Queen of the Northern Balaton Region
When strolling on the charming cobble streets and wandering around the old city center, watching the people sitting on the terraces, enjoying the last strays of sunlight before it disappears behind the imposing walls of the castle, you feel it. Veszprém is homey, friendly, a livable place with a relaxed atmosphere, but most of all, authentic. It is rich in culture and history, so for those who wish to understand a bit more of the Hungarian history, Veszprém is an excellent place to start.
The city isn’t nicknamed the City of Queens for no reason; it was the stage of some prominent queen figures in the Hungarian history. The city was the favorite place of the first queen of Hungary, Queen Gisella, wife of King Stephen I (later Saint Stephen), later on Veszprém became the place where bishops crowned the Hungarian queens. I can imagine why Queen Gisella loved Veszprém so much, because other than being strategically situated, it also offers a magnificent view on the three regions that meet on the foot of the castle, namely the mountain range Bakony, the Balaton Highland and the Mezőföld plains. Veszprém, according to a legend being built on 7 mountain tops, with its 270 meter above sea-level, is also the highest county town in Hungary. This offered a great position from which they wart off countless attacks, the most significant ones being in the time of the Tartars, in the 13th and 14th century.
The castle of Veszprém isn’t like the other Hungarian castles, as it forms a separate castle district, connected to the old city center. When you walk through the gates of the castle, you travel back in time, admiring the awe-inspiring baroque and gothic buildings, the decorated porches and colorful facades, leading you to the square within the walls of the castle. On this square stands the striking Bishops Palace, next to which you find the 13th century chapel of Gisella with restored byzantine fresco’s. At the end of the castle district, in front of a beautiful panorama on the city, you will find the two main characters of this scenery in 11th century, King Stephen I and Queen Gisella. The story goes that the castle is one of the oldest castles in Hungary, and might have even already been standing before the Hungarian tribes arrived here in 896, in the area we now call Hungary.
For those who aren’t as much interested in the historical facts, there is still enough to discover in Veszprém. In summer time the city is the home to many festivals, so make sure you check out the calendar, but also outside of festival season you can enjoy the local vibes on one of the many terraces, restaurants and ice-cream shops. For adventurers, Veszprém is an ideal starting point from which you can follow many hiking trails in the area. However, if walking isn’t for you, you can also rent a bike, or hop on the cute sight-seeing train that will take you to all of the highlights of the city. This tour also included a stop at the zoo of Veszprém.
Truthfully, the hidden gem called Veszprém was kind of an accidental discovery. Somehow, even though I still don’t understand why, the city isn’t well-known, and (shamefully) even as a tourguide I hadn’t heard of the historical and graceful city until now. Veszprém offers a great home base for a discovery trip around Lake Balaton, which was for me the primary reason to choose an over-night stay in Veszprém, but in the end, it turned out to be the best exploration of the entire trip! With only a bit more than an hour driving by car from Budapest, and 15 minutes away from the popular city Balatonfüred, next to Lake Balaton, and 20 minutes to Tihany, it is a perfect way to discover the area without paying the sky rocketed prices next to Lake Balaton. Also by bus and train Veszprém is easily reachable.
If you weren’t convinced to visit Veszprém already, let me tell you another reason why to keep a close eye on the city, because after Pécs in 2010, Veszprém will be the second European Capital of Culture in Hungary in the year 2023. Hopefully, with that title, the beautiful city Veszprém will finally regain the glory it so obviously deserves and be put on the map as a ‘must-visit’.
Some personal recommendations:
- Éllő Panzió: This Austrian looking guesthouse offers a room for 2 persons for 17.000ft per night. The guesthouse is very clean and run by a friendly family, the best part is that it is only 10 minutes walking to the heart of Veszprém. Private parking is also included and dogs are allowed without extra fees. (8200 Veszprém, József Attila utca 25)
- Elefánt Étterem: This restaurant offers delicious food right on the main square in the old city center, with a panoramic view. (8200 Veszprém, Óváros tér 6)
- Papirkutya Kultúr Bisztró: This stylish cultural bistro welcomes you into its cosy home for the best breakfast, fresh sandwiches, a casual coffee or drinks during the lively evenings. (8200 Veszprém, Szabadság tér 9)