The Hungarian town of Sopron is right on the border with Austria, just 5 km away, 60 km from Vienna, and 220 km from Budapest. This proximity to Austria has shaped Sopron’s history, culture, and architecture. I’ll share what to see, where to eat, and what curious tourists can do in this small town where everyone speaks German.

Sopron: Interesting Facts and General Information

  • The population is 60,000, relatively small even by Hungarian standards.
  • It was founded in 1163, though settlements existed here during the Roman Empire.
  • The city’s history is closely linked with Austro-Hungary. Even when the Turks controlled much of Hungary, Sopron was only plundered in raids.
  • Sopron lost its economic and political ties to Vienna only after the end of World War I and the collapse of Austro-Hungary.
Sopron Hungary city guide
Sopron is quite small. Tourists are mostly interested in its center, the old town.

Interesting Fact:

Once, the Japanese ranked “TOP Most Beautiful Villages in Europe,” and unexpectedly, Sopron made it onto the list. On one hand, it’s nice that the Japanese recognize its beauty. On the other, that list mainly featured villages like Tihany with 1800 inhabitants, making Sopron’s inclusion puzzling. Perhaps they mistook the town for a village.

Overview of the most beautiful Hungarian village on Lake Balaton – Tihany and Hungary’s lavender fields.

Getting from Budapest

Despite being on the country’s edge, Sopron is easily accessible, whether by car or public transport. It’s located on a major transportation route connecting Budapest to Vienna and the rest of Europe.

Getting to Sopron from Budapest:

how to get Sopron Hungary
Train schedules from Budapest to Sopron show trains running hourly and more frequently during peak times.

Best Restaurants in Sopron

Eateries are abundant here – cafes, restaurants, bakeries, fast food joints, and more. You won’t go hungry in Hungary. The food is tasty, filling, with plenty of meat, so feel free to eat anywhere. Below are a few places I usually visit when in Sopron.

Interesting to know:

Sopron boasts numerous restaurants serving Austrian cuisine, offering Viennese sausages, schnitzels, meatballs, and sauerkraut. This cuisine is scarce in other Hungarian cities. You’ll often find fewer Hungarian dishes on menus compared to German and Austrian ones. But you’ll almost always find the classic Hungarian goulash.

And a tip: the best eateries are located outside the old town. There isn’t much space for restaurants and cafes within the historic center. But you’ll understand more below.

  • Mazsola Kisvendéglő – an excellent small and unassuming restaurant serving Austrian-Hungarian cuisine. They have goulash, halászlé, schnitzels. I highly recommend their halászlé; it’s delicious here. Prices are reasonable for Hungary.
  • Aranyfácán Vendéglő Sopron – a homely, cozy, and fantastic restaurant. Their menu includes all the main Hungarian dishes. Highly recommended. The downside is it’s far from the center, but Sopron is a small town overall.
Sopron best restaurants
They have a wide variety of meat dishes on their menu. I recommend trying Hungarian soups like goulash or halászlé for the first course, and the Austrian schnitzel for the second.
  • Friss Pekseg – a cool bakery. Always a huge selection, they bake everything themselves, and it’s all hot. The most interesting part? They open at 5 am, and at that time, hot pastries are already available. If you live nearby, pop in here for breakfast rolls; you won’t regret it.
    • Coordinates: 47.687206464623145, 16.59055254879856
    • They’re open from 5 am to 11 pm in summer, and until 8 pm in winter.
    • Hungary is a country for early birds; many establishments open at 6-7 am. I recommend reading a short article about time in Hungary. You’ll learn a lot about the operating hours of shops, markets, and restaurants. About how by 9 pm, towns like Sopron are already asleep.

Sights of Sopron or What to See in the City

Sopron is a very small city, and you can walk around the entire center with all its sights in about 2 hours. Just stroll through the old town, admire the architecture, and soak in the atmosphere of the late Middle Ages.

Sopron what to see
In this photo, you can see the entire historic center of Sopron. All the city’s landmarks are within this circle

Useful to know:

Take a look at the photo above. This is the center of Sopron. The old town from the 16th to 18th centuries is entirely built in the Baroque style and is now surrounded by boulevards on all sides. The boundaries of the old town are so distinct that accidentally leaving the historic part is impossible. Your task is to walk through all the streets within this circle, and then you can consider that you’ve seen all of Sopron.

Below are the main attractions of Sopron, so you don’t miss out. All churches and cathedrals, of which there are dozens, I won’t list them all, just the best ones:

Main Square of Sopron or Fo ter. This is where all the main attractions are located: the building of the first town hall, now the house of Gambrinus, the current town hall building, the plague column (which were set up all over Europe after the plague epidemic), the main church in Gothic style, the Storno House, and the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture.

