The best day trips from Budapest, Hungary – a full guide to the top cities and places to visit near Budapest.
Located right in the heart of Hungary on the Danube river, Budapest is an excellent base for short trips and excursions all over the country. There are plenty of fascinating destinations within easy reach from Budapest by train, boat or bus. The beautiful scenery of the countryside charms with preserved historic towns, royal palaces and vast wine regions.
As I spent almost 4 days in the city, my itinerary wasn’t too packed. I had enough time to explore the city in depth. Also, I took a day trip to Gödöllő Palace.
It was late autumn, not the perfect time for a Danube cruise. So I opted for a day trip from Budapest by train. I took a look at some destinations, but when I found out that there is a royal palace in Gödöllő, I was sold.
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The best day trips from Budapest, Hungary
These four short trips from Budapest are the most popular ones. You can easily reach each place in less than an hour using a boat or a suburban train. Plan your journey using the Hungarian Railways (MAV).
Detailed timetables of the suburban trains, you can find on Budapesti Közlekedési Központ.
For closer destinations like Szentendre, you can also take a boat. However, if you want to get to Visegrád or Esztergom, I strongly suggest you take the hydrofoil. It’s much quicker than a regular boat. For example, a boat trip to Esztergom takes 4 hours in comparison to 1:30 hours with a hydrofoil.
Szentendre is one of the four Danube Bend towns and it’s the closest one to Budapest. In fact, this is one of the most popular day tours from Budapest, Hungary. This picturesque riverside town has a unique art atmosphere. With its colourful baroque houses and cobbled-stone streets, it’s the perfect setting for a romantic city escape.
Highlights include the Marzipan Museum, Blagoveštenska Church and the Art Mill (art gallery housed in an old mill). The Szabó-Szamos Marzipan Museum presents unique sculptures made entirely of marzipan. There are even marzipan statues of Michael Jackson and Princess Diana. And last but not least, don’t miss to try the best Lángos (delicious fried dough) in Hungary at Álom Lángos.
Discover the picturesque village of Szentendre with a knowledgeable guide and sample some traditional Hungarian fried bread.
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How to get to Szentendre from Budapest
The fastest way to reach Szentendre is by taking the HÉV 5 suburban train from Batthyány tér (40min journey). The city centre is on a short walk away from the train station.
If you’re visiting the city in the summer months, you can reach Szentendre by riverboat. It’s about an hour and a half journey to Szentendre and an hour back to Budapest. The travel time is longer on your way to Szentendre as you travel upstream. However, the boat option is more scenic than using the train.
Kecskemét is located in the Great Hungarian Plain region (the Puszta). It’s a region famous for its scenic landscapes, rivers, wheat fields and charming rustic farms. The city itself, known for its colourful Art Nouveau architecture, is a real jewel.
Combine a day of sightseeing in Kecskemét with a horse show at a traditional farm in Puszta. You’ll have the chance to try some Hungarian delicacies like goulash soup and chicken in Puszta style. Hotel pick-up is included in the tour.
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How to get to Kecskemét from Budapest
Take a train from Nyugati Railway station to Kecskemét (1h 15min journey).
Gödöllő Palace used to be the favourite summer residence of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (known as Sisi). Initially, this 18th-century baroque palace served as a manor of the Grassalkovich counts, a notable Hungarian family.
The palace had several owners after the death of the last male inheritor of the Grassalkovich family in 1841. Finally, the Hungarian state bought it as a coronation gift to Emperor Francis Joseph I and Queen Elisabeth.
Sisi was very popular in Hungary and the royal family spent a lot of time in Gödöllő. The estate is a true Habsburg residence – golden chandeliers, walls covered in silk and velvet chairs.
Combine a visit to the royal palace with a traditional Lipizzaner Horse show. A hotel pick-up is included in the tour.
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How to get to Gödöllő Palace from Budapest
Take the HÉV 8 suburban train from Örs vezér tere to Gödöllő Szabadság tér (40min ride). From there it’s less than a 5min walk to the palace.
