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Excursions in Budapest and its surroundings



The Buda Hills have always been a frequented destination for those who wish to enjoy nature within easy reach of the capital. One of the most popular sites located there is Normafa, as it is a perfect starting point for excursions to János-hegy, Széchenyi-hegy, or the environs of Hárshegy, Makkosmária or Budakeszi. Normafa refers to a giant beech tree which witnessed a memorable performance of Norma’s aria in 1840 by Mrs. Schodel, a celebrated diva of the age. The tree was later struck by lightning, but lived until 1927. From the hilltop of Normafa, hikers can enjoy a magnificent view of the city while eating homemade “rétes” from the buffet next door, fly kites in the nearby meadow or watch their children play at the playground. In winter, one can go sledding on the slopes of Normafa Hill or take lessons at Normafa ski school.

The forests are mostly made up of oak, ash and beech trees and thick undergrowth. Despite the closeness of the city and the great number of day-trippers, the wildlife of the area is still quite rich. Squirrels and hedgehogs are the most common small game. The warbling of the black woodpecker, which nests in the hollows of old beech trees, can often be heard, but owls, buzzards, hawks, titmice and blackbirds live in the foliage as well. Occasionally foxes, deer and wild boars can also be spotted. The area belongs to the Danube-Ipoly Nature Reserve; all plants and animals are under strict protection.

How to get there
By public transport: Buses #21 from Moszkva tér
By Children’s Railway from Hűvösvölgy
By car: from Hűvösvölgy or Déli pályaudvar (heavy traffic on weekends!)

A walk from Normafa to János-hegy (János hill)

The Erzsébet Lookout tower on János-hegy can be reached by a 30-minute walk from Normafa. The 23.5-metre high, circular, terraced tower was built in the Neo-Romanesque style in the early 1900s, and is the highest peak in Budapest (527m). The tower was named after Queen Elisabeth (wife of Emperor and King Francis Joseph I), who in 1882 made an excursion to the hilltop.

The lookout offers a spectacular panorama of Budapest and the surrounding hills, and on clear days it is also possible to see the High Tatra mountains to the north in Slovakia.

János-hegy can also be reached by the Zugliget Chairlift (Libegő), and the Children’s Railway (Gyermekvasút) also has a stop there.

A walk to Széchenyi-hegy (Széchenyi Hill)

The Széchenyi-hegy Lookout and monument is a perfect destination for a walk around the Buda Hills. The terminal station of the Children’s Railway is located here and the cogwheel railway goes up here too, but the hilltop can also be reached by a 20-minute walk from Normafa.

The cogwheel railway (BKV Line #60) was opened in 1874 with a section of only 2.8 kilometres. It was the third of its kind to be built in Europe after the still-running Rigi railway and the Kahlenberg railway in Vienna. The line was extended in 1890 to run to the top of Széchenyi-hegy. The railway is part of the public transport (BKV) network, so normal BKV tickets are valid on it. Bicycles can also be transported on the train.

Hiking to Makkosmária

There is a pleasant hiking trail in the forest from Normafa to Makkosmária, a Christian pilgrimage site. In a nice clearing in the forest we come upon Makkosmária Relic Church, an ideal place for quiet contemplation. According to legend, in 1731 a young man had a wonderful vision here: the suffering Christ suddenly appeared to him in front of an oak tree. Later he fell seriously ill and is said to have promised himself to mark the place of his vision in case he recovered from the illness. Following his recovery, he bought an oil painting (the copy of which can be seen today) of the Holy Mary with Child, and hung the picture on the oak tree.


The Children's Railway is a mini train operating in the hilly outskirts of Buda between Hűvösvölgy and Széchenyi-hegy. The 11km-long line is operated by children aged 10 to 14 except for the locomotives, which are driven by adults. Apart from that, children do all of the jobs, operate the switches and signals, print tickets and keep passengers informed on their own. The railway is the successor of the former Pioneer Railway and was built between 1948-50.

The Children’s Railway possesses several vehicles with a historical background. They are industrial relics as well as unique curiosities, and are very popular with passengers. The most popular of all are the steam locomotives. Two of them operate on the Children's Railway, both authentic steam engines running on coal and steam and with a history of decades of active service. Steam-hauled heritage trains are scheduled on weekends and public holidays throughout the year.

