21km (13 miles) N of Budapest

Szentendre (pronounced Sen-ten-dreh, St. Andrew), 21km (13 miles) north of Budapest, has been populated since the Stone Age by Illyrians, the Celtic Eraviscus tribe, Romans, Lombards, Avars, and naturally, Hungarians. Serbians settled here in the 17th century, embellishing the town with their unique characteristics. Szentendre, counts half a dozen Serbian churches among its rich collection of historical buildings.

Since the turn of the 20th century, Szentendre has been home to an artists' colony, where today, about 100 artists live and work, referred to as "The City of Artists." The town boasts of its selection of 48 museums and monuments, but few people come here to visit the museums, distracted perhaps by the shopping opportunities. It could also be that the times and hours posted are just a loose guide. Museums do not have stable hours, even when posted on the door; there is oftentimes a sign stating that the museum is closed for "technical reasons," but no future reopening date is given. Think of a museum as icing on the cake; if it is open, take the opportunity to visit it.

The town is an extremely popular destination, with buses pouring tourists into the streets for a few hours of exploring. This is sometimes a turn-off for other visitors, but the town really is a treasure. To appreciate its rich flavor, we recommend you look beyond the touristy shops and wander the streets looking at the architecture, the galleries, and the churches, if only from the outside. Dare to wander off the main streets to find hidden shops, beautiful old homes, and quiet green spaces. Almost all the streets are cobblestones, so choose comfortable footwear.

At the top of the hill, you'll find the Roman Catholic churchyard, with views of the red-tile rooftops. One surprise from here is the winged blue man on a rooftop a couple of blocks away; I could not find anyone to tell me what its purpose was other than frivolity. If you take the steps down from the courtyard, you will come across, in my opinion, the best lángos vendor in Hungary. If you wander down the hill on the side streets, the palinka shop has been known to give a free sample in hopes of making a sale. Szentendre is too small for you to get lost in and too beautiful for a less-than-thorough exploration, so make the most of a day, but don't miss walking along the Danube for a blissful view of the river and the tree-lined bank on the other side.