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Esztergom, Hungary

Explore the Multi-Layered History and Character of this Beautiful Country Along the Danube

Budapest – its imposing Chain Bridge and regal Parliament Building dominating the mighty Danube landscape – is likely what comes to mind when one thinks of exploring Hungary. Rightly so, as the capital city is chock full of cultural, architectural, culinary and spiritual delights both famed and unexpected. But beyond Budapest’s modern renown are towns that have held prominence in Hungary since the beginning and still reward visitors with fascinating experiences, beautiful countryside and valuable context for the bigger picture of the Hungarian story.

Esztergom (featured on Crystal Mahler voyages round-trip from Vienna in 2021 and 2022.)

Architecture enthusiasts will relish visits to this royal city. It’s the striking sight of the basilica here that first catches the eye. It seemingly rises out of nowhere along the city’s landscape, a neoclassical masterpiece towering above the Danube in a region of Hungary that looks otherwise pastoral and rural. It’s the largest church in Hungary, as well as the tallest structure of any kind in the country, at 387 feet tall. But beyond the architectural prominence of the basilica, Esztergom’s other profound significance to Hungarian heritage: it was the original seat of power, being the country’s capital from the time of its first king, St. Stephen, in 975; and is also considered the birthplace of Hungarian Christianity and Roman Catholicism.

Architecture here is more than meets the eye, with Rococo, Baroque and Neoclassical styles, as well as ancient influences from Egyptians and Romans, are all represented here. The basilica houses numerous sacred treasures, as well as a vast crypt and a tremendous collection of Renaissance art. Explore upward to Esztergom Castle, which still bears evidence of power from the early 11th century, with frescoes and Hungarian Renaissance works viewable in the castle’s chapel. Venture down underground for a visit to the Dark Gate, a 90-meter 19th-century tunnel built in Neoclassical style to connect the seminary with its housing. Today, visitors can use the tunnel to get from the seminary all the way to the city center.

Mohács (featured on Crystal Ravel voyages between Budapest and Giurgiu in 2022.)

A history buff’s haven, this town’s significance is largely dominated by battle (namely, the Battles of Mohács in 1526 and 1687), and it boasts the pride of a kingdom lost and found in the process. The battles bookended Ottoman rule over Hungary (beginning and ending, respectively), and museums and monuments throughout the city tell that fascinating tales of this struggle. Beyond the battles lies a friendly quirkiness to Mohács, which is illustrated by the many costumed festivals held throughout the year and the city’s other longstanding heritages of horsemanship and the tradition of taming and training wild horses, as well as delicious white wine production.

Just beyond Mohács is Pésc. Nicknamed the “Borderless City,” Pécs openly welcomes visitors with its warmth, both in climate and charm. Home to Croatians, Serbians, Germans, Hungarians and several others, it’s not the most famous destination in the region, but it should be. From Mohács, enter this enchanting 2010 European Capital of Culture and brace yourself for ancient treasures and baroque buildings of yesteryear, as well as bustling revitalized areas like the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter and Kiraly Street, where cafes and shops abound.

Crystal invites travelers to plan a Crystal River Cruises voyage with added flexibility as we look ahead to sailing together again.

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