35+ Facts About Hungary You Should Know

Discover 35+ fun facts about Hungary!

Situated in the heart of Europe, at the center of the continent, Hungary is a land with a rich history, charming people, and a fascinating culture. It is home to a diverse landscape of lakes, forests, mountains, historic castles, and alluring medieval cities. Here are some interesting facts about Hungary. 

Facts about Hungary

1. Hungary is the 108th largest country in the world. 

Occupying a total area of 93,030 km² (35,920 sq mi), Hungary is the 108th-largest country in the world. Comparatively, it is roughly the same size as the US state of Indiana.

2. Hungary is landlocked and shares a border with seven countries. 

Situated in the Carpathian Basin, Hungary is bordered by Slovakia (627 km/390 mi) to the north, Romania (424 km/263 mi) to the east, Serbia (164 km/102 mi) to the south, Croatia (348 km/216 mi) to the southwest, Slovenia (94 km/58 mi) to the west, Austria (321 km/199 mi) to the northwest, and Ukraine (627 km/390 mi) to the northeast.

3. Hungary is home to the largest lake in Central Europe. 

Hungary’s Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe. Popularly known as the “Hungarian Sea,” Lake Balaton is 77 km (48 mi)  long, 3-14 km (2-9 mi) wide, and covers an area of 600 km² (230 sq mi). Interestingly, its mean depth is only 3.3 m (11 ft).

4. The highest point in Hungary is Kekes. 

Hungary’s terrain is mostly flat to rolling plains, with most of the country lying below an elevation of 200 m (656 ft). The tallest mountain in the country is Kekes at 1,014 m (3,326 ft) in the Mátra Mountains northeast of Budapest.

5. Hungary is famous for being the land of thermal springs and baths. 

Hungary has long been one of Europe’s great spa destinations. Natural hot springs pour out over 80 million liters of richly mineralized water every day. 

Hungary is overflowing with hot springs and there are more than 1,300 hot springs in the country, of which 300 are used for bathing and medicinal purposes. 

6. Hungary is home to the world’s largest known thermal cave system. 

With 80 geothermal springs and around 200 caves found to date, Hungary’s capital, Budapest, is home to the world’s largest known thermal cave system.

7. Hungary is home to the largest synagogue in Europe. 

One of the interesting facts about Hungary is that Europe’s largest synagogue can be found in the country. With 3,600 seats and a total capacity for over 5,000 worshippers, Budapest’s Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe. 

The Dohány Street Synagogue is also the third-largest synagogue in the world after the Belz Great Synagogue in Jerusalem and NYC’s Temple Emanu-El.

8. Theodore Herzl, founder of the political form of Zionism, and considered the father of the State of Israel, was born in Budapest.

Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, who sought the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East was born within the grounds of the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest in 1860. For his efforts, Herzl is regarded as the father of the State of Israel.

9. Several Hungarians have made it big in Hollywood.

Hollywood would not be the same without Hungarians as several Hungarians have left an indelible mark on Tinseltown. Paramount Pictures founder Adolf Zukor, Fox Film Corporation founder William Fox, producer Andrew G. Vajna, and Casablanca director Michael Curtiz all hailed from Hungary.

Notable Hollywood actors and actresses born in Hungary or with Hungarian ancestry include Zsa Zsa Gábor, Tony Curtis, Béla Lugosi, Rachel Weisz, Mariska Hargitay, Adrien Brody, Louis C.K, and Peter Lorre. 

10. Hungary is home to the oldest metro in continental Europe.

The Budapest Metro is the oldest underground railway in continental Europe dating back to 1896 and is the second oldest in the world after the London Underground.

11. Hungarians call themselves “magyarok” and their country “Magyarország.”

Hungarians call themselves “magyarok” and their country “Magyarország.” The name “Magyar”, which refers to the people of the country possibly comes from the name of one of the seven major semi-nomadic Hungarian tribes, called Megyer, who settled in the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century.

12. The number 96 is very important in Hungary.

One of the fascinating facts about Hungary is that the number 96 is held in high esteem in the nation. The crowning of Arpád as the first king of the Magyars (Hungarians) heralded the creation of the Hungarian state in 896. 

Budapest’s metro was inaugurated on the country’s millennial anniversary in 1896. By law, buildings in Budapest must not exceed 96 meters, and the Hungarian national anthem should be sung in 96 seconds (if sung at a proper tempo)!

13. The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest is the third-largest parliament building in the world.

The gorgeous Neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest is the third-largest parliament building in the world behind Romania’s parliament building and London’s Westminster. 

Occupying a floor area of 18,000 m² (193,800 sq ft), it is arranged around ten central courtyards and contains more than 20 km (12 mi) of corridors, as well as 691 rooms!

