Situated in the heart of Europe, Hungary and its capital Budapest make for a fascinating and lively travel destination. This is a country that surprises not only through its cultural diversity, but also with its turbulent historical background.
Today, Hungary stands for a confluence of tradition and modernity. While those living in the countryside continue to uphold Hungarian customs and traditions, the major cities are experiencing rapid and dramatic changes. But even in the capital, the country's glorious heritage shines through in its multitude of historical buildings, from the parliament to its many villas and monuments.

The castle of Budapest at night

Hungary in figures

The Republic of Hungary is a parliamentary democracy with a population of just under 10 million. The capital of Budapest is inhabited by 1.7 million people. Hungary occupies an area of 93,000 square kilometres and borders with seven neighbouring countries: Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.
Hungary has been a member of NATO since 1999 and joined the European Union on May 1, 2004. The government occupied the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2011.

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The Middle Ages in Budapest

Hungary's eventful history

The Hungarian people have been living in Central Europe for more than 1,100 years. The Magyars are the descendants of the Huns, best known for their fearsome leader Attila. After his death, Attila's people fled to the east and returned to the Carpathian Basin. The country was united by Stephen (István), its first Christian king, who ruled from 1000 to 1038.

Stephen modelled his kingdom on the cultures of western Europe with the support of Pope Sylvester II, who provided him with a stunning crown. Hungary's second favourite king is Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490), who proved to be an intelligent statesman with a keen eye for the arts during his popular 32-year reign.

However, following 150 years of war with the Ottamans, most of the ravaged country had to be reconstructed. It was at this time that  emigrants from neighbouring lands, including Slovaks and Swabians arrived in Hungary in their droves.

In the centuries that followed, Hungary entered into political cooperation with the Habsburg dynasty. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy was founded in 1867, heralding a golden era that lasted until the outbreak of WWI.

Following WWII, Hungary lost its independence when it was occupied by the Soviet army. The failed uprising against the oppressive regime in October 1956 resulted in the departure of some 200,000 Hungarians.

A period of milder “Gulyas Communism“ lasted until September 10, 1989, when the Austrian border was opened to East European tourists and refugees, an event that sparked the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 11 of the same year.

The socialist People's Republic came to an end on October 23, 1989 with the formation of the Republic of Hungary.

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The castles of Hungary

Hungary's most famous buildings

Gödöllő Castle (Sissi Castle)

Count Antal Grassalkovich commissioned the construction of this lavish complex more than 250 years ago. Now the largest remaining baroque palace after Versailles, Grassalkovich's magnificent building became the favourite residence of the popular Empress Elizabeth – better known as Sisi or Sissi by her many fans – in the second half of the 19th century. Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth were crowned King and Queen of Hungary on June 1867 in Budapest's Matthias Church.

The castles of HungaryThe castles of Hungary
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There are already nine locations and cultural institutions in Hungary that have been assigned UNESCO World Heritage status. These are a deemed to be of particular common cultural or geographical significance.

The Danube panorama in Budapest

The historical diversity of Budapest

Budapest is one of the the most attractively situated cities in the world. The Danube splits the city in two: The rolling hills of Buda to the right and Pest extending on the flat, left-hand shore of the river. The palaces on either side of the Danube and the historic Castle District on the plateau of Castle Hill are together listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The spectacular bridges over the Danube are particularly impressive when illuminated  at night.

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The village of Hollókő in Hungary


The village of Hollókő is around 100 km from Budapest and has maintained the traditional village structure from the middle ages, namely small plots of land at right angles to a single long street. At the heart of the settlement is the small village church erected on a small “traffic island” in 1889. The 60 protected buildings of the village are typical peasant houses comprising three well separated rooms.

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The Benedictine Archabbey in Hungary

The Benedictine Archabbey in Pannonhalma

Perched on St. Martin's Hill, the Benedictine Monastery of Pannonhalma occupies a location first settled in 996 by the Benedictine monks of Royal Prince Géza, father of St. Stephen, Hungary's first king. The church and monastery on the original site have been renovated on numerous occasions through the centuries.

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Early Christian catacombs in Budapest/Hungary

Early Christian catacombs in Pécs

Thanks to its historic, cultural, artistic and spiritual legacy, Pécs is one of Hungary's most exciting towns. The southern city with a Mediterranean atmosphere was known as Sopianae in Roman times. What is more, it was the administrative centre of the province of Pannonia in the late 3rd century. The two-level construction of the early Christian burial chambers here make them unique to all of Europe. Dating back to the 3rd and 4th centuries, they contain fully intact wall paintings of extraordinary beauty.

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The vineyard in Hungary

Tokaj – a wine region with history

The winemaking techniques of Tokaj and the surrounding villages were established as early as 1650, earning the region international fame even then. Regularly enjoyed by Russian Czars, Peter the Great even bought a vineyard in the hills above Tokaj. King Louis XIV of France is said to have once described Tokaj's wines as “the wine of kings and the king of wines“. Today, the appellation's trademark sweet wines enjoy similar lofty status among wine enthusiasts the world over.

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The Aggtelek stalactite caves

The Aggtelek stalactite caves

Extending over 25 km in length, including side entrances, the Aggtelek cave system is the largest in Central Europe. The cave was formed in the 230 million-year-old limestone of the middle Triassic age. The stunning stalactites and stalagmites are the result of dripping water depositing its limestone content to create a fascinating underground landscape of a myriad colours and shapes. The caves inspired their discoverers to come up with dozens of descriptive names, such as Dragon's Head, Tiger, Tongue of Mother-in-Law, Chamber of Columns and Room of Giants.

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Puszta in Ungarn

The Hortobágy Puszta

The Hortobágy Puszta, sometimes referred to as the Great Plains, are Europe's largest natural and continuous steppe landscape.

The region is a unique example of the harmonious symbiosis of man and nature. The natural parkland offers enormous biological diversity on its alkaline heaths, meadows and small marshes, providing a home to the 342 species of birds living and nesting here, as well as the migratory birds that pass through in autumn.

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Lake Fertő in Hungary

Lake Fertő

The cultivated landscape surrounding Lake Fertő has been listed among UNESCO's World Heritage Sites since December 13, 2001. The move declared the steppe lake and its region to be “of extraordinary common interest and value to all mankind”. As a cross-border region, the application for Lake Fertő, known as Lake Neusiedl in Austria, was submitted to UNESCO jointly by the two countries.

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