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Is Eger Hungary’s Most Beautiful City?

by Roberto
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Eger is a highly regarded within Hungary as one of its most amazing cities. With a vast number of attractions crammed into its compact centre Eger is a city that demands you leave the confines of Budapest’s impressive metropolis. Two visits over a number of recent years have helped me appreciate the finest things to do in Eger Hungary.

I have visited Eger twice, the first in 2015 when huge efforts were being made to renovate the city. This visit was tarnished as a result but we returned to see it in its prime, with its front foot firmly planted forward. The city is the location of several magnificent churches, a castle overlooking the town, some Turkish Baths, fine Baroque architecture, and is the centre of a famed wine region. Enough to further its claim as Hungary’s most beautiful city. To see the city a few days are needed and here are my suggestions on what not to miss. But first, the logistics.

Budapest to Eger

Eger is located about 133 km north-east of Budapest, near the Bukk mountains and National Park. That’s about a 2 hour drive along M3 and M25 motorways. Alternatively there is a train running from Budapest-Keleti station that reaches the city in about 1 hour 50 minutes. The trains runs daily on the hour, and the railway station is 1.5 km from the city centre.

Eger is a small city in Northern Hungary with only a population of around 53,000 people, making it the 19th most populace in Hungary. This means it is easy to navigate on foot. There are a fleet of buses run by KMKK Zrt. serving the town, which are useful for connections from the train and bus station and the Valley of the Beautiful Women. Before all the hot blooded males in my readership get too excited though, I suggest you read on.

Where to Stay in Eger

Most of Eger’s visitors are Hungarians, or from the Czech republic or Slovakia. Most of the rest of the world is really missing out. While Eger is more traditionally visited as a day trip, its definitely worth staying a night. Eger’s compact centre mean that wherever you find accommodation, you are always close to amenities. Hotels and apartments are available at very reasonable rates, starting at around the €40 mark and rarely exceeding €100. At the tip of this are luxury offerings such as Hotel Corona Wellness, Hotel Eger and Imola Hotel Platin. At the lower end are a number of panzio’s which are more similar to B&B’s.

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History of Eger, Hungary

Eger was formed in the 10th century by Saint Stephen, the patron saint of Hungary. It started as a religious settlement, with a cathedral where Eger Castle now stands. Or doesn’t stand as it turns out. The settlement grew around the cathedral. From the 12th century, viticulture was practiced here, a tradition still carried to this day. In 1241 a Mongol invasion briefly stopped Eger’s growth, by burning the place to the ground.

But Eger rose from the ashes like a Phoenix. The ruling archbishops ordered that a castle replace the cathedral which once stood. Forests were cleared and wine became the focus. However the 16th century would prove tumultuous, as battles raged in the empire and the castle changed hands many times. Eger Castle would write itself in the history books in 1552 (see below) in defence against the Ottoman empire. However in 1596, Eger would fall, and a near century of Ottoman rule would follow. A Habsburg led crusade finally defeated the Ottomans in 1687.

What followed was a time of rebuilding again, and a further occupation by the Habsburgs. An 8 year war of independence in the early 18th century failed, and soon after a plague beset the town. Once again Eger rose from this and many of its current Baroque buildings where built in the subsequent century. In the failed rebellion of 1848, the archbishops who ruled the town were finally overthrown. Eger was slow to react to the industrial revolution, and as a consequence didn’t grow as other Hungarian cities have in the following centuries. Which is in itself a blessing for the visitor, as it retains its charm.

Things to do in Eger, Hungary

Eger Castle

Standing over the town Eger castle is one of those rarities, a castle without any obvious castle. But don’t let that deter you. Built on a rock above the city, it’s a tantalising walk up along the outside till you reach the castles gates. Entrance costs 1400 HUF giving access to all exhibits. At this time 1 Euro is equal to around 357 HUF (Hungarian Forint).

The walls and the towering views from them are probably the main attraction here. The castle still has a rough feel with the rock face exposed in many places giving it more of an air of authenticity. It was in a poor state of repair when it was entrusted to the state. Most of the buildings within are newish constructs, many of them hosting museums.

The Istvan Dodo Museum showcases the history of the castle, and don’t miss the Kazamatak (casemates) a series of cellars that run underground, and also the dungeon that hosts a morbid torture museum. Most of your time however is best spent looking across those formidable walls to the beautiful city that lies beneath. The views from the though ramparts are what will mostly drag you here and it’s exactly where you want to be as the sun sets over the town.

