you can climb up to the tower for an breathtaking view to the city.
On the main square, Széchényi tér, they have the Mosque of Pasha Qasim, which now serves as a catholic church. And finally, not too far they also have a beautifully renovated synagogue. The city doesn’t lack museums either. I would recommend visiting the Vasarely museum for something modern and the Csontváry museum for something classic. Another impressive location is the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter. The old porcelain manufactory has been transformed into a cultural heaven, which now houses multiple exhibitions, workshops, a theatre, a café and a gorgeous park.
In 2 hours and 20 minutes the train takes you to the edge of the country, to the Town of Loyalty and Freedom, Sopron. The city has a real jewelry box of an old town, where you can randomly stumble onto windows from the 11th century. But if you got the right place, you can be taken back even further in time. Under the streets of the old town lay the remains of the Forum of Scarbantia, the former Roman city. The main square of the city has the Goat Church which is an outstanding example of Hungarian Gothic architecture.
Across from it is the Firewatch Tower, which only serves as a look out today, providing some great photo opportunities. For the indoor activities they have multiple museums, such as the Storno house, showing 19th century interior design and the Mining Museum. During the summer the city also accomodates the Volt Festival whose 2022 line up features artists like the Killers or Yungblud.
Another hour and 20 minutes trip in the opposite direction takes us to Szeged. The university city has everything one could look for. It is most famous for the Szegedi Dóm, one of the tallest churches of Hungary. You can climb up to its tower to give an absolutely amazing view of the city. Another famous sight is the New Synagogue which is the second biggest synagogue of the country. If you are looking for something calmer and more relaxed the city has a huge Botanical Garden, where you can get lost for hours and still not see every corner. The inner city has many different styles of architecture and it makes for a great walk. If you get hungry stop by one of the popular ‘Csárda’s of the city and try local fish prepared in many delicious ways.