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World heritage in Hungary

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

was established on November 16, 1945 to "build peace in the minds of men” with a focus on ethical issues.  With this in mind, UNESCO maintains a list of World Heritage Sites, including forests, mountain ranges, lakes, deserts, individual buildings and entire cities. These sites, all of unique cultural value, are promoted by UNESCO and protected from pollution and overdevelopment.

"Busó-walking" (Busójárás) at Mohács (2009)

In 2009 UNESCO entered on the Busó Festivities of Mohács (masked end-of-winter carnival) on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage.


This is an annual celebration of the Sokác people (Croats) living in the town of Mohács, held at the end of the Carneval season ("Farsang"), ending the day before Ash Wednesday. The celebration features Busós (people wearing traditional masks) and includes folk music, masquerading, parades and dancing. Busójárás lasts six days, usually during February. It starts on a Thursday, followed by the Kisfarsang (Little Farsang) carnival on Friday, with the biggest celebration, Farsang Sunday on the seventh Sunday before Easter Sunday; the celebration then ends with Farsangtemetés (Burial of Farsang) on the following Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras). Locals explain the Carnival with two similar but different legends.

According to the more popular legend, during the Turkish occupation of the territory the people of Mohács fled the town, and lived in the nearby swamps and woods to avoid Ottoman (Turkish) troops. One night, while they were sitting and talking around the fire, an old Sokác man appeared suddenly from nowhere, and said to them, "Don't be afraid: your lives will soon turn to good, and you'll return to your homes. Against that time, prepare for the battle, carve various weapons and scary masks for yourselves, and wait for a stormy night when a masked knight will come to you." He disappeared as suddenly as he had come. The refugees followed his orders, and some days later, on a stormy night, the knight arrived. He ordered them to put on their masks and go back to Mohács, making as much noise as possible. They followed his lead. The Turks were so frightened by the noise, the masks, and the storm in the night, that they thought demons were attacking them; and they ran away from the town before sunrise.


In the older, less popular story, the busós are scaring away not the Turks but Winter itself. In any case, the locals have celebrated the Busójárás in early February every year ever since, hosting "guest Busó teams" from neighbouring countries (Croatia and Serbia, local Sokci Croats) and also from Poland.

Budapest, the banks of the Danube and the Castle District in Buda (1987);

Andrássy Street and the surrounding historical area (2002)

There are those who fall in love with Budapest at first sight and those who only come to love it after a longer introduction, but everyone will agree that this is one of the most beautifully laid out cities in the world. The powerful current of the Danube divides it into two parts, the hills and valleys of Buda on one side and the flatlands of Pest on the other. The World Heritage site includes the Buda and Pest embankments between Szabadság Bridge and Margaret Bridge, the Castle Quarter on the Buda side, Gellért Hill, including the Liberty Statue, the Citadel and the Gellért Baths, and the part of town known as the Waterfront with its Baroque churches and baths from the age of the Ottoman occupation. Andrássy Street, with the Millennium Underground, and Hero's Square with its surroundings were integrated into the Budapest World Heritage site in 2002.

 Hollókő (1987)

Hollókő hides among the undulations of the Cserhát hills about 100 km from Budapest in a picturesque setting. The history of the village goes back to the 13th century, when after the Mongol invasion the castle was built on Szár hill. The settlement burnt down several times, because the buildings, until the beginning of the 20th century, were covered with inflammable thatched roofs. Following the last 1909 fire the houses were restored to their original form, but now with clay-brick walls and tiled roofs. The village's 60 protected buildings are characteristic peasant houses with stepped gable roofs and porches with wooden breast walls decorated with open-worked carvings. Their interior layout faithfully retains the 17th century Palóc style. This is not an open-air museum, but a real, living village. The residents of the village of 400 people are the Palóc people. Beside their special dialect, they retain their traditions and their colourful, richly decorated folk costume. On the more important festivals even today they wear the folk clothes that they usually make themselves.

