Although there is no coastline to Hungary, it has Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Europe outside Scandinavia, and of course the mighty River Danube which splits Budapest into two (Buda and Pest). It also boasts over 1,300 hot springs, many of which are used for bathing and medicinal purposes.
Join us and explore, not only Hungary’s capital city with its State Opera House, magnificent Parliament buildings, St. Stephens’s Basilica and the Royal Palace, but also beyond this wonderful city. Taste the local foods and drink the local wine. We see Hungary’s famous children’s railway, run by children, supervised by adults. Visit Szentendre, the pearl of the Danube and enjoy rail trips to the Great Plains and the centre of the Kalvinist Church, Debrecen, as well as to Pécs with its mosques dating from the times of the Turkish invasion and Villány, one of the best red wine regions in Hungary. No trip to Budapest would be complete without an evening boat trip on the Danube. Join us for our evening dinner aboard our vessel and enjoy the sights of the river bank buildings that are lit up at night.
Tour Manager: Ferenc
Day 1 Tuesday 2 May On arrival to Budapest Liszt Ferenc international airport (named after the famous Hungarian composer) you will be met by your driver who will provide your transfer to your hotel in downtown Budapest. As some flights may arrive too late for staging a welcome dinner, this evening will be free for you to get settled but your tour guide will meet you at the hotel in the evening to supply you with information for the following days’ programmes.
Day 2 Wednesday 3 May (B, L, D) Time to explore Budapest. A leisurely start in the morning on a chartered heritage tram will take us around the city centre and provide a direct connection to Hűvösvölgy, terminus of the Children’s Railway. We will take a ride uphill through viaduct, tunnel, cutting and embankment, just like on a real railway. All staff except station masters, signallers and locomotive drivers are children. As we reach one of the highest points in Budapest, we take a light lunch before boarding the cog wheel railway to descend back into town. A 3-hour sight-seeing tour by coach follows, visiting all major sights in Budapest such as the Citadel, Heroes’ Square and the Royal Palace, ending at the hotel enabling us to freshen up before our welcome dinner in a nice restaurant nearby.
Day 3 Thursday 4 May (B) This morning we pay a leisurely visit to Szentendre, also called the Pearl of the Danube. We take the World’s first electric underground line and the World’s longest tram vehicles to the suburban train (HÉV) line and then have a light stroll to downtown Szentendre to see the Baroque architecture, Orthodox churches, galleries, cobbled streets and riverside setting. In Fő (i.e. Main) Square we will see the wrought-iron cross, raised in 1763 by survivors of the last major outbreak of the bubonic plague. Szentendre is also well known for its Szamos Marzipan Museum and other art museums, which you will have sufficient time to explore or have a good look at the souvenir stalls, enjoy some food or ice cream. At 17.00 we depart by boat to Budapest, arriving an hour later allowing ourselves dinner in the restaurant of each one’s choice.
Day 4 Friday 5 May (B, L) The day is designed to visit Debrecen and the Great Plains of Eastern Hungary. We have a fast ride to Debrecen in an InterCity train and arrive late morning. Other than being the second largest city of Hungary, Debrecen is a regional and cultural centre due to its big university, airport and religious importance. From the main railway station, we take a tram ride past a park where houses used to stand before being bombed in World War II. We then arrive to the pedestrianised main street where the Great Reformed Church stands. We will also visit the Reformed College located behind the church, which is an ancient educational institute with an extensive library collection. Following a short walk past Déry museum, we take the tram to the city’s park where we will have lunch. We will walk across the park, remodelled in 2016, to pay a visit to the main university building, before returning by tram to the railway station. We will take a short coach ride to Hortobágy National Park, another Unesco Wolrd Heritage site, where we visit the famous 9-arched bridge and have a look at some of the exhibits of traditional life in this vast flat area. We will then have a narrow-gauge train ride to the bird reserves located around some extensive fisheries. Returning with our little train, we board a standard-gauge train that will take us back to the main line at Füzesabony, where we transfer to the Budapest service, arriving back just in time to have dinner or refreshments at the venue of each one’s choice.
Day 5 Saturday 6 May (B) Today is for you to explore the museums and thermal baths of town at your own leisure, with the National Galleries, National Museum, Museum of Applied Arts, the Communist Statue Museum or Roman-era Aquincum being just one of the few options. Those who are brave enough to spend a day away from town can make a trip to Lake Balaton or even circle it by train, should they wish. For those who wish to remain guided, a morning visit to the railway museum will be offered with an afternoon walk in the Buda Castle District. Make sure you have an early dinner as we will have an early departure the next morning!
Day 6 Sunday 7 May (B, D) A rather early start at 07.00 will find us boarding an InterCity train for a long ride to Pécs, the regional centre of Southern Hungary. En-route we will pass some rolling hills and arrive by crossing to the southern slopes of the Mecsek range. The city Sopianae was founded by Romans at the beginning of the 2nd century, in an area peopled by Celts and Pannoni tribes. By the 4th century, it became the capital of Valeria province and a significant early Christian centre. The early Christian necropolis is from this era which became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000. Its episcopate was founded in 1009 by Steven I, and the first university in Hungary was founded in Pécs in 1367 by Louis I the Great. Pécs has a rich heritage from the age of a 150-year-long Ottoman occupation, like the mosque of Pasha Qasim the Victorious on Széchenyi square, which we will naturally visit, as well as the mosque and minaret of Jakovali Hassan. We also pay a visit to the fortress walls and the cathedral and early Christian ruins. At 13.10, we take a local train to Villánykövesd, where an interesting row of wine cellars, spanning three levels on the hillside, can be found. We will have a relaxing visit to one of these cellars for wine tasting and a late lunch/early dinner. After that we will take our two respective trains back to Budapest, arriving back to our hotel at 22.30 to end an exhausting but eventful day!
Day 7 Monday 8 May (B, D) Following a more leisurely departure, we first visit Europe’s biggest synagogue in the former Jewish district of Budapest. We then take a quick metro ride to Nyugati station where a chartered heritage diesel railcar will pick us up and transport us to the Great Plains. We will again be able to experience the real branch line feeling. We arrive to a very rural setting with horse stables and pigsties where we can see how rural life in Hungary used to be before globalisation. This will be followed by a horse-show and a very Hungarian dinner which will be our farewell dinner of the tour. On our return to Budapest in the heritage railcar, we will be served drinks to pass away the time. We alight the train at Nyugati station and return by tram and underground to the hotel.
Day 8 Tuesday 9 May (B, D) On our final day in Hungary we first return to Nyugati station for a 10 a.m. train departure along the Pilis hill range to Esztergom, the centre of the catholic church in Hungary. Esztergom was the capital of Hungary from the 10th till the mid-13th century when King Béla IV of Hungary moved the royal seat to Buda. Esztergom is the seat of the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary, and the former seat of the Constitutional Court of Hungary. The city has the Christian Museum, the largest ecclesiastical collection in Hungary. Its cathedral, Esztergom Basilica is the largest church in Hungary. We pay a visit to the Basilica and its museum, then have a quick coach transfer across the Danube into Slovakia for a great view of the Basilica above the river. Our coach then deposits us at the railway station of Šturovó (as this town is known in Slovakian, the Hungarian name being Párkány) from wher we take a EuroCity train arriving from Prague to take us back to Budapest along the Danube’s Bend, a Rhine-valley style gap in between two hill ranges, passing under the mountain-top castle of Visegrád and utilising the first railway line opened in Hungary in 1846 between Vác and Budapest. We will have a couple of free hours in town or at the hotel that will enable us to freshen up before another cruise on the Danube. We will be able to observe the city from the river at sunset and watch the sites of Budapest light up for the night while enjoying our farewell dinner and music on-board. The boat will return to pier at 22.00 and we can then return to the hotel to retire for the night.
Day 9 Wednesday 10 May 2017 (B) Today is departure day and a transfer will be made available to you for your trip to the airport.
The charter tram and a charter heritage DMU are both subject to there being more than 12 tour particants.