Sopron On a BudgetSopron is a city in northwestern Hungary, located right on the Austrian border at the foot of the Alps near Lake Neusiedl.
SightsKnown as one of the most historic places in Hungary, Sopron is unique from the rest of Hungary due to its having been relatively untouched by conquerors, rulers, invaders, and war. Unlike the rest of Hungary, the city was not ravaged by the Mongols in the 13th century, not taken by the Turks in the 16th or 17th centuries, and it was left virtually unscathed by the Austrians during the imposition of Habsburg Imperial rule. The city even managed to avoid the worst excesses of the fighting at the end of World War II. As a result, most of Sopron's historic architecture remains intact and central to its identity.
The most famous of these landmarks is perhaps the Firewatch tower, built in the 12th century. Originally meant as a structure for guards to watch for fire, the guards also blew trumpets every fifteen minutes to keep the city informed of the time. Today, a climb up to the tower's Baroque balcony will offer views over the rest of Sopron's Belvaros (or inner city). Also in this historic part of the city is the City Hall which was built in 1896, in the year of the Hungarian Millennium. It is located across from the Storno House, a famous Baroque residence which has past hands through a number of powerful families. Today the first floor of the building serves as a local history museum, while the second floor showcases the last owner's (Storno family) antiques with a collection of 19th century art and furniture. The house is situated on a corner with richly decorated bay windows and an arched doorway with a coat of arms situated between Tuscan half pillars.
Other attractions in the main square include the Central Mining Museum which exhibits Sopron's mining tradition which dates back to the 18th century, the Holy Trinity Statue which exemplifies the ornate Hungarian Baroque style, the Church of Saint Michael whose tower stands at the highest point in town, and the Goat Church named for a legend where it is said that the church was built thanks to the treasure unearthed by a goat herd.
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NeighborhoodsThe historic town of Sopron is centered on Fo ter square, designed in the Baroque style and home to the most important landmarks like the City Hall, Firewatch tower, and the main Roman Catholic Church. This area is what remains of the area's rich medieval architecture, a rare find in war-torn Hungary. It attracts visitors every year from just over the border in Austria to further abroad for its quaint beauty that has lasted the ages, as well as for its shopping which is cheaper than in Austria.
ActivitiesThe best way to experience Sopron is to explore the medieval center on foot, appreciating each historic building and taking in the intricate details of the Baroque courtyards and sculptural work. Each structure serves as a glimpse into the past with its historic architecture.
In addition to sight-seeing, Sopron is also known for its location as a wine-producing region. Some of its signature wines use grapes which include Kekfrankos for red wine and Traminer (Gewurztraminer) for white wine.
Food and DiningCuisine of Hungary is primarily based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, dairy products, and cheeses. Paprika is used generously in cooking and is considered the national spice. Goulash, a soup or stew of meat and vegetables and seasoned with paprika and other spices, is especially popular and common throughout Hungary. Other specialties include stuffed peppers, cabbage rolls, roasted meats, and casseroles, as well as a hot and spicy fish soup called halaszle, a chilled sour cherry soup called hideg meggyleves, and Hungarian crepes called palacsinta which can be stuffed with jam, cheese, raisins, or meat. In Sopron, there are plenty of restaurants, especially in the city center, most serving Hungarian cuisine though there are some Austrian specialties and Viennese fare as well. Also be sure to try the famous regional wine, called Kekfrankos.
TransportationThe best prices for buses and trains in Hungary can be found on Omio (formerly GoEuro). They let you search across all train, bus, and plane routes throughout Europe.
Hungary's main international airports are Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Budapest (formerly Budapest Ferihegy International Airport) and Airport Debrecen in Debrecen. Since Sopron is close to the Austrian border, however, it is easier to fly into the international airport in Vienna (about 65 kilometers away) or the one in Bratislava (100 kilometers away). From Vienna, Sopron is connected by train every hour with a journey that takes about an hour and twenty minutes. It is the second to last stop on the line from Vienna to Deutschkreutz. Another option is to drive from Vienna to Sopron on A2 until the Traiskirchen intersection, then on A3 until the Eisenstadt intersection, and on B16 to Sopron.