Balancing quaint, lakeside getaways with renowned wine regions and beautiful cities that combine the medieval with the modern, Hungary is as great of a place as any other in Central Europe to stoke a little romanticism. Here are only some of the reasons why you should consider making Hungary your next destination.
A waterfront retreat to Tihany on Lake Balaton
Couples come from all over Hungary and beyond to experience the serene brilliance of Lake Balaton, which can be best experienced from the cozy little resort town of Tihany. The emerald green Lake Balaton bursts to life beneath the red roof and sterling white walls of the Benedictine Abbey, a national icon that has was founded nearly a millennium ago and rebuilt in spectacular, baroque fashion in the mid-18th century. Visitors pick their way around the town’s cobblestone streets that cozy up to the enormous lake and there are countless little locally run shops, restaurants, and cafes to inspect along the way. Many who come to Tihany also fall in love with the reed-thatched roofs of some of the buildings, particularly the museum connected to the abbey that feels lifted directly from a different century.
Romantic backgrounds are also very easy to find at the many great places to stay throughout Tihany. Along the waterfront, there are a wide variety of cozy bungalows that are ideal for any couple seeking some a little privacy while remaining connected to all the top sites in town. It’s easy to pick up a couple bikes for a leisurely ride through the exquisite countryside or to find a variety of entertainment options that cater to couples.
Couples looking for activities are also in luck, as the lake offers an enormous slate of water options great for those from all adventure levels. The popular local beach, Gödrös, is also a great place to live like a local and sprawl out for a sunny afternoon along the lake, which will typically be peppered with swimmers during the warmer months. Hungarians also tend to come to Tihany in the spring to experience the almond trees in bloom and by summer the air turns sweet with lavender, another of the region’s staples.
Finding the romance lurking in Budapest
There are terrific little romantic havens scattered all over Hungary, but sometimes it’s best not to overthink it. Budapest is a wonderland for just about any type of traveler, and that certainly holds true for anyone seeking romance from the Danube-spanning gem in central Hungary.
A natural place to start for the proverbial lovebirds would be the Szechenyi Baths, a sprawling series of indoor and outdoor pools/baths built into a century-old Neo-Baroque palace. Although daytime can be packed with other visitors (particularly families), the baths turn into an ideal place for romance once night settles in, and they’re also very conveniently located to many of the city’s other popular attractions. As a country famous for its baths, which have been a tradition since the days of Roman occupation and later the Turks, you certainly aren’t limited to the famous Szechenyi Baths either. The Rudas baths are known for their range of therapy pools and art-deco architecture that was originally built in the middle of the 16th century. A significant renovation over a decade ago brought them into the modern era.
There are all sorts of other thermal baths in Budapest that are regularly popping with couples, but there is one caveat: some baths (like Rudas) alternate between being gender-specific and co-ed, making it a good idea to check out the details on a specific bath’s website before embarking.
While the baths can certainly spark romanticism, the same goes for finding the best places to view the Danube around the city. The views from Freedom Bridge are as spectacular as advertised (especially around sunset), as visitors capture perfect glimpses of Buda and Pest’s iconic buildings hugging the Danube. Cruising down to Budapest through the Danube Bend on a river cruise is also a naturally romantic experience, although more adventurous romantic-seekers can try renting bikes and trekking along the Danube Cycle Trail for an endless carousel of tranquil picnic spots and sublime scenery just outside Budapest. While looking for a great atmosphere, visitors come to City Park for picnics and pontoon boating beneath the Vajdahunyad Castle in warmer months, although ice skating beneath a castle can also yield an unforgettable experience in the winter.
A wonderful collaboration between the old world and a modern metropolis, Budapest is also crawling with romantically-tinged accommodations. Rooftop cocktail lounges are a natural draw for couples looking to take in the cityscape, particularly in the shadow of St. Stephen’s Basilica on the eastern shores of the Danube, just across from the also-beautiful Széchenyi Chain Bridge. While you’re looking for romantic views, Fisherman’s Bastion atop Castle Hill offers a must-see glimpse of the Danube and the Houses of Parliament on the Pest side of the city.
Eger and the Tokaj wine region
Tokaj is where the wine flows like the Danube thanks to the perfect combination of soil and sunlight, making it a haven for wine lovers for centuries. Wine enthusiasts could easily spend a romantic holiday cruising the region’s 28 villages and 27,000 acres of vineyards, which specialize in producing the aszú and eszencia varietals that the region is famous for. Much like many other Eastern Bloc countries, Hungary has been back on the rise as a major wine producer since the end of the Cold War.
The region has also exploded with great places to rest up in between trips to wineries, with standouts offering chic indoor spas, saunas, and sprawling pools to keep guests entertained in between legs of a wine tour. Anyone who loves the charms of a vintage small town might also want to consider staying right in the actual town of Tokaj, where you can find plenty of authentic Hungarian food, centuries-old wine cellars, and spend afternoons kayaking atop the Tisza River.
If you can’t make it all the way out to Tokaj wine country, fear not; a trip to historic Eger can let you tap into the best flavors of Tokaj while enjoying the comforts of one of Hungary’s major (and most beautiful) cities. Not only is Eger known for its eye-catching medieval castle and surrounding fortress but it boasts many different local wineries that showcase Tojaji wine at its best. Meanwhile, the old town section filled with hidden taverns and cafes along the curvy cobblestone streets is a favorite for romantic travelers. Eger is also a natural launching point for going directly to Tokaj.
Other experiences to consider
As with any trip to a diverse and unique destination like Hungary, researching based on your own personal vision of romance is crucially important, as there are far too many great spots for romance to be compiled in a neat list of options. While some will love what Budapest and Eger offer, others could just as easily fall for the many charms of places like Tihany or Lake Hévíz, a world-renowned spa town that touts the largest thermal lake in the world. Hiking into the Alps from medieval masterpiece Sopron – another great place for wine lovers – can also yield countless great romantic experiences, as can a trip to Pécs, a delightful city known for its mild climate and outstanding architecture. Thanks to such an eclectic set of options and the countless ways to find a romantic backdrop, Hungary is a destination not to be overlooked.