Day Trip from Budapest: Wine and History in Eger, Hungary

Day Trip from Budapest: Wine and History in Eger, Hungary

Olga Hayes, MIR’s Senior Private Journeys Specialist and a native of St. Petersburg, recently spent some time in Hungary. She and her husband Ray spent a day exploring the town of Eger, home of great local wineries.


When people think of Hungary, they usually picture its capital, Budapest and beautiful Lake Balaton. But there are many more interesting and charming places in this old country. One of them is Eger.

Olga is entering the Franz Liszt Museum in Budapest Photo: Ray Hayes

Olga is entering the Franz Liszt Museum in Budapest
Photo: Ray Hayes

City with County RightsWith a population of less than 60 thousand people, Eger is known as the second largest city of Northern Hungary. The city was founded in the 10th century by St. Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary. Since then it has been a part of the complicated history of this Central European country.


A day trip from Budapest sounded like a very good idea for my husband and me. And visiting Eger turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip!

The lived-in streets of old Eger Photo: Ray Hayes

The lived-in streets of old Eger
Photo: Ray Hayes

We left Budapest in the early morning and after two hours of driving through farms and fields we arrived at the town. The historic part of the town is not very well preserved, and doesn’t have a “touristy” look. Quite the opposite – it feels real and alive, with very few tourists and the normal everyday life of locals to be seen. We crossed the bridge over the Eger River and enjoyed a few hours walking around this charming place.

Walking across the bridge into the Old Town Photo: Ray Hayes

Walking across the bridge into the Old Town
Photo: Ray Hayes

Architectural MedleyThe narrow streets were almost empty in the early afternoon on a weekday. Most people were at work, and the kids were at school. The Old Town has an assortment of architectural styles ranging from Romanesque, Renaissance, and baroque to 19th century neoclassical style.


Beautiful walk on a narrow historic street Photo: Ray Hayes

Beautiful walk on a narrow historic street
Photo: Ray Hayes

Stop by the Central SquareEvery small old European city seemingly must have a Central Square. The one in Eger is called Belvaros (town center). Also it is often called “the Baroque Pearl of Europe”. It’s really large – much bigger then you might expect in such a small city.

The Central Square Photo: Zoltan Papp

The spacious Central Square
Photo: Zoltan Papp

Central Square SpotsThe monument of Dobo Istvan, who defended Eger from the Ottomans, is in the middle of the square. The Eger Minorite church and the City Hall are on the other side of the square. The church (1758-67) was built from the designs of Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer of Prague.


Eger CastleWalking through the Central Square and streets of baroque houses, we entered Eger Castle. It was originally built at the end of the 11th century, but destroyed several times during its history. In 1552, a Turkish army of 35,000-40,000 soldiers attacked the castle, which had only 2,300 defenders. The siege finally failed after 6 months. Turks besieged the castle again in 1596, resulting in a Turkish victory. In 1701, the Austrians blew up half of the castle.


Egri BasilikaThe Cathedral or basilica, built in 1831-37 to classicist designs by Jozsef Hild, is imposing rather than attractive, but contains some remarkable paintings and sculpture. We were lucky to have an opportunity to enjoy late morning organ recitals.

The Egri Basilika Photo: Ray Hayes

The Egri Basilika
Photo: Ray Hayes

 

Inside the Basilika Photo: Ray Hayes

Inside the Basilika
Photo: Ray Hayes

Hungarian pride: WineBesides its historic sights and its thermal baths, Hungary is famous for its wines. It produces both red and white wines of high quality. Local wines are a subject of national pride – and for a great reason! We really enjoyed a late long lunch with wine tasting in a small family-owned winery near Eger. I recommend that everybody go there – it’s a great opportunity to eat real local food, try local wine, learn about it and see a piece of rural Hungary.


The restaurant has a huge outdoor area where people can sit enjoying sun or – opposite – shade from grapes. The owners were very welcoming people. They don’t see a lot of Americans; tourists from Western Europe (especially Germany and Italy) are common guests.

Enjoying the winery patio Photo: Ray Hayes

Enjoying the winery patio
Photo: Ray Hayes

Hungarian food in general and in this place specifically is delicious – remarkably fresh, tasty and of course organic. It’s not real “gourmet” food per se, more “farmer’s” type of food, but the quality is the highest. Hungary was an agricultural country for centuries and folk culture cuisine is a huge part of national culture. Even if you don’t drink at all – you will enjoy eating there!

I believe the most interesting and impressive part of a meal in such a place is a wine tasting. This winery produces four types of wine – white wine for the appetizers, rose wine for the first course (usually fresh vegetables, salads and cold cuts), red wine for the main course (usually hot meat with vegetables and/or potatoes) and desert red wine. I personally loved the rose choice – and we bought a bottle of this wine to take back to the USA with us.

Our waiter is offering us red wine - the third course of the wine tasting Photo: Ray Hayes

Our waiter is offering us red wine – the third course of the wine tasting
Photo: Ray Hayes

This restaurant is open during the cold months also. We went inside just to see how it looked – the owner explained to us that he tried to make his restaurant look like his grandparents’ home. He even used a few pieces of the décor from their house!


It was a long day. We didn’t get back to Budapest until the evening, but we were very glad we made the trip. It’s impossible to really feel, appreciate and understand a country by only exploring its capital. Small towns, small villages give a much better perspective. Go to Hungary and go to Eger! It’s a great place to visit for everybody.

Travel to Hungary with MIR

MIR is an award-winning company with over 30 years of travel experience in this area of the world, providing a superior edge in on-the-ground operations. 

Plan your perfect day in Eger with the help of our custom and private journey specialists

MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys, and we’d love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.

Chat with a MIR destination specialist about travel to Hungary by phone (800-424-7289) or email today. 

 

(Top Photo: A quick photo stop outside an Eger cafe; Photo credit: Ray Hayes)

PUBLISHED: March 18, 2019

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