Eger is a beautiful historical town in northern Hungary.
It’s relatively less known than other Hungarian touristic attractions. And that’s good because it’s not exploited by too much crowd. But at the same time, it’s a pity, because such beauties should be more enhanced
Less than two hours (both by car or train) from Budapest, it lies on the edge of the crowded tourist routes. Yet it is a pleasant town, with many things to see. Baroque buildings and churches, the amazing old town, the spas, the wine cellars.
Many have ruled over Eger, from Mongols to Turks to Austrians. All have left a legacy, one of the biggest is probably the one left by the Ottoman Empire. Not only the minaret that still stands, orphaned of its mosque, in the centre of the old town but also the thermal baths. You can visit the town and, when you’re tired, get relax there!
If you’re in Hungary I definitely recommend a visit to this tiny yet beautiful town.
Here are the 5 most notable things to see in Eger among many others. This is my opinion, of course, and you can comment in the space below.
1. The Old Town
It is the Baroque pearl of Eger with its cobblestone alleys flanked by beautiful buildings and arched passages.
It’s easily explored by walking. Simply get lost in the narrow streets of the historic centre. Enjoy the atmosphere, look at the wine shops or sit at a bar or cellar dehors the get a glass of the famous local red wine.
While walking you can happen to get to one of the Turkish remnants of the town the Valide Sultana Bath. Otherwise, just head North-East towards the base of Castle Hill and you’ll find it!
2. Dobó István square
The heart of the old town is this beautiful, vast and scenic square.
Once there you’ll have the sight of the castle hill on one side, a modern multicoloured fountain in the middle and baroque buildings all around. One of them is the beautiful Church of St. Antony of Padua or Minorite Church. It stands taller than any other building around with its slightly arched façade and the two belfries. The interior of the church is also interesting with frescoes and woodworks.
Right next to the church stands the Town Hall. If you look at it after visiting the Minorite Temple you change abruptly the set and fly from the Baroque to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Its eclectic style can be found everywhere in the countries that once were part of the empire. Just look at it and you can imagine a Franz-Ferdinand coming out of it!
3. The castle
Eger’s castle stands on a hill that overlooks the town and the surrounding area.
It has a long and troubled history.
It was built after an earlier one, located North-East of the town, destroyed by the Mongols in 1241. Reinforced during the reign of King Matthias (1458–1490).
It was the centre point of the Hungarian national drama known as the Siege of Eger. In 1552 the Ottoman army laid siege on the town in an attempt to conquer it and guarantee access to the vast pasturelands and a direct route to Budapest. But the defenders, led by István Dobó, were brave enough to withstand the assaults for more than one month until when the invaders withdrew.
After the battle, the castle resulted almost completely destroyed. The reconstruction process took place between 1553 and 1596. In 1596 the Ottomans came back. They launched a new siege that this time proved to be successful. The conquer of the town marked the beginning of the almost one-century long Ottoman rule over Eger.
You can visit the castle and some buildings more recent than the sieges, like the Gothic Palace.
You can also walk along the walls and enjoy some breathtaking views of the town and surroundings.
4. The minaret
The minaret is a remnant of the Ottoman rule and still stands proud in the middle of the town with its 40 meters height. It was the northernmost Turkish minaret in Europe and the best-preserved one in Hungary. There’s no mosque anymore it was destroyed during the Austro-Hungarian rule.
Don’t know why the Minaret survived and the tall and thin structure looks a bit odd but still fascinating.
If you’re fit and don’t fear height you can climb up to the balcony that was once used by the muezzin and enjoy a beautiful view of the town and its surroundings.
Otherwise, just observe it, it is visible from almost every spot of the old town. Just look carefully and you’ll notice another oddity just on top of it: the crescent is now dominated by a cross!
5. The Valley of Beautiful Women
Egri Bikaver is the name of the red wine produced from the vineyards around Eger. It has a good and well-deserved reputation. In recent years the production of the area has been diversified. Also white and rosé wines have approached the market.
You can taste a glass or buy some bottles in the wine bars and wine shops in the old town.
Many of the cellars are located in the outskirts of the town in an area that bears the poetic name of Valley of Beautiful Women (Szépasszonyvölgy in Hungarian!). It’s a 30 minutes walk from the old town centre. You can also get there by car or bus (1049).
In autumn you’ll find here the harvested grapes ready to be converted into wine and stored into the cellars cut into the tuff hills that surround the square
There are some restaurants and a park, and you can visit the cellars around.
If you have a car you can also drive through the hills that surround the town, completely covered by vineyards. It’s an interesting detour.
The most renowned area is Nagy-Eged Hill (in English Great Eged Hill) which’s Eger’s Grand Cru terroir. It lies North East of the town and you can visit it also by bike if you’re fit enough.
And if you are there in autumn, enjoy the beautiful warm colours all around, contrasting with the deep purple hues of the grapes.