Culture Call: Five Lesser-Known Destinations in Hungary We Love

From classical Pécs (the new Budapest?) to the verdant village of Noszvaj and the bright and folksy Hollókő, we’re spotlighting our five favourite, underrated Hungarian destinations – as well as the things to do and places to stay when you visit.

If your only experience of the country is Budapest, can you really say you've visited Hungary? We're all for weekends spent bubbling in historic thermal baths and ping-ponging from one ruin bar to the next, but Hungary's charms are far more diverse - providing you know where to find them. That's where we come in. From classical Pécs (the new Budapest?) to the verdant village of Noszvaj and bright and folksy Hollókő, these are five underrated Hungarian destinations we can't get enough of.

Beyond Budapest: five underrated places to visit in Hungary

Pécs

Hungary

Why we can't wait to visit again: We didn't finish nosing around the city's historical remains the last time we were here. Art historians will go nuts for Pécs, which is teeming with the type of dusky, Byzantine-influenced architecture you might find in Split or Istanbul - the type that really sizzles under a good sunset. Traces of the city's former lives are everywhere, from the copper-green Mosque of Pasha Qasim to the Early Christian Necropolis. Creative types won't want to skip Zsolnay Cultural Quarter, an eclectic grouping of galleries, music venues and studio spaces, which was once home to the world-famous Zsolnay ceramics factory.

Where we're staying: Adele Boutique Hotel

Before you go: Bone up on the 160-year history of the Zsolnay empire, its art-nouveau ceramics that caused a stir at the 1873 World Exhibition and its creation of iridescent glazes.

Szeged

Hungary

Why we can't wait to visit again: Quiet down. It might be the third-largest city in Hungary (so less of a "little-known destination" than others in this article), but Szeged always gets overlooked in favour of Budapest. Amble aimlessly through the city, coffee in hand, and a patchwork of blossoming public squares will unfurl before you, speckled with just a few buildings designed by Ede Magyar, a man often called the "Hungarian Gaudi". It's a university town, so expect plenty of beer gardens and al fresco bars that will keep you well-oiled long into the early hours.

Where we're staying: Tiszavirág

Before you go: Take a virtual tour of Szeged's salami museum. Yes, they have a museum entirely dedicated to cured sausages.

Noszvaj

Hungary

Why we can't wait to visit again: We're hankering after some greenery. There's something vaguely Scandi about Noszvaj. Perhaps it's the sheer outdoorsiness of the place or the minimal, timber-clad treehouses that promise a mystical night's sleep or maybe it's the 18th-century De La Motte Castle which is decked out in Ikea yellow. Whatever it is, we dig it. Days here aren't spent zipping to and fro at the behest of your iCal, but getting out into nature (and away from people). You're not far from Bükk National Park - try the lakes for starters - and the barlanglakások (ancient cave dwellings) in the village centre make for an eerie but enchanting afternoon jaunt, too.

Where we're staying: TreeHouses Noszvaj

Before you go: Get your glamping gear in check by pocketing one of Halo's lightweight, anti-chip water bottles.

Hollókő

Hungary

Why we can't wait to visit again: Hollókő is old Hungary, like really-old Hungary. This village is home to the Palóc, an ethnographic subgroup of Hungarians easily identifiable by their flouncy, lace-trimmed skirts, embroidered waistcoat-cum-corsets and the kind of stupendously puffy sleeves that have been marched down catwalks of late. It's the sort of high-folk, countryside idyll that could conceivably have inspired Ari Aster's Midsommar. For some insight into the Paloc's traditions, visit Hollókő castle, Hollókő Falumúzeum and Guzsalyas, a museum dedicated to local folk costume.

Where we're staying: You could check in to the shiny hotel nearby, but where's the fun in that? We're taking a rustic villa right in the centre of the action.

Before you go: Get a flavour of what's to come by rustling up a few dishes from Tamás Bereznay's Hungarian Cookbook.

Csopak

Hungary

Why we can't wait to visit again: Lake Balaton is Hungary's answer to Lake Como. It's a vast expanse of water, fringed by rippling greenery and a hodge-podge of carry-on-sized villages. Beware: some are a little rowdier than others. Our favourite is Csopak, not just because of its famous vineyards (though they are a big draw, we'll admit) but for its calming lakeside - just the place to flop out on a sunny day - as well as its proximity to the Bakony Mountains, which make for a great backdrop, if not a slightly sweaty day hike.

Where we're staying: Manor House Inn

Before you go: Order in a bottle of Hungarian plum pálinka. It's a sweet brandy native to Hungary that makes for a fantastic nightcap. Even better as a cocktail.

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