Budapest is the capital city of Hungary and one of the most popular European destinations. This vintage metropolis is comprised of two halves – Buda, which is located on the rolling hills and is known for its history and beauty, and Pest, which is on flat ground and is famous for its buzzing dining and nightlife scene. The Hungarian capital is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ancient buildings, and beautiful scenery that draw millions of tourists from all over the world.
Even though Budapest has enough attractions to keep you busy for days, there are also a number of excursions that are worth checking out outside of the city. Its central location by the banks of the Danube River makes Budapest the perfect base for exploring other lovely destinations within Hungary. For convenience, store your bags in a luggage locker in Budapest before heading out on your epic day trips.
Whether you are interested in history, art, nature or wine, you won’t run out of options when it comes to fantastic day trips from Budapest. The best part is that you can easily reach these places, via public transportation or your own car, and still make your way back to the city before nighttime. In case the weather hinders you from traveling outside of the city, you can go check out the best museums in Budapest to keep you busy.
How to Get Around Budapest
Budapest boasts an excellent public transportation system that allows for easy movement within and outside of the city; the following day trips from Budapest can be accessed via train, bus or even boat (if you need a more detailed look into city transportation, check out this guide on how to get around Budapest).
However, if you want a more convenient option, you should consider renting a car for the duration of your trip. Having your own vehicle provides you with independence and gives you more flexibility over your schedule, especially if some unforeseen circumstances arise. Additionally, if you have a larger group, the cost of renting a car may even end up cheaper than taking public transportation.
From Budapest to Szentendre
One of the closest day trip destinations from Budapest is the charming little town of Szentendre, set on the banks of the Danube River. Located north of the city center, this vibrant cultural hub features picturesque cobbled streets and stunning Baroque architecture and once served as a home to some of Hungary’s most famous creatives.
Because of its history as an artists’ colony, it’s no surprise that Szentendre is home to an impressive selection of galleries and museums, including the Hungarian Open Air Museum, Serbian Ecclesiastical Art Collection, Szentendre Gallery and the Margit Kovacs Ceramic Collection. Other noteworthy landmarks in the town include the Blagoveštenska Church, the city's main square known as Fo tér and the Art Mill. Szentendre is a year-round destination but if you visit during summer, be prepared to deal with huge crowds, especially on weekends.
How to get to Szentendre
You can take a 45-minute train ride from Budapest’s Batthyány tér station; take the H5 HEV line and get off at Szentendre. From the months of April until September, there are also boats that leave from the Vigadó tér Pier which can take you to Szentendre; the boat journey takes about one and a half hours. If you have a rental car, the town is about a 40-minute drive north of the city center.
From Budapest to The Royal Palace of Gödöllő
Situated about 30 kilometers east of Budapest, the Royal Palace of Gödöllő is a 250-year-old structure and is one of the world’s biggest and finest Baroque palaces. This magnificent palace once served as the summer residence of the wealthy Emperor Franz Josef and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (popularly referred to as “Sissi”).
The epitome of luxury, the Gödöllő Palace boasts extravagant interior decorations, eye-catching staircases and spacious rooms adorned with expensive embellishments. The palace grounds also feature a massive park, royal stables and lush gardens that stretch out for miles.
The best way to explore the palace is to book a guided tour; this allows you to see all the important sections of the building and learn about its colorful history. Other than a tour of the grounds, the Gödöllő Palace also hosts a range of programs throughout the year. The palace is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM and tickets can be bought online through their official website.
How to get to The Royal Palace of Gödöllő
Take the HEV train from the Budapest-Keleti station to Szabadság tér station in Gödöllő; the journey takes about 40 minutes per way. Another option is to take a direct bus ride, which takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, from the Stadion bus station. There are also plenty of reputable companies offering guided tours if you want a more convenient option.
From Budapest to Lake Balaton
Hungary may be landlocked but it doesn’t mean that there’s no opportunity for some fun by the water; in fact, the country is home to some lovely lakes, including Lake Balaton, the biggest lake in central Europe. Located near the small town of Balatonfüred, Lake Balaton is the best destination for enjoying scenic views and crystal-clear waters without going too far from the city.
How to get to Lake Balaton
Getting to Lake Balaton depends on your choice of entry point; the most common and easiest option is to start at Balatonfüred. From Budapest, you can take the train from Kelenfold Railway Station to Lepseny, which is about an hour's journey. Once you get off Lepseny, take the direct bus to Balatonfüred, which will take another hour. If you have your own car, the drive can take anywhere from 1 hour and 45 minutes to two hours to complete.
From Budapest to Hortobágy National Park
One of the best day trips from Budapest is Hortobágy National Park, Hungary’s biggest park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park spans 800 kilometers in size and is covered by wetlands and plains. If you’re into bird watching, you’re in luck. The park is home to some magnificent bird species such as spoonbills, warblers, falcons, rare black storks, eagles and more.
