Backpacking in Hungary on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Hungary

Hungary might be small and slightly off the beaten European trail, but that just makes it easier to reach all of its incredible sights, and means they’re less busy when you get there. Win-win.

Whether you’re flying into grand capital city Budapest for a long, relaxing weekend, or staying for longer to soak up everything the country has to offer, backpacking in Hungary is endlessly rewarding. It’s home to several World Heritage sites, and boasts landscapes varying between mountains, plains, lakes, and forests, not to mention dotted with fairytale castles.

We insist you bump Hungary to the top of your European itinerary immediately.

Cities in Hungary

Budapest is undoubtedly the main event on any visit to Hungary. It’s packed with beautiful architecture at every turn, alive with history (in places you can still see the damage from WWII and the 1956 Uprising, alongside numerous war memorials), and a perfect place to explore and relax with a fine glass of wine and a bowl of goulash (other dishes are available). You shouldn’t miss the Royal Palace, the Parliament building at the edge of the Danube, and the quirky ruin bars for all your drinking needs.

No other town or city in Hungary quite matches the grandeur of its capital, but Pécs, located in the Mecsek mountains, is endlessly pretty, and Szentendre is packed with colourful, historical architecture. For a taste of the traditional, head to the village (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) of Hollókö, lying under the walls of a 14th-century castle.

Countryside in Hungary

For a taste of the Hungarian countryside, head to Hortobágy National Park, 25 miles west of Debrecen. Another of Hungary’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it’s home to hundreds of species of bird, and offers a range of beautiful walks. The tiny village that gives it its name offers recreations of cowboy shows and traditional inns.

Elsewhere you’ll find Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe, the Great Plain to the east, and the North Hungarian Mountains to the (well, you can probably guess where they are). Exploring the Hungarian countryside feels like a real adventure, especially when you step out of a forest to find yourself under the battlements of a centuries-old castle. Magic.