Eger, in northern Hungary, has a fascinating history, a handful of fun sights, nearby vineyards, and an unassuming charm — but few crowds. Just two hours by train from Budapest, Eger makes for an ideal introduction to small-town Hungary. Wander the peaceful streets as residents go about their routines amidst lovely Baroque buildings, watched over by Hungary's most important castle.
A perfect day in Eger begins with a browse through the colorful produce market and a low-key ramble on the castle ramparts. Then head to the college building called the Lyceum to visit its library and astronomy museum, and climb up to the thrillingly low-tech camera obscura. Take in the midday organ concert in the cathedral across the street from the Lyceum (high season only).
In the afternoon, unwind on the square or, better yet, at a thermal bath (in Eger or at Salt Hill Thermal Spa in nearby Egerszalók). If you need more to do, consider a drive into the countryside (including visits to local vintners — get details at Eger's tourist information office). Round out your day with dinner at Little Dobó Square or a visit to Eger's touristy wine caves in the Sirens' Valley. Perhaps most of all, Eger is known for its wine. When the Turkish invaders first occupied Eger, residents moved into the valley next door, living in caves dug into the hillside.
Eventually, the Egerites moved back to town, and the caves became wine cellars. There are more than 300 such caves in the valley to the southwest of Eger, several of which are open to visitors. The best selection of these caves is in the Sirens' Valley. It's a fun scene—vintners showing off their latest vintage, with food, picnic tables, and tipsy tourists spilling out into the street. Enjoy some in the company of a local vintner, glad to have discovered the Hungarian Back Door gem of Eger.