Why visit Szentendre?
If you’re going to Budapest try to find the time to take a half-day trip to Szentendre. And do it using Viator, even though we stupidly didn’t!
We use Viator all over the world and should have for this trip but instead we used a local provider our hotel recommended. We do not recommend them and, to make matters worse, we don’t even remember their name, so just use Viator! The company that took us basically dropped us off at the roadside, went on to somewhere else, and picked us up a couple hours later. With Viator you go to Szentendre in a coach and come back on a boat cruise which would be highly preferable. And you have a guide so you don’t miss all of the things we apparently did!
But why go anyway? Because it’s an adorable town with cobblestone streets, is situated along the Danube, has a lot of history and a gelato shop. For us those are enough reasons, but you may want a little more information to be enticed to visit.
How about the fact that it’s in “Pest County, Hungary”? As you may know, the name of Budapest is a combination of two cities – guess their names! That’s right – Buda and Pest! Apparently the counties didn’t also get married so this is just Pest County and we loved that.
Szentendre has a Mediterranean feel to it, most likely because it was originally settled by Greeks, Dalmatians and Serbs. However, we were told repeatedly that Szentendre is a typical small Hungarian village.
It’s so picture perfect, tourist friendly and charming that we thought that couldn’t be true. But after speaking to actual Hungarians we were told it is true. Apparently the country has many such delightful towns but the farther you get from Budapest the less English is spoken and the fewer people venture.
If we thought we could learn to read road signs in Hungarian we would rent a car and venture forth some time! (Don’t wait for that.)
Things to see in Szentendre
The town has a remarkably well preserved Baroque look and even has its own cross that was created to commemorate the survivors of the plague in 1763. (Shouldn’t they have commemorated the victims? Not ours to say, but…)
The old buildings leaning into each other and the soft light in the area are part of why the town is so popular with young artists who have set up galleries. (The fact that in the summer months hordes of tourists descend with their credit cards in their hands may also be a contributing factor.) Aside from artists’ own galleries there is also a constantly changing display of the work of local artists at the Szentendre Gallery in town.
Churches – 9 of them to be precise
Aside from admiring the architecture, that’s 8 more churches than interest us. (What is it with Europe? Instead of junior high science fairs do they have competitions where everyone has to build a church, cathedral, mosque or synagogue?)
The one above seemed as if it was built to accommodate the few rebels who dared to worship during the communist era when Hungary was officially an atheistic state.
Because we didn’t have a guide (another headslap here) we didn’t know how many museums there were in Szentendre.
One we bumbled into was the interesting (and vaguely creepy) Szabo-Szamos Marzipan Museum. The candies – which include many chocolates as well – are gorgeous and the spotless café had free wifi.
The vaguely creepy part was the museum upstairs with an array of figures – human and animal – made of marzipan. It may seem brilliant to you, and we may seem weird, and that’s another valid way to look at the world.
Aside from the Marzipan Museum there is a Doll Museum of Serbian-Orthodox dolls (the anti-Barbies), the Károly Ferenczy Museum which displays paintings of the “father of plein-air painting in Hungary” as well as art by his wife and children, the Serbian-Orthodox Museum and many others that we failed to visit but that you can learn more about here.
There were more cute shops than we had the time or forints to spend (luckily) and many of them had nice quality goods that were actually produced in Hungary. The one above is well known for its astoundingly large selection of paprika products. Hungarians really take their paprika seriously!
We were there post-lunch and pre-dinner so for once didn’t consume a meal. As it was October and mid-afternoon there weren’t a lot of people sitting at the outside tables but there were lots of cafes that looked to be quite intriguing.
It’s a nice break from the city.
We both thought Budapest was a fascinating and beautiful gem of a city. We liked everything about it. But it can still be nice to get away from traffic, fumes and crowds for a couple hours and Szentendre provided us that break.
In peak tourist time we aren’t so sure it would provide the break from crowds as the secret is apparently out! That doesn’t mean you have to spread the word though – shhh….