After all the sightseeing you will find yourself in the perfect
city to relax - Hungary is world famous for its thermal
springs. There are many Spas and baths throughout Budapest
and Hungary as a whole. Some of the more famous ones are the
Gellert Baths, Rudas, Rac, and Kiraly. If you fancy getting
to know the locals in the City Park head for the Szechenyi
Baths - one of the biggest outdoor baths in Europe. Also in
the park you will find Heroes Square and The City Zoo. Just
round the corner is Gundels - Budapest's most famous restaurant.
Nightlife and shopping centres around Pest, which is generally
a lot livelier than Buda on the opposite bank. The Vaci Utca
is the upmarket shopping strip, but the Central Market Hall
is renowned for its atmosphere and local produce. Hungary
has a thriving nightlife with hundreds of pubs, bars, and
restaurants and is famous for its coffee houses. For a superb
view of Budapest head to Gellert Hill.
The Danube Bend region
This area to the north of Budapest is so-called for the large
meanders of the Danube through the Borszony hills.
The Danube Bend region has several historic towns that make
up the old medieval heart of Hungary; The huge cathedral in
Esztergom used to be the religious capital of Hungary
and houses one of the world's largest altar paintings. Visitors
can climb the cathedrals dome. Visegrad is famous for
its citadel perched 1000ft above the looping Danube below
and the views of the Danube from both The Citadel and Eztergom
Cathedral dome are spectacular. Serbian refugees fleeing the
Turks built the 17th Orthodox churches of Szentendre
with its cobbled streets and red-tiled roofs that have attracted
artists and tourists to the town in equal number. Vac
is one of Hungary's oldest towns, famous for its churches
and large cathedral built in 1790.
The north eastern area borders Slovakia and contains Hungary's
hilliest landscapes - the Borzsony, Cserhat, Bukk, Zemplen,
Cserehat and Matra Hills. The highest peak is Mt.Kekesto
at 3327ft. This part of Hungary is less touristy than anywhere
else with the exception of Eger, but still has its fare share
of historic towns and beautiful scenery and is especially
famous for its wines, particularly Tokay and Bulls Blood.
Eger is in the middle of Hungary's vineyard region
(between the Matra mountains and the Bukk range), 100 miles
east of the capital, and is a popular destination for visitors.
Eger is notably famous for being the stronghold against the
Turks in the 16th century and for its famous red wine known
as Bull's Blood. The legend has it that the Hungarian's
drank loads of wine before battle and the marauding Turks
saw their red, wine-stained beards and thought that it was
bulls blood. There are numerous historic sites here (over
200 protected buildings) but many head straight for one of
Eger's most famous; the 130ft minaret. 100 cramped steps take
you to the top. Other historic sites in Eger's pedestrian
centre include; Eger castle, cathedral, observatory, and many
fine examples of Baroque architecture.
Transdanubia (Western Hungary)
Sopron & Gyor
Sopron - formerly known as Odenburg - is situated next to
the Austrian-Hungarian border and is closer to Vienna than
Budapest, boasting the richest collection of medieval architecture
in Hungary. Much of the medieval city remains intact including
the Fire Tower, Trinity Column, and the 15th century town
square (Fo ter). The church of Saint Mary (dating from 1280)
is one of Sopron's most impressive buildings and has a beautiful
141ft Gothic church tower. The old town quarter is a maze
of alleyways and medieval houses with plenty of atmosphere.
Gyor is less touristy than Sopron but still has an impressive
old city to explore. There are plenty of churches to visit
including the Carmelite Church (1725), and the baroque Cathedral
in Gyors Chapter Hill area.
Balaton and surrounds
Lake Balaton is land-locked Hungary's top resort and one of
the largest fresh water lakes in Europe at 50 miles long.
As you might expect there are lots of opportunities for watersports
here, especially sailing. There are over 40 campsites around
the lake to choose from with scenic trains encircling Balatons
shores. The main centres are Balatonfured the sailing centre
(one of the nicest, with an old town centre), Siofok on the
southern shore (Balaton's busy tourist capital), and beautiful
but busy Tihany.
The southern shore during Summer is chaotic; if you want to
avoid the hordes, head for the north shore which is far more
picturesque and less touristy. The northern vineyards, historic
towns and castles are nestled among the Bakony hills. Veszprem
and Szekesfehervar are well worth visiting for
their historic buildings, and if you are fed up with making
sand-castles, you can find the real thing at Sumeg
Pecs in the south has one of the mildest climates in all of
Hungary and is home to some of Hungary's most impressive Turkish
buildings.The biggest, the Kassim Pasha Mosque, is
the largest Turkish building in the country. Other highlights
include the Baroque Szechenyi Square, medieval Barbican, cathedral,
the Mosque of Pasha Hassan Jacovali (now a museum), numerous
churches, chapels, and museums. For fine views of downtown
Pecs climb the hills of Mecsek in the north, the highest point
is Misina at 1600ft.
