Although Szentendre is just 20 kilometers (13 miles) away from Budapest, I have only visited it a few times.
Whenever I was there, it was always a memorable experience. An excursion with my classmates to the open air museum in primary school, a summer camp at Szentendre island with some buddies as a teen, an open air theater performance with great friends on the main square of the town and a date with my husband at the very beginning of our relationship. No wonder, I am very fond of this pictoresque settlement.
Charming Stairs, Photo: my friend, Bús Mónika
Terrace of a Café, Photo: my cousin Mészöly Nóra
In Szentendre it’s easy to imagine how life used to be in the small Hungarian towns centuries ago. As if time had stopped in the center.
Main Square (Fő tér), Photo: my cousin, Mészöly Nóra
It’s a relatively small town and it’s easily walkable. It gets packed with day trippers mainly at weekends during the summer.
It’s a paradise for those who are into folk arts, artisanal crafts and ceramics as the town is packed with small museums and galleries. Many artists have lived here and some still do: graphic designers, painters, sculptors, singers, architects, etc.
According to my experience 3-4 hours (excluding travel time) should be enough time to see what this town has to offer and get a feel for its friendly athosphere. If you want to visit the Skanzen (open air agricultural museum) on the outskirts, allow an extra 3 hours. There you get a real idea of what peasant life was like in the time of our great grandparents.
I would suggest visiting Szentendre to those who have already visited all of the sights in Budapest that they had planed, and feel like switching concrete for cobble stones.
Cobble Stones in Sunset, Photo: my cousin, Mészöly Nóra
What you shouldn’t miss:
Have a confortable stroll in the center of the city with its mediterranean atmosphere and admire the main square with its baroque buildings. In the middle of the square stands the cross of the Serbian Trade Association, which was erected in 1763 in gratitude that the town escaped the plague.
Main Square and Cross, Photo: Leanne White
Don’t miss this tiny exhibition (15 pieces to view) which shows art that you can only see through a microscope. It is amazing to see tiny sculptures and paintings like a chess board and chess set placed on a pinhead or a pyramid and four camels in the eye of a needle. Unbelievable unless you see it for yourself.
The entrance is in the main square, next to a restaurant. Look for the poster advertising it.
The Needle and the Microscope, Photo: Leanne White
A Pyramid with 4 Camels Placed in the Eye of a Needle Seen through a Microscope, Photo: Leanne White
A Hungarian Speciality, lángos
Try Hungarian fried dough called lángos, you can find it at the end of an alley leading from the main square just opposite the church.
Hidden Alley from the Main Square, Photo: my friend, Bús Mónika
It’s a legendary place in the garden of a private house where they sell lángos with ham, sausage, cabbage, etc. You can even taste one with marmelade, but it is just the most adventurous Hungarians who try that out.
The original lángos is seasoned very simply with garlic or is topped with sour cream (tejföl). It’s also common to add grated cheese on top of the sour cream.
It’s easy to miss this place as it’s well hidden but just look for the board on the main square with the sign LÁNGOS on it.
Caution! Lángos is greasy, but worth a try.
Alley to Lángos, Photo: Leanne White
Church Hill (Templom tér)
If you follow the alley that leads from the main square, soon you will get to the top of a small hill. From there you can admire the view of the rooftops and the churches near by.
View from Church Hill (Templom tér), Photo: my cousin, Mészöly Nóra
Have a stroll on the pebbled bank of the river Danube, admire the nature, feed the greedy ducks and have an ice cream.
Danube Promenade, Photo: Leanne White
Get an insight into the world of making masterpieces with pastries and marzipan, and be amazed by the artistically decorated delicacies. In the patisserie next door you can treat yourself with tasty cakes and ice cream in warmer weather.
Address: Dumtsa Jenő utca 12.
Patissery on the Left, Photo: my couisin Mészöly Nóra
Kovács Margit Museum
This exhibition installed in a historic building shows the life work of the famous Hungarian female ceramist and sculptor, Kovács Margit. Next to the ornamental ceramic articles some other artistic objects are displayed, like beautiful pots, candle holders and even a dazzling wedding stove.
Address: Vastagh György u. 1.
Open Air Museum (Skanzen) in the outskirts
Hungary’s biggest open air museum shows what life of our ancestors used to be like living in the countryside 100-200 years ago. It’s not just the architecture, but also how they lived and what sort of lifestyle they had that we can have a glance at. More than 300 buildings and many objects are displayed here based on different areas.
Flowers in the Window, Photo: my friend, Bús Mónika
Thatch in Outdoor Museum, Photo: my friend, Bús Mónika
In the premises there is an industrial museum train running that was designed back in 1927. It was renovated receintly and now is accessible even for those using wheelchairs and for families with prams.
To get to the museum go back to the train station (HÉV) and take the local bus to Skanzen from stop No. 7. This bus leaves once or twice every two hours so I suggest you check the timetable in advance.
Thatch in the Outdoor Museum, Photo: my friend, Bús Mónika
How to Get from Budapest to Szentendre
H5 Suburban Railway
Most locals would probably choose this as it’s the easiest: There are H5 suburban railway trains (HÉV in Hungarian) running from Batthyány tér metro stop (M2) every 15-30 minutes during the day.
A more romantic way is to take a boat. From the end of April till the end of September there are excursion boats leaving from Budapest, Vigadó tér (10 minute walk from the apartments) daily at 10 am except Mondays. It arrives to Szentendre downtown at 11.30 am. You have 5 and half hours there, as the boat returning to Budapest leaves at 5 pm. The tour back takes just an hour as it’s quicker downstream.
For you sporty people you can rent a bike in Budapest and if you are a fast cyclist the journey will only take about an hour. For slower cyclists you should allow a travel time of 1.5 – 2 hours. For the return journey, if you don’t feel like cycling, you can transport your bikes on the train (HÉV) if you buy an extra ticket in addition to yours.
On the platforms of the trainstation a painted pictogram will show you where can you get on the train with your bike.
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About the authors: Virág and János
Virág, a native of Budapest, and János, who’s been living in the city since 1997 are real fans of the capital of Hungary and try to awake the enthusiasm of others. They are dedicated to helping tourists to make most out of their stay.
Here you can read more about them: http://katonaapartments.hu/