Three historical, quaint towns, very close to Budapest, are a must-visit for every tourist. Szentendre, Visegrád, and Esztergom are situated on the Danube River, forming a popular tourist route. I’ll tell you what to see, how to get there, the timing of the trip, and share many tips and life hacks.

Szentendre, Visegrád, Esztergom: General Information

If you look at the map north of Budapest along the Danube, you’ll find three cool little towns. You can easily visit all three in one day if you have a car; otherwise, it might take two days by public transport. From Budapest to the farthest town, Esztergom, it’s only 55 km, passing through Szentendre and Visegrád. The total distance for the day will be around 100 km.

Here are some general points:

  • Szentendre: Founded in the 13th century, population 27 thousand people.
  • Visegrád: Founded in the 13th century, population less than 2 thousand people.
  • Esztergom: Founded in 972 AD, population 28 thousand people.

Author’s advice:

My favorite route, which I’ve repeated with friends several times: start in the morning by car, spend 2-3 hours in Szentendre, 2 hours in Visegrad, and stay overnight in Esztergom. Spend the evening exploring and dining there. In the morning, you can drive back to Budapest in 40 minutes; it’s only 50 km. While it’s possible to complete this entire route in one day, it’s better to take two days, and you’ll understand why.
Visegrad attractions
Panoramic view from the top of Visegrád Castle in the town of Visegrád. Overlooking the Danube Bend.

In each of these towns, there aren’t too many attractions. You won’t need more than a few hours in each place. Yes, you can choose to stay overnight in any of them, spending the evening strolling along the Danube and sipping local wine. However, more than one evening might be boring for most people.

These towns have left their mark on Hungary’s history, witnessing significant historical events. Check out the link for a brief overview of Hungary’s history, essential for tourists. I won’t copy from Wikipedia.

How to get there by public transport:

It’s not a problem at all; there are dozens of daily bus routes. And even LRT (light rail transit) goes to Szentendre from Budapest. Here’s an article about intercity buses and trains in Hungary, where to check schedules and buy tickets.

Szentendre Overview: Where to Eat, What to See

The first town on your way is Szentendre, just 15 km from Budapest—a town of artists, as it’s often called. I would define it more precisely: a town of craftsmen and artisans; there are many of them here. Numerous shops offer handmade items and various handicrafts. The town itself seems frozen in the 14-15th century.

Szentendre Hungary what to see
Main Square in Szentendre

To explore every street at a leisurely pace, you’ll need 2, maybe 3 hours. If you plan to visit a museum, then allocate more time.

Here are the main attractions in Szentendre (and parking locations):

Szentendre attractions
Such views of Szentendre’s rooftops open from the hill where the Catholic church is located.
Szentendre viewpoint Danube
Danube viewing platform, can only be found using maps app. You won’t stumble upon it randomly in these alleys.

Make sure to go to the riverside and stroll along the Danube. There’s also the Marzipan Museum, an art gallery, a public transport museum, a retro car museum, many churches, and a street with umbrellas. Here are the coordinates for the umbrellas: 47.66821801086644, 19.077152782532906.

retro car museum in Szentendre
Retro car museum with such models

Everything is very close, within walking distance. All these Szentendre attractions are within 2-3 kilometers in total.

Regarding food, coffee, beer, or a snack, you can go anywhere. There are many restaurants and cafes on the old streets around the main square and along the riverside. Choose any; they are all delicious with prices above average:) I’ll recommend a really cool spot that makes Lángos.

Szentendre restaurant
Look for this place with Lángos only using a maps app; you won’t find it casually. You might easily walk past without noticing.

Lángos is Hungarian fast food, a yeast flatbread with cheese and sour cream or other fillings or even without any filling. It’s not a restaurant; it’s a private house, and the owner herself fries these Lángos in oil. It’s located in the labyrinth of narrow streets, 50 meters from the main square. Just follow the coordinates: 47.66786652264783, 19.0760727061383. But from the photo above (left photo), you can see the narrow alley where they are located. If you don’t know, you won’t even notice it from the main square; you might walk past without paying attention.

Visegrád – the First Capital of Hungary

Visegrád is a tiny town that served as the first capital of the Hungarian Principality in the 14th century. It was a meeting place for three kings: of Czechia, Poland and Hungary, where they formed military and political alliances. One such meeting is recreated in the castle.

Visegrad Fortress and Danube
Visegrád Castle, also known as The Citadel

Essentially, the town’s sole and main attraction is the entire Royal Palace, which served as both a fortress and a castle. Visegrád Castle is exceptionally well-preserved, and today, it welcomes tourists. From its top, you can enjoy fantastic views of the Danube and the surrounding area. Visiting Visegrád is a must for the Royal Castle or Visegrád Castle.

