Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Budapest and Central Danube Region
The Budapest and Central Danube Region has a population of almost 3 million though it constitutes only 7.4% of the country's area. The most important attraction is the world-famous Buda Castle on the north side of the Danube. There are over 90 major museums in the region including local history collections, regional architecture, and small village museums.
The Danube Bend (or Danube Knee; Dunakanyar) is one of the favorite recreational and excursion spots around Budapest. The name is applied to the extremely charming section of the Danube between Esztergom and Szentendre, where the river winds its way through the Visegrád Mountains and then turns sharply south (the river's "knee") towards Budapest. Because of the wooded hills which border it this section has become known as the "Hungarian Wachau". The main tourist centers are the beautiful towns of Esztergom, Visegrád and Vác, together with Szentendre, the little town so popular with artists. Walkers and nature-lovers will be attracted to the region lying behind the Danube Bend, in the Pilis Mountains and the Visegrád Hills to the south, as well as the quieter Börzsöny Mountains or the Cserhát mountain region to the north and east of the Danube.
An extremely interesting historical monument stands on the M1 expressway to Budapest, 7km (4mi.) north of the exit for Herceghalom. Above the village of Zsámbék tower the ruins of a large Romanesque church, which together with the church in Ják ranks as one of the most outstanding examples of this type of church. The triple-naved basilica was begun in 1220 and after the Mongol invasion around the middle of the century was probably finished by a French church masons' guild. An earthquake in the 1860s caused the collapse of this huge church; the west façade with the two towers and remains of the nave have been preserved thanks to conservation measures in the 19th C and convey an impression of the former greatness of this building at the transition from Romanesque to Gothic.
16km (10mi.) beyond Aszód lies Hatvan, an important traffic hub in the foothills of the Mátra Mountains and extending to both sides of the River Zagyva. Its 25,000 inhabitants are engaged mainly in the food industry, especially in sugar refineries and canning factories.As well as having a stately home in Gödöllo the Grassalkovich family also built a fine Baroque palace in 1754-63 a short distance away in Hatvan; with its U-shaped ground plan and domed central ressaut, it was the family's favorite style of residence. Situated on the Hatvan through-road, at Kossuth tér 18, the building has been sadly neglected and can be viewed only from the outside.The onion tower with its clock and the architrave above the main entrance are features of the 1757 Baroque Catholic Church on Kossuth tér. The pulpit, altars and stalls are also Baroque in style.In 1974 the newly-built Hatvan Thermal Baths, surrounded by a park, were officially opened. The water is at a temperature of 40°C (104°F) and is said to benefit diseases of the digestive organs as well as joint problems.It is worthwhile making a small detour to see the Baroque palace of the Counts of Teleki-Degenfeld, which is about 30km (19mi.) northwest of Hatvan in the southern foothills of the Cserhát Mountains. It is now a hotel.
On the left bank of the Danube, opposite Visegrád, at the foot of the Börzsöny Hills lies the small town of Nagymaros (pop. 5000) which is becoming increasingly popular as a recreational area. Many artists are attracted by the lovely countryside (artists' colony). The history of Nagymaros is closely linked with that of Visegrád, which was the summer residence of the kings in the 13th and 14th C. Many servants at the court lived on the other side, in Nagymaros. During the Turkish period the town was devastated and depopulated, in the 19th C fruit orchards were planted here. The appearance of the town suffered during the Eighties with the construction work for the Danube power station Gabãíkovo-Nagymaros jointly planned with the former Czechoslovakia. In response to nationwide protests construction was halted in 1989.The Catholic church with its octagonal tower was built in the 14th C. in Gothic style (pointed arch door and window frames) and later altered in Baroque style. In Váci utca (no. 21) there is a local history exhibition and works by the sculptor Jenó Gratner (b. 1907).
14km (8 3/4mi.) along Road 30 towards Hatvan lies the little town of Aszód. The Eger architect Giovanni Battista Carlone drew up the plans for the stately home which the Pomaniczy family built here C 1730. Side wings were added by the Counts of Széchenyi in 1770, forming a horse-shoe shaped complex with a beautiful double staircase in the center.Although the former residence (now a boarding-school) is not officially open to the public, a polite enquiry will usually result in a tour of the great banqueting hall, which was decorated in 1776 by Johann Lukas Kracker and Joseph Zach, who also worked in Eger and painted the fresco in the Lyceum library. The wall-frescos with trompe l'oeil architectural features culminate in a fake dome with allegorical figures in the center.
Cegléd, with 42,000 inhabitants the largest town in the region of Pest, is situated 30km (19mi.) west of Szolnok in the north of a large fruit and vegetable growing region. It played an important role in the 1848 freedom struggle; Lajos Kossuth began his tour here on September 24th 1848 with a fiery speech recruiting volunteers for the revolutionary army. The Baroque Trinity Column has stood on this historical site on Kossuth tér since 1896. The Classical Reformed Church (Szabadság tér) with over 2000 seats, 40m (131ft) towers and a 60m (197ft) high dome was built by József Hild, the superb Hungarian Classicist, in 1835 (e.g. cathedrals in Eger and Esztergom); the interior is plain (only open for services). The relief with the picture of Szegedi Kis, the reformer about 1545, was by Miklós Borsos.
The Kossuth Museum, housed in an art nouveau building, illustrates the independence struggle of 1848 and the exile in Turin of Kossuth (1861-94) and contains a collection of local crafts and history.
A visit to Ráckeve should include a short detour to Ósca, which is situated about 35km (28mi.) north of Ráckeve and only 5km (3mi.) from the E5 Budapest-Kecskemét road and can be reached via Kiskunlacháza and Bugyi. Surrounded by small thatched farmhouses the Late Romanesque church from the first half of the 13th C is a solid well-fortified building with two façaded towers and a prominent transept. It was built as the church of a Premonstratensian abbey and adopted by the reformed community in the middle of the 16th C. The late 13th C frescos in the choir were exposed in the 19th C (apostles, Saint Nicholas and Saint George, scenes from the life of the holy king Ladislaus and the Last Judgment).
This little town lies in the middle of the Gödöllo Highlands 29km (18mi.) east of Budapest, to which it is linked by a high-speed railroad. Its many visitors are attracted especially by the Palace, once the summer residence of Empress Elisabeth. After 1956 the quiet town began to flourish economically, and today several large industrial plants are established here as well as agricultural research institutes.
Grassalkovich Palace was once the summer residence of Empress Elisabeth. Today it is a retirement home but tourists can tour the grounds on a horse-drawn carriage.
University of Agricultural Science
In the center of the campus-like complex stands the two-story Neo-Baroque building of what was once a Premonstratensian school; in front of it lies a well-tended park with a number of rare plants. The various institutes and other university buildings are grouped around this main building. Of interest is the bronze relief on the wall of the university assembly hall by the artist Amerigo Tot, who was born in Hungary in 1909 and died in Italy in 1984; he called it "The Apotheosis of the Atom".
Máriabesny Pilgrimage Church
This church lies about 2km (1 1/4mi.) from the center of Gödöllo, on a hill above Road 30 to Hatvan. A "Way of the Cross" leads up to the Late Baroque Chapel (Kegytemplom), built in 1759-70, together with its lower and upper churches.
Zebegény lies 8km (5mi.) west of Nagymaros, also on the left bank of the Danube, where the river first flows south and then makes a bend in a northeast direction. This village has also been discovered by artists. On the hillside, at Bartóky utca 7, István Szöny (1894-1960), an important representative of modern Hungarian painting, lived. In his house a museum is dedicated to his life and works.
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