11 Things You'll Love In Miskolc, Hungary
Despite this being our second time visiting Miskolc, Hungary, it wasn't long before we realized how much we had missed the first time around! Between the impressive thermal cave baths, picturesque mountains and even a scenic train, there really is something for everyone to enjoy. After our fun-filled visit, we're sharing 11 things you're sure to love about the under-rated city of Miskolc, Hungary.
Aside from all the things there are to see and do in the city, what always brings us back to this part of Hungary is the chance for Wes to learn more about his heritage. His father was born in Miskolc so each time we visit he learns more about his Hungarian roots and was able to make a special video about Miskolc for his dad this year on our YouTube channel.
1. THE MISKOLC CITY PASS
Confession: In all our months of travel, we've never once bought a city pass. I'm not really sure why but it only took a quick glance at the perks of the Miskolc Pass for the budget traveller in me to recognize what a bargain it is. Starting at $25 CAD, the pass is a great way to get the most out of your visit and our 48 hour pass** allowed us to see more in Miskolc than we would have seen otherwise. The list of benefits is long and, with a bit of planning, your savings will actually end up being more than the cost of the pass itself. We also thoroughly enjoyed the 'VIP' status of flashing the pass around while getting so many discounts because a budget traveller rarely gets that elite-status feeling :P
The Miskolc pass can be purchased in advance online and also at a handful of places in the city. We found the team at the Tour Inform on Széchenyi street to be so incredibly helpful when it came to advice on planning our days. All staff spoke English and we left their office with so many maps and brochures, wide-eyed and excited to make the most of our time in the city.
2. THE MISKOLC THERMAL CAVE BATHS
If you only have time to do one thing in Miskolc, please let it be this! We've been to thermal baths in Hungary before but our experience here was one of the most memorable yet. Imagine swimming through warm waters in a maze of canals within a cave that's all lit up with beautiful lights. I think what makes these baths so unique is that they're actually in a natural cave and you can choose between a few different sections to relax in, each with varying water temperatures.
With a seasonal outdoor pool, children's playground, additional spa treatments and food/drink options, you could easily spend the whole day here. Admission for a full day is under $10 CAD (during the off season) but entrance is free with the Miskolc Pass. Use of their lockers is included and we made sure to bring our own towels and flip-flops because this ain't our first rodeo. A budget hack we learned is that if you want to enjoy the full day here, you only have to enter the baths before your city pass expires. So if your pass expires at 10am, just get to the baths at 9am and you can stay the whole day!
Arriving early is the best advice I have for these baths because we practically had the whole place to ourselves at 9am and really had a great time before the place started to feel crowded. Another thing to note is that the 'star hall' at the baths didn't actually have the starlit ceiling that we had seen in photos. The baths are also apparently closed for maintenance each January.
HOW TO GET THERE: The thermal cave baths are located in Miskolctapolca, about 30 minutes from the city centre. To get there, take bus 2 (from the Széchenyi-Corvin intersection) in the direction of Tapolca and get off at the very last stop. The cave baths are only a few minutes walk from the bus stop.
3. THE SCENIC FOREST TRAIN
If you want to take the scenic route to visit Lillafured and its surroundings, definitely opt for the forest train. While it's no Hogwarts Express, the forest train in Miskolc adds to the fairy tale experience in the beautiful Bukk mountains that surround Miskolc. The train only operates on weekends in the off-season but has daily service in the summer and also continues on to the village of Garadna. One return trip is included with the city pass but let's just say the conductor didn't seem all that strict when it came to verifying our passes. The ride is a bit bumpy but definitely an experience to add to your list of things to do in Miskolc. If you're pressed for time like us (because we wanted to cram in as much fun as we could) then you can always opt to take the train one way and then the (shorter) bus ride back to Miskolc.
HOW TO GET THERE: To board the forest train in Miskolc, you'll have to take tram #1 westbound and get off at a stop called LAEV (kisvasut)which is at Dorottya Utca. You'll see the train track begins here.