Three attractions in one location, separate entrances, separate ticket payments:

  • Visegrád Royal Palace: 47.791635709553205, 18.973176674282435.
  • This is where the King of Hungary lived. Access is granted even to the inner chambers, halls, and corridors of the palace.
    • Opening hours: 10 am to 4 pm, and until 7 pm in summer.
    • Ticket price: around 6 euros.
Royal Palace in Visegrad
This is the Royal Palace. Pay attention to the hill’s top; if you look closely, you can see Visegrád Castle, also known as The Citadel. The next stop is there.
  • On the hill directly above the Royal Palace (visible in the photo above) lies The Citadel or Visegrád Castle. The fortress served a defensive function and sheltered the king and commoners during attacks and sieges. It is also entirely open to tourists, including all the inner chambers.
    • Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm.
    • Ticket price: around 6 euros.
    • Note that walking from the Royal Palace to the Citadel is quite far; you might want to use a car. Parking at the Citadel is paid, 1000 forints for 2 hours (about 2.5 euros). Coordinates for parking and Citadel entrance: 47.793448822035074, 18.982350285253208
Visegrad Fortress the Citadel
These are the internal exhibitions in the fortress. The lower photo shows the scene of the meeting of the three kings.
viewpoint visegrad
And this is another viewpoint with a view of the Danube from the Citadel walls.
  • The third attraction: Solomon’s Tower, also known as the Lower Castle. It is part of the Citadel and all defensive structures. It is from the Lower Castle that the defensive wall ascends directly to the Citadel.

Solomon’s Tower, a relatively small area with a museum and a jousting arena. This is where knight tournaments, medieval fairs, and other shows for tourists take place.

visegrad attractions
The Lower Castle – and in the foreground, you can see the jousting arena with blue and red flags.


Solomon’s Tower itself closed for reconstruction in 2023. They promise to reopen by the end of 2024. Knight tournaments and drum shows are held on weekends. Access to Solomon’s Tower through the gates and defensive walls is free. All shows at the jousting arena require an additional fee. Parking at the Lower Castle is free for now.
visegrad lower castle
This is what the entrance to the Lower Castle looks like; the area here is quite small.

Also, on this same slope, along the same road, there’s a cool entertainment. I call it a toboggan, the Hungarians call it bobsleigh. It’s a track where you can slide down the mountain on wheeled sleds at high speed. Very cool and exciting, especially for children:

  • Price for one ride: 2.5 euros.
  • The biggest downside: paid parking, and you have to pay for the entire day, almost 5 euros. Even if you plan to spend a maximum of 1 hour here. You can walk from the Citadel parking lot; the distance is about 1 km.
what to do in visegrad
If you’re passing by, don’t pass by. Kids will definitely love it. 1-2 rides, and you can continue your journey.

For those planning to visit all three attractions, allocate about 3 hours, no more, even with the toboggan. And for those asking for advice on what to skip and what to see, I’ll give it. Giving advice from the couch is my favorite thing 🙂

  • No. 1 and the coolest location – The Citadel on the hill. There you’ll find cannons and the largest exhibitions inside the fortress.
  • No. 2 is the Royal Palace itself, where the king lived. Although the palace is small, overall, everything is well-preserved, and there is access to the inner chambers. It’s not comparable to the Royal Palace in Budapest, but for Visegrád, with its population of 1800 people, it’s more than enough.
  • No. 3 is Solomon’s Tower, also known as the Lower Castle. Optionally, especially while the Tower is under reconstruction. When visiting the Citadel or the Royal Palace, ask if there are any shows at the jousting arena in the Lower Castle today. If something interests you, you can attend. The drum show is highly praised, but I personally haven’t seen it. I’ve been three times and was late three times 🙂

What to do in Esztergom: Attractions, Aquapark + Bonus

Esztergom is another charming, small town that I recommend for an overnight stay. Rental services for accommodation can be found at the end of this article. Here are several reasons to consider stopping here:

  • Esztergom boasts the largest city center, offering more than 2-3 hours of leisurely strolling compared to the previous two cities.
  • There’s a compact aquapark with a small spa complex. While the aquapark itself is not extensive, you’ll easily find ways to spend 2-3 enjoyable hours here.
  • Esztergom is home to Hungary’s largest basilica, the Basilica of Saint Adalbert, visible from almost every corner of the city.
  • And now, for the bonus I’ll tell you about later.
Main square of Esztergom
The main square, Szechenyi Square, the Town Hall building, and the Plague Column are also featured in Esztergom’s scenery.

