Budapest is high on many travelers’ bucket lists. After all, it’s well-known for its romantic and picturesque architecture along the Danube: Parliament, Castle Hill, and numerous suspension bridges all of which are stunning day and night. And of course, there’s also the well-known thermal baths – a quintessential experience in Budapest.
However, this famed Eastern European city is also a treasure trove for wine lovers with numerous wine bars, markets, eateries, and nearby wine regions. So, let’s explore with this in-depth itinerary for visiting Budapest. Be sure to check for current flight deals into Budapest here and deals on some of our favorite hotels in the city.
Language, Navigation & Beyond
Few things are more helpful in Budapest (which is actually two different cities, Buda and Pest) than the knowledge of two important words, thank you and cheers, in the local language. The country overflows with both hospitality and wine, and the knowledge and use of these two words will endear you to the locals.
Let’s start with thank you, or köszönöm in Hungarian. Now admittedly, this is not an easy language to read, let alone read phonetically; however, köszönöm is not too difficult to pronounce. It’s simply kohs-ah-nohm. You’ll have it down in no time.
Now for cheers, or eģeszségédre, it’s roughly pronounced eggys-she-geh-dreh. Now that we have those helpful phrases down, let’s visit some of the main sights in Budapest!
While we highly recommend walking and wandering in this beautiful city, from the Old Town Soprom to Heroes’ Square and everything in between, there are a few places that are worth dedicated visits including:
Top Things to Do in Budapest
Very accessible public thermal bath with numerous pools both indoors and out. For a truly Hungarian experience, this is worth a few hours.
If you’re into history and architecture the guided tour is an option, but simply marveling at its splendid exterior is a time-saving option.
Hungarian State Opera House
Surprisingly, this opera house is more elaborate than its more famous counterpart in Vienna. A short afternoon tour here includes a brief operatic performance.
St. István’s Basilica
Located in a picturesque European plaza, St. Istvan’s offers incredible views from its towers (and as a bonus has a great wine bar nearby!)
Buda Castle Park and Grand Staircase
We recommend a leisurely stroll here and at neighboring Matthias Church, but make sure to visit at night for some of the best views of parliament and Pest at night.
Stroll day and night along the shores of the Danube, cross the Lion Bridge on foot from Pest to Buda, and if there’s time, take a night cruise for some enchanting vistas.
Great Market Hall
Now this is a foodie’s paradise! You’ll find everything from street food (lángos) to fresh produce and of course, authentic Hungarian paprika, both sweet (édes) and hot (csipós).
7th District Ruin Pubs
Many of these pubs and clubs were once squatter locales, or are since inspired by the Bohemian eclectic vibe, while not known for their wines, these pubs are definitely worth dropping in day or night simply for the experience.
More Tours & Experiences in Budapest
Raise a Glass
Hungary, like much of Europe, has a long history of wine production dating back to Roman times. Its continental climate and global latitude (similar to several French wine regions), make Hungary an ideal location for growing both light, crisp whites and bold, complex reds.
Pronounced “bor” in Hungarian, the country’s most renowned wine is the sweet white Tokaji-Aszú wines, produced in the northeastern portion of the country, which date back to the 1650s. Hungarian red wines also have a long history, most notably Egri Bikavér, or Bull’s Blood produced near the town of Eger. Legend has it that during the Ottoman Siege of 1552, soldiers believed the wine was infused with bull’s blood from which many local legends result.
Unfortunately for Hungary’s wine industry, communism which reigned in the country between the late 1940s until 1989, focused wine production on quotas and quantities. As a result, Hungary’s wine reputation was greatly diminished. Fortunately, after the fall of communism, many winemakers are returning to Hungary’s 22 wine regions with a focus on traditional methods, terroir, and quality.
What’s even more exciting for travelers, is that despite its increasing notoriety, Hungarian wines are not widely distributed in the United States (aside from Tokaji Aszú and the occasional Egri Bikavér). So, for the wine lover, Hungarian wines can make for a distinct tasting adventure and unique souvenirs. Don’t have time to research the many Hungarian grape varieties? Don’t worry, here’s a primer to get you started:
Key Wine Regions & Hungarian Grape Varieties
The renowned Tokaji wine-producing region, but also home to Hárslevelű, a floral and fruity white wine.