The trains stop at various tourist attraction sites. Normafa Station and Viragvölgy Station are located near to Normafa. There’s a stop at János-hegy and the Zugliget Chairlift. The Budakeszi Wildlife Park is accessible from Vadaspark or Szepjuhászné Station, and the ruins of a mediaeval monastery can be found just a few hundred metres from there.

The railway operates throughout the year, except on Mondays between September and April. Trains run from 9:00 to 17:00 in winter, and to 19:00 in summer.


Budapest is often referred to as the city of spas, but few might know that it also deserves to be called the city of caves too, as approximately 200 smaller and bigger caves can be found under the capital. These caves were formed by the same springs and streams that supply the thermal baths with water today. The majority of the caves were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, when residential and drainage construction works were carried out. Budapest has nine highly-protected caves, with three open to the public.

Pálvölgyi Cave

The cave was discovered in 1904, during stone extraction. The speleologists found long passages and beautiful stalagmite formations. It was soon opened to the public, equipped with electric lighting in 1927. It has been protected as a nature reserve since 1944.  In 2001, a link with the neighbouring Mátyáshegyi Cave was discovered, and as a result this cave system became the second-longest known in Hungary with a length of 18km. 500 metres of its length is paved, lit and may be visited. Guided tours are organised for visitors every hour with a duration of 50 minutes. There is a constant temperature of around 10°C and high humidity in the cave, so warm clothing and wellingtons are recommended. There are ladders and steep stairs, so the visit is not recommended for the physically challenged, nor for children under 5.

Pálvölgyi barlang, Budapest II., Szépvölgyi út 162.
Phone: +36-1-325-9505

Szemlőhegyi Cave

In the vicinity of Pálvölgyi Cave, another smaller but completely different cave can be seen. The entrance was discovered in 1930 during construction works, and later a total length of 2,200 metres was revealed. The steep and high walls are decorated with minerals that look like cauliflower, bouquets or bunches of grapes, which is why the cave is called the underground flower garden. Guided tours are organised for visitors every hour. The temperature is a constant 8°C, so warm clothing and wellingtons are recommended. Thanks to recent renovations, the cave can be visited in a wheelchair as well.

Szemlőhegyi barlang, Budapest II. Pusztaszeri út 35.

Castle Cave
The passages of the original cave were formed by natural springs that dissolved the cementation of the rock. The cavities of the cave were later connected and transformed by the population of the Castle District and authorities to form a labyrinth of passages and cellars. It was used as a shelter and storage, and was later reinforced by a concrete foundation for military purposes. Guided tours are organised daily, which last about 50 minutes.

Várbarlang, I. Budapest, Országház utca 16.


The Budakeszi Wildlife Park, a nature reserve, is in a large and protected forest of 26 hectares. Within its tangle of greenery, all sorts of birds and wild creatures can be seen – mainly those indigenous to the region and some others which have been brought in over the years. You will see many birds and squirrels, hedgehogs, wolves, foxes, deer, buffalos and wild boars. The forest can be navigated using a network of paths.

Every season has its unique features: spring flowers, autumn colours, summer jungle. There are stands at various places where you can wait and watch for some of the birds and animals to appear.

There is also a viewpoint on top of the hill, from where you can admire the view of the surrounding hills: the Hárs-, Hármashatár-, Csiki-, Kakukk-, Pozsonyi-, János- and Fekete-hegy.

A park with benches and open-pit fireplaces make recreation here even more perfect.

How to get there
By public transport: Bus # 22 from Moszkva tér
By Children’s Railway: Vadaspark Station

Tel.: 06-23-451-783


The Grassalkovich Palace in Gödöllő is one of the most important monuments of Hungarian Palace architecture. The building is surrounded by a park and a palm house and an arboretum supplement the complex.
The construction of the palace began around 1733 upon the order of Count Antal Grassalkovich. After several enlargements and modifications during the 18th century, the building gained a double-U shape. Its present form was established in the time of the third generation of the Grassalkovich family. By then, the building had 8 wings, and - besides the residential part – it encompassed a church, theatre, riding hall, hothouse, greenhouse for flowers and an orange house.

