Author: Dániel Ercsey
The western end of the wine district, around Kisbér and Ászár, is the gateway to the Bakony. You can access marked hiking routes relatively quickly from here. Nagyigmánd is famous for its mansions, Kocs for its Roman Catholic Church, the Carriage Museum and its carriage-pulling race. Heading towards the Danube from here, you’ll soon reach Komárom. Nowadays, the Danube and the border divide the city into two parts. On the Hungarian side, you can still see some elements of the fortification system, part of the largest in Central Europe, the Brigetio Thermal Baths and the György Klapka Museum. It’s also worth walking across the bridge to the Slovak side and the actual Old Town. If you head east along the Danube from Komárom, the Gerecse Hills will soon rise out of the countryside in front of you. The wine district’s best-known vineyards are located on their western and north-western slopes, stretching from Tata to Baj and Szomód through Dunaszentmiklós to Neszmély.
In Neszmély, it’s worth renting a canoe or kayak and paddling around the surrounding water world, a series of Danube branches separated from the main Danube flow by numerous islands, both large and small; it’s a paradise for waterfowl and anglers. There is a boat museum in one of the bays, in another a waterfront campsite, harbour and beach. The draining of the Tata Lake each year through the Álta-ér channel is also a good opportunity for some fun on the water. Enterprising people “race” along it towards the Danube on somewhat crazy as well as normal water vehicles.
In Vértesszőlős, you can find the archaeological site of the Hungarian National Museum, better known as Samut. Visit the cellars in the vineyards of Baj and admire the view of the Tata Basin, walk around the Öreg Lake in Tata and visit the buildings erected by the Esterházy family. Watch out for festivals in the area or follow the Fényes nature trail for various kinds of activities. The annual Neszmély grand wine tasting is organised in the former Esterházy Champagne Factory and can be easily reached by train from Budapest.
You can also head out of the wine district on an excursion to Turul statue and the caves in the cliff above Tatabánya. The Kamalduli Hermitage in Majkpuszta is within easy striking distance as are the building and surroundings of its former Esterházy Chateau and the Gesztes Castle in nearby Várgesztes.
The beautifully renovated Reviczky Chateau in Süttő is also worth mentioning, although it is unfortunately not open to visitors, as well as the hiking opportunities in Gerecse.
A rugged hike to the Bajót Old Stone makes a good excursion. The spectacular ruptured dome hall of the Jankovich Cave opens out from the rocky hillside as a horst.
Finally, Kesztölc and Esztergom at the eastern end of the wine district round off the list of its attractions. The former is famous for its 1956 legend, the illustrious independent Republic of Kesztölc, as well as its wines, the cliffs rising above the town, which offer fantastic hiking opportunities and, of course, the ruins of Klastrompuszta, where the ancient Pauline monastery once stood, the only Hungarian-founded monastic order. The Fekete Hill lodge, Két Bükkfa-nyereg or the ruins of the Cistercian monastery near Pilisszentkereszt, where Queen Gertrudis was assassinated, are all within hiking distance. Esztergom’s sights could fill a book. Besides the castle and basilica, mention should be made of the Babits Museum, the Aquasziget Esztergom wellness spa, the renovated Danube Museum, the Víziváros (Water Town), the Bottyán Palace, now the city hall, the St Adalbert Centre, the Calvary and Round Church and the mosque. You could also cross the Danube to Slovakia and stroll along Sturovo’s pedestrian street or visit nearby wineries run by local Hungarians in Garamkövesd. The Danube Bend begins to the east....
The wine district, which stretches along the Danube, is mainly famous for its light, elegant white wines with bright acidity, although, in the past, Neszmély wines were transported far and wide due to their longevity, and so people are also increasingly producing full-bodied, ageworthy wines again here. Danube fish dishes, especially fried fish or asp in sour cream go well with crisp, fresh wines, while with more characterful white wines, it’s worth trying out the old Danube fish soup recipe, which was not made with paprika, but rather saffron, fresh onions, chives and some garlic were used to season the mainly carp-based dish. If you’d like to have lunch among the vines, then visit the restaurant run by the Hilltop Winery on Meleges Hill, which also offers a beautiful view over the Danube below. Thanks to its many tourists, Esztergom has plenty of restaurants, inns, bistros, cafés and confectioneries to choose from, but there is also a restaurant in Kesztölc, perfect for after wine tasting. However, the culinary centre of the wine district is clearly Tata, which boasts numerous high-quality restaurants in the town centre and on the shores of the Old Lake, many of which have Neszmély wines on the menu too. If you are looking for something really special, then try the catfish paprikash with curd cheese dumplings and black salsify salad, which is great paired with a fresh red Neszmély wine.
It’s no problem to visit Baj in January, as producers greet the new year with St Vincent’s Day Open Cellars on the vineyard hill. This is followed by the largest wine show in the region, the Spring Kvaterka in Tata, held in the former Esterházy Sparkling Wine Factory. It’s not only worth admiring the surroundings, but also the ever-growing list of exhibitors – the whole wine district is really there; moreover, you can easily reach the venue by train from Budapest. In summer, you should keep an eye on the Kesztölc wineries’ website, as one of them organises a wonderful event in the vineyard every year called AgroWellness. This includes bathing in a vat, herbal teas and wines, breakfast, lunch, dinner, the sound of crickets and walking in the vineyards. The Neszmély Wine Festival and the Fish Days Festival are also held in the summer, but towards the end of the summer, it is also worth visiting Nyergesújfalu for the wonderfully named Völgyválasz, or Valley Answer wine festival. Then, in September, it’s already harvest time and the Harvest Merriment festival in Kesztölc awaits. Finally, the wine district’s year is closed by Esztergom and the Wine Bridge Festival’s rich music programme, food stands and, of course, wines from the wine district.
Neszmély Wine District
Discover Tata, the wine district’s centre, enjoy the view from Csúcsos Hill and visit a nearby winery!
Explore Komárom, enjoy the view from the wine district’s slopes, taste Dunaszentmiklós wines on Öreghegy!
Walk up to Esztergom’s Basilica and enjoy a wine tasting with a vineyard tour in Kesztölc!