Most visitors who make it to Hungary only spend a few days in Budapest before crossing into the next country on their Eurotrip. If you only have a few days to spend In Hungary, spending it in Budapest is definitely the way to go. You will undoubtedly love wandering around the Jewish quarter, checking out ruin bars and spending a relaxing afternoon in one of the baths around town. Budapest, however, is a thriving metropolis where you are more likely to eat a falafel than paprika chicken so on my last trip there I was keen to see another side of Hungary, which is how I ended up in Pécs.
Pécs was the European Capital of Culture in 2010 and is a comfortable 3-hour train ride from Budapest and logical stop if you’re heading to northern Croatia. There’s enough here to keep you occupied for a couple of days, particularly if you head here during the university year when the cafes and bars are bustling with local students.
Pécs’ old town is one of my favourites in central Europe and is where I spent most of my first day in the city. The main square is perfect for people watching and has a wonderful, peaceful vibe associated with it. In particular, the presence of the Pécs Cathedral, the Mosque of Pasha Qasim and the Pécs Synagogue all within a few metres of the main square highlight the cultural diversity of Pécs and how different religious groups have lived here in harmony for centuries. You can easily spend a few hours in the square, reading a book and watching the world go by.
Afterwards, a stroll down Kiraly Street is a good way to spend a couple of hours. The main boulevard is lined with boutique shops, restaurants and some museums and is an ideal stop for a late lunch, particularly as many restaurants offer set menus between 12-3pm for between 1000 to 1500 HUF (3 to 5 euros). In the evening, the main square is often buzzing as the sun goes down before the locals head down to a bar and enjoy a beer or two. The local hangouts are located a bit outside the old town where you can also find some kebab places for a cheap dinner.
A perfect way to spend your second day in Pécs is to go on a hike up to the communist era TV Tower. There are a few well-marked trails and it takes about two hours to get to the base of the tower. On the way to the top, there are opportunities to get some great panoramic shots of Pécs before strolling through some peaceful forest where I only encountered one other person for the two hours that I was there. Once at the base of the TV tower, you have the option of taking a lift to the very top of the tower for more panoramic views of the city. If you’ve run out of energy by that point, there’s a bus that can you take back into town.
During my time in Pécs, I stayed at the very peaceful Ananas hostel located about a 15-minute walk from the very centre of town. Run by Marion and Csabi, a lovely Hungarian-French couple, the hostel offers dorm and private rooms in a cool bohemian setting combined with a lovely family atmosphere. This hostel has character, which is something too often missing from most of the modern commercial hostels you find in Western and Central Europe these days, and is certainly a place where you actually feel like you’re staying at somebody’s home! The outdoor garden is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon recovering from a morning hike, chilling out and having a cuddle with their cat. You can see the latest reviews and prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com
I think it’s only a matter of time before Pécs is firmly on the tourist trail, particularly as a logical stop on the Hungary-to-Croatia route. Get there soon to experience another side of Hungary that you won’t find if you only go to Budapest!
Have you been to Pécs? What did you think of the city? Add a comment below!