One hour from: Budapest

Only 60 minutes will take you round the Danube Bend
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The Independent Travel

Head out from hilly Buda and flat Pest to savour the many Hungarian highlights to be found around the Danube Bend.

Head out from hilly Buda and flat Pest to savour the many Hungarian highlights to be found around the Danube Bend.

Esztergom

Esztergom, the ecclesiastical centre of Hungary, is dominated by its enormous cathedral, which contains one of the world's largest altar paintings. This former capital and birthplace of Szent Istvan, the nation's first Christian king, is home to the Christian Museum, which is packed with medieval and Renaissance art. See the remains of Istvan's royal palace, dating from 1000, in the Castle Museum, then climb the dome of the cathedral for a majestic view of the Danube.

By car: follow Route 10, turning off at Route 11 for Esztergom. By train: 10 trains daily from Budapest Nyugati station.

Szentendre

The southern gateway to the Danube Bend is popular with artists: think red-tiled roofs, narrow cobblestone alleyways and brightly painted houses and you've got the picture. There are numerous museums and galleries to visit, including a Marzipan Museum, the excellent Margit Kovacs collection of ceramics, and hundreds of arts and crafts shops. Look out for the Orthodox churches built by Serbian refugees in the 17th century. Szentendre also hosts festivals throughout the year.

By car: follow Route 11 to Szentendre. By train: frequent suburban (HEV) service from Batthyany ter station.

Visegrad

Situated at the point where the Danube turns 90 degrees, Visegrad (the name means high castle) is famous for its citadel, perched atop a 350m hill, surrounded by moats hewn from solid rock. The Hungarian crown jewels were housed here until Elizabeth of Luxembourg stole them in 1440. The area is popular with walkers.

By car: follow Route 11 to Visegrad. By bus: frequent service from Arpad hid bus station.

Godollo

The palace at Godollo (pronounced good-duh-ler) was once the favourite residence of Hungary's beloved Empress Elizabeth, or "Sissi" as she was affectionately known, wife of the Emperor Franz Joseph. The baroque-style building dates from 1741 and many of the splendid rooms are open to the public. Equestrian events are frequently held in the park.

By car: take Highway M3 and follow signs to Godollo. By train: half-hourly suburban (HEV) service from Ors vezer tere station.

Lake Balaton

Central Europe's largest freshwater lake is landlocked Hungary's number-one vacation resort; it also lies at the heart of a major wine-producing region. The lake shore is dotted with resorts, wineries and spas, including the villages of Dorgicse, with its charming peasant cottages, and Buzsak, known for its folk art. At the south-west end of the lake is the nature reserve of Little Balaton, home to an abundance of birdlife. During summer the average temperature of the shallow lake waters is 76F, making it an ideal bathing spot for families.

By car: take Highway M7 and follow signs to Lake Balaton.

Vac

Set on the Danube in the foothills of the Borzsony and Cserhat mountains, Vac is one of Hungary's oldest towns. Don't miss the impressive Dominican church, the baroque town hall and the enormous 18th-century school that later became a notorious prison. Other places to visit include the Holy Trinity column, a masterpiece of high baroque sculpture, and the triumphal arch erected in 1764 for Empress Maria Theresa.

By car: follow Route 2 north to Vac.

Sunvil Discovery Europe (020-8758 4722) offers a three-night break in Budapest from £447 per person, including return scheduled flights from Heathrow and transfers. Hertz (0870 848 4848; w ww.hertz.co.uk) has three days' car hire in Budapest from £125.

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