Eger Castle behind the city
Rooftops of Eger
The view over the rooftops and the Minaret

History of Eger Castle

Eger castle was constructed first in the thirteenth century and grew rapidly. It’s greatest historical fame lies in the repelling of a 40000 strong Turkish army in 1552, by a Hungarian army of 400. It’s the tale of the 300 Spartans told the Magyar way. During the siege the defending soldiers led by Dobo Istvan, asked that the cellars beneath the castle be cracked open. The Egri Bikavér wine was savaged and its thick red juices ran down the beards of the soldiers. This led the Turkish soldiers to think it was mixed with bull’s blood to give the soldier’s strength and they were demoralised. Defeat soon followed. More on that wine later. The castle suffered its final loss in 1701, when the Austrians blew it up. As goes the story of pretty much every Hungarian Castle.

Sunset from Eger Castle
Sunset from the castle- one of the best things to do in Eger
Sunset in Eger from the castle
The sunset view from the castle

Eger’s Churches

This is where Eger really excels. There are in particular three very different churches that simply amazed me to see.

The Minorite Church

The Minorite Church is the focal point of the Dobo Istvan Square. From the exterior its twin bell towers do draw the eye in the square but it’s upon entering that the church really astounds. The original church that stood here was destroyed by floods and the present one was finished in 1771. The Baroque style was flourishing in Europe at the time with the backing of the catholic church, and the interior here is a fantastic display of baroque art.

There are a five sections of vaulting, and each of them are beautiful to inspect. They contain a series of scenes from the life of St Anthony. Also there are three altars each of them as intrinsically decorated as each other, and a couple of hand carved pews that are possibly the churches most beautiful attribute. All the more surprising is that no admission charge is in effect for such an aesthetic church.

That said, the church belonged to the Franciscan Order and they were less than pleased with the extravagance of the church at large. The architect was a renowned Bohemian architect who worked predominantly in Prague. His name was completely omitted from the plague commemorating those who built the church. The interior vaulting art was by Marton Reindl and the church weren’t happy with his work either, citing its poor quality. Clearly they saw something I didn’t. Or perhaps didn’t want to pay simply.

Minorite Church Eger
The Minorite Church and its beautiful Baroque interior

Serbian Church

The St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Serbian Church lies outside the city centre but is worth the detour. I drove out but it is about a 15 minute walk out. It’s position atop a hill and it’s onion dome gives it distinction. The church is no longer used for religious reasons and now serves as an exhibition centre. Built during the 17th century and altered more in the 18th not much remains of the original interior. But there’s one really good reason to visit this church. Its accessed by a wooden gate from a quiet side street, and the dilapidated headstones give no notice of what lies within. We were met by the curator, whose house lies within the grounds. An entry charge of 400 HUF was exchanged and we were led inside.

The interior contains a work known as an iconostasis which separates the nave from the sanctuary. Measuring 10 metres by 12.5 metres, and featuring 60 different panels carved by Nicola Jankovic and painted by Anton Kuchelmeister. It took two years to complete in the 18th century. Made up of gold leaf and braid its a simply stunning piece of art and astoundingly beautiful to look at. The church also contains a very authentic pulpit designed in the same ilk as the iconostasis.

Serbian Church, Eger
Serbian Church, Eger
Serbian Church, Eger
The Iconistasis of the Serbian Church in Eger

Eger Basilica

Eger Basilica is probably the lesser of the three churches within the city but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth including in a tour. On my more complete second visit to the city I certainly did. This neo-classical church was completed in the mid 19th century, and the only thing affirming its pious function is the cross atop its roof. The impressive building is reached by a flight of steps and its columns dwarf its entrance.

It’s the most expensive of the Eger churches set to enter at 800 HUF, but there is a large interior space to explore. Its greatest asset is its collection of domes which run along the central nave. The best of these were painted by Istvan Takacs and feature scenes from the apocalypse. The high ceilings of the church are bathed in light from the ceiling level windows, and the illuminated paintings are very attractive. The altar and organ are the churches other worthwhile features.

Eger Basilica
The neo-classical exterior of Eger Basilica
Eger Basilica

Walk the Streets of Eger

The city itself is a pleasure to stroll through. The small Eger-Patak (a river) calmly weaves past streets and under bridges. The Baroque buildings and architecture are a mismatch of colours, all bright yellows and pinks, and it works to perfection. It reminds me of an Italian town, from the laid back cafes to the gelaterias. The streets are mostly pedestrianized, and we had to park our car outside the centre and walk in, but it all adds to the atmosphere for this perfect little city.