14. After the end of World War I, the subsequent Treaty of Trianon cost Hungary 71% of its territory, 32% of ethnic Hungarians, and 90% of its vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure.

Fighting on the side of the Central Powers in World War I, Hungary ended up on the losing side. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1920, the Hungarian delegation was forced to sign the punishing Treaty of Trianon.

Led by the Big Four – the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy, the non-negotiable treaty forced Hungary to cede 71% of its territory, 68% of its population, 32% of ethnic Hungarians, and 90% of its vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure.

Whole swathes of territory went to Czechoslovakia, Austria, Yugoslavia, and Romania – which received all of Transylvania. 3.3 million Hungarians found themselves living in foreign countries.

In addition, Hungary lost access to its seaports and became landlocked. Seen as a national tragedy, Hungarians have never really gotten over the Treaty of Trianon. Rooted in Hungarian culture, it has been the cause of deep resentment in Hungary ever since.

15. During World War II, Hungary sided with the Axis Powers.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy sought to enforce the claims of Hungarians on territories Hungary had lost due to the Treaty of Trianon.

They offered Hungary half of Transylvania, and parts of southern Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia as a reward for siding with the Axis Powers. In 1940, Hungary joined the Axis powers. In 1945, Hungarian forces were defeated by Soviet troops and Hungary lost the territory it regained. 

16. After World War II, Hungary was part of the Eastern Bloc.

Post-World War II Hungary was eventually taken over by a Soviet-allied government and became part of the Eastern Bloc. The Communists take complete control of Hungary and establish the People’s Republic of Hungary. Hungary joins the Warsaw Pact. 

The Hungarian People’s Republic was a one-party socialist republic from 1949 until the end of Communism in 1989. Hungary’s first post-Communist elections were held in 1990 and Soviet forces withdrew from Hungary in 1991. 

17. Hungary is home to the oldest wine appellation in the world.

Did you know that Hungary is home to the oldest wine appellation in the world?

France, Spain, and Italy might be more famous for their wines in general, but in 1737, Hungary’s Tokaji wine region was delimited as a national wine area by King Karoly. 

This makes the Tokaji wine the world’s first wine appellation, several decades before Port wine, and almost 120 years before France’s Bordeaux. Tokaji wine is even mentioned in Hungary’s national anthem.

18. The 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix was the first Formula One race to take place behind the Iron Curtain.

The 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix took place on 10 August 1986 at the Hungaroring motorsport racetrack in Mogyoród, Hungary. It was the first Formula One race to take place behind the Iron Curtain and was attended by around 200,000 spectators from the Eastern Bloc.

The 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix was won by Brazilian Nelson Piquet.

19. Hungary is a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Hungary joined the EU in 2004 and has been a NATO member since 1999.

20. Paprika is Hungary’s most popular spice and a symbol of its cuisine.

Sweet, spicy, and aromatic, paprika is the defining flavor of Hungarian cuisine and has proved the go-to ingredient for some of Hungary’s trademark dishes. While paprika has long been associated with Hungarian gastronomy, the pepper plant isn’t native to Hungary.

The Turks introduced the plant in the 16th century, but it only took off in popularity in the 18th century. Paprika is sourced from dried chilies and it takes 1.4 kg (3 lbs)  of dried Hungarian red peppers to make 0.5 kg (1 lb) of ground paprika.

21. The national dish of Hungary is goulash.

Regarded as Hungary’s national dish, goulash is a thin broth made from chunks of beef cooked with onions, paprika, tomatoes, and pepper. It’s usually served with fresh white bread and chopped hot paprika on the side. 

21. The currency of Hungary is Hungarian Forint (HUF).

While it is an EU member, Hungary hasn’t adopted the Euro. The forint was introduced as Hungary’s monetary unit in 1946 in order to stabilize the national economy after World War II.

23. In 1946, Hungary suffered the worst hyperinflation on record during which it took approximately only 15 hours for prices to double.

One of the most mind-blowing facts about Hungary is how bad hyperinflation was in the country in the first half of 1946. By the midpoint of the year, Hungary’s highest denomination bill was the 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 (One Hundred Quintillion) pengő! It was only worth about $0.20 USD.

World War II had a crippling effect on Hungary’s economy, leaving half of its industrial capacity completely destroyed and the country’s infrastructure in tatters. To stimulate the economy and pay its mounting debts, the nation began through the printing of money, which created massive inflation. 

During the worst period of Hungary’s hyperinflation in July 1946, the daily inflation rate stood at 207%, with prices doubling approximately every 15 hours, coming out to a monthly inflation rate of 41,900,000,000,000,000% – that’s 41.9 quadrillion percent a month.

