Boldogkő vára is one of the most picturesque castle of Hungary. There is no need to convince anyone fascinated by the middle ages to visit Boldogkőváralja. We had the chance to check the castle of Boldogkő on a winter day in December. It was very foggy, hence the views were a bit limited. But as the guide said at the entrance: in this condition for sure you cannot see it during summer!
About the castle of Boldogkő
Boldogkő Hill rises above the village Boldogkőváralja. Atop the hill stands the castle with its irregular layout. The castle itself has seen a multitude of owners. However, it is still one of the most perfectly preserved fortifications of Hungary. The area surrounding it has been part of the Zemplén Nature Reserve since 1984.
The history of the castle of Boldogkő
In 1282, Ladislaus IV obtained the castle from the Tomaj clan that built the stronghold, which then remained the property of the reigning king until the extinction of the Árpád Dynasty. The one-time drawbridge has been replaced with a wooden plank connecting the road and the gate tower. When you walk through the gate, you arrive at the lower courtyard and from then on the castle is all yours.
Though small and rambling, inside it holds many spectacular and interesting things to see, so you could easily spend two or three hours here. It is made up of a lower and an upper castle. The former includes the lower courtyard and the truncated bastion, while the latter includes the donjon, the keep and the palace. The archaeological, military history, coin, coats of arms and flags exhibitions, the smithy and the castle prison take visitors back to the Middle Ages.
We can go back to the time of Béla IV and through the era of Charles Robert, up until the end of the age of chivalry. Legend has it that a master fruit dryer named Bodó helped Béla IV hide from the Tatars. To express his gratitude, the king gifted the surrounding land to him on the condition that he would build a castle.
Fortunately, Bodó had seven smart, beautiful daughters who decided only to marry men who were willing to help build the castle for at least one year. The castle was therefore ready in seven years and was given the name Bodókő. Of course, the king himself was also present at the girls’ weddings and so he issued the following order: “This castle shall be named Boldogkő henceforth for these seven maidens, these seven fairies who spent their happiest times here.” Although this may be just a legend, it might be easier to remember than the true story of the castle.
What to see in the castle of Boldogkő
It is undoubtedly the most beautiful castle of Zemplén Mountains. Every weekend from spring to autumn the chivalric era comes to life here. Children can enjoy the largest toy soldier collection of Central Europe, photography enthusiasts can bask in the marvelous view from Oroszlánszikla. Those interested in medieval food can try it at the restaurant. Those drawn to hiking will have their expectations met.
The palace wing houses the largest tin, lead soldier exhibition in Central Europe. It presents famous battles from the history of Hungary. The scenes include such intricate details. As the characteristics of the seasons or the smoke from the cannons and the guns. In summer, the picturesque castle is home to excellent jousts mixed with banter and light humour. Knights errant present imitated jousts, where they use their single and double-handed longswords to fight with unmatched grace. The spectacular show includes fights with formidable striking weapons, the infamous chain flail and the battle axe. The most picturesque part of the castle is the ‘Lion’s Rock’ at the end of a 20 m high knife-edge ridge, where we can find a lookout platform as well.
We shouldn’t forget the worldwide famous wine-region of Tokaj is just a half an hour drive from here!
How to get to Boldogkőváralja
The closest airport to Boldogkőváralja is located in Debrecen. You can easily rent a car there and drive to the castle. During winter, all cars are coming with winter tires, as per the local regulations, so you don’t need to worry about that either!
On the below map you can check from which destinations you can fly now directly to Debrecen. During normal years (pre-COVID19) the list of direct routes were significantly higher.
- From Budapest: You should take M3 highway and then M30 national road. It takes approximately 2 hours 30 minutes to get to the castle. The total distance is 230 km.
- From Debrecen: You should M30 national road and drive approx. 1 hour 45 minutes. The total distance is 158 km.
By train & bus
- From Budapest: You can take the Intercity train with number 194. It departs from Budapest Keleti Train Station. It’s called Hernád-Zemplén Intercity. You should get off at Forró-Encs stop. Then change to the bus 3810 to Boldogkőváralja.
- From Debrecen: You can take the Intercity train with number 656 (Kócsag Intercity). It departs from Debrecen and arrives Szerencs. From Szerencs then take the train with 35226 till Abaújszántó. From there you can take the bus 3723 till Boldogkőváralja.
Restaurant options around Boldogkőváralja
If you are looking for a good, authentic place for lunch, or dinner after your visit, these places might be interesting for you.
Medieval restaurant in the rock block below the castle. Their mouth-watering dishes are prepared according to recipes developed with careful research, which guests consume by hand, as is the custom of the age. You can check their menu here.
Sziget Csárda is open for its guests since 1997 at the junction of the 35th main transport route and the Tisza. The island of Tisza provides a great green environment for the restaurant, which offers dishes prepared according to Hungarian traditions, which we try to make even more pleasant with various outdoor programs – fishing and water skiing. They also bake crispy duck, red bread, cake and patty in the oven. In addition to live music in their rustically designed restaurant, on our terraces and in the galleries, our dear guests can enjoy it. They can accommodate more than 300 guests. Secure parking is available for them, whether arriving by car, bus or boat.
The owners both worked in Italy – as a maitre d’ and as a chef – and as people who love being there.
Time went by and, after a brief two-and-a-half year detour via New York, home was waiting. So they returned to Hungary. First they created a corner bar, then a corner pizzeria, and then the “Anyukám mondta” restaurant (literally translated: “my mother said”). Check out their menu here! It’s worth having reservations upfront.
Where to stay around Boldogkőváralja
There are not many accommodation options right around the village. But nearby – within 30-60 km distance – we can find some very nice hotels, homey apartments. It’s worth checking them via our search bar below.
Enjoy our discounts in the place
Dear Traveller, hope you liked the latest article from Besides the Obvious! If you would not like to miss any of our travel stories, destination ideas, vacation plans, holiday inspirations, do not forget to subscribe here!