4. THE TOWN OF LILLAFURED
What surprised us most during our week in Miskolc was the fact that only 30 minutes (and a world away) from the city centre is the picturesque town of Lillafured. Here you'll find a beautiful forest among the Bukk mountains, a 20 metre waterfall, a large lake, some food stalls and the impressive Palota Hotel that practically looks like a castle itself. You can admire Hungary's highest mountain range, explore the various hiking trails and enjoy tons of seasonal activities in this part of Miskolc.
HOW TO GET THERE: From Miskolc, you can take the scenic forest train to Lillafured which takes about 30 minutes (see above on how to get to the train station). A shorter but less picturesque option is to take tram #1 westbound all the way to the very last stop and then switch to bus #5 which will take you straight to Lillafured and you can get off at Hotel Palota.
5. THE CASTLE OF DIOSGYOR
As if there wasn't enough to see and do in Miskolc, the city's got a castle to boot. The Castle of Diosgyor was built in the 12th century and renovated a few years ago. Entrance is included with the Miskolc Pass but you do have to visit the ticket booth first to get entrance passes for the castle. We've been to castles in Europe before but had a great time here because it felt less like a museum and offers some pretty amazing views of the city. Castle tours are available by guides who dress the part and there are various events, festivals and plays that take place on the grounds throughout the summer.
HOW TO GET THERE: The medieval castle of Diosgyor is in the Diosgyor suburb of Miskolc and can be reached via tram #1. The ride is about 20 minutes and you'll want to get off at the Diosgyor Varoskozpont stop. From here you'll see signs leading you to the castle entrance, about 5 minutes from the tram stop.
6. THE PEDESTRIAN STREETS
One thing I love about some of the older cities in Europe is how walk-able they are. In Miskolc, you'll find that the main road running through the centre of the city is actually closed to traffic which makes getting around so much more enjoyable. The only vehicles operating on Szenchenyi are the trams so you do have to watch out for them but, other than that, you're free to roam the road! Because we stayed in this main part of town, everything we needed was within walking distance which is pretty convenient. There's also a really cute section of the city by the river with benches, restaurant patios and even a love lock bridge.
7. THE MUSEUMS
Wes and I will be the first to admit that we're not exactly 'museum people'. But it's a different story when they're free which was the case in Miskolc where at least 6 museums can be visited for free with your city pass. We decided to spend a rainy afternoon at the Otto Herman Museum where we enjoyed a gallery of Hungarian art, the Pannon Sea Museum and a temporary photo exhibit. The museum is about a 15 minute walk from the Miskolc Theatre, is closed on Mondays and can also be reached by bus at the 'Pannon Sea' stop along routes 14, 28, 34, 35, 43 and 44.
8. THE HUNGARIAN FOOD
There's no shortage of delicious food in Hungary and Miskolc is a great city to taste traditional dishes. Specialty foods include fisherman's soup, goulash, pork cutlets and (my favourite) cabbage rolls. We ended up at a restaurant called Kispipa Halaszcsarda a couple of times since it was recommended by our host. We really enjoyed the service and they have a pretty extensive menu with a variety of local dishes. We even lucked out with some live music one night. Another popular choice is Kis Anna Halaszkert in Miskoltapolca near the thermal caves baths. The word 'halasz' means fisherman in English so you'll soon notice that fish is a specialty in many Miskolc restaurants.
We cooked at home a lot while in the city but we couldn't resist the hearty kebabs at Döner King and also tried the unique sausage bread cones at Reinpold's KOLBice. For a hearty cup of soup or fresh baguette, definitely try The Soup Gastroworkshop on Deryne utca. In Lillafured, we went to warm up at a restaurant called Park Vendeglo and were rewarded with huge portions at affordable prices. Whatever your budget or preference, it's safe to say you won't go hungry in Miskolc!
