From beautiful Budapest – the city of lights – to its many quaint villages and fantastic scenery, Hungary evokes a strong sense of history and tradition at every turn. Yet while Budapest, justifiably compared with cities like Prague and even Paris, is by far the country’s biggest tourist draw, be sure to spend time traveling beyond the capital. Cities and towns of all sizes have preserved their classic old historical attractions, many of which exhibit influences from various cultures, including Turkish invaders and Italian Renaissance designers. And Hungary’s countryside includes some of the most beautiful scenery to be found anywhere in Eastern Europe. In fact, wherever you are in Hungary, you’re never far from spectacular mountains and lakes, beautiful river scenes – the awesome Danube runs right through the country – and lush valleys, all providing great opportunities for hiking and other fun outdoor activities.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary and considered by many to be the “Paris of the East”, is one of the most culturally important metropolises in Eastern Europe and home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although humans have lived here since the Stone Age, this beautiful city only formally came into being in 1872 with the amalgamation of three previously independent towns – Old Buda (Óbuda), Buda and Pest – to become the administrative, commercial and industrial center of Hungary. Straddling the River Danube, Budapest is famous for its stunning architecture and its thermal springs, some of which have been used for therapeutic purposes since prehistory. Today, Budapest attracts more than 20 million visitors annually from across the globe to its countless historical sites, museums and art galleries, as well as its sports halls, stadiums and the Hungaroring Formula 1 racetrack.