The small village of Etyek is one of the main wine producing areas in this region of Hungary. Due to the cooler climate, the area is great for producing white wines. Etyek is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and sparkling wine.
Visit 2 unique wineries in Etyek village and taste 4 wines at each location. Each of these wineries produces boutique wines sold only at selected restaurants. Also, you’ll have the chance to savour some classical Hungarian dishes on a rustic 3-course meal.
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More places to visit near Budapest
For more beautiful places near Budapest, check out these several suggestions.
Visegrád is a small town on Danube river and its name literally means the “the upper castle”. A 13th-century castle is rising above the city revealing magnificent views of the Danube Bend. It was constructed during the reign of King Béla IV of Hungary. The castle housed the Holy Crown of Hungary for nearly 200 years.
Down in Visegrád, you can admire the Renaissance palace of King Matthias Corvinus. Featuring more than 350 rooms, the palace was one of the most luxurious residences of its time.
How to get to Visegrád from Budapest
Take a train from Nyugati Railway station to Nagymaros-Visegrád (40-50min journey). From there you need to take the hourly ferry across the river to Visegrád. Then it’s a bit of a hike to reach the castle.
Take a hydrofoil from Vigadó Square to Visegrád (1-hour journey).
Esztergom is one of the oldest towns in Hungary. Actually, it was the country’s capital from the 10th to 13th century. The first king of Hungary, Stephen I, was born here in 975. Esztergom is known for its massive basilica (the largest in the country) and the royal palace.
How to get to Esztergom from Budapest
Take a train from Nyugati Railway station to Esztergom (1h 15min journey). From there it’s about 2km to the historic centre.
Take a hydrofoil from Vigadó Square to Esztergom (1h 30min journey). The hydrofoil stops directly under the cathedral’s hill.
Vác (along with Szentendre, Visegrád and Esztergom) is one of the most famous Danube Bend towns. It’s a charming little baroque town with a pretty square in its heart. Also, the only triumphal arch in the country, Kőkapu, is in Vác. It was erected in 1764 for the royal visit of Empress Maria Theresa.
How to get to Vác from Budapest
Take a train from Nyugati Railway station to Vác (40min journey).
Székesfehérvár is the hidden gem of Hungary. Although it’s a gorgeous and colourful baroque town, it’s not so touristy as Szentendre. Székesfehérvár is one of the oldest towns in Hungary. In fact, it was the capital of the country during the Middle Ages. The first kings and queens of Hungary were crowned and buried here. The highlights include the Bory Vár (Bory Castle) and the Basilica of St. Stephen the King.
How to get to Székesfehérvár from Budapest
There are regular trains from Budapest-Déli station (South Station) to Székesfehérvár (less than an hour journey).
Győr is another hidden gem that worths visiting. The town is right next to the Slovakian-Hungarian border, at the confluence of the Danube, Rába and Rábca rivers. Győr is one of the most beautiful Renaissance and Baroque town in Hungary. The highlights of the city include the impressive Town Hall, Vienna Gate Square and the Bishop’s Castle.
How to get to Győr from Budapest
Take a train from Keleti railway station to Győr (1h 20min journey). Make sure you take the high-speed train, railjet. Otherwise, the trip will take you 1h 45min.
To spend a day in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, go to lake Velence. Although it’s smaller than the famous lake Balaton, Velence is much warmer. In fact, it’s one of the warmest lakes in Europe. The temperature of the water can reach up to 28 °C (82°F) in the summer months. Most popular activities include kayaking, bike riding and windsurfing.
How to get to Lake Velence from Budapest
There are trains every 30min from Budapest-Déli station to Gárdony station (45min journey). The lake is less than 50m away from the train station.
Tour the Hungarian Parliament building, the most popular attraction.
Spend a relaxing day at the famous Széchenyi Spa Baths.
Take a sightseeing cruise down the Danube and see the illuminated capital of Hungary.
Find more beautiful places near Budapest in DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Budapest.
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