Sopron main square
A section of the main square and the plague column. In the background – the Fire Tower, but I’ll write about it below.

Interesting to know:

In Sopron, each house has a name. The House of Gambrinus, the Storno House, the Táborszky House, the Eggenberg House, the Karlovics House, and about a dozen more houses. Most of them are named after noble families who built and lived in them. In many guidebooks, each of these houses is highlighted as a separate attraction. But not all of these houses attract attention; most likely, you’ll pass by many without even noticing.
Sopron attractions
The Karlovics House is one of Sopron’s landmarks. Yes, the house may have a significant history and be an important place for the Karlovics family, but it’s not really interesting for the average tourist.
  • The Fire Tower. 60 meters in height, over 200 steps to the observation deck (open to tourists). The tower was built in the 11th century on a Roman foundation from the 1st century AD. Its main purpose was to watch over the city: fires, enemy attacks, welcoming trade caravans. The tower has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The last major reconstruction was in 1921.
    • Coordinates: 47.68673539845666, 16.591313987862826 (70 meters from the main square).
    • The observation deck is open from 10 am to 6 pm, in summer until 8 pm. The ascent costs almost 5 euros. It’s not cheap, but perhaps the best view of the city from here. You can even climb up in winter.
fire tower in Sopron
Make sure to climb up to the observation deck. And at the bottom, under the tower, are the Gates of Loyalty.

Author’s rating:

I recommend going up for the view. In Sopron, there are several other observation points, in churches on bell towers, but the Fire Tower is the tallest, and it’s in the heart of the city.

Interesting fact:

Under the Fire Tower are the Gates of Loyalty. This arch was built to commemorate the popular referendum of 1921. After the dissolution of Austro-Hungary in 1919, Sopron was supposed to become part of modern Austria. If you look at the map, you’ll see that it’s surrounded by Austria on three sides. But the residents were given the right to decide, and they voted to remain in Hungary. Since then, Sopron has been called the most loyal Hungarian city.
  • Széchenyi Square – the second most important square in Sopron. It’s located at the southern end of the old town. Today, it’s been turned into a green area, a small park, pedestrian paths, and a flagpole with the national flag.

Is it worth going to Sopron?

A very common question I get from travelers planning their route through Hungary or thinking about a short trip from Budapest. Online, everyone writes that it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Hungary that you must visit.

I’ll write it as it is, and you decide for yourself:

  • It’s a very small and compact city with a limited number of genuinely interesting sights. There’s not much to see, especially if you’re not a fan of churches. But there are enough churches and cathedrals in any European city. You can walk through the entire old town in 2 hours; spending one evening here is more than enough.
  • It’s far from the capital and popular tourist routes. There are many cities in Hungary that are closer, larger, and equally beautiful.
  • And an important point: Sopron doesn’t have thermal baths, spas, thermal springs that you find in any major city in Hungary. Most tourists purposefully visit cities to relax in thermal baths, and the beautiful city and its sights are a pleasant bonus.
Sopron old town
The old town and historic center of Sopron. Come here and wander through the narrow streets without expecting to encounter world-class attractions.

So, we conclude: Sopron is a half-day city that you can visit en route and then move on. Its location on the country’s edge doesn’t add to its popularity. Therefore, there are many Austrians who, while traveling from Austria to Lake Hévíz in Hungary, simply pass by, and vice versa. Other tourists often overlook Sopron.

The city’s main and most visited attraction is 30 km away – Esterházy Palace. You can read all about this Hungarian Versailles in the article about the best castles and palaces in Hungary.

In conclusion: Sopron is a beautiful city, and if you find yourself here, just wander through the streets of the old town and enjoy it. A day here is enough without expecting anything, and you’ll get your share of emotions. Spending more than a day here might be dull. But if you have limited time in Hungary, it’s better to visit more popular tourist cities, where there are many more activities and attractions: Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs. Reviews for all these cities are available on the pages of this guide.

IMPORTANT: Below are useful links that will help organize your trip to Hungary and Budapest:

  • Flight: Aviasales – compares prices for flights among 30+ airlines flying to Budapest.
  • Tours and excursions:
    • Viator and GetYourGuide – the best services for finding tours in Budapest and Hungary with the largest database of activities in Hungary. They offer river cruises on the Danube, tickets to baths, and 1000+ tours (available in different languages).
  • Accommodation, apartments, hotels, hostels:
    • Hotellook compares the prices among dozens of other booking services and offer the best price
    • Booking – the most popular booking platform
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Hungary
  • Car rental: DiscoverCars – the leading and largest car rental service in Hungary.
  • Travel Insurance: EKTA.
  • eSIMAiralo virtual SIM card in Hungary.
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel