Eger, Hungary

When touring Hungary, you must add Eger to your itinerary. You will be enthralled by this quaint city’s relaxed ambiance and historical landmarks nestled in a lush valley and surrounded by vineyards. Plan to stay a day and then stretch your visit to three or more.

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1 Introduction to Eger, Hungary

Hungary has a population of almost 10 million people; over 25% live in Budapest. Compared to the country’s capital city, Eger is small. Its 55,000 residents rank it the 19th city by size. That is also part of its charm. This gem in the northeast near the border of Slovakia offers fabulous architecture, cobblestone alleys, a lively town square, a millennium of fascinating history, a medieval castle plus some of Hungary’s best wine and food. This visual enticement shows the Minorite Church in the center and the Cathedral of Eger on the left.

Vár 10 Eger, 3300 Hungary

2 Main Entrance of Castle of Eger in Eger, Hungary

No visit to Eger is complete without touring the Castle of Eger. It is the historic focal point of the city. The main entrance of Egri Vár is through an arch leading to the Ippolito Gate. Its namesake is Ippolito d’Este, an early 16th century Catholic cardinal and Archbishop of Esztergom (the historic archdiocese of Austro-Hungary). Alongside of the cobblestone hill is the Bornemissza Bastion.

Vár 10 Eger, 3300 Hungary

3 Traditional Hungarian Dance in Eger, Hungary

These couples were having a wonderful time displaying a traditional Hungarian dance called csárdás. The women’s colorful, large skirts mushroom as their partner swirl them around. The accompanying music starts slowly and then ends at a fast, almost frantic pace. The dance began during the 18th century. Its name is a derivative of the Hungarian word for “tavern.”

Vár 10 Eger, 3300 Hungary

4 Former Bishop’s Palace at Castle of Eger in Eger, Hungary

After paying a small admission at the castle ticket office, you pass through an arch and see the former Bishop’s Palace. Püspök Ház was built in 1470 during the reign of King Matthias. The simple yet elegant Gothic design was commissioned by Bishop János Bekensloer. The building now houses the István Dobó Castle Museum. Inside you will learn the castle’s history plus cringe at the displays of Medieval punishment. An adjacent structure serves as the Eger Art Gallery displaying the works of Hungarian and other European masters.

Vár 10 Eger, 3300 Hungary

5 Brief History of the Castle of Eger in Eger, Hungary

In 1001 A.D., Stephen I of Hungary – also called King István – commissioned a Romanesque cathedral on what is now called Castle Hill. After the Mongol attack in 1241, Bishop Lambert of Eger ordered the construction of a surrounding fortress in 1248. The citadel allowed Eger to prosper until the Turks invaded in 1552. The resulting Siege of Eger became the country’s symbolism of heroism. For five brutal weeks, István Dobó and about 2,300 defenders thwarted an assault on the castle by 40,000 Ottoman soldiers. One key to their success was the 10 foot wide bastions and walls. The remnants of the defense seen in front of the round tower date back to the mid-1500s. Beneath them is a labyrinth of tunnels.

Vár 10 Eger, 3300 Hungary

6 Contrasting Architecture in Eger, Hungary

The architecture in the Belváros section (old town) reflects its illustrious history. Eger’s first castle where this photo was taken dates back to the mid-13th century. On the right is the Ottoman Minaret, evidence of the Turkish occupation in the 17th century. Most city landmarks were built during the prosperous 18th century when Baroque design was fashionable. The Minorite Church in the center is the best example. The proliferation of this style led to Eger’s nickname, “The Baroque Pearl of Europe.” In 1836, the Cathedral of Eger on the left was finished. The Basilica’s Neoclassical appearance by architect József Hild features two, 177 foot towers flanking a 59 foot wide dome.

Vár 10 Eger, 3300 Hungary

7 Ottoman Minaret in Eger, Hungary

During the Long Turkish War – led by Mehmed III, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire – Eger fell to the Turks. While under Ottoman control from 1596 until 1687, the face of the town was transformed. Among the changes were converting churches into mosques and building minarets. The 138 foot, Eger Minaret is the sole survivor of that period. The late 16th century turret has a 14 sided, sandstone façade. Notice the people standing on the very narrow balcony. You must climb a winding and cramped staircase with 97 steps to enjoy its panoramic view.

Vár 10 Eger, 3300 Hungary

Narrow Cobblestone Walkway in Eger, Hungary

Most guide books about Eger focus on its famous architecture and history. Few talk about one of old town’s most charming features: the narrow cobbled streets and walkways. Reserve time to stroll and explore these delightful passages away from most tourists. If you need a breather, take a seat on a nearby bench and savor the ambiance.

8 Outdoor Restaurants at Dobó Square in Eger, Hungary

This corner of Dobó Square features boutique hotels and quaint eateries. While having a meal outdoors, enjoy the local red wine called Egri Bikavér or Bull’s Blood of Eger. This main plaza of Eger is uncrowded and charming except for special events and festivals. Flanking Dobó ter are several 18th century Baroque landmarks including the Minorite Church.

