How to Travel from Budapest to Esztergom Hungary and Things to Do in One day

Esztergom is a small town 48km northwest of Budapest, Hungary. The historic town is located on the right bank of the Danube River, which forms the border with Slovakia. And the city is known for Esztergom Bascilica, the third largest church in Europe.

As for the significance of Esztergom, the city has always played an important role in Hungary’s history. The city was established around 972AD, it was once the capital of Hungary between 10th and 13th century and it was the birth and coronation place of the first Hungarian king, St. Stephen. And this was the town where foreign monarchs could meet Hungarian kings.

Today, Esztergom is an excellent day trip destination from Budapest. And travelling from Budapest to Esztergom couldn’t be easier. The small town is connected by an efficient train network where it is possible to travel from Budapest to Esztergom in 75 minutes.

If you are travelling solo in Budapest and want to explore the Hungarian countryside, then you’ll have to visit Esztergom. Keep reading and find out how to get there and what you can do in one day in Esztergom.

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What you need to know before travelling from Budapest to Esztergom Hungary

Before you start your day trip from Budapest to Esztergom, take a look at my Budapest solo travel guide and learn about the city first.

Here are some specific travel tips for spending a day trip to Esztergom:

  • The best time to visit Esztergom is between May to September as many museums, restaurants and tours only operate during those months.
  • The best days to visit Esztergom is between Wednesday to Saturday as some museums and restaurants close on other days.
  • It takes about 6 hours to complete this Esztergom itinerary. I recommend arriving in Esztergom no later by 10am.

How to get from Budapest to Esztergom

The easiest and cheapest way to travel from Budapest to Esztergom is by taking the local train from Budapest Nyugati Station to Esztergom Station, then walk to the city centre.

Budapest to Esztergom Train

At Budapest Nyugati Station, buy a ticket from a machine with cash or a credit card and find your train on the correct platform.

Local train: from Budapest Nyugati Station to Esztergom Station

  • Time: 1 hour 16 minutes 
  • Cost: 1120HUF 
  • Check: MAV website for train schedules

Once you arrive at Esztergom Station, walk 30 minutes north on Simor János U. to the first attraction on this itinerary. The walk may seem long and nothing to see at the beginning, but after about 15 minutes, you will see little shops popping up on the route.

FYI – there are several buses travelling from Esztergom Station to the city centre (Bus A, G, 825, 836) but each bus come by once an hour so it might be difficult to time your arrival time in Esztergom and catch the next bus. It’s better to walk.

Esztergom Day Trip Map

Below are all the best highlights of Esztergom Hungary. Red pins are all the must-see attractions during your day trip to Esztergom while the blue pins are other things to do in Esztergom if you have more time.

And I organized all these attractions into an efficient itinerary. All you have to do is follow the numbered pins and read the description for each attraction.

Best Things to Do in Esztergom in One Day

1. Walk up Saint Stephen’s Staircase

As mentioned already, the walk from Esztergom Station is about 30 minutes. It is best to walk north on Simor János U. The street will merge with the main road where you will see the base of Szent István lépcső (Saint Stephen’s Staircase).

The serpentine stone staircase is at the south side of Saint Thomas Hill. It was originally completed in 1938 so citizens of Esztergom can easily access this part of town as this area used to be an independent village.

As you make your way up the stairway, take note of the Roman landmark from the 3rd century at the base of the stairway and the largest sundial in Hungary on the side of the stairway. And of course, the view of Esztergom.

Address: Becket Tamás u 26, Esztergom | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

2 & 3. See the Chapel of Saint Thomas Becket and descend the Saint Thomas Calvary Staircase

Follow the stone walkway on Saint Thomas Hill and you will see Becket Szent Tamás-kápolna (Chapel of Saint Thomas Becket) next.

The small rectangular white church was built in 1823 and it is also known as the Chapel of the Sorrowful Virgin. I’m not sure if you can get inside (as I wasn’t able to during my visit), but I read online that the chapel houses a relic of St Thomas. Regardless, you can always enjoy seeing the chapel and the statues of statues of Mary, Magdalene and Saint John the Evangelist near the entrance.

Follow the cobblestone path and eventually it will lead you to the Saint Thomas Calvary Staircase. Along the stairway, there are seven depictions of stories of suffering in the form of coloured stone relief sculptures or wooden sculpture in chapel-like niches.

Make sure to take in the views as well. You can see the entire city from above, the Basicilica , the Castle and the Danube in the distance.

