Budapest is the main transportation hub of Hungary. For this reason, you can easily travel to other Hungarian cities. There are several great options. Among them are historic places such as Esztergom, Debrecen, and the idyllic Balaton Lake.
You may even decide to do a day trip from Budapest to either Vienna or Bratislava – in case you want a more international experience. Both cities are not that far away. A day trip is cutting it close, but absolutely possible.
We are listing the best Budapest day-trip options below. Each place is described in detail. That includes information on how to get to each particular place from Budapest, how long it takes, and things to see when arriving there!
Just 50 kilometers northwest of Budapest, we find the city of Esztergom. It is located by the Danube River on the Slovakian border.
Known as a historic city, Esztergom features some interesting attractions. The Esztergom Basilica is the largest church in Hungary, and the Christian Museum is also worth visiting.
You could easily say that Esztergom is the religious centre of Hungary. But it also has a lot of general history, as it was once the capital of the country. The architecture is beautiful, and overall Esztergom is a very laid-back city. It’s not too large or too noisy. There might be a lot of tourists in the summer, but the local population is relatively small and it doesn’t feel as hectic as Budapest.
A day trip to Esztergom is ideal. You can see all the main sights in one day. It takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to get there by train. Another option is to rent a car and drive. Finally, you can actually take a boat from Budapest to Esztergom – by sailing along the Danube River. It takes far longer (approximately 7 hours) but what a unique experience it is.
Another city near Budapest. It takes less than an hour to get there, and it is very affordable, regardless of whether you take the bus or the train.
Székesfehérvár is a mid-sized city located between the Velence and Balaton lakes. It used to be a royal residence. Nowadays, people mostly visit Székesfehérvár for its traditional architecture and its cozy town centre. Székesfehérvár is also a great base if you want to stay in a city while being near the two lakes.
It is somewhat of a hidden gem since most tourists are not aware of Székesfehérvár. You will see many Hungarian tourists from other parts of the country, but not too many internationals. This gives Székesfehérvár an authentic atmosphere and it certainly makes it one of the best day trips you can make from Budapest!
Balaton is the name of the major lake in Hungary. This is where many locals spend their summer, and foreigners are also beginning to
Measuring 80 kilometers long and between 3-15 kilometers wide (depending on the location), the Balaton is Central Europe’s largest lake. The water is around 25C (77F) during the summer – a very comfortable temperature! Along the coast, there are sandy areas as well as grass. If you want to swim, try to stay on the northern side where the water is deeper. If you want to calmly bathe or if you are visiting with kids, go for the southern side where the water is low.
There are cozy holiday towns all along the Balaton. If you’re going on a day trip to swim, any place near Balaton will do. If you are staying for multiple days, you’ll find the most accommodation options in the main towns, Siofok and Balatonfüred.
It takes about an hour and a half to go to the Balaton Lake from Budapest. In the summer, it will be easy to find buses going there.
Debrecen is the largest city in Eastern Hungary. It is located near the Romanian border. In some ways, it feels similar to Budapest – and in other ways, it feels different. Debrecen is a Hungarian cultural centre with many fascinating attractions, and it also features thermal baths.
The best places to visit in Debrecen would be the old centre, the Déri Museum, the city park and spa, the Reformed Great Church, the Ravatalozó cemetery and the Csokonai theatre. Can you see everything in one day? Probably not. Debrecen is still a good day trip from Budapest since you can see some of the attractions, but we actually recommend staying there for two or three days.
If you are driving, it takes less than two hours to travel between Budapest and Debrecen. You basically go directly east as you leave Budapest – follow the M3 and M35 to get there. There are also direct trains between Budapest and Debrecen. Travel time is around 2 hours and 10 minutes, and tickets are fairly cheap.
Szeged is the main city of Southern Hungary and the third largest in the country. Situated right next to both the Serbian and Romanian borders, it is a city with great opportunities to travel further, but even if you’re just coming on a day trip from Budapest, there are plenty of things to do.
First and foremost, Szeged is known for its Open Air festival which takes place in the summer. This is a great time to visit, and it is arguably the time of year when most tourists come to visit.
But Szeged is always interesting, regardless of the season. The Votive Church is a grand sight, and so are the many towers of the city. The city has a very prestigious university. The main university building is also considered a top tourist attraction.
You should be able to see the main sights on a day trip. Staying for a few days would also make sense if you have time for it, but it wouldn’t be a necessity. Going from Budapest to Szeged takes two and a half hours by train and just shy of two hours by car.
Pécs is another important city in Southern Hungary. Getting there from Budapest would take two and a half hours, so a day trip is relatively straightforward. The city was once the European Capital of Culture. It is one of the oldest cities in the entire region, with its history dating back to the Roman Era, with archeological findings showing that the city area has been inhabited for as much as 6,000 years!
Pécs has some nice sights, particularly the architecture. The entire city centre is fascinating and easily walkable. The Necropolis of Sopianae is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so naturally it should be on the list of things to see. Don’t miss the old Cathedral either! Life is mostly centered around the Széchenyi Square, so if you decide to stay for more than a day, try to be as close to this location as possible.
The Slovakian capital Bratislava is just two and a half hours away. That makes a day trip possible if you go in the morning and return in the evening. Alternatively, you can spend a couple of days in Bratislava before heading back again.
Just like Budapest, it is located by the Danube River. It also occupies the banks of the Morava River. Bratislava is a beautiful city with stunning architecture. It is not a cheap city to visit, by any means – it is a fairly wealthy city that is known to be much more expensive than elsewhere in Slovakia.
Going to Bratislava is a great idea if you want to visit multiple countries during your trip. Bratislava is just as interesting as Budapest, but perhaps a bit more underrated, as it gets fewer visitors. Combining the two cities into one trip is an awesome idea!
Vienna is located farther away from Budapest than Bratislava is, but the travel time is roughly the same, due to the good infrastructure between Budapest and Vienna. It takes about two and a half hours, so going to Vienna is another viable day trip.
Of course, this city certainly warrants a longer stay. Vienna has a long list of great attractions, and you can only see a couple of them in one day. But one day is better than nothing, so even if you only have time for a quick day trip while staying in Budapest, it is still highly worth it! You will be able to say you have visited Vienna – a statement that would make most people jealous. So don’t miss out on the opportunity!