For many Hungarians, the name of Eger represents the story of brave patriotism in the face of immense danger. Led by István Dobó, heroic soldiers of the fortress held out against an attack by the Turks in 1552. Sculptures representing the battle against the Turks are a proud reminder of the victorious saga.
Eger © Nikky
Eger is a paradise for historical sightseers and contains something like 200 historical monuments. It is picturesque, with a small pedestrianised town centre featuring brightly-painted houses with iron balconies lining narrow twisting streets. Ornate lampposts and hanging baskets of flowers decorate the cobbled lanes and squares.
Eger sits at the centre of the wine-growing region of northern Hungary. This enchanting town, along with its famous history, is where the much-publicised Egri Bikavér, or Bull's Blood, has its origins. It is the strong and spicy red wine that is characteristic of the area.
Wine growing has been part of its history since the 11th century, started by the monks and continued during the Turkish occupation as an important source of income for the Turks. Wines can be tasted in the centuries-old wine cellars of the Szépasszony Valley (Valley of the Pretty Woman) on the southern edge of town.
Eger is a colourful town known not only for its history, mellow charm, and vineyards, but also for its thermal baths. Visitors looking for a bit of time-out can unwind in the peaceful Archbishop's Garden, a leafy park enclosing swimming pools and hot Turkish baths.
Eger Castle © ben britten
Sitting on the site of numerous historical events, Eger Castle overlooks its town namesake and is one of the most popular and famous attractions in Hungary. The original buildings included a cathedral and the Bishop's Palace, itself dating back from the 13th century. The castle was later fortified and the walls provided the cover for its determined defence by a small and outnumbered army against a Turkish force. The women who fought alongside the soldiers claimed their place in national consciousness during this much-celebrated historical event. The Dobó István Fortress Museum in the restored palace is one of the most popular museums in Hungary and has exhibitions on the history of the town and castle. Also within the castle grounds is the Heroes' Hall, which holds the grave of the celebrated leader, Dobó István, as well as the Prison Museum, Waxworks, and the underground rock-hewn artillery enclosures.
Cave bath © Cili Krisztian
Mineral Bath Swimming Pool Park
The Mineral Bath Swimming Pool Park in Eger is considered the biggest and best in the country. It offers a selection of pools and mineral baths. They are indoor or outdoor, hot or cold, and recreational or health-related. It's a great place to visit with children, as they'll have their own special pool. There's an Olympic-sized swimming pool for those who want to exercise, while there is food and drink to keep visitors refreshed. There are also Turkish baths, comfy cabins, and simple sun loungers at an extra cost. Sun protection is required as well as swimsuits, as nudity is not welcomed. The only downside of this fun park is that its popularity can lead to it being too crowded for comfort. If possible, visit on a morning during the week to experience the place at its best.
Eger Vineyard © Elin B
Szépasszony Valley (Valley of the Pretty Woman)
With its rolling vineyards and century-old cellars and taverns, Szépasszony Valley is a favourite attraction in Eger. Wine producers welcome visitors into their quaint old cellars, hollowed out of the porous rock hundreds of years ago. Here, some of the country's finest red wines can be tasted, including the unique Bull's Blood. The rows of cellars are numbered and each has a particular charm, whether it's the chequered tablecloths of an underground tavern or the wooden barrels of fermenting grapes in the uneven rock passageway. It is possible to visit, by prior arrangement, the 'Istenes Pince' or Godly Cellar, the oldest historic cellar in the region. It operated as a secret church during the Turkish occupation, and the stone altar and religious works of art still remain in this very special place. Where the name 'Valley of the Pretty Women' comes from is unclear, but it is a charming name for a charming area.