Of course, your journey starts in Budapest, the capital of the country.
Budapest has managed to assert itself between the other cool capitals of Europe. The city is no longer in the shadows, as it can easily keep up with Vienna (because of the architecture), Berlin (because of the party scene), or Prague (in terms of price).
It's best to take a few days to discover the countless treasures of this city of around 2 million inhabitants.
You might trip over a few pair of shoes while walking through the old town along the Danube. The art installation of 60 pairs of shoes on the banks of the Danube is a monument to victims of the Second World War. Two major monuments of the city are hard to miss: the Fishermen's Bastion and the Buda Castle. From the Bastion, you’ll have an incredible view over the city while also feeling like you were transported back to a past century. The Buda Castle was built in the 13th century and is now part of the world cultural heritage. It also houses the Hungarian National Gallery. On your cultural trip, make sure to visit the Great Synagogue. Saying it’s big isn’t an overstatement, as it is the second largest Jewish church in the world.
With so much culture, you can get hungry – and you are in luck. Budapest doesn’t disappoint either when it comes to food. In the big market hall, there is a huge choice of Hungarian delicacies. At the market stalls you can try your hand at whatever you feel like. Are you looking for a really unique location for a small beer? Then you have to visit Szimpla Kert. The huge industrial building in the Jewish Quarter is like a labyrinth of bars, art, and junk, making it the perfect location to turn night into day.
You’ll get to meet other backpackers by staying at one of Budapest’s countless hostels. You can stay downtown and can get a bed in an 8-person dorm for €16 a night.
Your journey continues to Lake Balaton. The journey takes about 3 hours by train and costs €6.
Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in Europe and a popular summer holiday destination. Revfülöp is one of the smaller towns on the north shore of the lake and still offers everything your backpacker heart desires. The nature in this region is simply breathtaking. From the Revfülöp mountain, at the foot of which the town lies, you have an incredible view over the almost 200 km long lake and the surrounding villages. In addition, there’s plenty of vineyards on the mountain, so a hike is definitely worthwhile.
Since the region around the lake is very flat, a bike is the ideal means of transport to explore the area. For example, you can cycle a few kilometers, refresh yourself in the pleasantly cool lake and then take a boat back to your starting point.
In the center of Revfülöp there are several restaurants where you can recharge your energy reserves after the bike ride. How about a portion of goulash and a glass of wine from one of the local wineries?
You can get a bed in a 6-person dorm for €12 a night at one of the city’s hostels.
You’ll take a trip across the country to reach your next destination – Debrecen. It’s faster to go by train, and this way, you’ll also be able to enjoy the stunning landscape. The trip costs about €20 and lasts 5 hours.
With only 200,000 inhabitants, Debrecen is the second largest city in Hungary and is a popular city for young Hungarians to study. Therefore, you will find a colorful nightlife, hip bars and many leisure activities besides the impressive architecture. The town's landmark is the protestant church built in 1922 and from the two church towers you have an incredible view over the wide plains of the region. Just outside the town you will find absolute peace and quiet in the Hortobágy National Park. The park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and serves to protect the native plant and animal species.
In spring and summer there are many festivals in and around Debrecen. Every year the Campus Festival brings together national and international artists and turns the city into a hotspot for music lovers.
You can get a bed in an 8-person dorm for €11 a night at one of Debrecen’s hostels.
You’ll continue your trip to the north of the country, near the Slovakian border and through the Cserhat Mountains. You’ll take the train and the bus for about 5 hours for €15.
The village of Holloko is a living relic from a time long gone. The typical white Palóc houses with their wooden verandas and slate roofs are hundreds of years old and are under the protection of the UNESCO world heritage. The locals here are committed to preserving their traditions and you can see young and old in their traditional dress, and in the guest houses you can enjoy traditional Hungarian cuisine such as Polác stew.
Holloko literally translates as “Raven Stone”, because according to the legend, a young girl was kidnapped by a lord of the castle. The girl's nurse, with the help of the devil himself, was able to free the girl, as the devil sent his sons in the form of ravens to remove the stones of the castle where the girl was held. A truly historical city.
There are no typical backpacker hostels in Holloko, but there are some cosy guest houses. A night in a double room will cost you €25.
From Holloko we continue to the next historical town – Visegrad at the Danube bend and the Danube Ipoly National Park. The bus ride takes only about 2 hours and will cost you €10.
Visegrad is best known for its citadel, a self-contained fortress that used to be of great importance in times of war. Once a year, the palace organizes games, and knights and jugglers of all kinds show off life in the fortress. There are exhibitions and workshops all year round, where you can try your hand at archery, for example.
Due to its strategically ideal location on the Visegrád Mountains and the Danube, the town was already important during the time of the Roman Empire and has always proved to be a base for military undertakings.
In the city center, make sure to visit the Görgey House. It is the house where the Hungarian general Artúr Görgey lived during the time of the freedom fights between 1948 and 1949. In Hungary, opinions are divided about whether he is a hero or a traitor, and in the exhibition, you can make your own picture of his life and deeds.
You can get a double room for 22€ per night at one of the town’s guesthouses, and after everything you’ve seen, you’ll probably dream of knights and damsel.
From Visegrad you can easily take the train to Budapest airport and start your journey home.