Eger River
Things to do in Eger Hungary
Things to do in Eger Hungary
The colourful streets of Eger

Valley of the Beautiful Woman- Where to try Bulls Blood Red Wine

We stayed in the Tulipan Garden Panzio in Eger which was a little outside the city in a very pretty neighbourhood. But better still it was a short walking distance from the Szepasszony-volg, or the Valley of the Beautiful Woman. This is the centre of Eger’s famous wine trade and the area is full of Pince (wine cellars), big and small, offering their take on the red wine. Eger also produces a number of original whites such as Egri Leanyka, Ererszolati, and Debroi Harslevelu. Of late Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are also produced.

Egri Bikaver or Bull’s Blood, is a blend of five different grapes and besides its battle winning qualities, it is also quite delicious. I found it more to my palate than the sweeter wines of Tokaj, Hungary’s more famous wine region. Read my travel guide on the Tokaj Wine Region here.

Eger Wine Tasting

The area is characterised by the pince, many of which are reminiscent of a cave. We took advice from a random by passer and ventured into the open number 17. It was cold, it was dank, the proprietor didn’t speak English… and the wine was fantastic. He poured the glasses from a long glass beaker and a tasting glass cost a mere 100 HUF. That’s about 30 cents. It was a wonderful introduction to the Valley of the Beautiful Woman. We later left the confines of the cellar and ventured into the main square of the area, which is surrounded by food stalls and enough cellars to leave one in a very inebriated state. We again followed advice but this time from a Hungarian friend and settled into the more comfortable Molnar Pinceszet, for some more Bikaver and Muskotaly.

You could easily spend the evening here with a wide selection of dining and drinking options, or like us you could make your way into the city. It’s nearly 4km in so unless you fancy the walk there are shuttles that run into the Basilica. It’s the only time I felt like I fell into a tourist trap in the city, and at 2000 HUF a person it was daylight robbery, but we paid it for the convenience.

Valley of the Beautiful Woman
Valley of the Beautiful Woman
Valley of the Beautiful Woman
Wine tasting at Pince 17
Valley of the Beautiful Woman
Valley of the Beautiful Woman
Valley of the Beautiful Woman
The pince of the ValleyValley of the Beautiful Woman

The Minaret

The Minaret is a leftover from the Ottoman occupation. It was constructed in the 17th century as part of the mosque which once stood here. It stands 40 metres high and was built from red sandstone. Much of the Ottoman monuments were destroyed after the break from their rule but any attempts to destroy this minaret failed, including that by 400 oxen with ropes. They like the number 400 in Eger. It stands as the most northerly minaret still in existence.

The Minaret is an incredibly thin tower and anyone with claustrophobia would do well to steer clear. I climbed it on my earlier visit which was fortunate as during the summer of 2018 it was undergoing some restorative works. It only cost 300 HUF at the time to enter and both I and Beata paid in to climb it. When we stepped inside she took one look which was followed by a refund. I wasn’t to be so easily put off, and made the 97 step climb to the viewing platform. It is very narrow on those stairs with only space for a single person. But I always feel its worth it for the views and Eger is such a colourful city. The blend of yellow, red, white and green really tantalised the eye.

Eger Minaret
Eger Minaret
Eger Minaret
Views from the Minaret top

Marzipan Museum

Just off the bottom of the Minaret is the very niche but beautiful Marzipan Museum. This museum is the brain child of Hungarian pastry chef, Kopcsik Lajos. The chef found fame internationally for his creations and this spurred him to open a museum to showcase them. It’s a very visual museum and its amazing what he was capable of doing with almond and sugar.

Amongst the many exhibits include a Russian Family, a full size grandfather clock. a model of the Minaret, and numerous heads, recreations of artworks and ornaments. It’s all done very tastefully. The centerpiece of the museum is a recreation of a baroque room, in honour of Eger’s baroque tradition. All of the exhibits are incredibly made from marzipan, and the handiwork is very admirable. It’s not a huge museum but it is a perfect distraction for those seeking something different. It certainly tops the unusual list for things to do in Eger Hungary.