Caves of the Aggtelek and Slovak Karst (1995)

The Aggtelek National Park, to be found in the north eastern part of Hungary, was established in 1985 primarily to protect inorganic natural treasures, surface formations and caves. 75% of it is covered with deciduous forest. The clearings scattered about like a mosaic, the areas of rock and the hillsides dotted with rocky outcrops provide a habitat for rare plants, a rich insect world and more than 220 species of local birds. In the relatively small area of the National Park (approx. 20,000 ha) there are more than 200 caves of various sizes to be found. Here in the Aggtelek and Slovakian karst, together forming a geological and geographical unit, is where Central Europe's largest cave system was formed. The longest cave in the karst area and also in Hungary is the Baradla-cave, the total length of which, with the side branches, is 25 km.

Millenarian Benedictine Monastery of Pannonhalma and its Natural Environment (1996)

St. Martin's monastery sits atop a hill, which was initially named after the former Roman province Pannonia (Mons Pannonia), but soon came to be known as the 'Sacred Mount" (Mons Sacer). Benedictine monks were settled down here by the Sovereign Géza in 996. His son, St. Stephen granted property and privileges to the monastery in a charter issued in the early years of the second millennium. Monks from Italy and Bohemia were the first to start communal life, common worship and the pastoral and cultural work typical of the Benedictine order. The members of the monastery pray every day for the immunity of Hungary. The abbey's 19th century classical library with its 350 thousand volumes is one of Europe's richest monastery libraries. The most valuable pieces of the collection are the incunabula and codices. Opposite the main entrance there is an arboretum where nearly 400 species are tended. From the nearby lookout tower you can gaze in wonder at the hills and valleys of the Pannonhalma Nature Preservation Area. If you wish to see the thousand year old monastery, you need to register with a local tour guide. Tours are suspended during Holy Communion. In addition to the traditional organ concerts, a musical festival welcomes visitors in the summer months. It was in the spring of 2003 that the Pannonhalma Monastery Wine Cellars opened their doors to visitors, who are given a guided tour, which also includes wine tasting.

Hortobágy National Park (1999)

Hortobágy is the largest continuous natural grassland in Europe, which means that it was not formed as a result of deforestation or river control. The first Hungarian national park established in 1973 is the country's largest protected area (82 thousand hectares). A significant part of it is Biosphere Reserve, and a quarter of its area enjoys international protection under the Ramsar Convention on the conservation of wetlands. Hortobágy has outstanding landscape features and is a unique example of the harmonic coexistence of people and nature based on the considerate use of the land, maintaining great biological variety in respect of species and habitats.  However, at first sight there is nothing here. If you look around, the most conspicuous thing is that your eyes are not arrested by any buildings, hills or mountains. The mirage is a spectacular sight on hot summer days, where you see something that is not in fact there. In order to discover the treasures of this region it is not enough just to travel across it. The marshes and fishponds are bird nesting habitats and migration sites of European significance. So far the appearance of 342 bird species has been registered in Hortobágy, of which 152 species nest in the National Park. It cannot be doubted that one of the most spectacular sights is the migration of the cranes in the autumn. During thousands of years the wild animals grazing on the grasslands of Hortobágy, the aurochs and wild horses, were gradually replaced by domesticated animals. A large number of tough, undemanding long-haired sheep and grey cattle can be found here. Less ancient species are the curly bristled mangalica pig, which gives good bacon, and the Nonius horse. The ancestors of the latter were imported to the Hortobágy from Normandy in the early 19th century. The visitors are amazed at the skills of the horsemen and at the sight of the galloping herds of horses. The sweep-pole wells for watering the animals have become symbols of the Hungarian grasslands. A stone bridge was built across the river Hortobágy in 1827, on the road connecting Budapest with Debrecen, and from the number of its arches it is known colloquially as Kilenclyukú híd, which means "bridge with nine holes". Of the regular programmes, the National Goulash Contest and Shepherd's Meeting, the Hortobágyi Equestrian Days and the August Bridge Fair are the best known.