The situation was so woeful that the Hungarian government adopted a special currency (the adópengő) that was created explicitly for tax and postal payments and was adjusted each day via radio. However, by July 1946, one adópengő equaled 2×1021 pengő. 

It is estimated that when the pengő was replaced by the forint in August 1946, the total value of all Hungarian banknotes in circulation amounted to the value of one one-thousandth of a US cent!

24. Hungarian names are regulated by law.

Hungary has a relatively strict naming law. Names must come from a pre-approved list – any deviations from which must be approved by application to the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences – the ultimate authority on names and spelling in general. 

25. Hungarian (Magyar) is not an Indo-European language, but rather a member of the Uralic language family.

Hungarian (Magyar) comes from the Uralic region of Asia and belongs to the Finno-Ugric language group. Its closest relatives are Khanty and Mansi, minority languages of Russia, spoken 3,200 km (2,000 mi) away, east of the Ural mountains in northwestern Siberia. However, Khanty and Mansi aren’t at all mutually intelligible with Hungarian. 

26. Between 1950 and 1956, the Hungarian National Football (Soccer) Team played 50 games and lost only one – the 1954 World Cup Final.

The Hungarian national football team of the 1950s is widely regarded as one of the greatest football teams of all time. Blessed with footballing greats such as Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis, Nándor Hidegkuti, Zoltán Czibor, and József Bozsik, the “Mighty Magyars” (as they were nicknamed) were the most feared team in football.

Between 1950 and 1956, the Mighty Magyars compiled a stunning record playing 50 games recording 42 victories, 7 draws. They inflicted heavy defeats on then-footballing world powers England, Brazil, Uruguay, and the Soviet Union. 

Unfortunately, their one and only defeat came in the 1954 World Cup Final. In a match they were heavily favored to win, the Mighty Magyars lost 2-3 against West Germany.

27. The master escapologist Harry Houdini was born in Budapest in 1874.

Widely regarded as the greatest escape artist of all time, Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz in Budapest in 1874 to a Jewish family.

28. From around 1000 until 1836, Latin was the sole official language of Hungary.

Latin was the sole official language of the Kingdom of Hungary from its inception around 1000 AD until 1836 when Hungarian was introduced as a co-official language. In this time, Latin served as the language of culture, scholarship, state administration, and the language of the Hungarian nobility and clergy. 

29. Hungary has won more Olympic medals than any other nation that has never hosted the Olympics.

Hungarian athletes have won a total of 498 Olympic medals, including 491 at the Summer Olympics. The nation has the most medals of any country that hasn’t hosted the Olympics and if measured by the number of gold medals per capita, Hungary ranks fifth! 

30. Hungary is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Some of the most notable UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Hungary are Hortobágy National Park, the Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst, and Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, and Andrássy Avenue.

31. Hungary’s population is decreasing.

Hungary’s population has been steadily declining since 1981 when the country’s population was at its highest (10.75 million). It is now one of several countries in the former Eastern Bloc that are grappling with a shrinking population and rural depopulation.

The population decline is mainly due to low birth rates and emigration to more prosperous regions (primarily in Western Europe). Hungary also hasn’t been successful in attracting immigrants like Western Europe. 

It’s predicted that at the current rate the country’s population is projected to decline to 8.36 million by 2050. It is expected to continue declining for the remainder of the century and end up at 6.87 million people by the end of 2099.

32. Hungary was home to the most prolific female murderer in history.

The Guinness World Records lists Elizabeth Báthory, a Hungarian noblewoman as the most prolific female murderer in history. Báthory, who practised vampirism on girls and young women in the 16th and 17th centuries, was convicted of 80 murders, though the death count was rumored to be as many as 650. 

33. Hungarians are an innovative lot.

Some of the most notable Hungarian inventions and discoveries are the Rubik’s Cube, the ballpoint pen, Vitamin C, holography, the thermographic camera, the ultramicroscope, the variable capacitor, and the noiseless match.

34. The word ‘coach‘ derives from the name of the Hungarian village Kocs.

During the 15th century, a horse-drawn vehicle with steel-spring suspension was invented. It came to be known as a ‘coach’, derived from the village of Kocs, 65 km (40 mi) northwest of Budapest, where it originated.

35. The national animal of Hungary is completely nonexistent.

The closest thing that Hungary has to a national animal is the Turul. The Turul is a mythological bird of prey that frequently appears in Hungarian legends,generally in the form of a giant falcon.

The Turul is also said to have accompanied the Magyars to Europe and dropped its sword in what is now modern-day Budapest, indicating to them that the area was to be their homeland. 

The legend of the Turul has persisted over centuries and today, the mythical bird appears on everything from the Hungarian military’s coat of arms to the country’s stamps.