Marzipan Museum, Eger
Marzipan Museum, Eger
Marzipan Museum, Eger
Beautiful displays in the Marzipan Museum


The Lyceum is one of the more unusual visits I made. It was originally constructed in Baroque grandeur to be a university, but the Hapsburgs put a halt to its opening. So what exists is an enormous building encircling a courtyard, with vast empty halls. Or so it seemed in summer. It finally realised its university ambitions in the 20th century. Admission was 500 HUF each and directional signs take you up grand staircases to the observatory tower. The exhibitions are part science museum, and part gallery of the astronomical equipment that were originally purchased for the university.

One final stairs takes you to a roof, for more fine views over the city. It’s best to wait till twenty minutes past the hour, as at this point one is taken up to the camera obscura. At the time this was built it was only the second in Europe after Edinburgh. As the room darkens and the optics move into position, it’s a really intriguing twenty minutes as sights from the city are projected. You have to admire the engineering that constructed it. The tour guide here was multilingual and had excellent English. There was good humour in his presentation too and it was quite interactive.

One final sight worth visiting is the library, with its ceiling frescoes by Kracker. It is one of three rooms that the talented Austrian painted, however this is the only one open to the public.

Lyceum, Eger, Hungary
Eger Lyceum
The Lyceum gives great views of Egers main churches

Archbishops Palace

We also visited the Archbishops Palace the 18th century home of the head of the church. It has been recently renovated and now hosts the Eger art museum on the first floor. At 1800 HUF it was the most expensive of the Eger attractions and the most disappointing as well. The identity seems to have been lost in the renovation. The ground floor showcases many vestments and reliquaries from the church. The rooms that maintained their original furnishings, such as the study room with its murals, were beautiful. Perhaps the buildings most lavish room is the small chapel located within, but this can only be seen through an elevated viewing platform and glass.

Archbishops Palace, Eger
Some of the ceiling paintings in the palace

The City Under The City

The City under the City attraction is a guided only tour that takes you into the archbishop cellars. The tour takes about 45 minutes but we were a little put off. It’s quite cold down below and we weren’t really dressed for it and all tours are only in Hungarian, so unless you are more fluent than I (I can order a drink or food) it detracts from the experience.

Turkish Baths

Every Hungarian city worth its salt has its own thermal baths, and Eger is no exception. Warm thermal waters flow beneath the ground of the entire city, and several bath complexes are available. The most traditional of these are the Turkish Baths built by Abdi Pasha the Albanian between 1610 and 1617. Besides the relaxing six pools that are now available to guests, its main feature is a cupula which is covered in 200,000 gold plated mosaics. Also worth seeing is the modern thermal bath Bitskey Aladar, named after a famous swimmer. It features secession architecture, an art nouveau style made famous in Eastern Europe at the turn of the last century.

Egri Road Beatles Museum

In the city’s Corona Hotel, is the rather unexpected Beatles Museum. It takes visitors back in time through the bands career with music, photographs, and newspaper clippings. I could find no relationship between the band and Eger, but hey its The Beatles- does there need to be? The guided tour costs 2500 HUF per person.

Dining on Istvan Dobó Ter

István Dobó Square is Eger’s main square and plenty of restaurants and cafes are in the surrounding area. With a backdrop of the castle and the Minorite Church it’s an aesthetic way to dine. We had lunch in HBH Bajor Sorhaz, an upmarket restaurant where I can recommend the delicious goose leg and the Rantott Hus. It’s one of the best places in town to get that delicious breaded pork.

We returned to the square that evening as the last shards of daylight left, and had dinner in Senator-haz Etterem. Here we were content to order the venison goulash, and we were lucky enough to have landed here on 20th September which is the public holiday in honour of St Istvan, the founder of the Hungarian nation. We had prime seats for the firework display that marked this occasion as they lit the sky above us.

Istvan Dobo Ter, Eger
Istvan Dobo Ter
Istvan Dobo Ter by day
Istvan Dobo Ter
Istvan Dobo Ter
The vibrance of the square on the night of the celebration of St Istvan

Why Eger is Hungary’s Most Beautiful

Eger is a touristic city, but far from being swamped in tourism. It’s charms have yet to draw in large numbers of visitors and its sights can be easily enjoyed.

As Hungarian cities go it impressed me the most. The qualities of Budapest are well known, but this little city may just sneak it on charm and charisma.

The sights are strictly limited to the city. The surrounding area contains salt terraces, cave houses and the Matra Mountains. It’s why I recommend an extended stay in Eger. My guide to the Matra Mountains.

Let someone else show you Eger

There are a number of tours of Eger running directly from Budapest, if you choose to see the city that way. Get your guide offers two very interesting ones, taking in the surrounding countryside too.

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