Hungary

Visit Szekesfehervar, Hungary – the Old Royal Capital

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Most travelers who visit Hungary stay only in its capital, Budapest. And I get it. This city is fascinating and so beautiful that it’s hard to leave it to see other places when there are so many great things to do in Budapest. For years, I was the same; each of my trips to Hungary was centered around Budapest.

When I finally figured it was time to see more of the country, it turned out there were so many amazing places to visit in Hungary. Unfortunately, they are always in the shadow of Budapest, and not many travelers decide to venture beyond the capital. But many of those places are available as easy day trips from Budapest, which makes visiting them so much easier.

One such destination is Szekesfehervar. Don’t let the difficult name of the city discourage you! This is one of the most significant places in Hungarian history, the first capital of the country, and still today offers plenty of attractions and things to do in Szekesfehervar. I went there without many expectations and was immediately impressed with the beauty of the city, its long history, and the vibrant atmosphere in the center.

If you are looking for a good day trip from Budapest, Szekesfehervar might be a perfect option for you! I put together this Szekesfehervar guide so you can plan your trip there. Read on and get ready to visit Szekesfehervar!

visit szekesfehervar hungary

Where is Szekesfehervar, Hungary

With a population of around 100,000, Szekesfehervar is the ninth-largest city in Hungary. It is located in the central part of the country, between Budapest and Lake Balaton, making it an easy stop when traveling between the two. Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is 65 km away from Szekesfehervar.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

A brief history of Szekesfehervar

Szekesfehervar is the oldest town in Hungary, with the first people inhabiting the area already in the 5th century BC. The legend says this is where the Arpad’s tribe (the progenitor of Hungarians) settled after arriving in Europe from far Asia.

Szekesfehervar is considered the first capital of Hungary since the place was the royal seat of King Saint Stephen in the early 11th century. This is also when Szekesfehervar got its town rights and developed as the center of the nation for around five hundred years until the place was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion. Unfortunately, not much was left from the great medieval period of Szekesfehervar.

The town was rebuilt as an important cultural and political center during the Habsburg rule in the 18th century – you can still admire the grand architecture from that time when wandering around the city.

Today, Szekesfehervar is a vibrant city with a beautiful center and numerous interesting landmarks and attractions. There is no doubt it’s worth coming here during your trip to Hungary.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

How to get to Szekesfehervar

Getting to Szekesfehervar is very easy, with frequent trains (usually three per hour) connecting the city with Budapest. The trains depart from the Deli station in Budapest, which you can easily reach by the M2 metro line (the Deli station is the last stop).

Depending on the train, the travel time is between 45 minutes and one hour. Many trains continue from Szekesfehervar to Lake Balaton if you want to extend your trip to waterside destinations further south.

You can check the connections and buy tickets at the Hungarian Railways website here.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

How to get around Szekesfehervar

All the attractions in the center of Szekesfehervar are nearby, and you can easily walk between them. However, you might still want to use city buses, as the train station is almost 2 km away from the center, and the Bory Castle is in the suburbs.

Google Maps is a great help with schedules and figuring out which bus lines may work for you. You can get the ticket on the bus, but you can only pay in cash.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

Where to stay in Szekesfehervar

If you decide to stay overnight in Szekesfehervar, there are some fine accommodation options to choose from. Here are the recommended places:

visit szekesfehervar hungary

What to see in Szekesfehervar

The majority of Szekesfehervar attractions are located in the center, where streets are lined with beautiful houses and buildings of public use, most of them in the Baroque and Classical styles.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

The core of this part of the city is Városház Square with the Bishop Palace, dating back to the early 19th century. It was built from the ruins of the medieval town, especially the Basilica (one of the largest structures of this kind at that time), which was located only a few steps away.

The Bishop Palace still serves its role today, so visiting inside is rather difficult. But even from the outside, it’s an impressive building that immediately catches your attention. Next to it, you can see the Country Apple statue, which is a reminder of the royal status Szekesfehervar used to have.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

Until the 19th century, it was believed that not much remained from the medieval glory of Szekesfehervar. Still, the archeological works revealed the remnants of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the sarcophagus of Saint Stephen (the first Christian king of Hungary was laid to eternal rest in the Basilica, together with fourteen other rulers of the country from the medieval times).

The sarcophagus was returned from the National Museum in Budapest to Szekesfehervar in 1936, and you can see it today at the mausoleum located at the entrance to the so-called Garden of Ruins. This archeological site is also where you can find the remnants of the excavated Basilica.

Even if the place might not look very impressive, it is of immense significance as this is where the most important place of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary was located. It’s worth visiting the Ruins Garden inside, not only to see the sarcophagus of Saint Stephen but also to feel the magnitude of the place and its part in the country’s history.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

Another place that holds a big significance in Hungarian history is Saint Stephen Cathedral. Initially built in 1235, what you can see today is the rebuilt structure from 1777. What makes the Cathedral important is that a relic of the skull of Saint Stephen is kept there.

Next to the Cathedral, you can see the modest Gothic chapel dedicated to Saint Anna. It is one of the very few medieval buildings that remained in Szekesfehervar – it survived the Turkish occupation only because it was used as the house of prayers for Muslims.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

While the Garden of Ruins and the Cathedral are the most important landmarks in Szekesfehervar, the rest of the Old Town is very pleasant, too. There are numerous beautiful and interesting landmarks around, including many churches (it’s worth stopping inside if you find them open, as the interiors are often stunning).

Still, the best thing to do here is to simply wander around and enjoy the beauty and vibe of the place. Most of the buildings here are from the times of the Habsburg rule and are great examples of late Baroque architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries.

A big part of the center is pedestrians only, so a lazy stroll around is a pure pleasure, especially along Fo Street – the main street in Szekesfehervar Old Town.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

If you like visiting museums, Szekesfehervar has some interesting ones, too. The most important one is the institution dedicated to Saint Stephen, with a few different branches around the city showcasing different exhibitions.

Other places worth checking are the Black Eagle Pharmacy Museum (located in the first pharmacy in Szekesfehervar, opened in 1688), Csók István Picture Gallery, and Doll Museum.

A bit further from the center, you can find the Open Air Museum of Palotaváros, which focuses on the life of Serbian immigrants in the city. It has twelve peasant houses and a church you can visit.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

While most Szekesfehervar attractions are right in the center, there is one more major place on the outskirts that is worth a little detour. Bory Castle is a fantastic architectural gem located around 5 km from the center (you can get there by city bus no 26A or 32).

It was built between 1923 and 1959 by the famous Hungarian sculptor Jenő Bory and his wife. The structure is a peculiar mix of styles, a combination of Scottish, Romanesque, and Gothic.

You can visit the place and freely wander around, exploring almost every corner of the place. This is also a great opportunity to see some original works of Jenő Bory placed inside the castle and around the gardens.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

Final thoughts on visiting Szekesfehervar

As you can see above, Szekesfehervar really offers a lot and is packed with places of great significance. But even if you only want to escape the hustle and bustle of Budapest and enjoy a charming place with a slower vibe, the city is a perfect option for you. But no matter why you decide to visit Szekesfehervar, I bet you will be impressed with the place just like I was.

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

visit szekesfehervar hungary

Further reading

I published many articles about Hungary that you might find useful when planning your trip there. Here are some of them:

If you are looking for articles about a specific destination – check out the map with all the articles I’ve published (and their locations). You can also join my Facebook group about traveling in Central Europe and ask your questions there.


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visit szekesfehervar hungary


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