Badacsony and Somló
Known for whites with many familiar varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris in the Badacsony region; and more unique varieties like the oxidized Juhfark, a blend of furmint and Hárslevelű, in Somló.
Located along the Danube in southern Hungary, this region is best known for the Hungarian grape variety Kadarka, a light to medium, somewhat spicy red.
In the Villány Hills south of Pécs, this region is at the same latitude as Bourdeaux and features numerous full-bodied reds like Kékfrankos (also known as Blaufränkisch), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Zweigelt.
Home to the Szépasszonyvölgy (Valley of Beautiful Women) featuring over 45 wine caves tucked into the surrounding hills, this region is known for its Bulls’ Blood, Egri Bikavér, but also local varieties of Kékfrankos and Cabernet Franc.
Is a white region specializing in Sárga Muskotály, or Yellow Muscat, Sémillion, Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a local specialty, Királyleányka, which has a similar flavor profile to Gewürztraminer.
Best Wine Bars, Cafe’s and Restaurants in Budapest
As for where to experience this wide variety of wines in Budapest, we recommend exploring the local scene for different wine bars, cafes and restaurants as it’s often fun to stumble into your own surprising adventures, but we do have a few favorite recommendations:
- DiVino – near St. Istvan’s Basilica, this wine bar and restaurant serves wines from Hungary’s numerous wine regions by the glass and the staff is happy to help you find what suits your palate.
- Doblo – a popular wine bar featuring lesser-known Hungarian wines and live music (bonus: it’s in the 7th district near one of our favorite ruin pubs, Szimpla Kert).
- Kadarka – a wine bar and shop featuring Hungarian wines and tapas.
- Apropó Wine Bar – features wines from smaller Hungarian wineries along with Italian Prosecco.
- Tasting Table – a wine shop and tasting room where you can buy wines from any of Hungary’s 22 wine producing regions, also available are various Hungarian specialties including pumpkin seed oil, paprika and Unicum (A local liquor worth a try, but be forewarned, it’s firewater!).
- Wine Bar Andante – on the Buda side of the Danube, extensive by-the-glass wine selection, rare wines and regular tastings with wine producers.
- Borfestivál (Budapest Wine Festival) – an annual wine festival held in September at Buda Castle, featuring wines from across Hungary (Sept. 6-9, 2018)
Wine Region Day Trips from Budapest
Finally, if you have extra time and are up for an overnight excursion to one of Hungary’s 22 wine regions, we highly recommend it. If you’re in it for experiencing the some of the most high-quality wines and distinctive terroir, we recommend visiting one of the top seven aforementioned wine regions, with Szekszárd and Villány-Siklós having the most modern wine production methods or Tokaj-Hegyalja for its renowned dessert wines, or even the most remote region of Somló.
However, if you’re limited on time, or not into researching the wine producers and visiting regulations, we recommend making a stopover in Eger, Hungary. While it’s not home to the highest quality Hungarian wines, it does offer an experience like no other.
Valley of Beautiful Women
A visit to the wine town of Eger and its Szépasszonyvölgy, which translates to the Valley of Beautiful Women, should be on every wine lovers’ bucket list. A wine region with more than 45 wineries and tasting rooms tucked into the caves of the surrounding hills, all within a small neighborhood, is a sensory experience simply impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world. While the quality of wines ranges as widely as the ambiance of the tasting rooms from poor, drab and rustic to excellent, sleek and modern, the medieval atmosphere found in the caves, relaxed revelry of visitors and welcoming hospitality of the proprietors make for a truly memorable adventure.
We should mention, the region is not often hopping with visitors (although when it is, it’s a blast!), so we recommend visiting with a group of friends to make the experience all-the-more pleasurable. That said, if like us, you enjoy wine and find joy in every experience, it’s perfectly accessible traveling solo or as a romantic pair as well. And as a side note, make sure to visit the Saliris Resort in Eger and spend the afternoon in its splendid thermal baths. This sprawling complex sits at the foot of a natural salt hill and features 17 indoor and outdoor baths. It’s the perfect way to relax before or after your wine adventure.
We hope you have the opportunity to discover the many treasures and beauties of Budapest, especially the lush, velvety and earthy flavors found in many Hungarian reds or the crisp, volcanic profiles found in their unique whites. Most of all, however, we hope you find an adventure unlike any other in this welcoming, eclectic, vibrant Eastern European city on the Blue Danube. Eģeszségédre!