Count Grassalkovich had a palace garden constructed, which was divided into an upper and lower garden by the palace itself. The garden was created in a French style, with Versailles serving as a model. An outstandingly unique feature of this formal garden was that it was not placed in front of the main facade, but is a continuation of the inner court bordered by the wings of the palace. The formal garden also had a great reputation for its plants uncommon to Hungary, as well as its statues inspired by mythology.

In 1867, the palace was bought for the Crown and was designated the second residence of the Hungarian Monarch. This state lasted until 1918, with Emperor and King Francis Joseph (1867-1916) and later Charles IV and the royal family spending some time in Gödöllő every year. During this period, the Palace became the symbol of independent Hungarian statehood, and, as a residential centre, it had political significance. Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) in particular loved staying in Gödöllő, where the Hungarian personnel and neighbourhood of the Palace always warmly welcomed her. Following her tragic death, a memorial park adjoining the upper garden was built. The period of the royal decades also brought enlargements and modifications. The suites were made more comfortable, and a marble stable and cart house were built. The riding hall was rebuilt.

After 1945, the Palace, like many other buildings in Hungary, fell into decay.

The reconstruction of the palace and the Kinghill Pavilion was completed in 2004. The task of performing an overall reconstruction of the park, which is of outstanding cultural importance in Europe, is to be completed in the near future.

How to get there:
By public transport: the HÉV from Örs vezér tere
By car: M3 motorway



Next to the village of Mogyoród, the sole Formula 1 race track in Central Europe receives thousands of visitors at the Hungarian Grand Prix in August every year.

How to get there:
By car – M3 motorway



Due to its picturesque appearance and easy rail and river access, the town of Szentendre, south of Visegrád, has become a popular destination for tourists staying in Budapest. Since the 1500s, Szentendre has been considered the centre of the Hungarian Serb community. At one point it had as many as eight Serbian Orthodox church buildings and three chapels, while only one Roman Catholic and Lutheran church each. In the 1700s, after liberation from the Turks, Szentendre enjoyed a rebirth with a Mediterranean flavour, as Serbian, Croatian, Slovak, German and Greek newcomers moved in and lived alongside the Magyar inhabitants. The town to this day is characterised by a southern European atmosphere. It is well worth spending at least a day strolling down the narrow cobbled streets and climbing winding steps amongst small Baroque and Zopf style houses. The town is also well-known for its museums, contemporary galleries, and folk art shops. You shouldn’t miss the Margit Kovács Museum and the Open-Air Ethnographic Museum (or village museum), which introduces Hungarian folk architecture and culture.



The picturesque Visegrád is situated at the exit of a loop in the Danube Bend about 40km north of Budapest. This historical town is a popular destination for excursions due to the ruins of the royal palace and the views from the 13th century citadel.

Fellegvár (Citadel)

After the invasion of the Mongols in 1241, which Visegrád also fell victim to, King Béla IV built castles to defend the land. He founded the fortification on the Castle Hill in 1250. A lower castle was built with a defended residential tower in the centre (Solomon Tower), which was connected by a wall to a massive citadel on the hill (upper castle).  A marked road in the middle of the town leads up to the 315m-high citadel, which is still a majestic sight today, even from a distance. Arriving up to the terrace of this castle, you’ll be treated to a splendid view over the Danube Bend. The fortress was further expanded by the successors of Béla until Matthias, and was of great political importance as the place where the royal insignia were kept for a while. Despite repeated sieges and conquests, the castle survived the Turkish wars but not the punitive expedition of the Habsburgs against the Rákóczi uprising in 1702. Since then, it has remained in ruins and is open to visitors. The middle of the castle, which is surrounded by several protective walls and fortified with a system of gates, narrow passages and drawbridges, consists of three wings around an enclosed courtyard (upper castle yard), which form an irregular triangle. In the eastern wing is the treasury tower, the former storage area of the royal insignia. A steep staircase leads up to the reconstructed Inner Tower in the east, which has the best views of the landscape of the Danube Bend.