Address: Becket Tamás u 23, Esztergom | Hours: 24 hours (outside of chapel) | Admission: free

4. Walk through the Dark Gate

There are several ways to walk up Várhegy (Castle Hill), where Esztergom Bascilica and Esztergom Castle reside. But I like the route from the east side because the route will end on the west side of Castle Hill.

First, walk around the east side and find Sötétkapu (Dark Gate), a 90m vaulted tunnel under the slopes of Castle Hill. It was built in a Neoclassical style and was built to connect different neighbourhoods with downtown Esztergom. It got its name from, well, because it was dark and didn’t have any lights back in the day. But architectural lights have since been added.

Below is the photo of the southern entrance of the Dark Gate with a red marble commemorating Archbishop Rudy and the year of construction. in 1824.

Address: Sötétkapu, Esztergom | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

5. Walk across St Stephen’s Square

Before heading up to the Capital Hill, take a glimpse of Esztergom Szent István Square (St Stephen’s Square). This is an open area where you can see the east facade of the Basilica of Esztergom. The size of the basilica is kind of unbelievable!

Address: Szent István tér, Esztergom | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

6. Admire the Coronation of Saint Stephen statue

Then walk around and follow the path up Castle Hill. Soon after, the path will lead you to Szent István megkoronázása-szobor (The Coronation of Saint Stephen). This is a 12m high limestone sculpture by Miklós Melocco and it was inaugurated on August 15, 2001, the anniversary of Saint Stephen’s death.

The large statue depicts the coronation of the first Hungarian King, Saint Stephen. He is kneeling as the bishop places a crown on his head. Both figures are framed by the vanishing arch with a tilted cross on top. It is said that the Romanesque arch symbolizes the crown itself.

And from this area on Castle Hill, you can see the area under the hill, which is called Vizivaros (Water Town). Plus, you can see the Danube, Mária Valéria Bridge and Štúrovo, Slovakia, which is on the other side of the bridge.

Address: Szent István tér 1, Esztergom | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

7. Visit Basilica of Esztergom

The next attractions is the main event of the itinerary: Basilica of Esztergom.

As the biggest church in Hungary and the third largest in Europe, Basilica of Esztergom is about 5,600 sqm big, 118m long and 49m wide. But the most impressive feature is the height of the dome; it measures 71.5m high which is one of the tallest domes in the world.

It was built between 1822 and 1869 as a Classicist church. It was built on the foundation of several earlier churches and forts. Through fire, war, invasion, and bombing, many restorations were required and the latest renovation will continue until 2025.

When I visited Esztergom Basilica, I saw only a small part of the church. But I saw the intricate details inside the church, the outstanding altarpiece and the Upper Treasury and Dome lookout, which can be reached by 400 stairs or the newly installed elevator.

I thought the best part was the view from the semicircular lunette window in the Panorama Hall. But the treasury also has interesting collections of medieval goldsmiths’ work and textile.

Address: Szent István tér 1, Esztergom | Hours: 8am-5pm | Admission: free for Basilica. Admission fee for Crypt, the Treasury, the Panorama Hall and the Dome.

8 & 9. Wander around Castle of Esztergom and visit Esztergom Castle Museum

Not far from the Basilica is the Castle of Esztergom. Originally built in 1070 on the remains of a Roman fort, Esztergom Castle is largely intact and it sits majestically the top of Castle Hill.

When you wander around the expansive castle ground, you can see bastions, towers, defensive walls, and a mixture of architectural styles from the Romanesque and Gothic to the Renaissance and Ottoman. You can also see frescos from 1100 to 1300 inside the palace chapel and valuable paintings from the Hungarian Renaissance in the palace halls.

And if you want to learn more about the Castle, you can visit the renovated Esztergom Castle Museum and see uncovered rooms of the royal palace, and the exhibitions about the history of Esztergom Castle.

Address: Szent István tér 1, Esztergom | Hours: 10am-4pm (closed Mondays) | Admission: 2500HUF for Esztergom Castle Museum

10. Walk down Cat Stairs to Elizabeth Park in Water Town

Walking down the Macskalépcső (Cat Stairs) is so much easier to walking up, which is why I planned my Esztergom itinerary to see the Basilica and Castle first, then descend the narrow stone stairway near the end of the day.

It’s a good shortcut if you don’t want to walk around the entire Castle Hill. It’s steep but will save some time.

Once you are at the bottom of the stairs, the open area is Elizabeth Park. And within the park, there are several statues, information board, a sand statue of King Matthias.

And FYI, this area is called Vizivaros (Water Town) which you previously saw from Castile Hill. It is a neighbourhood in Esztergom and located on the right bank of the Danube.

