Friday, October 22, 2010

Sights to be seen - Wine and Pálinka edition

One nice selection from the Funzine Magazine:

József Törley, who studied the production of champagne in its birthplace, France, opened his sparkling wine factory in Budafok back in 1882. Why there? The gentleman realized that the caves carved out of Budafok’s chalky limestone slopes resemble the soil of the Champagne region and therefore provide ideal conditions for sparkling wine production. The fame of his beverages rose like a meteor and he soon became a supplier of the Habsburgs and even exported to Paris! And for lovers of trivia, the mined limestone of Törley was used for the construction of the Parliament building. Why not take a bubblicious tour in the cellars, to learn about the secrets of sparkling wine-making and then tickle your tongue with the fizzy nectar?
1221 Budapest, Anna utca 5-7.

It’s unlikely that any traveler could visit this country and not be tempted (or forced) to try this dark, bitter liquid. But where does it come from and what’s its history? Well, unfortunately we’ll never be able to tell you what it’s made of as it’s a complex mixture of more than forty herbs, and the recipe is top secret! However, it is possible to visit the center of this famous Hungarian beverage that spans six generations to learn about the family’s history. You can also see a collection of 15,000 miniature bottles, and of course, you can get a taste of the stuff in the center’s tasting room. Open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. For English language tours, make an appointment 48 hours in advance at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call +36.1.476.2383.
Soroksári út 26.

We can all agree that Hungary has some darn good wines. Yet, it is a lesser known fact (and a crying shame that it is) that Budapest boasts one of the largest wine cellar systems in the whole world, still in use. The cellar labyrinth, hollowed out of limestone, spreads out like a giant web, with a total length of nearly 100 km. No kidding. Size seems to matter to these folks…one of the cellars showcases the biggest barrel in the world, a 1022-hectoliter monster, which could provide each and every resident of Budapest with a half glass of wine! To visit the cellar maze, you have to book ahead (call + And after the tour, why not tingle your taste buds at Borkatakomba (‘wine catacombs’), a funky restaurant located in the labyrinth?
1222 Budapest, Nagytétényi út and around

Inside the enchanting building of the Vajdahunyad Castle, the Museum of Agriculture showcases all things agricultural since 1897. Its huge collection covers everything from the origin and history of animal and plant farming in Hungary to viniculture and viticulture. Aha! Here’s a true treat for science-lover wine fans. The exhibition, which was totally pimped up in 2004, takes you on a trip from the very beginnings of wine-making in the Carpathian-basin up till today’s latest vinicultural tricks and secrets. Did you know that until the end of the 19th century, one-third of the Hungarian population lived on wine-making? No wonder, it (the skill of wine-making, not wine) is in their blood. Magyarland is wine-land; just ask the UNESCO World Heritage people about Tokaj-Hegyalja!
City Park

After two years of financial hibernation, the House of Hungarian Wines, under new management, has just opened its gates again. The cellar museum is an ideal spot both for tourists on a city break – as it’s located near one of Budapest’s flagship sights, the Buda Castle – and for those who live here and would like to know more about local vinos and get a bit more confident when standing in a wine shop trying to choose the perfect bottle. Spearheading the project, Dénes Solnay proudly announced at the opening that they would soon include pálinkas and fizzy wines in their selection, too and promised to invite wine-makers to the museum regularly to mingle with the visitors. Wine tastings are available; expect fair prices!
1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 6.

The National Wine Museum stretches across an 800 m2 cellar system ensuring a perfect ambience for wine tasting. Learn about Hungary’s 22 wine regions in the museum, then step on their Tasting Avenue and test how wine-smart you got back at the exhibition. There’re 4000 different vinos from 150 wineries to choose from plus a wide range of pálinkas, too (Be warned, if you sample pálinka, you’ll need to have a substantial meal beforehand). Look for the classic plum, peach or apple versions, or go for a less traditional blackberry, blueberry, quince or elderflower flavor; otherwise ask the cellar masters for advice. Take a peek into all the tricks and secrets of wine- and pálinka-making, too. More info (also in English, German and Russian) at
2000 Szentendre, Bogdányi utca 10.

The take-a-walk-into-the-past open air museum of Szentendre (just a short HÉV ride from the capital), Skanzen, features outdoor exhibitions divided into the regions of Hungary. If you wander around the Upland Market Town section, you’ll find some references to the area’s historical wine region; this is the home of Tokaj and the red wines of Gyöngyös. Here you can wander around 18th and 19th century style stone buildings, and see taverns, cellars and workshops. Find old fashioned wine presses with wooden ceilings, apparently built in 1699 and renovated in 1832, which are still used today! The wine press is based on the earliest pressing mechanism design, while the furnishings of the building will make you feel like you’ve entered the home of an 18th century serf.
2001 Szentendre, Sztaravodai út 63.

Permanent and temporary collections in a 1400 m2 cellar labyrinth of the Royal Wine House and Cellar Museum above the city in the castle district. You can, if you dare, wander around the maze of 16th century cellars by yourself but guided tours (also in English and German) and audio guides in eight languages are available, too. If the museum has whetted your appetite (or shall we say thirst), you can choose from a wide range of wines, fizzy wines and pálinkas on the spot at their wine shop. Not sure what to pair a good wine with? Why not try fine music? From this fall on, the museum will organize Wine and Music nights in co-operation with the Grazioso Budapest Chamber Orchestra. More info at!
1014 Budapest, Szent György tér

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