Hungary

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Budapest, an old-world city with a throbbing urban pulse, is a must-stop on any trip to Central Europe. Szentendre and Eger have their own charms, including majestic hilltop castles and cobblestone streets winding among lovely baroque buildings. All this, and the generosity of the Magyar soul, sustains visitors to this land of vital spirit and beauty.

Hungary sits at the crossroads of Central Europe, having retained its own identity by absorbing countless invasions and foreign occupations. Its industrious, resilient people have a history of brave but unfortunate uprisings: against the Turks in the 17th century, the Habsburgs in 1848, and the Soviet Union in 1956. With the withdrawal of the last Soviet soldiers from Hungarian soil in 1991, Hungary embarked on a decade of sweeping changes. The adjustment to a free-market economy has not all been easy sailing, but Hungary at long last has regained self-determination and a chance to rebuild an economy devastated by years of communist misrule.

Hungary joined NATO in 1999, and the country joined the European Union (EU) in May 2004. In 2002, then 39-year-old Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the subject of gentle mockery when he suggested that the Hungarian economy was like a guided missile that had taken off and which could not be shot down. Orbán's increasingly right-wing FIDESZ party won the 2010 parliamentary elections, achieving a supermajority, and the party has since redrawn the Hungarian constitution.

Two rivers cross the country: the famous Duna (Danube) flows from the west through Budapest on its way to the southern frontier, and the smaller Tisza flows from the northeast across the Nagyalföld (Great Plain). What Hungary lacks in size it makes up for in beauty and charm. Hungarians are known for their hospitality. Although their unusual and difficult language is anything but a quick study, English is fast becoming the second language of Hungary, even superseding German. But what all Hungarians share is a deep love of music, and the calendar is studded with it, from Budapest's famous opera to its annual spring music festival. And at many more touristy restaurants Gypsy violinists serenade you during your evening meal.

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Budapest

Situated on both banks of the Danube, Budapest unites the colorful hills of Buda and the wide, businesslike boulevards of Pest. Though it was...

Eger

With vineyard surroundings and more than 175 of Hungary's historic monuments—a figure surpassed only by Budapest and Sopron—the picture-book...

Esztergom

The impressive Esztergom Basilica, dramatically reflected in the Danube River, takes front and center in this ancient river town. Small though...

Kalocsa

Besides its proud status as the paprika capital of the world, colorful Kalocsa is most famous for its vividly hued folk embroideries and flowered...

Szentendre

A romantic, lively little town with a flourishing artists' colony, this is the highlight of the Danube Bend. With its profusion of enchanting...

Visegrad

Visegrád was the seat of the Hungarian kings during the 14th century, when a fortress built here by the Angevin kings became the royal residence...

The Danube Bend

About 40 km (25 miles) north of Budapest, the Danube abandons its eastward course and turns abruptly south toward the capital, cutting through...

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Fodor's Budapest 25 Best
Updated for 2018. Compact and affordable, Fodor's Budapest 25 Best is a great travel...

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