The northwest corner of Hungary, near the country’s borders with Austria and Slovakia, offers visitors a magical combination of historic towns and natural beauty. Located in the lower slopes of the Alps, the region’s walking trails and villages have views over vineyards and bucolic river valleys. It’s also home to two of the country’s most enchanting historic towns—Sopron and Kőszeg. If you are traveling from Budapest, you’ll also want to stop at Pannonhalma en route. Whether you are arriving from Vienna (an hour away) or Budapest (just over two hours), this charming area of Hungary makes for an appealing detour. Here is an itinerary that includes the area’s highlights.
Commissioned by the Government of Hungary with the support of the European Union.
Itinerary / 3 DAYS
The city’s Castle District underwent a recent restoration, recognized as an outstanding example of urban planning. Spaces that had been claimed as parking lots have been turned into green spaces and pedestrian promenades. It all makes for an ideal place for a stroll followed by lunch or a drink—perhaps a glass of Blaufränkisch wine (a red that is a typically Central European variety)—at one of the neighborhood’s cafes. Traveler who want to learn more about Sopron’s wines will want to stop by Taschner Wine and Champagne House, on a hill overlooking town, while those with a sweet tooth will want to stop by the Harrer Chocolate Factory and Confectionery for a tour and tasting.
The iconic landmark of the main square, Fő tér, is the Fire Tower—a 13th-century building rising to a height of 190-feet and topped by a multi-tiered onion dome (which dates from the 17th century). Guards once monitored Sopron’s streets from the tower’s balcony. Today travelers who ascend to the balcony can take in bird’s-eye views of the city below. Among the historic sites and museums to visit are the Bakery Museum, the Roman Forum, the Mining Museum and the Zettle-Langer Collection, with works by Rembrandt and Durer. For dinner, reserve a table at Erhardt, a charming restaurant in a 16th-century building with its own garden.
DAY 2Lake Fertő
Not far south of the lake, Esterházy Castle has been described as Hungary’s Versailles. The lavish 126-room, 18th-century palace was constructed as a home for the powerful Esterházy family. The palace’s most famous resident was Joseph Haydn, who lived there from 1766 to 1790 and wrote the majority of his symphonies for Prince Nikolaus Esterházy.
Drive a little under an hour south from the castle, and you’ll arrive at Kőszeg. Often described as a Hungarian “jewel box,” the town’s picturesque squares and cobblestoned streets create a magical atmosphere. Kőszeg dates from the medieval era and its most famous landmark is the 13th-century Jurisics Castle, an impregnable fortress that long protected the town’s citizens. After exploring town, enjoy a cold bottle of the local brew at the Kőszegi Brewery. Known for producing award-winning beers in the first half of the 20th century, the brewery reopened in 2016 and is again a favorite of beer connoisseurs.
DAY 3Spa & Pannonhalma
The dramatically contemporary Viator restaurant, located near the abbey in the town’s main square, opened in 2010. It’s quickly developed a reputation as one of Hungary’s must-eat destinations.
Spend the afternoon taking part in a typically Hungarian ritual, visiting a hot spring spa. The Bükfürdő Thermal & Spa in about an hour’s drive from Pannonhalma. Famous for the high mineral content of its water, the spa complex includes both traditional pools and a kid-friendly adventure zone, with a lazy river and a bubble pool. About the same distance from Pannonhalma, the Spa and Thermal Bath of Sárvár opened in 2002. It features six different pools filled with healing mineral water, a “Sauna World” with a number of different saunas and steam rooms, and a family zone. No matter which one you choose, you will feel refreshed and relaxed before you continue on to Budapest, where you’ll check into the Ritz-Carlton, an ideal base to explore Hungary’s capital.