There are quite a few places near Budapest that are definitely worth a half or full-day trip. When visiting Budapest, do not miss Szentendre, the flagship town of the Danube Bend, part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park, the town of art.
Or tour the world's second largest Baroque castle in Gödöllő, where Sissi, the famous Austro-Hungarian queen loved to spend her time. If you like wine, the famous Etyek wine region offers fantastic wine tasting programs with snacks and regular wine festivals.
Szentendre lies about 20 kilometres north from the city centre of Budapest. It is a little village with a Mediterranean feel, and it is a very popular tourist destination, due to its historical atmosphere, museums, cafés and romantic cobblestone streets lined with colourful Baroque homes.
Szentendre is the town of art and culture in a beautiful setting. It also gives home to the "Skanzen", a large-scale open-air ethnographical exhibition, with traditional Hungarian peasants' homes, mills and churches on display. The town's original founders were Serbians, who were fleeing from the Turkish occupation of their country - even the Serbian Orthodox Church moved their seat here around the year 1690, hence the Serbian influence to the town's architecture and cultural life.
The town houses internationally recognized and interesting museums, such as the Margit Kovács Museum, the Marzipan Museum and the Ferenczy Museum.
Castle of Gödöllő
Built in the 1740-s for the Grassalkovich Hungarian noble family by architect Andreas Mayerhoffer of Salzburg, the Royal Castle of Gödöllő is a uniquely beautiful, Baroque style castle, the second biggest of this architectural genre in the world. When the last Grassalkovich has died without heir in 1841, the castle was assigned as the holiday castle of the reigning king of Hungary.
Queen Elizabeth (Sissi) has spent a lot of time here, as she preferred Hungarians to her native Austria, and especially her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph. After 1945, the Soviet Army has taken over the building, which has therefore deteriorated rapidly. The castle has been beautifully renovated recently, as well as both the upper and lower gardens. Today, hundreds of tourists a day visit the castle from all over the world.
The wine-producing region of Etyek
While the village and the region comprise, in legal terms, the newest wine-producing region of Hungary, in fact it's the oldest one, as grape production here started in Roman times, as early as the 2nd century AD. During Communist times in Hungary, the entire produce of the region was devoted to champagne manufacturing (Hungarian champagne is very good), because the acid content of the grapes here is ideal for that purpose.
Today, most of the wine produced here is made in small, family-owned units; some vintage wines have won international awards.
Danube Bend Tour
A full-day guided bus tour to important landmarks of Hungarian history and culture. We leave Budapest and visit one of the most beautiful natural reserve areas in Hungary, the Danube Bend.
Starting at the Visegrad Citadel, a formal royal residence and fort, we take a walk in the castle museum and admire the view of the grand S-curve of the river Danube.
The next stop is Esztergom, near the Slovak border, where we have a traditional 3-course Hungarian lunch, and explore the largest church of Hungary, giving home to the seat of the Catholic Church in the country.