Address: Sobieski Stny., Esztergom | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

11. Visit Öziçeli Haci Ibrahim Mosque

One of the most interesting places to see in the Water Town area is Öziçeli Haci Ibrahim Mosque, the oldest mosque from the Ottoman Empire along the Danube.

When Esztergom was taken by the Turks in 1543, the mosque was built at the beginning of 17th century. It was used as a place of worship, a hermitage and a residence before it turned into an exhibition space in 2007.

But the mosque looks really unusual as the building looks like it is part of the city wall. Plus, this is the only mosque in all of Hungary that has two floors.

Definitely check out the mosque while you are in Esztergom. I missed it and only found it afterwards so I’m including it here so you don’t miss it.

Address: Berényi Zsigmond u. 18, Esztergom | Hours: 9am-4pm (closed Mondays) | Admission: free

12. See the largest collection of religious art at the Christian Museum

There are several museums and places of interests in the Vizivaros area of Esztergom. And because there is enough time during this day trip itinerary, I highly suggest visiting the Christian Museum.

At first I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea to include this seasonal museum, but I learned that the Christian Museum has the largest collection of Christian art in all of Hungary. It all started when Archbishop János Simao wanted to share his private collection of religious art in 1875. Today, the permanent collections include paintings, sculptures, metalwork, tapestries and other decorative art from 13th to 18th centuries can be seen in the Primate’s Palace.

When you leave the museum, look up towards Castle Hill and admire the view of the Castle, Basilica and colourful buildings of Vizivaros. The view is quite stunning.

Christian Museum Address: Mindszenty Square 2, Esztergom | Hours: 10am-5pm (April to November) | Admission: 1500HUF

13. Wander around Szechenyi Square

On the way back to Esztergom Station, walk through Szechenyi Square, which is the “downtown” of Esztergom.

This is the area was a former medieval market square. Today, you can see the main square, majestic fountains, Esztergom City Hall, Church of St Peter and St Paul and many other beautiful buildings in the style of Baroque, Rococo or Classicist.

There are confectioneries, cafes and restaurants if you want to eat before heading back to Budapest. But make sure you have enough time to walk back to the train station. The last train back to Budapest Nyugati Station is at 11:35pm.

Address: Szechenyi Square, Esztergom | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

Other Things to Do in Esztergom, Hungary

Besides the attractions mentioned in the itinerary, there are other things to do in Esztergom if you spend more time in the area or want to switch up the itinerary. Here are a few more suggestions (see blue pins on the map):

  1. Mária Valéria Bridge – walk cross the 500m bridge and set foot in Štúrovo, Slovakia and snap a nice photo of Esztergom Basilica.
  2. Balassa Bálint Museum (10am-6pm Thursday to Sunday) – learn about the archaeology, ethnography and local history of Esztergom through collections of old photos, model boats, and Hungarian coins.
  3. Esztergom Metropolitan Library (9am-1pm Tuesdays & Thursdays; 9am-5pm Wednesdays) – one of the richest religious libraries in Hungary that has over 250,000 books.
  4. Hungarian Environment and Water Museum (seasonal hours) – learn about the history and water management services methodology through interactive displays.
  5. Mihály Babits Memorial House (10am-6pm Wednesday to Sunday from April 1 to October 31) – see the memorabilia in the restored house and the magnificent view of Esztergom from the summer house of Mihály Babits (20th century Hungarian poet).
  6. Organized day tour of Visegrád, Esztergom and Szentendre (May to September) – combine all the best highlights from these charming towns via bus and/or boat cruise tour.

Where to Eat in Esztergom

Before going to Esztergom, I did a bit of research and found these places. I tried the first one and had a fantastic lunch. I also included other options just in case you want to try something else.

  1. Csülök Csárda – traditional Hungarian restaurant between Mount St Thomas and the Castle. They serve many Hungarian dishes including pork knuckle and other meat dishes but I chose the fried rainbow trout. Delicious!
  2. Primate of Esztergom Cellar and Restaurant – modern Hungarian restaurant near St Stephen’s Square.
  3. Pálinka Patika – choose from hundreds of palinka (traditional fruit spirit) at this bar near Szechenyi Square.

Is Esztergom worth visiting?

I think so especially if you are in Budapest and have a few days to spare for day trips. Esztergom is easy to get to via the efficient train system, the town has many beautiful monuments and there are plenty of opportunities to see unobstructed views of the city.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day trip to Esztergom and found the city very peaceful and welcoming. I hope you will consider spending a day in Esztergom while you are travelling solo in Budapest.

Let me know in the comments if you found any other interesting places to see in Esztergom or have any suggestions to make this itinerary better.

Thank you for reading my Esztergom itinerary

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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