Budapest is Hungary’s elegant, historic and let’s be honest very, very beautiful capital city. There are a plethora of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, old walking streets, natural thermal baths, and the glorious Danube River cuts through the city center. But there are also some amazing day trips from Budapest that you shouldn’t miss.
With so much culture and history in the capital, few visitors ever make it outside of Budapest to explore the rest of Hungary. In fact, most visitors aren’t even aware of what there is to see or do outside of the city.
But Hungary isn’t all about Budapest. No, there is much more to see and to experience in the country. Fortunately for travelers, the capital is the perfect base for day trips from Budapest to the rest of the country.
Within easy reach are the many historic Hungarian towns that line the Danube. The beautiful Lake Balaton is just a short drive away and even the neighboring Slovakian capital of Bratislava can be reached easily for a cross-border day excursion.
Hungary has so much more to offer than its capital and once you get out and start to explore you’ll be left wondering why you spent so much time in Budapest, to begin with.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Budapest & Hungary (Travel Guide)
12 Easy & Epic Day Trips from Budapest
1. Lake Balaton
Hungary might be a landlocked country but you can still escape Budapest to visit the ‘Hungarian Sea’ at the huge Lake Balaton. It’s one of the largest freshwater lakes in Europe, being over 200 kilometers in circumference.
You can spend the day exploring quaint lakeside towns and villages, cruising along the water or hiking the many trails around the edge. This makes it one of the best day trips from Budapest.
In summer, things get really exciting at the lake as thousands of locals visit when the sun is out to enjoy the outdoor air and scenery and then to party the night away at the many festivals that are held on the beaches of Lake Balaton.
You may just find that you need more than a one day trip from Budapest to really explore all that the lake has to offer.
Our top recommended tours of Lake Balaton:
- Full-Day Private Tour around Lake Balaton from Budapest by Car with lunch
- Lake Balaton & Herend Tour with Ferry Ride
- Full-Day Tour to North Balaton Lake
- Full-Day South Balaton – Home of Champagne
Debrecen is Hungary’s second-largest city after Budapest and it’s well worth the two hours drive across the country to see and experience a side of Hungarian life that you may miss in the much more touristy capital.
Debrecen is quieter and more peaceful than its larger neighbor too, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to see or do here. Far from it, there are Hungarian museums, historic buildings, and beautiful green parks to stroll through in the city center.
Make sure you check out the Deri Museum while you’re visiting Debrecen for an interesting look at local culture, customs, and traditions that are truly unique to this part of the country.
Our top recommended tours of Debrecen:
- Full-Day Tour to Debrecen and Hortobagy National Park from Budapest
- Budapest Puszta Day Trip with Kecskemet, Horse Show, and Lunch
3. Hortobágy National Park
On the way to Debrecen from Budapest can be found Hungary’s largest national park, Hortobágy. This is a beautiful area of flat grassland that’s historically part of the Hungarian Plains.
It’s a place that’s not only vital to local flora and fauna but to Hungary’s history and culture too, as the plains are where the roots of modern Hungarian traditions evolved from.
Hortobágy is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the protected region encompasses an area of 800 square kilometers. Visit the village of Hortobágy itself too to experience Hungarian folklore and to see displays of horsemanship from the locals.
Our top recommended tour of Hortobágy National Park:
The small town of Hévíz is famous in Hungary for being the site of the world’s second-largest thermal lake. Anyone that has ever visited Hungary knows that the country is essentially built on thermal springs.
One of the favorite past times of Hungarians is to sit back and relax in the many thermal spas across the country.
At Hévíz, it can be found one of the best spa experiences in Hungary and even in the cold depths of winter the water rarely drops much below 24 degrees Celsius in the thermal lake.
Spa opportunities abound in Hévíz, but more than this, Hévíz also offers opportunities to explore the Roman ruins and bath culture that began here centuries ago and that laid the foundations for the modern spa experience today.
Our top recommended tours of Hévíz:
- Private Thermal Lake Hévíz Visit from Budapest
- Budapest Luxurious Day at Hévíz by Private Helicopter
- Balaton Area Tour: Hévíz, Keszthely, Badacsony
The town of Szentendre lies just 20 kilometers north of Budapest’s city center but a day trip to this traditional Hungarian town will be a real escape from the crowded streets and city life of the Hungarian capital.
Szentendre is well known for its ethnography museum, which details Hungarian culture and folklore in an open-air setting.
The quaint cobbled streets are perfect for a peaceful stroll while around town there are many more unique museums, churches, and galleries to explore too.
