The Danube River cuts through Hungary on its way south to Serbia and beyond. The Hungarian side of the river is home to several picturesque twists and turns, giving it the nickname the “Danube Bend.” Esztergom and Visegrad are two popular towns (evident from the number of tour groups) that are strategically located on the bend, and perfect for a daytrip! I visited both towns in one day from Budapest—here’s what I thought!
Esztergom is the larger of the two cities (a thriving metropolis compared to Visegrad) and is home to the largest church in Hungary, the Esztergom Basilica.
The Basilica is a huge, beautiful building that was built in the mid-19th century. Its altarpiece is the largest painting in the world painted on a single canvas. Jozsef Mindszenty, an iconic Hungarian priest (famous for his resistance against the Nazi and Communist regimes), is buried in the crypt. It’s possible to visit this site of pilgrimage, as well as the Basilica’s treasury. The Basilica’s best feature is its dome, which you can climb up if you’re willing to brave the 400+ steps for amazing views of the Danube River, bordering Slovakia, Hungary, and the town itself!
The Castle Museum is another highlight in the town, but unfortunately I just missed the English guided tours (necessary for entrance). English tours run at 10:15, then 12:25, 1:25, 2:25, and 3:25. There are several different tour options that last anywhere from 30-90 minutes.
Esztergom has a handful of other interesting buildings, mainly churches and museums. The Kereszteny Musem (Christian Museum) has the largest ecclesiastical collection in Hungary.
Visegrad is a much smaller town than Esztergom, although gets plenty of tour groups. The two biggest attractions are the Royal Palace, and the Citadel.
The Royal Palace has several different exhibits and reconstructed rooms to show what the castle would have been used for back in medieval times. The archaeological excavations for the palace began in 1934.
The Visegrad Citadel crowns the top of the hill and offers some of the best views of the Danube bend. It is a steep walk up through the forest to get to the citadel, and can get quite slippery depending on the weather (so wear sturdy shoes). There is a parking lot if you’re able to drive. The Citadel has a few exhibits on aspects of medieval life, but the best part is the views over the Danube River.
It was raining the entire time I was at the Citadel, but I can only imagine how much better the views would be on a clear day!
Getting there and back: There are frequent trains (every half hour on weekday mornings) from Budapest Nyugati to Esztergom. The journey takes about 75 minutes—tickets were 1140 HUF. Be aware that the Esztergom train station is about 2 miles from the town center. Bus 880 leaves Budapest Ujpest Varoskapu for Esztergom, and takes 2 hours (Budapest Ujpest Varoskapu is on the Metro M3 line). Bus 880 runs between Esztergom and Visegrad hourly and takes about 45 minutes (cost is 465 HUF). Buses 880-889 go from Visegrad to Budapest Ujpest Varoskapu and cost 370 HUF for students.
Both Esztergom and Visegrad have something to offer visitors. It was a long day to see both, and due to the bus schedule I felt a bit rushed at times. However, I’m glad I saw both towns, and definitely glad I climbed up to the top for views from Esztergom Basilica’s dome and Visegrad Citadel. I’d recommend either of these towns, or both, as a great daytrip from Budapest!
Have you ever been to these towns, or another Budapest daytrip?