Eger and the Valley of the Beautiful Women

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Just two hours north of Budapest lies a small city that feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the Hungarian capital.

A short train ride, and you can trade in the clash of nighttime traffic for a serenade of nighttime insects; the sprawling city for just a few major streets. And instead of Budapest's ruin bars, here you can explore dozens of wine cellars.

This is Eger.

Eger, Hungary

A city of about 60,000, Eger still manages to possess that Hungarian charm that I fell in love with in Budapest, despite its miniature size. Cobbled streets empty into broad squares with towering cathedrals. Colorful cafes spill out onto sidewalks littered with umbrella-shaded tables. And an ancient castle provides sweeping views out over the whole city.

Eger, Hungary
Eger from above

In fact, Eger Castle is one of the region's main attractions, with the structure dating back centuries. Even on a rainy Sunday when all the museums and exhibitions were closed, the fortress was well worth a visit.

Eger Castle, Hungary

But nobody comes to Eger just to see the castle.

The real draw of this city lies an easy 20 minutes' walk outside of the main square, in an area known romantically as the Valley of the Beautiful Women. You could, of course, also hire a car, but the walk is gentle and very pretty.

The Valley of the Beautiful Women, Eger, Hungary

Valley of the Beautiful Women, Eger, Hungary

Here, tucked deep into a verdant valley, lies Hungary's most well-known wine region. But it's not your average wine region — Eger is unique in that it boasts dozens of wineries, each of which operates a small cellar in the Valley of the Beautiful Women where you can pop in and try some local specialties for dirt cheap. (There are actually upwards of 200 cellars here, with roughly 4 dozen open to the public.)

The Valley of the Beautiful Women, Eger, Hungary
Eger wine cellars

It's kind of like a pub crawl. Except you substitute wine cellars for pubs, and instead of beer you can expect wine. Lots and lots of wine.

The Valley of the Beautiful Women, Eger, Hungary

Wine tasting in Eger

You can find wine of all colors and tastes here — from white to blush to deep red. But the most famous wine in Eger is definitely Egri Bikavér — or “Bull's Blood.” This dark red wine is rich and dry, made from a mixture of 3 different types of grapes.

Wine tasting in Eger

And the name is just as unique as the wine.

Back in the 1550s, as the Turks were expanding their Ottoman Empire to include Hungary, they thought they'd make quick work of taking over Eger, an important stronghold in the northern part of the country at the time. What they weren't expecting in 1552 with their army of tens of thousands (stories list anywhere from 40,000 to 150,000 Turks), however, was such a fierce force in Eger to oppose them.

The ruler of Eger at the time, Dobo Istvan, rallied his roughly 2,000 troops (legends list the number anywhere between 800 and 3,000 men), and decided to boost their morale by giving them barrels of wine to drink — all the wine in Eger was mixed together randomly to sustain Dobo's troops.

The small Eger force was able to defend Eger Castle and drive the Turks away, and fought so passionately that a rumor spread around the Turkish ranks that the Hungarians were drinking the blood from bulls to gain their improbable strength (and red-stained beards). And so “Bull's Blood” wine got its name.

Bull's Blood wine

Just about any cellar in the Valley will be able to serve you its own version of Egri Bikavér, along with a variety of other wines. Cellar 19, for example, had nearly 30 different varieties of wine in one of the oldest cellars in the valley.

Cellar 19, Eger

But if you are only going to visit one cellar in Eger, make it cellar number 2. This cellar, tucked into an unsuspecting corner removed from the outdoor seating and blaring loudspeaker music, was by far my favorite. The owner, an older Hungarian lady who spoke very little English, poured wine through a slender glass contraption with gusto and served up very curious “sandwiches” and cheese plates.

There was no rush to leave, and no wine glass left unfilled.

Cellar 2, Eger
Inside Cellar 2

Cellar 2, Eger

Cellar 2, Eger

The dark and musty cellar — covered in moss and mold that helps regulate the temperature year-round — was full of warm character, the walls covered with coins from all over the world that had been pressed into the fungus. The owner told us that if you pressed a coin into the wall and it stuck, it meant you would be sure to return to Eger.