Our top recommended tours of Szentendre:
- Danube Bend Day Trip from Budapest
- Full-Day Private Tour of Godollo Sisi Castle and Szentendre
- Private Danube Bend Day Trip from Budapest
- Szentendre Half-Day Sightseeing Trip from Budapest
On the border with Slovakia and on the banks of the Danube is the small yet historic city of Esztergom. Before Buda became the capital of an emerging Hungarian Kingdom in medieval times, Esztergom was the seat of royalty in the country.
Today, its importance is still pronounced, and the city remains the seat of the important Roman Catholic Church in Hungary.
The highlight of a trip here is a visit to the impressive Castle Hill and the magnificent palace, while across the river you can even see Slovakia, and you might want to even stroll across the bridge to visit the neighboring country.
Our top recommended tours of Esztergom:
- Danube Bend Day Trip from Budapest
- Private Helicopter Tour: Budapest Little Danube Bend and Esztergom Flight Including Transfers
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This lovely riverside town is the perfect day trip from Budapest. This is one of Hungary’s many beautiful, historic towns, but what really sets Visegrád apart from other towns along the Danube is the ruin of a 13th-century castle that is found overlooking the river.
The centuries-old walls and towers are well preserved but the hike from the town to the hill the castle is built upon is steep and can be tough. The views over the surrounding countryside are worth every uphill step though.
Our top recommended tours of Visegrád:
8. Gödöllő Palace
In the countryside north of Budapest is one of Hungary’s most magnificent buildings, the Gödöllő Palace. Hungary was for centuries ruled by royalty and the extravagance and wealth of the royal family culminated in the building of this palace in the late 18th century.
The building and gardens have in recent years been extensively restored after decades of use by Soviet troops during the cold war and today the palace is open for viewings and tours to the public, offering a unique insight into one of the most important families and buildings in Hungarian history.
Our top recommended tours of Gödöllő:
- Godollo Palace and Traditional Farm Trip with Horse Show and Carriage Ride
- Sisi’s Godollo Palace Tour from Budapest
- Godollo Palace and Magic Hungary Horse Show from Budapest
Kecskemét is south of Budapest and found on the great rolling plains of Hungary. The city itself is beautiful to visit, with colorful buildings and architecture waiting to be explored, but the real attraction is a visit to the surrounding areas.
Close to Kecskemét are traditional horse farms and locals host regular festivals displaying horsemanship skills and traditional Hungarian culture out on the plains.
The land here is exceptionally fertile too and there are many wineries and brandy distilleries serving up fruity Hungarian beverages to visitors.
The most famous is the local Palinka, an apricot flavored brandy that’s loved across the country.
Our top recommended tours of Kecskemét:
- Puszta Great Plains and Kecskemet Day Trip from Budapest
- Kecskemét, Puszta Plains, and Horse Show Tour from Budapest
Hollókő is an intriguing and fascinating ethnographic village located north of Budapest. The village is one big open-air museum, recognized by UNESCO as an important piece of Hungarian history.
Hollókő gives visitors the chance to experience traditional local traditions and folklore in a unique, countryside setting. It’s an insight into what life was like for Hungarian villagers for hundreds of years.
Nearby you can also find the crumbling ruins of the Hollókő castle, a defensive structure which lorded over the village for centuries from its position atop the area’s largest and most distinct hill.
The castle’s setting and the views from the ramparts are as magnificent as the preserved ethnographic village of Hollókő.
Our top recommended tour of Hollókő:
11. Aggtelek National Park
Aggtelek National Park is found in the north of Hungary and although it’s a long day trip from Budapest it’s worth the early start to visit the country’s most spectacular underground caves.
Found within this national park are 280 different caves of varied shapes, sizes, depths, and lengths. The most spectacular of these hundreds of caves is Baradla, which at 26 kilometers long is Europe’s largest stalactite cave.
It’s so long, that part of the cave actually crosses beneath the border with Slovakia. Many of the caves can be explored with qualified guides but the surrounding landscapes above ground are equally stunning too, and the whole national park is under the protection of UNESCO.
Our top recommended tour of Aggtelek National Park:
Follow the Danube north from Budapest and eventually you reach Slovakia and Bratislava. It’s possible to do this journey by boat, but the quickest way if you are looking for a cross-border day trip from Budapest is to take the fast train or to drive.
In two hours you will be in a new country. Bratislava is a small city, and it’s easy to explore the cobbled streets of the old town and to experience a taste of Slovakian culture on a day trip here.
Bratislava’s castle is an illustrious affair while intriguing statues and museums line the streets of the city. The city is very green too, with numerous parks and even a few accessible hiking trails that can be tackled around the capital, in a place where urban life meets nature.
Our top recommended tours of Bratislava:
- Local Secrets of Bratislava Small Group Tour Including Picnic and a Trolleybus ride
- Bratislava City Highlights Walking Tour
- Bratislava by Night: Walking Tour
- Bratislava Private City and Castle Tour
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