The Great Plains
These plains are vast and have had a special place in the
hearts and minds of Hungarians for centuries. Much of this
huge area is farmland but national parks such as Hortobagy
and Kiskunsag have preserved the steppe grasslands
known as Puszta and the unique herding societies that
still inhabit them. The parks offer excellent opportunities
for birdwatching, with 300 species including herons storks,
warblers, egrets and the great bustard - one of the Europe's
largest birds. The Puszta is particularly famous for its long
association with Hungarian herdsman and horsemanship. Mata
and Tanyascarda are good places to experience these
amazing csikos (horse-herders) demonstrations and to
have a go yourself - week long horsetrips are available across
Bucharest is probably the point of entry for most travellers
to Romania and has all the trappings of most Capital cities.
Bucharest was once compared to Paris, but unfortunately Nicolae
Ceausescu flattened much of the beautiful architecture here.
The bohemian atmosphere has made a comeback however, especially
in spring and summer when the parks and bars attract the crowds.
Everyone should see Ceausescus Civic Centre and the
gigantic Palace of Parliament in the southern district
that replaced the old quarter in the 1980's. Other places
of interest are the Village Museum with crafts and wooden
churches from the Maramures region, Curtea Veche (the
remains of Vlad Tepes palace) and numerous other churches
and museums that survived the Ceausescu's. Bucharest has seen
a dramatic increase in glitzy shopping districts and around
the Strada Lipscani you'll find Bucharest's bazaar. Parts
of the old city centre still contain some 16th century architecture
such as the Old Court Church. In the western part of
the city you can visit the final resting place of the Ceausescu's,
The Ghencea Cemetry but don't expect anything on the scale
of the Civic centre monuments here.
Famous for being the birthplace of Vlad Tepes - the inspiration
for Bram Stoker's Dracula - this beautiful medieval town is
one of the best preserved of its kind anywhere in Europe.
Cobbled streets, an ancient turreted wall and 16th century
burgher houses make it an atmospheric destination in the heart
of Transylvania. The city was once a military fortress with
huge walls surrounding the old town which still stand today
with 11 towers and museum under the 14th century clock tower.
You can visit the house that Vlad was born in which is now
a restaurant on Piata Muzeului; there is also a Dracula museum.
70 miles from Sighisoara lies the historic city of Brasov,
Romania's second largest city, on the itinerary of every traveller
for the nearby Bran Castle. This picturesque castle
built in 1377 is 16 miles from Brasov city centre and is almost
always referred to as Dracula's Castle despite the fact that
he probably only stayed here once or twice. Brasov centre
has stunning medieval architecture, particularly the 14th
century Black Church (so-named after being torched by the
Austrians in 1689) the ancient 15th century fortress and citadel,
and the council house. Brasov is also becoming increasingly
popular with the local bear population that can be seen on
the outskirts of the city at night looking for dinner in the
housing block's garbage. Brasov's main resorts are Poaina
Brasov, Predeal and Sinaia.
The Transylvanian Alps
These southern ranges form only a part of the greater Carpathian
Mountains that stretch right across Romania. The Fagaras
and the Bucegi mountain parks offer some of the best
hiking in Europe in summer and bargain skiing in winter, as
well as excellent caving, mountain biking and climbing. The
Dimbovita region is famous for its stunning alpine
meadows. The Fagaras range are a little harder to reach than
the Bucegi, but far wilder offering the highest peaks in the
country and are definitely worth a little extra effort. Wildlife
in these regions (and elsewhere in the Carpathians) is abundant
and spectacular; bears, lynx and wolves still inhabit these
forests. Other Transylvanian delights include Rasnov Castle,
Peles Castle in Sinaia, and Vlad Tepes' Poienari Castle
which has more authentic connections to the bloodthirsty
warlord than the touristy Bran Castle.
Timisoara is Romania's fourth largest city, with a large university
and a distinctly Hungarian feel; the old Hapsburgian town
or "inner city" is packed with baroque architecture.
It was here in Timisoara that the 1989 revolution began, signalling
the end of the regime in Bucharest. There are memorials all
over the town to those who lost their lives during the revolution
that started here in the Tokes Reform Church.
In Northern Romania the UNESCO world heritage Churches and
monasteries of Bucovina are a must. These painted masterpieces
date back to the 16th century and are unparalled in Europe.
The paintings adorn many churches but the most impressive,
and the biggest, is Sucevita Monastery. Suceava is the jump-off
point for Bucovina's artistic heritage. Other monasteries
in Bucovina with stunning paintings are Humor, Voronet,
and Moldovita. The paintings on the monastery walls
kept masses of militia and sheltering soldiers happy during
the Turkish invasions when they were painted.
The Black Sea Coast and Danube Delta
The Black Sea Riviera is probably not the first spot
most people think of when you mention Romania, but there are
miles of beaches and resorts here with a real Mediterranean
atmosphere. The climate and sandy beaches, especially at Constanta
and Mamaia are easily reached from Bucharest (about
2 ½ Hours). As you might expect some of the resorts
are a little rough around the edges, and get extremely busy
Further up the coast The Danube Delta has a stunning
variety of bird life on offer at the point where the Danube
enters the Black Sea. Tulcea is the most central town
and the place to head to for kayaking and exploring the waterways
and traditional fishing villages that survived Ceausescu's
plans for modernisation.