Tokaj is a historical town in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Northern Hungary. It is the centre of the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine district where Tokaji wine is produced. It is one of the seven larger wine regions of Hungary (Hungarian: Tokaji borrégió). Hegyalja means “foothills” in Hungarian, and this was the original name of the region.
The region consists of 28 named villages and 11,149 hectares of classified vineyards, of which an estimated 5,500 are currently planted. Tokaj has been declared a World Heritage Site in 2002 under the name Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape. However, its fame long predated this distinction because it is the origin of Tokaji aszú wine, the world’s oldest botrytized wine.
- 1 Interesting facts about Tokaj
- 2 Most famous grapes of Tokaj
- 3 Most famous wines of Tokaj
- 4 Discover Tokaj – What to see in Tokaj
- 5 How to get to Tokaj
- 6 Restaurant options in & around Tokaj
- 7 Best experiences in Tokaj
- 8 Where to stay around Tokaj
Interesting facts about Tokaj
- The wine-growing area was first mentioned by the name Tokaj in 1067.
- After 1450 Tokaj was the property of the Hunyadi family, so after Matthias Hunyadi became king, the town became a royal estate.
- After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 the town prospered, but when the World Wars came, it suffered greatly, losing its importance and town status.
- Tokaj was granted town status again in 1986 and it started to prosper again. Now the town is a popular tourist attraction.
- This region is noted for its sweet wines made from grapes affected by noble rot. This style of wine has a long history in this region. The “nectar” coming from the grapes of Tokaj is also mentioned in the national anthem of Hungary.
- Tokai, a large residential area of Cape Town, South Africa was named after the Hungarian Tokaj. It was originally an open area with various wine farms and smallholdings. It has similar climate as in Hungary, perfect for certain Tokaj grapes.
Most famous grapes of Tokaj
Only six grape varieties are officially approved for Tokaji wine production:
- Yellow Muscat (Hungarian: Sárgamuskotály)
- Zéta (previously called Oremus – a cross of Furmint and Bouvier grapes)
- Kabar (a cross of Hárslevelű and Bouvier grapes)
Most famous wines of Tokaj
- Dry Wines: The fine quality dry Tokaji Furmint is a relatively new development in the region. For centuries the main product of the area was the sweet wine, mainly the Botrytised selections.
- Szamorodni: This type of wine was initially known as főbor (prime or main wine). What sets Szamorodni apart from ordinary wines is that it is made from bunches of grapes which contain a high proportion of botrytised grapes. Szamorodni is typically higher in alcohol than ordinary wine.
- Aszú: This is the world-famous sweet, topaz-colored wine known throughout the English-speaking world as Tokay. The original meaning of the Hungarian word aszú was “dried”, but the term aszú came to be associated with the type of wine made with botrytised (i.e. “nobly” rotten) grapes. The concentration of aszú was traditionally defined by the number of puttony of dough added to a Gönc cask (136 liter barrel) of must. Nowadays the puttony number is based on the content of sugar and sugar-free extract in the mature wine. Aszú ranges from 3 puttonyos to 6 puttonyos.
- Aszú-Eszencia: Representing wines above 6 puttonyos.
- Eszencia: Also called nectar, this is often described as one of the most exclusive wines in the world, although technically it cannot even be called a wine because its enormous concentration of sugar means that its alcohol level never rises above 5-6 percent. Eszencia is the juice of aszú berries which runs off naturally from the vats in which they are collected during harvesting.
Discover Tokaj – What to see in Tokaj
Visit the village of Tokaj
The village is tiny, within an hour you can walk around perfectly. You can admire many traditional wooden gates from the territory. They kept them in a very good condition. Almost on every corner you can find a Pince (Hungarian for wine-cellar) , but you need to be lucky with their opening times. Luckily some authentic wine shops and local stores are more often open. Where you can admire and taste their amazing wine selections.
This place was one of our favourites in the region. Amazing selection of wine, friendly owners, old-school and romantic atmosphere. Highly recommended when you are around. You can taste and buy as well your selected wines. If you hesitate, just ask the owner, he knows everything about wines and happy to share his outstanding knowledge.
Acclaimed as one of the most favourable sites for Aszú in Tokaj, the Disznókő estate is a single tract of land, planted with noble grape varieties of the Tokaj Wine Region, mainly Furmint. Disznókő, declared First Growth in 1732, is one of the most favourable sites for aszú grape development in the Tokaj Wine Region. The arrival of the fungus (the Botrytis) and the shrivelling of the fully-ripe grape result in the aszú grape. Several physical factors ensure that the perfect aszú grape develops here. They organize visits around the estate and they also have a nice restaurant.
A highlight of any visit to the Tokaj region is a visit to the charming and fascinating little village of Hercegkút, and its unique World Heritage Cellars. The hillside cellars, with their distinctive triangular entrances, can be seen from town and the surrounding area, and are reminiscent of Hobbit holes. Throughout the town there are several local winemakers who love to share their outstanding Tokaj liquids with interested and thirsty visitors.
How to get to Tokaj
The closest airport to Tokaj 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 the snow either! On the below map you can check from where you can fly now directly to Debrecen. During normal years (pre-COVID19) the list of direct routes were significantly higher.
Read more: Discover Debrecen!
- From Budapest: You should take M3 highway and then E79 national road. It takes approximately 2 hours 30 minutes to get to Tokaj. The total distance is 230 km.
- From Debrecen: You should take M35 national road and drive approx. 1 hour 15 minutes. The total distance is 85 km.
By train & bus
- From Budapest: You can take the Intercity train with number IC564 (Kamilla Intercity). It departs from Budapest Keleti Train Station. Directly arrives to Tokaj. The journey is approx. 2,5 hours.
- From Debrecen: You can take the Intercity train with number IC652 (Páva Intercity). It departs from Debrecen and arrives directly in Tokaj. It takes approx. 1 hour.
Restaurant options in & around Tokaj
If you are looking for a good, authentic place for lunch, or dinner after your visit, these places might be interesting for you.
Rózsás Csárda is authentic, traditionally-looking-like Csárda restaurant. The food is really good and the prices reasonable. A Csárda is a traditional restaurant that serves homemade Hungarian cuisine. Some of them could be a tourist trap but we can recommend this one as very trustworthy. Book 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.
This restaurant is fabulous. Interesting menu with some unexpected dishes. It’s definitely one of the bests restaurants in Tokaj, right in the centre of the village. Good to get inspired from their ars poetica:
“We have no plans to save the world, we don’t think we are different from others. But we do everything we can to ensure that our guests leave with a happy, smiling face and a pleasant memory after a meal or wine tasting. To this end, we carefully select the fresh ingredients for our dishes from the producers in the area, we keep pace with the kitchen technology and one of our noblest goals is to represent the most beautiful wines of the Tokaj-Hegyalja region with our dishes made from local producers.” Book here!
Situated in Tokaj, 46 km from Miskolc, Fakapu Pince és Panzió features a restaurant. A terrace is available for guests to enjoy their meal as well. They also serve their own wine, which is delicious and one of the best ones in the region. Book in advance, not to miss your chance.
Best experiences in Tokaj
Where to stay around Tokaj
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. We have stayed in Fakapu Pince, and it couldn’t have been a better choice. Highly recommended, but you need book it in advance!
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