When thinking of Hungary, most people don’t know what amazing gems the countryside has to offer to curious travelers. I’d like to draw your attention to one of my country’s prettiest towns, Sopron, which is often referred to as the “Jewelry Box of Hungary”. Born and raised in this beautiful little town, I can assure you that Sopron is a perfect destination for a romantic or even a family getaway and is just half an hour’s drive from Vienna, which itself is a popular destination for Slovenians. If you have a short weekend, get in the car in the morning and after just 3.5 hours of driving you can be enjoying a coffee in the old town and just breathing in the living history.
The Sights You Absolutely Must Check Out
The area was already settled in pre-historic times and played a strategically important role in the Roman Empire as well, due to the famous Amber Road crossing the settlement, which was named Scarbantia at the time. The ruins from the Roman era are still standing and are definitely worth visiting.
The city’s current population is around 70,000 and throughout the centuries it has always been considered a major town in Hungary. Its architecture reflects all the different styles it witnessed, from the medieval to the gothic, baroque or even secessionist.
Since you can easily explore the town on foot, I recommend that you start your sightseeing tour in the Main Square, by the foot of the Fire Tower, which is the most famous landmark in Sopron. For a small entry fee you can get to know about the city’s history and visit an exhibition under the tower. You don’t want to miss out on the spectacular view from the top of the tower, from where you can see as far as the snowy peaks of the neighboring Mt. Scneeberg.
Since every single building in the Main Square and the surrounding narrow, medieval streets has a long, bountiful history, here is a list of the sights you absolutely must check when you’re in Sopron.
1. Main Square: Fire Tower, City Hall, Goat Church, Holy Trinity statue, Fabricius House, Gambrinus House, Pharmacy Museum, Gyógygödör Wine Cellar
2. Surrounding streets: Forum of Scarbantia (Roman ruins exhibition), Orsolya Square, Cesar House (wine cellar), Eszterházy Palace, Old Synagogue
3. Várkerület – the city’s long, central boulevard with cute little cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops
4. Széchenyi Square
5. Deák Square
Insider Tips on Where to Wine and Dine
Sopron is famous for its beer, as the city is home to one of the biggest breweries in Hungary. Find refreshment during the hot summer days in a cold glass of “Soproni” beer! Beer is not the only delicious beverage in Sopron, though, as the city is nestled in one of Hungary’s most prominent wine regions, so it also attracts plenty of tourists who want to indulge themselves in delicious wines made here. Here are my insider tips on where to wine and dine.
1. Gyógygödör – one of the oldest, most authentic wine cellars, also favored by locals, where you can enjoy delicious, traditional home-cooked meals along with refreshing local wines, served freshly with soda.
2. Kultúrpresszó – artisanal coffee, cakes, hand-crafted souvenirs, clothes, and accessories from Hungarian designers all in one place. What else could you possible need?
3. Koffer – a relatively new wine bar run by young, local wine makers with a trendy, laid-back vibe and an exquisite wine selection focusing on the region’s vintages. Ask the staff for their recommendations!
4. Deák Étterem – with a beautiful garden and huge selection of mouth-watering dishes, this restaurant serves an impeccable dining experience to all its visitors.
5. Dömötöri Cukrászda – due to its wide selection, get ready to wait in line before tasting the best ice cream in town. If you want to pamper your sweet tooth, try their cakes, pastries, and cookies as well!
Any conversation about what to do in Sopron must mention that every June the city hosts one of the biggest music festivals in Hungary, the Volt Festival. If you don’t want to miss out on world-famous bands playing right in your backyard, I definitely recommend checking out the festival’s webpage and also learning a couple survival phrases in Hungarian. :)
Survival Phrases in Hungarian
Szia! (see-yah) – Hi!
Hogy vagy? (hodj vadj) – How are you?
Igen/nem (ee-gen/nehm) – Yes/no
Köszönöm! (keu-seu-neum) – Thank you!
Szívesen! (see-ve-shen) – You’re welcome!
Egészségedre! (ag-eh-sheg-ad-reh) – Cheers!
Jó étvágyat! (yoh eht-vah-djot) – Enjoy your meal!
Kérek egy sört/pálinkát/bort! (keh-rack eh-dj shirt/pah-lin-cat/bore-t) – I would like a beer/pálinka/wine)
Szép vagy. (sep vadj) – You’re beautiful.
Szeretlek. (se-reth-lek) – I love you.
After a whole day of walking among the pretty buildings of Sopron, trying the local wines, delicious food, and indulgent ice cream you can find great accommodations anywhere in the center. If you have one more day to spend in the area, I suggest visiting the charming Lőverek forest, the surrounding villages, and Lake Fertő (Neusiedler See) by bike. But that’s for another blog entry! :)
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