In the highest mountains in Hungary, Bükk, that barely exceed 1000m at their peak, but were still a nice surprise, is Lillafüred, a romantic resort developed at the beginning of the 20th century. Quickly it got the nickname “Pearl of Bükk” as it became a much sought place for weekend and holidays.
Due to the especially beautiful setting, next to Hámori and the highest waterfall in Hungary, in the 1920s, a new hotel was built resembling an aristocratic palace, hence its name Hotel Palace. This added even more to the beauty of the place and it has become one of the most beloved recreation areas in Hungary for locals and foreigners that find out about it.
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Where is Lillafüred?
Lillafüred lies in the north of Hungary, close to the border with Slovakia. The closest city to Lillafüred is Miskolc, which the elegant resort is officially part of. However, in order to get from Miskolc city to Lillafüred, one has to drive for around 20 minutes. Another close by city is Eger, one of the most beautiful cities in Hungary, located just an hour away. Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a 2 hours drive away from Lillafüred.
How to get to Lillafüred?
If you don’t have a car at your disposal, you can rent one or head to Miskolc and hop on the local bus or narrow-gauge forest train from there. In case you already own a Miskolc pass, transport by bus is included. If you choose the train, you have to pay for it separately, but it’s definitely the most scenic option.
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Best things to do and see in Lillafüred
Lillafüred forest train
In 1910, when this picturesque railway was built, its scope was solely industrial. The train line connected Miskolc with Garadna and was used to transport the wood from the Bükk mountains. A lot has changed since then and now, from May to September and December, the narrow-gauge train has become a tourists’ favorite.
It still connects the two locations, but the train, depending on the days runs between Lillafüred and Miskolc or Lillafüred and Garadna. At least it was this way when we were there. One afternoon it ran between Miskolc and Lillafüred and the next day it ran between Lillafüred and Garadna.
This is the longest forest train railway in Hungary. On its way, the train crosses gorges and you’ll have great views over the surrounding mountains. In Garadna, after a 40 minutes trip, you’ll find the only natural trout farm in Hungary and a restaurant that cooks it on the spot.
While the line is short, this is still a great way to see the mountains close to Miskolc and adds to the romantism of the place. Tickets can be bought at the train station. In December it converts into a Santa train.
The lake was formed in the 19th century when a dam was constructed on Szinva and Garadna streams. Even if it’s not natural, it added to the picturesque of the resort. It is 1.5 km long and stretches between forested hills. On it shore stands Hotel Palota, which looks like a castle. When rowing over the tranquil mass of water you can’t help but think of Lake Bled in Slovenia. Visitors can rent bikes, rowboats or paddleboats from a small booth. In January and February, if it’s very cold, the lake freezes and people go ice skating on it surface.
The Terraced Gardens in Lillafüred
In between Szinva and Garadna streams are laid out the terraced gardens in Lillafüred, just below Hotel Palota. Each terrace has its own nickname: Terrace of Youth and Meetings, Terrace of Flowers, Terrace of Sculpture or Anna Lookout. right above the homonymous cave.
The tallest waterfall in Hungary
The terraced gardens are also home to the Lillafüred waterfall. With a height of 20 meters, this is the tallest waterfall in Hungary. It is also manmade, as Szinva stream had to be redirected in order to build Hotel Palota. Even if it’s not all-natural, its extra-terrestrial green in June is still an unforgettable sight. It changes with the season and you might see it surrounded by warm colors in autumn or frozen in winter.
Anna Cave and St. Stephen Cave
Hungary has many cool caves especially in Aggtelek National Park, one hour away from Lillafüred. But the resort can also be a nice preview for this larger systems as you can visit at least two caves at a 10 minutes distance from each other.
Anna Cave lies at the basis of the terraced gardens, under Hotel Palota. It boasts several halls with limestone formations. Visitors and see it from May to September.
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A few hundred meters along the main way, right next to the parking place, you’ll find Szent István Cave, one of the largest and most impressive caves in the area. This one is opened all year round. Legends say that it was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, when a puppy fell into the only natural opening of the cave opening and barked for days until someone rescued it. During the WWII, the cave was used as a bomb shelter and some of the limestone formations were permanently damaged.
None of the caves has English tours, but one can get a piece of paper with information to use during the tour. It might not be the most comfortable way to do a tour, but truth be told I was the only foreigner there that didn’t speak a word of Hungarian. Dress warmly, as the average temperature is around 10 degrees inside.
The chairlift, aka Lillafüred libego, runs for about 1 km from Lillafüred to the mountain station of Jávorhegy. It takes 15-20 minutes to get to the top and enjoy wonderful views, quietness and singing of birds.
For those that still doubt that there are any mountains in Hungary, well, here is Lillafüred, an elegant resort in the Bükk mountains. These are a section of the Western Carpathians, in the north of the country. Their height barely exceeds 1000m, but the views are still pretty impressive. Besides, it’s nice to be able to breath a mouth of fresh air so close to the city.
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