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Cultural, historical and culinary trips around Budapest

The English garden lake of Brunszvik PalaceMartonvásárhelyGreater Budapest

The most popular tourist destinations include beautifully renovated palaces with a long history, parks with lakes, cultural sights and fascinating items in museums no matter where you go in Hungary. The region around the capital is no exception to this. Here are some tips and suggestions on where to go and what to do.

On your way wherever you go

There’s no need to travel too far to find cultural experiences. As you leave the city due south, you will immediately stumble upon the little-known Sacelláry Palace, hidden in a romantic nook of Budafok. Nevertheless, the palace built in Art Nouveau historicist architectural style has a small bastion and tower and mostly resembles a grand fairy tale palace. It was built by György Sacelláry in 1898 for his daughter Irén, who was the wife of the sparkling wine manufacturer József Törley, whose palace stood on the neighbouring estate.


The interior design includes Art Nouveau wooden wall panelling, carved rails, plaster stuccos and coloured lead glass windows fashioned by Miksa Róth which have remained intact throughout the 120 years since the construction of the palace. A few kilometres from here you will find the Száraz-Rudnyánszky palace beyond the M0 motorway, mostly known as the Nagytétény Palace Museum. It is a magnificent Baroque building with a terraced park surrounded by hedges and decorated with sculptures. It’s the perfect place for anyone looking to relax and recharge their batteries.


The palace has been through a lot over the years and was completely burnt to the ground in 1904 and later served as an orphanage, a children’s home and finally, in the late 40s it was used by the Museum of Applied Arts as an exhibition hall. As a result, today it is teeming with works of applied arts made in and by Hungarian and international workshops and masters. The exhibition entitled Furniture Art from Gothic to Biedermeier is considered to be one of the richest collections of its kind in Europe. The palace also boasts a superb glass collection. Take road no. 7 to get to our next stop, Martonvásár.


What is an English-style palace doing in Martonvásár?

And what has it got to do with Beethoven? Visit the stunning Brunszvik Palace to find the answer to all your questions. Here are some details for those who cannot contain their curiosity. The construction of the snow-white castle built in English Neo-Gothic style began in 1785.


The famous Brunszvik family only obtained the estate in the early 1800s, subsequently owning it for centuries, continuously shaping and changing the structure over the decades. At the end of the 19th century, brewer Antal Dreher bought the building, which was converted into a military hospital during World War II. It is currently managed by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The most magnificent part of the castle is the 70-hectare English garden, where special trees such as dwarf almonds, cedar and swamp cypresses were planted by its creator, Ferenc Brunszvik.


As a special feature of the park, the water of the St Ladislaus stream that flows through it was dammed and an island was created on the site. But let’s not forget about Beethoven - although he was not keen on teaching, he made an exception with Teresa and Josephine Brunszvik. The world-famous composer visited Martonvásár several times, as he developed a friendship with the family through teaching. The castle commemorates this special story by housing the Beethoven exhibition, showcasing the composer’s piano and correspondence with Josephine, amongst other things. After wandering around the castle and the park, let’s go for a little hike in the outdoors.


Trees reaching up to the skies

There is nothing better than spending your free-time walking under sky-high trees. If you have no other plans, why not continue the day at the Alcsút Arboretum, located 40 km from the capital, between Tata and Székesfehérvár. The palace of Archduke József used to stand on this land, but only the facade and the castle chapel remain intact. Still, there’ s no need to worry as the wonderful English park is still beautiful.


The 40-hectare area is home to a number of plant rarities such as the Japanese acacia, swamp cypress or the 170-year-old Lebanese cedar. The arboretum also hosts various seasonal events and activities. In the spring, you can visit the place and admire the expansive snowdrop fields, while dancing fireflies dazzle visitors at night during Midsummer in June. If you wish to explore the park, hop on the Vál Valley narrow-gauge railway, which will get you to Felcsút in 35 minutes.

Relax with a glass of white wine

Round off your trip with a visit to the Etyek wine region only 20 km east of Felcsút and sample some top quality wine. White wine is mostly prevalent here and the wine region has some truly famous wineries, yet the wine used for making the Törley sparkling wine is also produced in this area. Experience the combination of traditional and modern architecture, enjoy a taste of some of the best wines on the terraces of famous wineries and admire the landscape stretching out before you.

Wine from Etyek

The Károlyi family, Reform Era dishes and an unforgettable butterfly trail

If you’re looking for cultural and architectural experiences, it’s worth heading east of Pest. The town of Fót is only 20 km from the capital and is home to the most beautiful Classicist palace in the country. The palace was designed by one of the greatest architects of the time, Miklós Ybl.


This palace was the home of the Károlyi family from 1808 to 1945. From 1957, the palace was used as a state care institution for children under the name of Children’s Town in Fót. Interestingly enough, today the Károlyi family lives in this imposing building again. The gallery established in the palace is only open to visitors with a prior appointment. The walls of the salons are decorated with the paintings of Mihály Munkácsy, Károly Lotz, Antal Ligeti and other famous artists, while the display cases along the walls contain a truly valuable rock collection.