 Pécs (Sopianae) Early Christian Cemetery (2000)

Pécs, situated in the southern part of Hungary at the foot of the Mecsek mountains, radiates a real Mediterranean atmosphere due to its climate, flora and narrow, rambling streets. With its rich cultural life, theatre, museums and festivals, the town is a significant cultural centre of the region and the whole country. The town was founded by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century AD. By the 4th century Sopianae became a flourishing provincial capital and a significant centre of early Christianity. Saint Stephen, the first Hungarian king founded an episcopate here in 1009, and Hungary's first university started to operate here in 1367. The architectural monuments of the 150 years of Turkish occupation, the mosques, the Turkish bath and Pasha Idris's tomb, can still be seen. In the cemetery of ancient Sopianae our 4th century Roman forebears built churches, chapels and mausoleums with tombs beneath. In the course of the archaeological excavations that have been going on for more than 200 years, hundreds of graves richly supplied with grave goods have been found around the tombs. On the basis of the Christian symbols decorating the grave goods and the Biblical frescos of the buildings, the cemetery of Sopianae is assumed to be an early Christian cemetery. Here are to be found the largest number of frescoed cemetery buildings, not just in Hungary, but in the whole of Europe, and for this reason this early Christian collection of buildings is regarded as an unrivalled group of cultural monuments in terms of early human history.

Lake Fertő-Neusiedler See Cultural Landscape (2001)

Lake Fertő lies in both Austria and Hungary and appears on the World Heritage List as a result of a joint application by both countries. The lake is part of the Fertő-Hanság National Park which UNESCO declared a biosphere reservation in 1979 and which is internationally recognized as one of Europe's most significant water habitats. There are numerous rare plant species only to be found here and more than 200 kinds of nesting birds. In the interest of preserving these, some parts of the National Park can only be visited with permits and with certified guides. Lake Fertő is very popular in the summertime. You can go swimming, windsurfing, motor boating and sailing. There is a paved cycle path around the lake. Lake Fertő is the western most example of the steppe lake typical in Eurasia and is the largest saline lake in Europe. The water is shallow, its constantly changing depth hardly reaches one metre. In addition to the natural wonders, the folk architecture of the region is also worth seeing. There are towns near Lake Fertő which were founded in medieval times - Balf, Hidegség, Fertőboz, Hegykő. The most important palaces in the area date from the 18th century. Joseph Haydn spent more than a decade as court musician in the magnificent Esterházy Palace in Fertőd. In Nagycenk, you can visit the former palace of the Széchenyi family and here you can see an exhibition of the life works of the "greatest Hungarian", István Széchenyi.

The Historic Wine Region of Tokaj (2002)

The wine growing region in the Foothills of Tokaj produces the most excellent white wine in Hungary. Yet its recognition as a World Heritage Site is not due solely to its viticulture and winemaking, but also to its unmatched natural properties, architectural and cultural heritage and local traditions. The Vitis Tokaiensis, a fossilized ancient vine leaf discovered in Erdőberény and considered to be the ancestor of every vine variety, offers tangible evidence that Grapes were growing in this region of north-eastern Hungary as early as the Miocene Age, and that the grapevine is a native plant in Tokaj. The ancient grape variety Vitis Sylveris still grows wild in the area. True or not, legend has it that the wine from Tokaj owes its international recognition to the synod at Trident, where György Draskovics happened to offer wine from Tállya to Pope Pius IV at a lunch in 1562. Thrilled by the wine the Pope exclaimed "patrem sanctum talia vina decent!" The double meaning of the pun is impossible to translate (A pope deserves such wine - A pope deserves wine from Tállya), but is recorded in an epigram by the noted humanist author John Bocatius. Furmint, Hárslevelű and Yellow Muscatel are the main varieties in the plantations that cover the slopes. All three varieties lend themselves to botrytis. Tokaj wine, "the wine of kings and king of wines" (vinum regnum, rex vinorum) is aged in cellars lined with mould. The quality 'Aszú' is produced, alongside the basic wines (ordinaire), by methods which are centuries old. The demand for wine by the persecuted Polish nobility created a medium quality variety of Tokaj wine, known as "Szamorodni" (from the Polish word 'samorodnij' - as it was born), which involves processing a mixture of fresh grapes and dried raisins. There are 27 settlements in the World Heritage Site of the Tokaj Foothills. The preservation of traditional viticulture in its undisturbed original form as it has evolved over one thousand years justifies the decision by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO in placing the Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape on the list of World Heritage Sites. Tokaj guards and cherishes its values. There are many statues that encapsulate the mythology of winemaking in the Foothills region. The myths are also celebrated by the harvest festivals and the May Festival of Tokaj Wines, held here each year.

