Travel to Hungary for a glimpse of Europe's heart and soul. With a language and culture unlike anywhere else in Europe, the small country punches above its weight when presenting its case as the continent's cultural hub.
Baroque Budapest is the atmospheric capital, set on the banks of the River Danube. Graceful Buda is characterised by its castle district and the fine old buildings on the steep slopes of Gellert Hill; lively Pest on the opposite bank is best for bars and businesses. The city is best known for its thermal baths though. Soothe your aches and pains at the Gellert Baths or the Szechenyi Baths, where men also gather to play chess in the pool.
Beyond Budapest there are castles, Roman and Turkish ruins, spas and some delightful scenery to discover.
Travel to the Danube Bend on a day trip; the sharp curve where Europe's second largest river passes the Borzsony and Pilis Hills is one of the prettiest stretches, with picturesque towns standing on the banks. Hungary's 'inland sea', Lake Balaton, is in fact the largest freshwater lake in Europe; it's a popular holiday spot, with sandy beaches and shallow waters ideal for swimming.
Kiskunsag National Park is made up of a dozen protected ponds, dunes and grassy 'deserts' and makes an interesting foray into the countryside. For something more massive, travel to the Great Plains, a vast area of vineyards, orchards and farmlands that filter into the Asian steppes to the east. Bird watchers ought to travel to Hortobagy National Park whilst adrenaline enthusiasts would do well to go caving in UNESCO Heritage listed Aggtelek Karst.