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By Edited Jun 11, 2014 1 0

Hungary is the country that gave us the music of Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók, Rubiks cube, peasant embroidery and thermal water caves. Learn all about Hungary.

Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe that is bordered by Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Ukraine. It is also known as the Republic of Hungary and is strategically located across the main land routes between Western Europe and the Balkan Peninsula. It has an area of 93,028 square kilometres (35,919 square miles) and is roughly kidney shaped.

Location of Hungary

The north-south flowing River Danube (Duna) and Tisza River divide the country into three large regions. The capital city is Budapest which is home to an estimated 1.7 million people in 2010 and occupies both banks of the Danube. It was originally two towns of Buda on the west bank and Pest on the east bank which were unified on 17 November 1873.

Population of Hungary

The population of Hungary was estimated at just over 10 million people in May 2010, and 68% of the population live in urban areas. Budapest is the largest city and the next largest city is Debrecen which has less than 250,000 people. The average life expectancy is 69.3 years for men and 77.9 years for women, which is quite a large difference between the sexes. 69.3% of the population are aged between 15 and 64 years of age.

Hungarians call themselves Magyars and their language and culture is unlike any other in the region. This distinction has been a source of pride but also an obstacle for more than 1100 years. The language is distantly related to Finnish and Estonian. About 94% of the population are Hungarian and 2% belong to the Roma ethnic group. Germans represent just over 1% of the population and the rest is a mix of Slovaks, Croats, Bunjevics, Romanians, Ukrainians and Serbs.

Economy of Hungary

The Hungarian economy is a medium-sized open economy and is part of the European Union single market. Like most Eastern European economies, it made the transition from a centrally planned to a market economy in the early 1990s as part of the move away from communism. The private sector accounts for over 80% of GDP and foreign ownership and investment is widespread.

Hungary is a member of the OECD and World Trade Organisation and joined the European Union in 2004. It was hard hit by the global financial crisis in 2008 and received an IMF-arranged financial assistance package worth over $25 billion. The government has introduced austerity measures to get the economy back on track.

Hungarian Forint

The currency of Hungary since 1946 has been the forint but they are keen to adopt the euro in 2012-13. This will be dependent on how well they can reduce government spending and reform their economy. Germany is the most important trading partner accounting for around 25% of imports and 25% of exports.

Geography and Climate of Hungary

Hungary consists of a vast area of lowlands, flanked on the west by the Alps, and on the east by the Carpathians. The highest point is Mount Kekes (1,014m) in the north between the Danube and Tisza rivers. West of the Danube much of the ground is hilly. In the north are the hills of the Bakony Forest, on the southern edge of which is Lake Balaton, and further south are the Mecsek Hills, also forested. Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Hungary, about 4 miles wide and nearly 50 miles long. Much of the forest land is of oak or beech.


In general the climate is temperate, with a long severe winter, during which Lake Balaton is frozen over. January is the coldest month. The summer is warm and can be very hot in the south-east. July and August are the hottest months. The climate varies across the country with the south having a Mediterranean climate while the east is Continental and the west is Atlantic.

History of Hungary

From 9 BC to the end of the 4th century, western Hungary was part of the Roman Empire. Hungary is one of the oldest countries in Europe, established in 896 when it was invaded by the Magyars who founded a kingdom. Hungary became a Christian kingdom during the reign of Stephen I (St. Stephen), 977–1038. In 1241 a devastating invasion by the Mongols killed half of Hungary's population and for many centuries Hungary served as a bulwark against Ottoman Turkish expansion in Europe.

Eventually the kingdom became part of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, which collapsed during World War I. Following World War II the country fell under Communist rule. In 1956 there was a revolt and when it was announced Hungary would withdraw from the Warsaw Pact there was massive military intervention by Moscow. In 1968 under the leadership of Janos Kadar Hungary began liberalizing its economy, with "Goulash Communism." In 1990 Hungary held its first multiparty elections and initiated a free market economy, joining NATO in 1999 then the EU in 2004. Hungary is a parliamentary republic.

Hungarian Flag

Flag of Hungary

The flag of Hungary has three horizontal bands of red (top), white, and green. It dates back to the national movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, and melds the medieval colors of the Hungarian coat of arms with the tricolor form of the French flag. The red symbolizes both strength and blood spilled in defense of the land, white is for faithfulness and freedom, while green is for hope and the pasturelands that make up much of the country.

Hungarian Food and Drink

Hungarian cuisine is an important part of the culture. The most well known dish is goulash. Dishes are often flavoured with paprika, and thick heavy sour cream. Popular dishes include fisherman's soup of poached fish, goose liver foie gras and trout with almonds. Desserts include strudels , dobos cake, plum dumplings, pastries and dishes which include chestnuts. Fruit brandies are made flavoured with plums, apricots or cherries and they have several local beers as well as many wines. The liqueur Unicum has been made for over 150 years using blends of Hungarian herbs.

Main Attractions in Hungary

Hungary is full of things to see and do including bird-watching, cycling fishing, horse riding and thermal spas, Jewish culture. Some of the public bathes date back to Roman times. There are some wonderful buildings in Budapest including the Great Synagogue which is the largest synagogue in Europe and the impressive Esztergom Basilica.

Panorama of Budapest

It is worthwhile taking a day trip on the Danube or to Lake Balaton. Don't forget the country has the largest thermal water cave system in the world and there are plenty of small towns to visit which are ethnically rich. You can see Hungarian folk dancing, traditional black pottery and beautifully embroidered aprons, tableware and costumes. There are also vineyards, national parks and nature reserves to visit.


CIA Factbook

2010 World Atlas



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