Just 19 Kilometers north of Budapest along the Danube bend is a charming little town called Szentendre. Living in Budapest for about a month and a half, I met a local who told me about the town. I’ve become very familiar with the railway lines in Budapest having used it almost daily crossing the Danube towards Buda and back to Pest looking for ideal sunset shots of the city. At Batthyány-Ter, one of the popular stops I often use is a transfer line towards Szentendre and it’s a mere 40-minute ride to the town with great views of the Danube along the way.
Szentendre hosts a picturesque town center with cobblestone streets and colorful houses. The town is home to many artists who came to find inspiration in the town’s uniquely different atmosphere, well at least different than Budapest. The area has been inhabited until the Hungarians came in the 10th century. The Mongols raided and pillaged the town in the 13th century and then the Ottoman Turks destroyed the town in 15-16th century.
These Asian invasions seem to be the common theme on these parts of the world. I’m of Asian origin and fortunately, I’m not running around brandishing a scimitar or a composite bow. Though the thought sometimes crossed my head. Look out!
The Serbs helped the Christians against the war on the Turks and they began to settle in or around Szentendre. The town eventually became their political center. This was prior to World War 2. Today, you can still see some of these cultural impacts in town. There’re a few Serb restaurants offering traditional cuisine. The persecutions during the First and Second World Wars has diminished the Serb population and there’s now only a few in the hundreds live in Szentendre.
Szentendre boasts well preserved 18th century Baroque era architecture and it persists even through today after it was rebuilt during the Ottoman conquest. The main square has a cross that was erected to commemorate the town from being spared the plague. From there multiple cobblestoned streets winds its way to various shops, restaurants, galleries, churches and museums. There are also historic colorful merchant houses on one side of the square that were rebuilt after a fire.
Strolling past these attractions will eventually lead you a promenade in the Danube river. A good option in the hot summer months when the town gets crowded with day trippers from Budapest. There’s a rocky beach on the river just at the edge of town where you can cool off from the heat. A myriad of restaurants near the Danube river bank offers you an option to cool off with a beer if getting wet in the river doesn’t suit your fancy.
I tried the cherry beer and Gulyas (Goulash) over at the StE Pub and then a greasy Langos (deep fried dough) with bacon in one of the fast-food joint near the river bank. My stomach started to churn after trying to digest all that grease so I did what a knowledgeable dude with indigestion would. I got more beers at Café Christine! Which by the way, has a great view of the Danube. There I watched countless tourist and people go by enjoying my cold mug of Hungarian beer.
Szentendre is charming but very small. You can explore it on a half-day trip. It’s just a stone’s throw away from Budapest and worth exploring. But once you’ve got your fill of the sights there’s only one left to do. Eat, drink, and be merry.
Getting to Szentendre
- From Budapest take the metro line to Batthyány-Ter and from there follow the signs that will lead you to the train to Szentendre. It runs every 10-30 minutes. I believe this is also the same train that you take to get to the Sziget Festival. You can purchase the ticket inside the train. There’s a conductor who will sell you one on the way to Szentendre.
- From May through September you can travel in style by boat on the Danube river. You can also catch this boat at Batthyány-Ter.
- By car, motorway 11. See the map below.
- By bike, motorway 11. See the map.
A DAY IN BREAKDOWN:
- Train from Budapest to Szentendre – $1.50 (round trip)
- Greasy Langos with Bacon – $2
- Lunch Pub. Cherry beer and Goulash – $8
- Dinner at Restaurant with beer – $12 (splurged on beer)
- TOTAL: $23.50