Eger, Dobó István tér 5, 3300 Hungary

Wicker Baskets on Display at Outdoor Market in Eger, Hungary

Similar to most cities, Eger has a mall: The Agria Park Shopping Centre. But when traveling to a foreign country, why focus on brand merchandise or T-shirts, shot glasses and trinkets? Visit where the residents’ shop. Széchenyi is the main, pedestrian-only shopping street. Best of all are the outdoor markets. They speak volumes about the local cuisine, agriculture, economy, social interaction and pace of life. You will find some simple yet elegantly crafted items such as these wicker baskets on display at an outdoor market. They beg to be loaded up with the seasonal fruit and vegetables from the nearby produce section.

European Raspberries in Box at Outdoor Market in Eger, Hungary

The European raspberry, called rubus idaeus, grows wild in the forests. After its second year, the plant sprouts a five-petal, white flower in the late spring. During the summer and early autumn, the red, sweet yet tart and very delicious fruit ripens. Now for the best part: they are handpicked, gently placed in a box lined with wax paper and rushed to local markets in cities and towns like Eger. Makes you hungry just looking at them, doesn’t it?

9 Minorite Church in Dobó Square at Night in Eger, Hungary

The Minorite Order of monks arrived in Eger during the 13th century. Their first church survived until the 18th century despite witnessing several invasions. The current structure with twin bell towers was designed by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer and dedicated in 1771 to Saint Anthony of Padua. He was a 13th century friar and the patron saint of lost souls, people and objects. This superb example of Baroque architecture – one of the finest in Europe – graces Dobó Square.

Eger, Dobó István tér 4, 3300 Hungary

10 István Dobó Sculpture at Dobó Square in Eger, Hungary

Baron István Dobó de Ruszka was a 16th century Hungarian military leader. In 1549, he was commissioned to command the Eger Castle. In 1552, Ottoman Kara Ahmed Pasha successfully conquered three Hungarian castles before his 40,000 Turkish troops stormed the Eger Castle. István Dobó and 2,300 others – many of the women – were victorious at repelling the assault. This sculpture of the Siege of Eger’s hero was created by Alajos Stróbl. The tribute to István Dobó was erected in the public square that bears his name in 1907.

Eger, Dobó István tér 4, 3300 Hungary

11 Border Castle Warriors Sculpture at Dobó Square in Eger, Hungary

This sculpture group portrays a fierce fight among two Turks and a falling Eger horseman. The bronze monument was sculpted by Zsigmond Stróbl Kisfaludi and erected in Dobó Square in 1968. In the background is the Town Hall.

Eger, Dobó István tér 2, 3300 Hungary

12 St. Bernard’s Cistercian Church in Eger, Hungary

After the expulsion of the occupying Turks in 1687, their mosques were destroyed and gradually replaced with Catholic churches. The Jesuits were among the first to construct a monastery in the late 17th century. In 1700, they began building St. Bernard’s Church. The Baroque design of Stephen Pethὄ featuring two towers was finished in 1743. The Jesuits only worshiped here a few years before their order was abolished by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. The church was then turned over to the Cistercians until they were similarly expelled in 1787. 202 years later, the Cistercians regained procession. The structure has been rebuilt twice: in 1888 and again in 1902.

Széchenyi István u. 15 Eger, 3300 Hungary

13 Michael the Archangel Statue in Eger, Hungary

Outside of the front gate of St. Bernard’s Cistercian Church are sculptures of Gabriel and this likeness of Michael, the guardian of the Church. Both archangels appear on the Holy Crown of Hungary. According to legend, the Pope was told by the angel of the Lord to grant the crown to St. Stephen. He became the first Christian King of Hungary on January 1, 1001. The country’s patron saint was also the founder of Eger. Another spectacular artwork of Archangel Michael is in the Eger Basilica. That artwork was sculpted from Carrera marble by Michelangelo Grioletti.

Széchenyi István u. 15 Eger, 3300 Hungary

14 Archbishop’s Palace in Eger, Hungary

Beginning in 1740, this Baroque building behind the ornate, wrought-iron fence served as the residence for the Bishops of Eger and later for Catholic archbishops. The palace is now a museum displaying religious artifacts, artwork, vestments and furniture. Most of the exhibited items are from the 18th and 19th century. A few treasures date back about 1,000 years. The recently restored Archiepiscopal Palace is located along Széchenyi Street, the town’s main, pedestrian-only shopping neighborhood.

Eger, Széchenyi István utca 3., 3300 Hungary

15 Eger-patak Flowing through Eger, Hungary

The Eger Creek flows through three cities and 13 villages during its 25 mile journey. This waterway was a vital source for irrigation and was populated with flour and sawmills from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Eger is located in the fertile River Eger Valley between the Mátra and Bükk mountain ranges. These hills are covered with vineyards. The city’s name is derived from the Latin word “ager” which means “earth.” The river bisects the old town from the base of Castle Hill.

Kossuth Lajos u. 15 Eger, 3300 Hungary