9. THE NEARBY CAVES
Hungary has so many cool cave systems throughout the country but Miskolc makes for the perfect base if you're up for an adventure and want to explore a few different caves. The largest collection of caves can be found at Aggtelek National Park and this region boasts hundreds of impressive caves with several different tour options. Aggtelek is only an hour drive from Miskolc and entrance discounts are available with the Miskolc Pass. In Lillafured, you can also visit Anna Cave by the hanging garden of the grand Hotel Palota and many other impressive rock formations that lie in the Bukk mountains.
10. THE BUDGET-FRIENDLY OPTIONS
Although capital cities in Europe seem to get all the attention, they also tend to be the most expensive. One thing we noticed while exploring other cities in Hungary was that they were all noticeably less expensive than Budapest which is great for the budget traveller. Even without the discounts of the Miskolc Pass, you'll find that nearly everything from groceries to dining out will cost you less than in the capital. Admission fees to tourist attractions are also cheaper (and less crowded!).
11. THE TRANSIT
You know you've been on the road long enough when you get excited about visiting a city with great transit. I grew up in Toronto and anyone who has been on the TTC can understand the frustrations of poor public transit. Between wait times and service disruptions, it can be a real headache. But the transit in Miskolc makes it SO incredibly easy to navigate the city as a tourist.
For one, all public transit is included in your Miskolc Pass. You can hop on and off as many times as you like without having to worry about buying tickets and then remembering to validate them. Second, there are two main trams (with routes conveniently labelled #1 and #2) that run service directly from the Miskolc train station all the way through to the main street in town. They are new and comfortable, all stops are displayed on their monitors and service is so frequent that we hardly ever had to wait more than a few minutes for the next tram to come along. Third, the bus and tram routes in Miskolc can be found on Google Maps directions so you don't have to worry about looking up the local transit websites. It was both a relief and a pleasant surprise to have such each and accessible transit in the city.
Getting To Miskolc, Hungary
There's no international airport in Miskolc, Hungary but the city is easy to get to from Budapest. Regular service runs from the Keleti and Nyugati stations, tickets start at $15 CAD and the ride is about 2 hours long. Trains will arrive at Miskolc's Tiszai Station and you can take either tram 1 or 2 straight into town from here.
Where to Stay in Miskolc, Hungary
You've got plenty of options for accommodations in Miskolc but there are a few things to note before you book...
The city of Miskolc can be divided into 3 main parts: Miskolctapolca, Lillafured and Miskolc. At each of the 3 you'll find hotels, restaurants and things to do but I would first decide where you want to spend the most time and then choose your accommodations there. Miskolctapolca is a tourist-friendly area closest to the thermal cave baths and with several dining options nearby. Lillafured is in the scenic Bukk Mountains with beautiful landscapes and plenty of hiking options. Perfect for the outdoorsy traveller but also more remote meaning you'll need to take either the forest train or a bus and tram to get into the city centre. Miskolc is the main city centre where you'll find the majority of restaurants, banks/ATM's, grocery stores, 2 shopping centres, the National Theatre, etc. We've been to Miskolc twice and both times have stayed in the city centre with no regrets.
Accommodation discounts are available at over a dozen hotels in each of these 3 areas through the Miskolc Pass so you'll be able to save money by purchasing the pass online first and then giving your serial number to the hotel when making a booking.
We opted to stay at an Airbnb right off of the main street in Miskolc called Széchenyi István. We spent a week at a beautiful apartment that had everything we needed and we were able to save even more by cooking most of our meals there. Our host spoke English and we would definitely recommend his apartment if you're looking to stay in the city.
If you're new to Airbnb, our signup link will get you a discount of up to $40 CAD on your first qualifying stay and we also get a credit that will help us stay on the road longer :)
More Things To Do in Miskolc, Hungary
Our list is really just the tip of the iceberg because there is plenty more to see and do in the city of Miskolc. We didn't get a chance to visit Avalon Park, ride on the bobsled run or see an opera at the National Theatre. During the summer there's horseback riding and outdoor pools plus the cypress tree trunks at Bukkabrany said to be 8 million years old! In short, there's loads left for us to discover next time we're in Miskolc.
So...have we succeeded in convincing you it's time to add Miskolc, Hungary to your bucket list?!