Eger is a historic town in Northern Hungary and the second largest city in Northern Hungary (after Miskolc).
Eger is best known for its castle, thermal baths, baroque buildings, the northernmost Ottoman minaret, dishes and red wines. Its population according to the census of 2011 makes it the 19th largest centre of population in Hungary. The town is located on the Eger Stream, on the hills of the Bukk Mountains.
Understand : Eger is mainly known for its castle, thermal baths, historic buildings (including the northernmost Turkish minaret) and, above all else, the best Hungarian red wines in the “Valley of the beautiful women”. When you plan your trip, it looks like a small town for which half a day is more than enough, but 3 days may not even be enough to enjoy it fully, even in the winter.
Wine : Eger is the centre of one of the top wine regions in Europe. Egri Bikaver is most famous cuvee here, but there are several others definitely worth a sip. Egri Bikaver (Bull’s Blood) is a strong red Hungarian wine which supposedly saved a clever Hungarian girl from her fate with a Turkish sultan. During the time of the Turkish occupation, it is said a young girl was summoned to become a member of the local sultan’s harem. Not wanting this fate for his daughter, her father gave her a bottle of Egri Bikaver to take to the sultan. He told her to tell the ruler it was bull’s blood, and would make him invincible. The sultan, being Muslim, was unaccustomed to alcohol, and proceeded to pass out, leaving the daughter unharmed. That’s a legend — but in real life, also be careful with Egri Bikaver. It’s excellent, but strong stuff!
The real story is an important piece of Hungarian history: the “bull’s blood” made there – is a cuvee (two types of red wine mixed). This name was given by the Turkish horde trying to conquer Eger – and then proceed towards Austria, etc. They failed: there were approx. 2000 Hungarians inside Eger, and 200,000 Turks outside. They had always seen the Hungarians drinking red wine, but they did not know what it was, and they assumed this must be bull’s blood which makes these warriors so strong and fearless.
Access : Coordinates : 47.89902, 20.3747 / By train : Trains leave the Budapest Keleti station each hour. The ones leaving at odd hours are direct, the ones leaving at even hours require you to change trains in Fuzesabony. Most of these trains are gyors (fast) trains and will take about 2 hours and 20 minutes to arrive. Hourly IC trains will take you directly to Fuzesabony, cutting the total travel time to just under 2 hours, but a reservation is required. If you come from Miskolc your options are similar, except there is no direct service and you will have to change trains in Fuzesabony. IC trains take just under an hour to arrive.
By bus : Buses leave the bus stop behind Budapest’s Stadionok station for Eger twice an hour and the trip takes a little over two hours. The quarter past bus takes the highway and takes two hours, and the quarter to bus takes smaller roads and takes two and a half hours. You can buy a ticket on the bus itself. The buses take only cash in the local currency. Get there twenty minutes early during peak times, as there might be a queue and you might not get a seat. Most major cities in Hungary also have direct bus connections to Eger. By car : The easiest way to arrive is to take the M3 as far as Fuzesabony, then continue north on route 25. For a more scenic route from Miskolc you can drive through the windy roads of the Bukk mountains.
- Main sights : The Castle of Eger, noted for its successful defence against the 1552 Ottoman invasion.
- The 17th-century minaret. The northernmost Turkish minaret in Europe is 40 meters high and one of only three survivors in Hungary. It can be climbed for a good view of the town center.
- The system of cellars near the Cathedral, called the Varos a varos alatt (literally “Town under the town”).
- Dobo ter. The Baroque Minorite Church (1758–67), built to the designs of Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer of Prague with original ceiling frescoes by Marton Reindl, is the focal point of the town’s most imposing square, flanked by the Town Hall and the old priory buildings, part of which contain the Paloc Museum, showing the artifacts of a distinctive regional ethnic community. The square and several of the retail streets around it are pedestrianized.