Coin or no coin, Eger is definitely a part of Hungary I would return to someday.


The best option is to take a train to Eger and stay overnight. But if that's not an option, you can also book a day trip from Budapest; Eger is about 2 hours one-way from the Hungarian capital.

If you decide to stay overnight in Eger, the Senator House Hotel is the top-rated hotel in the city.

Have you been cellar hopping in Eger? If not, is this is place you'd like to go wine tasting someday?



*Note: I am on a complimentary “Explore Eastern Europe” tour with Intrepid Travel, but all opinions are completely my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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47 Comments on “Eger and the Valley of the Beautiful Women

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  1. I’m looking to take a side trip to Eger, but wondering how much to budget for the wine and everything.

      To be honest, I’m not sure how much the trip would cost you… I unfortunately didn’t keep track of my budget very well on this trip. However, I know that the tastings weren’t all that expensive. Maybe the equivalent of a couple of Euro per glass. And Hungary in general is pretty inexpensive, especially more rural areas like this one. So sorry I can’t be of more help!

    […] like walking tours or visits to famous sites/monuments (included things on this tour included wine tasting in Hungary, visiting Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, and walking tours in multiple cities). Some extras that I […]

    […] siege in 1552.Yet, despite all of that, I’d never heard of it until fellow blogger Amanda wrote about it a few days before we arrived in Budapest.  Looking for a break from the capital cities, this […]

    What a cute little city! We never made it past Budapest, but one of these days I’d love to explore more of Hungary and drink a TON of wine. 🙂

      Well if you want to drink a ton of wine in Hungary, Eger is definitely the place to do it!

    Beautiful photos! The city of Eger looks fantastic. When I visit Hungary I will make sure I check it out. And the wines! They sound awesome.

    In 2004 I went on a twin-centre holiday to Budapest and Eger! I loved both… So pleased you enjoyed them too. If you would like any local advice when you get to London I live right in the centre 🙂

      That sounds like a fun holiday! Great part of the world.

      And thanks for the London offer! I’m always up for advice, though my time will be far too short there!

    Wow this looks amazing. I love the little cellars next to each other. I hope they provide someone to carry you home after though! lol

      Hahaha, no, I don’t think they provide that service. 😉

    I visited Budapest last August and was less then enamored with it. I have come to the conclusion that I need to give it another chance and when I do I will venture out to see more of Hungary including Eger! Wine tasting will be on the list of things to do.

      I’ve heard quite a few people say they weren’t wowed by Budapest. Did you perhaps see Prague first? I’ve heard Prague can kind of make Budapest seem a lot less grand.

      Regardless, I think you should definitely give it another chance, and explore some more of Hungary in the process!

    I’m really excited to try some Hungarian wines when I’m in Budapest next month. Not sure if I’ll be able to make it up to Eger but it sounds like a lovely place!

      If you can make it out to Eger, I highly recommend it! If not, though, be sure to enjoy what local wines you can find in Budapest!

    I love all the bright coloured buildings! It’s rare to see that many shades of mango and terracotta outside Latin America. 😀

      I loved the color, too! It seemed to be quite prevalent all across northern Hungary, from what I could tell.

    Now that looks like a lovely part of the world!

      It certainly is. Eastern Europe is so underrated, yet so amazing!

    Looks amazing!!! Being a massive wine lover I am just dying to get there!!!

      If you love wine, yes, you really should add Eger to your must-visit list!

    Very interesting! We enjoy Hungarian wine and have been to tastings in caves and other unique locations around Budapest. But we have not tried Bull’s Blood. We’ll have to make this little side trip next time we go to Budapest!

      It’s worth a try if you like wine, I think (or even if you don’t, it’s worth trying since it’s so famous in this region!).

      And as for a side trip to Eger from Budapest, YES! DO IT!

    I find it interesting that the “Colorful cafes spill out onto sidewalks littered with umbrella-shaded tables” in the picture is a McDonald’s 😀

      Haha, is it?? I didn’t even notice. I took so many photos like that one in Eger; I just like all the pastel colors in that shot. 🙂 I promise there were more cafes all over the city!

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