March 22, 2016 | By Bryn Symonds |
Hungary may not be on the tip of your tongue when you think of where to go in Europe, but it should be. For centuries, this amazing country, and especially its capital, Budapest, were the heart and soul of Europe. Here are 8 things you probably don’t know about Hungary:
1. Incredible Architecture
Hungary’s artistic heritage survives in its architecture, from Roman ruins, medieval towns, baroque churches and Art Nouveau bathhouses. One of the grandest buildings of them all is The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. Completed in 1904, this palatial building is the largest in Hungary and the highest in Budapest. Its construction included half a million precious stones and 88 lbs of gold. Hungary also boasts the second largest synagogue in the world.
2. The Year of Gastro Adventure
2016 is a yearlong celebration of the variety and quality of the Hungarian culinary tradition. Hungary is the host country of the Bocuse d’Or European culinary championship. There are festivals throughout the year where you can taste traditional and international dishes, meet the farmers and craftsmen, and sample world-renowned wines, like the honey-gold Tokaj. The largest of these events is the Festival of Folk Arts in Budapest in August.
3. Over 1,000 Thermal Springs
Hungary has over 1,000 thermal springs and a rich spa culture to go along with it. From the Romans through the Ottomans to the present day, these baths have been developed, celebrated and preserved. Budapest alone has over 300 thermal springs including spectacular Turkish baths. Hungary also contains Héviz, the second largest thermal lake in the world, and Miskolctapolca, Europe’s only cave bath.
4. 200 Caves Under Budapest
The labyrinth of caves and tunnels under the streets of Budapest is rumoured to be more than 120 km long. Guided tours take you to the vast, museum-like Szemlő-hegyi cave, a WWII underground hospital and parts of the subway system (the 1st on the continent). For the more adventurous, caving expeditions are available.
5. 8 World Heritage Sites
Historically fascinating, culturally rich and vibrant, it’s no surprise that Hungary has 9 World Heritage Sites, from caves to abbeys to the Hortobágy National Park. The Banks of the famous Danube are recognized heritage and so is the delicious Tokaj Wine Region, well worth a trip. On the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, you’ll find the Busó festivities at Mohács in southern Hungary that mark the end of winter with fearsome masks and costumes.
6. The Danube
Immortalized by Strauss’s The Blue Danube Waltz, Europe’s second-longest river has long held a special place in our collective consciousness. From its source in Germany, it winds through 10 countries before finally reaching the Black Sea. Many river cruises, starting or ending in Budapest, trace its journey.
7. Budapest Loves the Nightlife
Szimpla Kert is the most famous of a unique kind of nightspot found only in Budapest, the “ruins pub.” These pubs all share a few main ingredients: usually in an abandoned building, a bit of thrift-shop décor, and some of the best people you could ever ask for. At the other end of the spectrum is A38. Voted the Best Bar in the World by Lonely Planet, this multi-disciplinary institute lives on a reconstructed Ukranian ship on the Danube.
8. Classical Music Adventure
Hungary has always been celebrated for its classical music. Be sure to attend a performance and the beautiful Opera House, or a fascinating piano concert at the 150-year-old Liszt Academy of Music. And if you’re travelling in the spring, be sure to check out the Budapest Spring Festival.
Interested in learning more about Hungary? Click here to find out more or to start planning your trip to Hungary today!