Our third stop in Hungary took us through rolling farmland to the city of Pécs, an area that has been inhabited for 6,000 years. The land has held Celts, been ruled by the Romans, conquered by the Ottomans, and the city has been shaped by its history over the ages.
This is the third post on our journey through Hungary as part of our trip around the world. Make sure you check out the first two posts, Budapest and Eger, which include important overall information about traveling in the country. Please also share this site with a friend who enjoys traveling!
We visited Pécs (pronounced “paitch”) for three nights following our stays in Budapest and Eger. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Cite due to its impressive history, but does not draw the same tourist crowds seen in other areas of Europe. The city is centered around a square which is flanked by incredibly restored buildings from the past, and is just a short walk from ruins of earlier civilizations. The old town is made up of a T shaped area of cobblestone streets, lined with restaurants, fountains and monuments.
Around this area are some beautiful buildings, including the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, formerly known as the Mosque of Pasha Qasim. This building was used as a mosque during Ottoman rule and later converted to a Roman Catholic Church, but the Islamic influence can still be seen in the structure.An iconic four towered basilica, the Pécs Cathedral, also marks the area and can be seen from a distance.
While in town, we toured the ruins near old town, hiked up to Kálvariá Kápolna (Calvary Chapel), a lookout point on Kálvaria-domb (Calvary Hill), and took a longer hike to the TV Tower north of town for some sweeping views of the area.
The TV Tower is located about two miles north of town and can be accessed from roads or hiking trails. We did a winding hike through the Tettyei Rom ruins and Balázs Pihenö viewpoint, passing the zoo on the way, which made a 5 mile round trip. The tower is located on a hill and measures 197 meters with a 75 meter viewpoint, providing a 360 degree panoramic (and extremely windy) view of the region. This was the only time we’ve taken an elevator for a view in all of Europe! The cost for entry is 1,100 HUF ($4) and well worth the price.
We were given a ride to the train station in Budapest from our guesthouse host in Eger and took a train south from there. The train system is operated by MAV (Magyar Államvasutak), the Hungarian rail network. There is a direct route from the main Budapest Keleti station which takes you south through farm and pasturelands, with wheat and sunflowers coating the landscape views.The rail system is somewhat less reliable than others that we have used in Europe, but was still a comfortable way to travel. Our train left 20 minutes late, and included a surprise bus diversion due to rail work. Fortunately, we had an English speaking neighbor who helped us figure out which bus to grab after a frustrating couple of minutes. After the fact we went back to the MAV website and were able to figure out which routes had rail work, but if you weren’t looking for it it’s easy to miss. Ours said some thing like IC to ICB to IC – meaning intercity train to intercity bus to intercity train.
Despite our best attempt, we were unable to book adjoining seats due to the strange numbering system on the train. The seat numbers seemed somewhat randomly assigned, with consecutive numbers not necessarily being together. The booking system requires you to reserve seats (due to high season), which has a small cost. Regardless, the three hour trip across the country cost around 4,350 HUF ($16) per person.
We had some difficulty with food options while in town. We found that many restaurants we researched on trip advisor were closed for summer holiday. Most of those that were easily accessible were very touristy, with atmospheres and prices to match. Supermarkets are readily available so booking a place with a kitchen would be a good idea, which we unfortunately did not do. Despite the higher end food options, there are a few good places available. After a desperate search for a place that served eggs for breakfast, we came across Aranycipo Bakery near the square. This became our staple breakfast with scrambled eggs, an amazing chocolate croissant and a cappuccino costing just 900 HUF, or $3.35 per person.
Overall, we would have limited our stay in this area to one day, and used the extra time to explore other parts of Hungary. Options could include the nearby Villány wine region, the district around Lake Balaton, or even a trip across the border from Budapest to Bratislava in Slovakia, which we skipped.
What We Learned in Pécs:
- We would visit for one day, or trade this area for Lake Balaton, Szeged, wine regions (Villany etc), or Bratislava.
- Old Town is purely touristy with restaurant options and prices to match. There are supermarkets a few blocks from town for greater options.
- Pay close attention when booking train tickets online for evidence of rail work (e.g. IC –> ICB –> IC).
- This was the priciest of the 3 cities we visited, cooking meals would be more helpful here.
- Observe the architecture, and historical ruins. There are many museums as well.
- The city is very walkable, no need for public transportation. A bike rental would also be fun.
- Taste regional wines including Tokaj wine at the wine bars.
Take Aways From Trip Hungary Adventure:
- In this country, you can typically eat out for the same cost as making a meal from the grocery store.
- Transportation, accommodations, food, and alcohol are very inexpensive.
- Bring a packable grocery bag. The stores may not provide any or will charge extra.
- Weigh your fruits and vegetables and print the corresponding produce tag at the kiosk or you’ll get nasty looks from the grocery clerk when you check out.
- In Hungary its customary to tip 10% at restaurants. Tax is included in the price.
- Use MAV Hungarian State Railways for inexpensive travel, but expect minor delays and bus transfers due to rail work. There is a 3% discount for e-tickets if booked online. Caution with obligatory seat assignments, choose seats wisely.
- You can count on the kindness of strangers.
- Download Google Translate on your phone, we found it to be pretty helpful when translating short phrases but less helpful with full sentences. The visual translator is pretty unreliable at this point, but may help with a few words.
- Most younger people in Hungary speak English well, however the further you get away from Budapest the less English is spoken. Older people tend not to speak English as often.
- Signs, Menu’s are often in English.
Make sure you also take a look at other posts from our trip around the world, including Iceland and Austria. Also make sure to check out our Trip Itinerary, Packing List, and the Inspiration for our travels!