Boat on the Dabune river in Budapest, Hungary
Photograph: GTS Productions/

The 9 best day trips from Budapest

Take a trip out of Budapest and discover castle towns, hiking trails, historic villages and one of Europe’s biggest lakes

Adrienn Bardossy

Most travellers make a beeline for Budapest when they visit Hungary, and we can’t blame them: from ruin bars to blissful spas, the Hungarian capital boasts everything you could want from a European city break. But if you find yourself with a bit of extra time, consider taking a day trip from Budapest and exploring the villages, lakes and hiking trails that lie just outside the capital.

Whether it’s the country’s rich historical treasures, its spectacular cuisine or its beautiful nature, you can get a taste of the thousand colours of Hungary at these cool places not far from the city. All reachable within a couple of hours by public transport, here are some of the very best day trips to take from Budapest, according to Budapest-born writer Adrienn Bardossy.


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9 excellent day trips from Budapest

1. Lake Balaton

The largest lake in Central Europe, Lake Balaton stretches nearly 50 miles across the western part of Hungary. Owing to its size and dazzling shade, it’s known as the Hungarian Sea – and it really is the closest thing to an ocean this landlocked nation has. There are nearly 180 towns to explore along its shores, as well as several national parks and protected areas. Weather-dependent, the water is lovely for a dip, with the high season lasting from mid-June to the end of August. Summer, of course, is the best (albeit busiest) time to relax on the lake’s natural beaches, or to hop on board a boat and enjoy the sunset. It’s also well worth visiting the surrounding Balaton wine region and tasting some Hungarian wines, such as the local specialty, Olaszrizling.

How far? 60 miles

Get there… One hour 45 minutes by train from Budapest Déli station to Balatonkenese, the first town by the lake. Once you reach this stop, the train continues to many of the other small villages.

2. Tata

Just under an hour’s drive from Budapest, Tata makes for a great day trip, particularly if you’re a fan of small towns and nature. It’s known as the ‘city of living waters’ for its many lakes and mills, with the vast Old Lake taking centre stage. Graced at its northern tip by the fourteenth-century Tata Castle, the Old Lake is also the most valuable bird habitat in the region. Visit during the migration season – usually the last week of November – to see as many as 50,000 waterfowl resting here every day.

How far? 37 miles

Get there... 56 minutes by bus from Budapest Keleti station to Tatabánya.


3. Rám-szakadék

This popular valley for hiking is just outside the historic village of Dömös, and can be reached by train or bus from Budapest in under two hours (or under an hour if you’re driving). Made up of volcanic rock walls dotted with magnificent waterfalls, the terrain makes for perfect – albeit challenging – hiking conditions. The three-spring valley, which cuts into the block of the Rám hill, is a particularly wild, scenic part of the valley. 

How far? 26 miles

Get there… Around 40 minutes from Batthyány tér metro station on the H5 suburban train to Szentendre, then the 50-minute 880 bus to Dömös. Or around 45 minutes by car.

4. Gödöllő

If you want to take a trip back in time and feel like royalty for the day, the picturesque town of Gödöllő is only a metro ride away from Budapest. Thanks to its location on the outskirts of the city, Gödöllő is a popular spot to live for ex-Budapesters. It’s mainly famous for the eighteenth-century Royal Palace, a favourite residence of Queen of Hungary Empress Sisi, as well as the Szent István University. While you’re in Gödöllő, enjoy a hearty lunch of Central European delicacies at Smarni restaurant, followed by ice cream at Sissi ice-cream parlour. And if you’re in town in December, get properly festive at the Royal Palace’s annual Advent celebrations, which involve everything from puppet shows and concerts to Christmas decoration workshops.

How far? 18 miles

Get there… Around 47 minutes from Örs vezér tere metro station. Catch the H8 suburban train until the final stop, Gödöllő.


5. Visegrád

A castle town on the edge of the Danube river, Visegrád is an ideal day trip destination from Budapest. Though you can get there pretty sharpish via train, if the weather is good and you have time on your hands then we strongly recommend the journey by boat. You’ll take in extraordinary sights as you sail along the Danube, including the beautiful village of Vác and the uninhabited islands along the river. When you reach Visegrád, head to its famous namesake castle to check out medieval performances, traditional weapons and even the odd jousting tournament. The Pálinka Museum is also worth a stop: it’s all about the history and production process of pálinka, the traditional Hungarian fruit spirit.

How far? 27 miles

Get there… Around 40 minutes by train from Budapest Nyugati railway station to Nagymaros-Visegrád.

6. Prédikálószék lookout

Take Instagram-worthy photos of the Danube Bend from Prédikálószék, one of the prominent hills of the Pilis, the Prédikálószék, which translates to ‘Preaching Chair’. At 639 metres tall, this is the third highest point of the Visegrád Hills, and is one of the most famous viewpoints in all of Hungary. It’s very popular among hikers – and if you’re feeling up to it, you can go even higher by climbing an extra 12 metres to the lookout tower. From Budapest, catch the train to Dömös, from where popular hiking trails lead to this dizzyingly high destination.

How far? Just over 26 miles

Get there… Around 40 minutes from Batthyány tér metro station on the H5 suburban train to Szentendre, then the 50-minute 880 bus to Dömös. Start the hiking trail marked with the red triangle.


7. Szentendre Skanzen Village Museum

The first open-air museum in the Hungarian countryside, Szentendre Skanzen opened its doors in 1967. It’s a large-scale display of folk architecture and the culture of traditional village life in Hungary. You can explore the nine areas of the museum by foot or by the Skanzen train, which leaves from the entrance. You can also book in for a wine tasting or goulash cookery class, or mooch around souvenir shops in each of the museum’s spaces. Once you’re done, indulge in some traditional Hungarian cuisine at the Skanzen restaurant or check out the variety of places to eat in the small town of Szentendre. Fancy staying the night? Skanzen even has its own hotel. Take note: the museum is closed throughout the winter and reopens in April.

How far? 13 miles

Get there… Around 40 minutes by train from Batthyány tér metro station. Catch the H5 suburban train to the final stop, Szentendre.

8. Esztergom

See where two countries meet on the shores of the Danube at Esztergom: a Hungarian city connected to the Slovakian town of Štúrovo by the Maria Valeria Bridge. The Basilica of Esztergom, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, is well worth a visit. The city is also home to numerous museums: for treasures dating back to the ninth century, visit the Castle Museum; or to learn about all things water – from the history of navigation to the creation of soda water – visit the aptly named Danube Museum. And if you fancy crossing an international border on your day trip, it’s only a five-minute walk over to Slovakia for a beer.

How far? 25 miles

Get there…  One hour 30 minutes by train from Budapest Nyugati station to Esztergom.


9. Mátrafüred

The picturesque village of Mátrafüred lies at the southern foot of the Mátra Mountains, and it takes less than two hours to get there from Budapest by train or bus. It’s a lovely day trip, but if you have time, stay for longer – there are several great hiking trails through forests in the region, and loads of lovely apartments and wellness hotels waiting to welcome you after a day in the great outdoors. If you want to discover more of the region, take the small railway from Mátrafüred to the town of Gyöngyös. Along the way, you can stop for a wine in the Mátra wine region and taste local whites and rosés.

How far? 52 miles

Get there… Around one hour 20 minutes by the Volán bus from Kacsóh Pongrác út bus stop. Take bus number 1045 and get off directly in Mátrafüred, or get the 1066 to Gyöngyös and change for the 3662 from there to Mátrafüred bus stop.

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