Here are the main tourist places in Esztergom:

  • Szechenyi Square, Town Hall, Plague Column, and pedestrian streets: 47.79175867205806, 18.73981474503224
  • City hill with the Chapel of Saint Thomas, sundial, and a picturesque path leading to Esztergom’s main attraction: 47.79569351563127, 18.74152555187301. The stairs up the hill start from these coordinates. I recommend starting your walk from here, very close to Szechenyi Square.
Esztergom Basilica
A cobblestone path winds up the hill through the chapel, offering fantastic views of the city.
  • Aquapark and spa complex (4 saunas). While Hungary has numerous thermal and aqua parks, Esztergom’s facility is quite worthy. If you have the time and inclination, it’s a must-visit. Check the link for Hungary’s best thermal baths.
    • Coordinates (located in the city center): 47.79458579856222, 18.737518743644237
    • Official website (operating hours, prices):
      • Ticket to the aquapark, adult: approximately 13 euros
      • SPA + Sauna ticket: approximately 15 euros.
      • If traveling with children, the aquapark is a definite recommendation; if not, the SPA and Sauna area might be more suitable
Royal Palace of Esztergom
Two main attractions in Esztergom visible from almost any point: on the left, the Royal Palace, and on the right, the largest basilica in Hungary – no need for further explanation.

These two main attractions in Esztergom are located in one place, offering a beautiful view of the Danube.

  • Esztergom Fortress or the Royal Palace: You can visit the inner courtyard for free, while the museum inside the fortress requires an admission fee of 6 euros. The museum is excellent but relatively small; I won’t strongly recommend it.
View of the fortress and basilica of Esztergom
This is Esztergom Fortress, or more precisely, its walls, seen from the lower town. Behind it is the Basilica.
  • And, of course, Hungary’s largest basilica, the Basilica of Saint Adalbert, with colossal proportions. Admission is free, but photography inside is not allowed; however, you can find pictures online for those interested.
  • Navigate using these coordinates: 47.79852490440443, 18.736754107051844. Keep in mind that the fortress and basilica are enormous, taking about 30 minutes to walk around in a circle. Take your time to enjoy the views of the Danube from the observation decks, at least an hour.
Basilica in Esztergom symbol of Hungary
The basilica is impressive even when you enter the city by car

And finally, a bonus: Maria Valeria Bridge over the Danube and the Slovak town of Sturovo. The bridge is clearly visible from the observation deck near the Basilica. There is no border, no checkpoints, passports are not checked, 10 minutes and you are in Slovakia.

esztergom what to see
In the photo there is a bridge, a view of the Danube, and on the other side is the Slovak town of Sturovo. Walking takes about 10-15 minutes. Photo taken from the observation deck near the Basilica


The city is even smaller than Esztergom. But you should come here for two reasons. At sunset, this side has very cool views of the Esztergom Fortress and the Basilica. There is a promenade and benches here. Also, I always go to Štúrovo for dinner, it’s simply cheaper here than in Hungary. Slovakia is basically cheaper in terms of prices 🙂

There is nothing better than traveling around Hungary, visiting a water park, and walking to Slovakia for dinner, eating signature burgers with a view of Hungary and its largest temple.

  • Coordinates of the promenade in Sturovo, where there are benches and a cool view: 47.79855558584015, 18.72730128895903
  • My favorite place is Brother’s Burger (in Sturovo): 47.79848842867056, 18.725490320961537. 2 beers and two large burgers with fries – about 15-20 euros. You can take it out and eat it on the promenade, about 100 meters away. We go to Slovakia with euros.
esztergom attractions
This is the view from the promenade in Sturovo to Hungary and Esztergom. We buy food, beer, wine and sit at sunset

Interesting to know:

The most popular city among tourists of these three is Visegrad. In my opinion, this is only because of the fortress and its historical significance. The second most popular is Szentendre, but only because it is very close to Budapest and very easy to get to by regular train. But Esztergom is undeservedly often ignored by tourists, but in vain. Of these three, this is my favorite city, and the only city where you can spend the whole day and not get bored after 2-3 hours. And as soon as you get bored, you can go for a walk in Slovakia.

Tourists traveling around Hungary by car often go to Eszterhaza Palace and Sopron after Esztergom. Follow the link for a review of Sopron: what to see, where to eat.

In conclusion: Szentendre, Visegrad and Esztergom are three cities that are on the same road in the Danube bend. They should be visited together. The towns are small and cozy, but at the same time, each is fundamentally different and stands out. They are not similar to each other at all, they are different.

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