The Hungarian World Heritage Tentative List

Tarnóc Site of Paleontology

Fossilized shark teeth prove that a tropical sea covered the area some 23 million years ago. Later on, as the sea receded, an ancient river with jungle on both sides meandered across the terra firma. The prehistoric animals of the tropical rainforest left their footprints in the riverside silt, which was suddenly covered with molten lava from a volcanic eruption 20 million years ago, preserving the footprints for posterity.

The fortress of Komárom and Komarno

The greatest of the fortification systems remaining from the Austro- Hungarian monarchy, the Komarno fortification system was built to house an army of 20,000 soldiers and its oldest record dates back to the year 1218 BC. Throughout the various periods the fortress was rebuilt and extended several times but from the point of construction and the use of building materials the technology of the bastion is fairly consistent. Many of the buildings of the compound have undergone a strong link with their natural environment. Their roofs, reaching down to the ground are covered with grass and wild flowers in that way forming a perfect symbiosis with nature.

The thermal karst area of Rózsadomb (Budapest)

Fed by seepages from higher karstic elevations, the formation of the karst system began 15-20 million years ago. The famous spas of Budapest also owe their water resources to these thermal karst formations. The largest of the karst systems is located under Rózsadomb. There are close to 80 caves connected by almost 30 kilometres of underground corridors.

Tihany Peninsula, the monadnocks (remnant hills) of the Tapolca,

Basin and the Thermal Lake of Hévíz

The geyser cones of the peninsula extending into Lake Balaton were formed by thermal springs of volcanic origin. Humans settled here in the Bronze Age. The Abbey on the hilltop is contemporary with Hungarian statehood. The Tapolca Basin offers a unique display of the various ages in the ontology of the earth and the fascinating basalt formations in the hills also demonstrate the impact of the wind. The Hévíz hot spring, with its peat bed, forms the world's largest thermal water spa. The medicinal water gushes to the surface from a crater at a depth of 38 metres.

The section of the Roman 'limes' in present-day Hungary

The fortification system constructed by the Romans along the Danube - is incorporated in the Hungarian Candidate List as a result of a series of international nominations.

Mezőhegyes State Stud-Farm

It was founded by Emperor Joseph II in 1784. Ever since them it has been an outstanding centre of Hungarian horse-breeding. It is of great interest from the point of view of architecture, landscape and breeding techniques. It accurately documents the high quality stock-farming of the 18-19th century.

Network of traditional houses in Hungary

This includes buildings built between the 18-20th century, representing different periods and cultures. There are peasant houses, agricultural buildings, craft workshops, but all have in common the fact that they are inseparable from the culture and past from which they emerged and which they represent. The group of buildings recommended for protection reflects the variety of the peoples and ethnic groups that lived and are living in Hungary.

The wooden churches of the north-east Carpathian Basin

The first written document of a wooden church building is from 1049, and it attests the construction of a church in Transylvania ordered by Saint Ladislaus, King of Hungary. Most of the churches and belfries that can still be seen today are from the 18th century. The amalgamation of the eastern and western influences can be observed in them, as well as the intermingling of the cultures living side by side; and the simple beauty of the early architecture and decorative art. (A joint submission is expected from several countries, including Slovakia, the Ukraine, Romania, Hungary and possibly Poland.)

Ödön Lechner and his contemporaries, Hungarian Art Deco

The most spectacular artistic achievements of Lechner include the Town Hall of Kecskemét, which he conceived in partnership with Gyula Pártos, the Museum of Applied Arts, the Hungarian Geological Institute and the Post Office Savings Bank in Hold Street. Lechner was a forerunner of modern architecture in Hungary. His statue stands in front of the Museum of Applied Arts, the finest showcase of Hungarian Art Deco.

Danube Bend Cultural Landscape

Formed by the unification of two former candidate sites: the medieval royal centre and hunting grounds of Visegrád and the medieval fortress of Esztergom


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