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In Pictures: Hungary

From its clifftop castles to its world-famous hot springs, this photography series captures the many shades of Hungary

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 1 Nov 2018, 23:35 GMT, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 14:05 BST

Budapest is home to a host of postcard-perfect architectural styles — from the baroque Buda Castle to the art nouveau bathhouses of Gellért Spa and the neoclassical St. Stephen's Basillica. Grandeur is evident all across the city; it can be seen in the lofty heights of Castle Hill as well as the low-rise sprawl of Pest's new town.

However, beyond the capital, Hungary's landscape takes the reigns. Northeast of Budapest, bubbling springs trickle down the hillside in the village of Egerszalók, where bathers travel from far and wide to benefit from the medicinal properties of the open-air spa. Head further north and there's the rolling vineyards of the Tokaj wine region, thought to have existed here since the 12th century.

But Hungary isn't about having to choose between the two. Kayakers and canoers paddle the country's network of rivers, while hikers delve into the protected landscape of Zemplén — a former stone mine in the mountains that's been reclaimed by nature and is now one of the country's finest outdoor destinations.

Demetervin Vineyard
Endre Demeter, owner of Demetervin Vineyard, works in his steep terraced farm in the Tokaj wine region, which has been a grape-growing hotspot since the 1500s. Image: Nick Warner

Tarn of Megyer Mountain
This former stone mine in the Tarn of Megyer Mountain was abandoned in 1907 and is being slowly reclaimed by nature. A rainwater lake, which is approached through the forest by hiking trails, has now formed in the bottom of the mine. Image: Nick Warner

Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica
The interior of Eger's cathedral, which has a name that's almost as long as its history: the ornate house of worship's full title is Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, St. Michael and the Immaculate Conception. Image: Nick Warner

Andrássy Castle
The castle and its gardens were built in Tiszadob in the 1880s for Hungary's former prime minister Gyula Andrássy. The neo-classical building has four entrances to represent the four seasons, 12 towers for the 12 months of the year, 52 rooms for the weeks, and 365 windows, for each day of the year. Image: Nick Warner

Tiszafüred Fisherman
The wetlands and the vast network of islands around Lake Tisza attract countless European birdwatchers. The region also provides ample opportunity for pursuits such as fishing, canoeing and cycling on the nearly 40-mile cycle trail that circumnavigates the lake. Image: Nick Warner

Gellért Baths
Gellért Spa opened in 1918, though there have been various spas on the site that have made use of the healing waters from Gellért Hill's mineral springs since the 1500s. An outside wave-machine pool and sun-bathing terraces were added to the complex in the 1920s and 30s. Image: Nick Warner

Salt Hill
On the edge of the small village of Egerszalók in northeastern Hungary, a bubbling mineral water spring trickles down a grass hillside, slowly creating these unique formations. Bathers come from far and wide to enjoy the medicinal properties of the nearby thermal complex. Image: Nick Warner

Cattle Worker
Hortobágy National Park is Hungary's largest protected area at 310sq miles. These long-horned Hungarian Grey cattle are among the livestock kept on this vast, ancient plane. This agricultural worker in traditional attire is demonstrating how cattle pull a traditional cart. Image: Nick Warner

Pannonhalma Archabbey
Formed in 996, there's a hilltop basilica and historical library at this site — plus a restaurant, winery, and handicrafts — but the archabbey isn't just an exhibit. A boys' Benedictine boarding school operates here and around 50 monks still live and work in the complex. Image: Nick Warner

Rákóczi Castle
Also known as the Castle of Sárospatak, as seen from across the Bodrog river. It was occupied by the Rákóczi, a Hungarian noble family, for about 100 years from the 1600s, but fell into disrepair by the 18th century. The building's renovation began in the 1980s and was finished in 1991. Image: Nick Warner

Sárospatak Library
The library at Sárospatak Reformed College contains around 25,000 volumes. Some of the oldest and most valuable books in the collection were only returned to it as recently as 2006 — they were seized by the retreating Soviet Army in 1945 from their supposedly safe wartime storage in Budapest. Image: Nick Warner

Sailboat on Lake Balaton
Thousands of vessels, from rowboats to pleasure-cruise catamarans, regularly ply the waters of Lake Balaton. Every year, the Blue Ribbon Regatta sees sailors compete to circumnavigate the lake in the shortest time. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Széchenyi Chain Bridge spans the Danube, connecting the capital's two halves: Buda, to the west, and Pest, to the east. It's at its most picturesque at night, when it's illuminated by hundreds of lights, which are reflected in the river. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Parliament Building
Completed in 1904, the Hungarian Parliament Building overlooks the Danube and is the third largest parliament building in the world. Visitors can tour the building's interior; it's also where the Hungarian Holy Crown is displayed. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Tokaj Wine Region
Only six varieties of grape are officially allowed to grow in the Tokaj wine region, largely indigenous varieties such as furmint and hárslevelü. Vineyards are thought to have existed here since at least the 12th century. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Dawn at Fisherman's Bastion
Some of the best views over the Hungarian capital are to be found at Fisherman's Bastion — particularly at dawn, both for the light and the lack of crowds. This ornate hilltop viewing terrace has stood on the Buda bank of the Danube since the late 19th century. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Kayakers on the River Bodrog
Tokaj isn't all about wine tourism. The River Bodrog, which runs through the region, is a popular spot for kayaking and canoeing; late summer offers the calmest waters, not to mention the warmest temperatures for a dip too. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Vineyards in Mád
The vineyards of the Tokaj wine region stretch across almost 28,000 acres of northeastern Hungary and neighbouring Slovakia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area is best known for Tokaj wine, known locally as Tokaji Aszú. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Füzér Castle
Perhaps Hungary's most attractive refurbished ruin, Füzér Castle has stood on a clifftop in the Zemplén Mountains since the 13th century. It's reached via a steep footpath from the neighbouring village, from which visitors can admire the surrounding hills. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Tihany Abbey
Perched on a peninsula jutting into the blue waters of Lake Balaton, the Benedictine monastery of Tihany Abbey was established in 1055, before being rebuilt seven centuries later. The monastery's founder, Hungary's King Andrew I, is buried in the crypt. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Tarn of Megyer Mountain
A man stands in a gorge, looking out over a lake on the site of a former mine, in the mountains outside Sárospatak. Today, it's an amazing landscape of caves, cliffs, pools and a 210ft gorge, which is one of the country's most spectacular hiking spots. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

Late afternoon sun at Lake Balaton
Who needs the seaside? Lake Balaton is Central Europe's largest lake, with shallow water that stays warm for much of the year and stunning scenery — including Balaton Uplands National Park. Image: Stephen Alvarez/Nat Geo Image Collection

The photographers:

Nick Warner is a documentary travel and portrait photographer based in London. Nick has a degree in photography from the Arts Institute in Bournemouth and a master's degree in curating contemporary art from London's Royal College of Art. Nick's primary concern in photography is storytelling and he's happiest photographing anything involving people. For more stories, follow Nick on Instagram: @nick_fotograph

Stephen Alvarez is an award-winning National Geographic photographer and filmmaker who produces global stories about exploration, adventure, culture and archaeology. He has published over a dozen feature stories in National Geographic magazine. On assignment he has travelled from the highest peaks in the Andes to the depths of the deepest cave in the world. For more stories, follow Stephen on Instagram: @salvarezphoto

About the photo story: The images in this story formed part of photography exhibition at World Travel Market 2018, London, and produced in collaboration with the Hungarian Tourism Agency

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