There is a restaurant in the palace and the entire ground floor is usually opened when events are hosted at the palace. Don’t worry if the palace is closed as the famous Fáy Press House will surely be open. The house was the favourite meeting point of intellectuals in the Reform Era. Iconic figures like Vörösmarty, Deák and Kossuth met here. You can immediately work off the sumptuous dishes on the 3.5 km long Fóti-Somlyó educational trail. One of the unique features of the trail is that is features almost 650 species of butterflies and a number of lizard species. For example, this is the only place in Hungary you can find the heat-loving Singer moth which is typically found in sub-Mediterranean regions.


Another interesting fact about Somlyó Hill is that the most popular Hungarian dessert, ‘somlói galuska’ was named after this place. Take the M2 motorway from Fót to either Vác or the Prónay Palace in Alsópetény, which has an enchanting park. Yet you can also take the M3 if you want to visit Gödöllő.


Grassalkovich Palace, in the land of hunting and horses

The town of Gödöllő, just 30 km from Budapest, is home to Hungary’s largest Baroque palace. Antal Grassalkovich commissioned the construction of the palace in the 18th century. After the family died out, the building had several owners, until the Hungarian State granted it to Franz Joseph I and Queen Elisabeth as a coronation gift in 1867.


During the autumn hunts, Sissi (Queen Elisabeth) and Franz Joseph rode out into the forest near Gödöllő on several occasions. Later, during World War II, it served as the residence of Miklós Horthy and his family. Their memory is preserved in the Horthy bunker located 10 metres under the surface, which is now open to visitors. Visitors can listen to the legendary songs of Katalin Karády along with authentic news broadcasts. There are several permanent exhibitions on display throughout the palace, allowing you to discover the cult following of Sissi with the help of the exhibition about the life of Queen Elisabeth, then find out all about who lived in and what the building was used for during the turbulent decades of the 20th century.


However, the palace has many attractions to discover outdoors as well. The Királydomb Pavilion is situated in the fabulous park, displaying 54 oil paintings depicting warlords from the time of the conquest of the Carpathian Basin as well as Hungarian kings. Only 10 km from Gödöllő, in the picturesque Domony Valley you can round off the day at the Lázár Equestrian Park, with its unadulterated Hungarian village atmosphere, equestrian traditions and delicious Hungarian food.

A real prop palace

The Schossberger Castle in Tura lies only 14 km from Domony on the other side of the M3 motorway. It has been used as a location for several Hollywood productions, and it is perhaps one of the most beautiful Renaissance Revival style palaces in rural Hungary. The building was designed by Gyula Bukovics and was inspired by the palaces of the Loire Valley, while its interior design bears Italian Renaissance features, but the main inspiration for the whole design was Halton House, the home of the Rotschild family in England.


The corridors of the building feature barrel vaults and quadripartites, while the entrance hall, staircase and the palm house, i.e. glass conservatory were once decorated with decorative painting. As you walk through the building’s main entrance, you will find a few steps that take you into the lobby on the mezzanine which was once illuminated by natural light coming through the glass dome and the additional light traps. Walk along the corridor on the ground floor until you reach the palm house which is directly connected to the 10-hectare park designed according to the topography of Hungary. In the past, visitors could easily distinguish and pinpoint the miniature models of the Mátra, Tatra and Bakony Mountains, and the flora was also planted in the place where they actually lived. Today, this design is barely discernible.


The Opera House was built almost at the same time as the palace, so it’s no wonder that the interior spaces and decorative paintings are very similar in both buildings. Another interesting and unique feature of the building is that they installed all the latest technological trappings available at the time. The structure that originally had 98 rooms, was equipped with a food lift, central heating, electricity, water pipes, a bathroom on every floor and the walls were built with 30 cm in between them for insulation, while the chimneys of the fireplaces served as the ventilation system. Currently, it operates as a palace hotel with 19 rooms under the name Botaniq Castle of Tura, however, visitors are also welcome if they book an appointment for their visit and buy an entrance ticket.

Luxury and extravagance under the same roof

If you drive another 14 km to the south, you will find the Andrássy Palace and the 30-hectare park surrounding it in Tóalmás. The predecessor of the elegant aristocratic residence was built in the 1700s by Sándor Prónay, a knight of golden spurs, who also designed the famous 60-acre castle gardens. Subsequently, the palace was reconstructed to commemorate the millennium, as commissioned by Renée Wahrmann who was first a celebrated star, but then was widely known for her abuse of morphine and debauchery.


No expenses were spared on the luxurious details of this Baroque style building. The landscape garden and palm house were renovated at the time, and as part of the construction, the staircase of the Paris Opera was also recreated in the palace. Subsequently, the Andrássy family bought the estate and the building on it, before it was nationalised and used as a holiday home for trade union members. However, the spirit of the place maintained its bohemian feeling as the palace was used as a set for cult Hungarian films ‘Czardas Queen’ and ‘The Corporal and the Others’.


We hope we succeeded in providing you with some inspiration and that you’re inspired to set out and discover the regions around the capital.

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