Királyi Palota (Royal Palace)

The first royal palace in Visegrád was built under King Charles Robert after he and his court moved to the village in 1316. More than one hundred years later, King Matthias extended the residence and rebuilt it for himself and his wife Beatrix. Matthias summoned Italian-trained artists to Visegrád, which then became an artistic and cultural centre of the early Renaissance in Hungary. The praise heaped upon it by contemporaries gives an indication of the palace's former splendour; the Italian humanist Antonio Bonfini (1427-1503) wrote the following: "The magnificent dining rooms have splendid coffered ceilings. There are also halls with gilded columns and homely rooms, exquisite marble fountains, impressive window grilles, delightful ballrooms, fortified treasure rooms and splendid courtyards with tall marble fountains. There is no lack of gardens; below open colonnades the scent of stocks waft, all kinds of boxwood trees line beautiful promenades. Among the wide clearings in the gardens, there would be enough space for council chambers. No less attractive to the visitor are the shimmering green canals, the fish ponds, the show jumping ground and the extensive horse racing track along the banks of the Danube" (quoted from: Janus Pannonius, Humanists in Hungary). During the Turkish wars, the complex fell into decay and later into oblivion; what was not buried by the sliding masses of earth was used as a quarry.

Today, parts of the former palace are being reconstructed, and the site can be visited. In July, the 3-day-long Visegrád Palace Games recall the world of knights’ tournaments.


Three sites on the neighbouring peaks are worth mentioning: one is the remains of a Roman military camp on Sibrik Hill, built around 330 AD.

The second site is the Nagyvillám Enterntainment Centre, with a lookout tower on Fekete-hegy. Here you can find the biggest hiking centre in the vicinity of the capital, with 2 bobsled runs, canopy, mini golf, a yurt camp, forest restaurant, playgrounds and wildlife park.


The third place to visit is the Apátkút Valley: you’ll find the Ördögmalom Waterfall here, the Magdalena Spring and the Telegáthy Pasture, an ideal place for a picnic.


The village of Zebegény lies north of Visegrád on the left riverbank in the Danube Bend. The village is known for the magnificent view from the slopes of its hillside of the Visegrád Citadel and landscape.  The village has been a popular recreation area and holiday resort since the end of the 19th century, as is shown by the considerable number of villas.

Although the first reference to "Zebeguen" is found in a 1295 charter, the settlement itself came into existence much later. Its first residents were Slavic foresters, and German settlers were later brought from the Mainz region (Germany) around 1735. They founded the region's famous wine culture that was so important in the life of the village until the end of the 19th century, when a grape pest devastated the vineyards. A famous resident of the town was the painter István Szőnyi (1894-1960), who lived and painted here from the 1920's until the end of his life.

Today, Zebegény is a popular hiking place with several trails in the surrounding forest. It is worth visiting the Sunflower Houses (Napraforgó házak) in the village.

How to get there from Budapest:
By car: Route #A2, #2 and #12
By public transport: local trains to Szob from Nyugati Rail Station.
The nearby ferry at Szob connects Zebegény to the other side of the Danube.


The medieval town of Esztergom is a highly popular tourist destination. The town lies next to the Danube riverside, at the feet of the Pilis Hills. It is nested between the Danube from the West and Vaskapu Hill from the East.

Esztergom was the first capital of Hungary and remained so for 250 years during the Árpád era. It is the birthplace and coronation of the country’s first king, St Stephen. The city has long been the seat of the Archbishop of the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church, and as such boasts the largest cathedral in Hungary and the Prímási Palota (Primate Palace). It is the official seat of the Constitutional Court and the centre of the Euroregion of Ister-Granum.
Visitors arriving from either directions are captured by the sight of Castle Hill emerging over the city, with its medieval castle and the huge Basilica.

Várhegy (Castle Hill) is the best starting point for a visit, as we can learn a lot about the town’s and the country’s history there. The Royal Castle, Basilica, ecclesiastical treasury and huge statue of St Stephen’s coronation at the citadel are all located here. There is also a magnificent view of the Danube from the hilltop, the Mária-Valéria Bridge (connecting the town to Slovakia), Viziváros and Saint Thomas Hill.

Prince Géza – father of St Stephen - established the royal seat on Várhegy. The remains of the Palace of Béla III, renovated in the 20th century along with its Gothic chapel, are significant architectural monuments in Europe. Inside the castle, there is a well-organised exhibition, and medieval building sections and fresco remains can also be seen here.