- The Lyceum (Eszterhazy College), designed by Jozsef Gerl and Jakab Fellner and built in 1765–85, is a splendid example of the restrained Zopf style. There are three remarkable 18th century frescoed ceilings, of which only the one in the library is open to the public. Painted by the Viennese artist Johann Lukas Kracker in 1778, it depicts the Council of Trent of 1545–63, which launched the Counter-Reformation. Among the figures depicted are the Reformers Luther and Zwingli, whose “heretical” books are being struck by a bolt of lightning. After the death of Kracker in 1779, Esterhazy commissioned the Austrian Franz Sigrist (1727-1803) to complete the painting programme. Sigrist painted the ceiling in the Great Hall of the west bay representing the four university faculties (1781–1782). The beautifully furnished library opened in 1793. There is a camera obscura or periscope at the top of the building, projecting images of the town onto a table.
- The Turkish Bath, commissioned by Abdi Pasha the Albanian
- The Provost Minor’s Palace, 1758, is the finest Rococo building in the town. It also has a
- fine fresco by Kracker (“The Triumph of Virtue over Sin”), other 18th century murals, and remarkable 18th century wrought ironwork.
- The Archbishop’s Garden
- The Fazola gates, late Baroque wrought ironwork by Henrik Fazola
- The Archbishop’s Palace, a 15th-century Gothic palace
- The Egri Road Beatles Museum The Egri Road – Beatles Museum was established in Hotel Korona, in the heart of the historic town of Eger. Guests can get a glimpse of the life and career of the band and its members in the frames of a professional guided tour, which provides an experience supported by up-to-date technical solutions. Films and contemporary newsreels are played on screens and the songs of the band can be listened to through headphones, whereas contemporary media publications, garments, models and limited edition rarities are displayed in the showcases. The monumental show of the Sgt. Pepper album, various games and photo-taking activities take the visitors back to the legendary sixties.
- Szepasszonyvolgy (“The Valley of the Beautiful Woman”). A valley on the southern edge of Eger which has numerous wine cellars, many with their own wine bar catering to tourists. A tram shuttles tourists to/from Dobo ter in the summer months.
- Churches : Eger has 17 churches, but the notable ones include :
- The Cathedral or basilica, built in 1831–37 to Classicist designs by Jozsef Hild, is imposing rather than attractive, but contains some remarkable painting and sculpture. Late morning organ recitals are held frequently.
- The Minorite Church, 18th-century Baroque church
- The Serbian Orthodox Church (Rac-templom) is in Zopf style (1784–86). The interior was commissioned from Viennese artists by the rich local Serbian community of that time. It is dominated by an iconostasis.
- St Bernard Cistercian Church, 18th-century Baroque church
Activities : Relax in thermal baths , Horseback riding , Enjoy a glass of wine in a wine cellar , Motor (and non-motor) paragliding (Eger Aero Club and others)
Watch a play in the theatre : Gardonyi Geza Theater
Hiking. If the weather is nice, you can hike up to the hill looming above the town, the Nagy-Eged. Unfortunately the lookout tower is in bad condition and closed, but the view is still excellent. The trail starts on the left , before the end of Eger sign, on VecseyVolgy street. Just follow the red marks, count with 3 hours up and down from the trailhead
Eger Spring Festival – late March to early Apr
Agria Summer Games (Agria Nyari Jatekok) – all summer
Erlau Dance Festival (Erlau Tancfesztival) – end of July, beginning of Aug
The Bull’s Blood Wine Feast (Az Egri Bikaver Unnepe) – mid-Jul
Medieval Marketplace (Kozepkori Piacter) – end of Jul
Castle Festivities (Vegvari vigassagok) – end of July
Baroque Festival of Eger (Fesztival a barokk Egerben) – Jul-Aug
Festival of Szepasszonyvolgy (Szepasszonyvolgyi Fesztival) – mid-Aug
Wine Competition of Eger (Bormustra az egri Piacz-on) – mid-Aug
Slow Film Festival – August
Agria International Folk Dance Meeting (Agria Nemzetkozi Neptanctalalkozo) – end of August
Eger Festival (Eger Unnepe) – mid-September – Civil festival
Eger Castle Day (Egri Var Napja) – October 17 – all museum of the Castle can be visited free of charge
Every summer there is a small acrobatics workshop-week in Mikofalva, a village not far north from Eger (click on Mikofalva)
Go next : Visit castles in Sirok and Kisnana , Bathe and have a glass of wine in Egerszalok , Visit the open air museum in Mezokovesd , Hike in Bukk mountains
See the romanesque abbey in Belapatfalva