Exploring Szentendre, Hungary
About 40 minutes outside of Budapest, along the bend of the Danube, sits a charming little town called Szentendre. I spent an afternoon walking through the streets, popping in and out of shops, and snapping tons of pics during my trip to Europe in September and LOVED this little hamlet.
When we first planned our trip to Budapest, we didn’t include side excursions, but my friend was googling places around Budapest and stumbled upon photos of this town and said we had to go. I’ll be honest, I loved Budapest so much that I didn’t really want to spend time elsewhere, but my friend was really excited about it and pretty adamant that we go, so I slapped on a smile and went along for the ride. I figured if nothing else, it’d be cool to see what Hungary looks like outside of Budapest!
Our first obstacle was to get train tickets. Szentendre is about 40 minutes by commuter train, but figuring out which train tickets you need to buy was quite confusing. Fortunately, a kind local woman took pity on our confused faces and carefully explained the two different sets of tickets we needed and where to change trains.
With tickets in hand, we were on our way! The subways within Budapest were fine…pretty standard fare for an urban city. The commuter train line, however, was a bit on the rough side! These trains looked like they were straight out of the Communist era - very old, no lights (at least not in the cars we rode in), lots of graffiti, and no announcements telling you the name of each stop. But, it got us where we needed to go, so mission accomplished!
Once we hopped off the train, we realized we had no idea where to go! We didn’t have a map and the train station wasn’t exactly in the ‘cute’ part of town. My friend, fortunately, had international phone coverage, so we opened Google maps to at least see where we were. We decided to head towards the Danube and if we didn’t find the cute part of town, well, at least we’d see more of the Danube.
As we found our way to the river front, we also found the main section of town (i.e. the cute part!). The river front, itself, was really pretty. It was lined with a walkway, benches painted with various artistic scenes, and trees.
But, the real charm of Szentendre is the main part of town! As we stepped out of the alley that lead us away from the river, it felt like we’d stepped back in time (or onto a movie set!). Cobblestone streets, small shops with colorful handcrafted items, artists situated on every street selling their custom work, and a main square complete with a fountain and statue. I couldn’t start exploring fast enough!! It was the epitome of what I envision when I think of ‘small European towns’ and I LOVED it!
While we didn’t necessarily do any specific tours or activities and we didn’t stay long enough to try out any restaurants, it was perfect just to walk around leisurely and take in the atmosphere and scenery. It was also a great spot for doing some last minute shopping since we visited Szentendre on our last full day in Hungary.
My favorite store was the Christmas Museum Shop. One of my traditions when I travel is to pick up at least one Christmas ornament and one Christmas figurine. I look for something that is typically hand made and exhibits the traditions and customs of wherever I’m visiting. I'd already bought my hand carved Christmas figurine in Budapest, but I still hadn’t found any ornaments (that weren’t from a cheesy souvenir shop!). So, when I saw the Christmas shop in Szentendre, I was beyond thrilled!
If you read any history on Szentendre, you’ll discover it has a long history of being home to artists and it’s evident in the artists that line the streets selling their artwork. I loved that part of the town…it’s quite charming to walk along and see the beautiful artwork on display, but also seeing the artist that painted them! I couldn’t pass that up and bought a beautiful watercolor of the Parliament building in Budapest. The artist was very friendly and even signed the painting for me. He expressed his continual amazement that his artwork is hanging on the walls of homes around the world. He’s been painting and selling his work as a street vendor for 30 years! And you might think an original watercolor would be expensive, but it was only about 8 Euro!
If you decide to venture out from Budapest to visit Szentendre, you don’t need a lot of time here. I do wish we’d had a bit more time to try out a restaurant, but a long afternoon or morning is plenty of time to enjoy this picturesque Hungarian town.
How to get here...
As I previously mentioned, we took the commuter train line from Budapest and it was about 40 minutes. You will need to take the purple line from Batthyany Square on the Buda side of Budapest. This is the suburban line and is the beginning of the line. Szentendre is the end of the line, so don't worry about missing a stop, just find a seat, get comfortable, and in 40 minutes, you'll be there!