The Esztergom Cathedral, built in the Classicist style, is the biggest church in Hungary and enjoys the highest prestige. Its length is 118m, its width 49m and height 100m. Two towers 57m high are connected to the tympanon of the main entrance via arcades on both sides. The altarpiece boasts the largest oil painting in the world on a single piece of canvas. The renaissance Bakócz Chapel – a part of the basilica’s predecessor, the Adalbert Cathedral - was incorporated as part of the Basilica during its construction.  Masterpieces of the world-famous ecclesiastical treasury can be found on the cathedral’s first floor. As the richest ecclesiastical relic collection in Hungary, its goldsmith and textile collection is outstanding even on an international level.

The town is rich in museums, monuments and beautiful sites, such as the Christian Museum, the Bálint Balassa Museum, the Library of the Cathedral, the small Danube riverbank along Primate Island, the Danube Museum and Széchenyi Square, and the main square of the town surrounded by Baroque and Rococo buildings.

The Christian Museum has one of richest collections in Hungary, boasting several notable treasures of medieval Hungarian and European fine art. The museum contains more than 10,000 masterpieces of fine and industrial design. It also has a significant collection of graphics, coins and religious ethnography of around 2,000 objects; the Christ Coffin by Garamszentbenedek, the Passion painting by Master M.S. and the Resurrecting Christ by Hans Memling are among its treasures.


What Esztergom is to the right bank of the Danube, Vác is to the left. Although this town may be a few decades younger, and is a lower grade diocese than Esztergom, it is one of the most beautiful Baroque-Classicist Hungarian towns. Vác is an ecclesiastical centre; its bishopric was founded by King Stephen I. The present inner town dating from the 18th century was created by the unification of two formerly-separate settlements: a German-speaking and a Hungarian town, while its medieval structure was preserved. The murals in the dome of the bishopric’s cathedral, which was built during the early Baroque, late Classicist period, were painted by the greatest Baroque artist in Central Europe, F. A. Maulbertsch. It is worth visiting the Museum of Church History in the provostry. “Memento Mori” is an exhibition that is one-of-a-kind in Europe, and displays 200–300-year-old burial relics and naturally-mummified corpses. The most special of the secular attractions is the Triumphal Arch, erected in honour of Empress Maria Theresa’s visit to the area.

Vác today is a lively commercial and spiritual place on the left riverbank. While taking a walk in the centre, don’t miss the Váci Dessert Salon (web:, a patisserie offering delicious cakes.



To explore the Danube Bend in a very pleasant way, you may want to take a cruise on a leisure boat or hydrofoil instead of driving or travelling by rail or road.

You can hire a boat or just pay for a ride or excursion on one of the scheduled cruise ships offered by Mahart Shipping Company. The scheduled cruise ship to Szentendre stops at Budapest Vígadó tér, Batthyány tér and the town centre of Szendtendre, while the one to Esztergom has stops in Vác, Visegrád, Nagymaros and Esztergom. Hydrofoil ships also cruise between Budapest and Visegrád, as well as between Budapest and Esztergom.


PRIVATE ZOO IN ABONY (Abonyi magánállatkert)

The Abony Private Zoo has a special cosy atmosphere. Visitors are allowed to cuddle and feed tamed and baby animals already accustomed to this habit, and let themselves be loved. Nearly 200 animals of African, Asian, Australian and European origin can be seen and studied here.

There are also special programmes and facilities for children, such as coach riding, horse riding and sleighing in winter, and a vast meadow with a playground is also available. There are open fireplaces for barbecue parties where adults can also enjoy the park while eating. In winter, hot tea and wine are served to visitors.

How to get there:
Abony is an hour’s drive from Budapest and may be reached from Route No 4.

2740 Abony, Bajtárs út 1.

VERESEGYHÁZA BEAR FARM (Veresegyházi Medvefarm)

The Veresegyháza Bear Farm is located in a small village near Budapest. The farm has been open to the public since 1998 on an area of 4.7 acres. 3.1 acres are populated by brown bears and 1.6 acres are dedicated to the wolves. The creators of the park kept in mind the aim of presenting these animals in their natural environment as much as possible. The bears live and hide among pine trees, and their peace is ensured by eight artificial caves. In summer, ponds are created to provide them with drinking water, fish and also for their enjoyment. There is hardly anything more spectacular than brown bears paddling on their backs in their artificial ponds!