Found in the heart of the park is the village of Hortobágy, where the local culture is still alive and present. Here, you can discover Hungarian life and folklore, learn about traditional farming methods and horsemanship and witness some performances by gypsy musicians. The Hortobágy National Park is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM.
How to get to Hortobágy National Park
The train journey from Budapest to the park takes approximately four hours, with limited connections. Thus, the most popular and recommended mode of transportation for this day trip is to drive your own rental car, which will take less than three hours.
From Budapest to Eger
Located in northern Hungary is the historic town of Eger, one of the most famous day trips from Budapest. The old town is home to some historic buildings, a network of thermal baths and over 17 Baroque-style churches and structures. Some of the town’s major attractions include the medieval Eger Castle (Egri vár), which served as a fortification against the Ottoman invasion, and the István Dobó Castle Museum, which showcases the town’s history.
When in Eger, you should also set aside time to visit the renowned wine region called the Valley of Beautiful Women. Found on the town’s outskirts, the region is best known for producing the wine Bikavér, or “bull’s blood”. Here, you can enjoy wine tasting tours from some of the region’s top wine cellars.
How to get to Eger
You can take a two-hour train ride from Budapest’s Keleti Station to Eger Station. If traveling by car, the drive from the city to Eger will take about one and a half to two hours.
From Budapest to Aggtelek National Park
Located near the Slovakian border in northern Hungary is Aggtelek National Park, which is undoubtedly one of the most unique and exciting day trips from Budapest and a must-visit when in the region. Covering an area spanning over 200 kilometers, the park is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and known for its system of spectacular underground caves.
The Aggtelek National Park is home to more than 250 caves waiting to be discovered. The most famous cave system within the park is the Baradla Cave, which is about 25 kilometers in length and is filled with stunning rock formations and stalagmites. Apart from taking a tour of the caves, the national park also features walking trails, forts, museums and castles that are worth checking out while in the area.
Tours may not be booked in advance but do note that the schedule for the cave tours varies throughout the year. Keep track of the schedule through the park’s official website so that you can plan your trip accordingly.
How to get to Aggtelek National Park
Since the Aggtelek National Park has a remote location, the ideal option is to rent a car and drive directly to the park, which will take about two and a half to three hours. Alternatively, you can book a day trip from Budapest from one of the many tour companies in the city.
From Budapest to Nagytétény Castle
If you want a day trip destination that is easy to access, look no further than the Nagytétény Castle, an old Baroque palace located south of the city center. Set on the Danube River, on the Buda side of the capital, the 18th century castle was heavily damaged during the Second World War and has undergone extensive renovation over the years. Today, the building is home to the Museum of Applied Arts, which is dedicated to showcasing the history of design and art.
This specialty museum boasts an impressive collection of over 300 pieces of German and Hungarian furniture that existed between the 15th and 19th centuries. The museum also houses a permanent exhibition of 17th to 19th century clocks and watches that were collected by Ferenc Radvanszky, a renowned clock restorer.
The museum is open daily (closed on Mondays) from 10 AM to 6 PM and tickets can be bought online. However, opening times may change throughout the year, particularly during holidays or special events. Therefore, it is recommended that you visit their website and note the schedule on the day of your preferred visit.
How to get to Nagytétény Castle
You can take a 15-minute train ride from the city center to the castle or a bus, which takes a little over half an hour.
From Budapest to Etyek
If you want a relaxing day trip that involves a lot of wine, you should set out to visit the beautiful wine region of Etyek in Fejér County. Situated about 30 kilometers outside of Budapest, the rustic village and wine region are known for the production of Hungarian wines, particularly white wine variants.
Almost all the wine cellars in Etyek are small and family-owned, with some that have been in operation since the 11th century. Travelers to the region can book taste tastings and winery tours, where they can discover the local wine production process. These wine tastings are also often paired with multiple-course meals featuring homemade Hungarian food.
How to get to Etyek
Getting to Etyek from Budapest is possible via a short, 35-minute bus ride; just take the Line 760 bus from Péterhegyi út station in Budapest to Községháza in Etyek. However, if you want to check out multiple wineries in the region, you should either have your own rental car or book an Etyek wine tour.
See Budapest and Beyond
Budapest is a charming city that has plenty to offer, both within the city limits and outside of it. Historic towns, grand architecture, lovely natural parks and more attractions within Hungary are easily accessible from Budapest and are definitely worth making the trip for.
With this list of amazing day trips from Budapest, you can make a detailed itinerary of how you want to spend your visit to the Hungarian capital. Why not start at Keleti Station and see where you end up?