Bears are playful and contentious, tame and wild at the same time. They can be kind and loving but also fearful. It often happens that for a bite of apple, carrot or honey, they will escort you on your tour. If you have some honey and a wooden spoon with you (you can get these at the bar in the park) you can feed the bears at your own pleasure.

The wolves (26) have been living in Veresegyháza since 2000. Two packs live on their own territory, full of bushy greenery, in their natural surroundings. To the delight of visitors, a rare wolf, the white wolf, can also be seen at the farm.

2112 Veresegyház, Patak u. 39.


The range of fishing spots in this area is vast. There are the rivers – the Danube’s Szentendre and Ráckeve side streams and the Ipoly, which is one of the most romantic fishing waters. In addition to those, there are also over 100 fishing lakes of differing sizes


Tordas is a charming little village situated 30 kilometres from Budapest, in the valley of the Szent László Stream. Leaving the village in the direction of Öreghegy (Old Hill), there is a beautiful artificial fishing lake nearby with isles and bridges, accompanied by a nice “csárda” (restaurant) serving Hungarian food right on the shore, amongst a playground and a bushy green environment. An animal farm is located next to the lake, where typical Hungarian wild animals can be seen, such as deer and wild boars.

It is a peaceful, clean and attractive place to visit, especially with children, where there are many things to do: horse riding, animal taming, fishing, excursions, tennis, barbecue, or you can just contemplate nature in a beautiful environment.

How to get there:
By car: M7 motorway, Martonvásár exit, direction of Tordas and Gyúró
Route 70 through Martonvásár

The natural reserve of the Pilis Hills, to the south of Esztergom and Visegrád and north of Szentendre, is an easy day trip from Budapest. In former times, the ranges to the north of Budapest were pilgrimage sites, and many have fascinating names like Hideglelős Kereszt (Shivering Cross) and Predikáló Szék (Preacher's Seat). In fact, some hiking trails even depart from within the city limits, and the town of Pomáz on the HÉV suburban train is an ideal departure point.

Unlike the Börzsöny to the north, the Pilis was formed from sedimentary limestone and dolomite, and features rocky limestone outcrops, caves and an extensive network of deep valleys and hiking trails easily accessible from all three of the main tourist towns: Esztergom, Visegrád and Szentendre. Just south of Visegrád, the peaks of Dobogókő and Nagyvillám are only around 700 meters high, but offer a beautiful panorama, with skiing in winter and bobsledding in summer, respectively. The trail from Dömös to Dobogókő is a particular favourite, leading up to the imaginatively-named Rám Szakadék (a wordplay on "rám szakad", "it's falling on me," and "szakadék," ravine), which can be scaled by clinging onto a metal chain. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are dozens of other interesting sights to explore, as well as a number of simple country restaurants, particularly in Nagyvillám and Pilisszentkereszt.


In contrast to the Pilis Hills to the south and across the Danube, the Börzsöny range to the north of the Danube consists of dormant volcanic hills, deep valleys, and oak and beech slopes. Along its many hiking and cycling trails, light-footed explorers frequently come across stags, wild boar and moufflon, as well as a score of fortresses dating back to the resistance of the Turkish occupation. One of many popular routes is to take the ferry from Visegrád to Nagymaros before approaching Nagyhideghegy by narrow gauge railway. Literally translated as Large Cold Mountain, Nagyhideghegy is popular for its fantastic views of the Börzsöny range and the Danube, but a climb up any of the Börzsöny range's many volcanic peaks (e.g. Csóványos) is richly rewarded.

Kemence Forest Train
The Forest Museum Train in Kemence is located in the northern part of the Börzsöny.

Web :

Királyrét Forest Train
One of the oldest of Hungary’s forest trains. It runs through the valley of Morgó Creek, which collects the waters from the largest basins of the Börzsöny, from the Danube Bend through the town of Szokolya to Királyrét.

The Nagybörzsöny Mini Train is the only top-switch train line in Hungary, winding through eight kilometres, from Nagybörzsöny to Nagyirtáspuszta.

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