25 interesting facts about Hungary

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From the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube to the world’s second-oldest metro system, these are the most interesting facts about Hungary.

Interesting facts about Hungary include the enormous Parliament building
Interesting facts about Hungary include the enormous Parliament building (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Hungary
Population: 9.7 million
Area: 93,028 sq km
Capital city: Budapest
Major languages: Hungarian, English, German
Major religions: Christianity, Atheism
Time zone: UTC+1 (Central European Time)
– Source: CIA World Factbook

Interesting facts about Hungary

1. Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe bordering Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
– Source: Britannica

2. Hungary gets its name from the tribes that arrived on the steppes of Eastern Europe in the 9th century. These were known as the “Oungroi,” a name that was later Latinized to “Ungri” and then became “Hungari”. The word originally meant “alliance of 10 tribes”.
– Source: CIA World Factbook

3. The country’s Hungarian name is Magyarorszag, which means “Country of the Magyars”. The term derives from the most prominent of the Hungarian tribes, the Magyars, who came from southern Russia and the Black Sea.
– Source: CIA World Factbook, BBC News

A map of Hungary
Hungary used to be much bigger (Shutterstock)

4. In 1920, following the Treaty of Trianon Hungary lost around two-thirds of its land area and 3.3 million of its population. Following the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian empire fell apart and historic Hungary was forced to cede land to what is now Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania and Austria.
– Source: BBC News

5. Although Hungary is landlocked, it is home to Lake Balaton, the largest lake in central Europe.
– Source: BBC News

6. Hungary’s flag is horizontally striped red, white and green. The red symbolises the blood shed throughout the country’s history; the white its rivers; and the green its mountains.
– Source: Moira Butterfield (2019) The Flag Book. Lonely Planet Kids: London

Hungary's flag flying against a blue sky
Hungary’s flag (Shutterstock)

7. Billionaire philanthropist George Soros is from Hungary. Soros became known as the man who broke the Bank of England after he shorted the British pound in 1992. In 2017, his net worth was $25.2 billion.
– Source: Forbes

8. Hungary’s capital city, Budapest, used to be two independent towns separated by the Danube River: Buda and Pest. Today, each has its distinct ambience with Buda considered more serene and relaxed while Pest is busier and livelier.
– Source: Lonely Planet

9. The Budapest metro is the world’s second oldest metro system after London’s in the UK. The Budapest metro became operational in 1896 making it continental Europe’s oldest metro system.
– Source: Railway Technology

A train on the Budapest metro
Budapest’s historic metro (Shutterstock)

10. It’s considered rude to clink glasses in Hungary. The practice originated in 1848 after Hungarians lost their Independence War against the Habsburgs. Austrian generals supposedly celebrated by toasting with drinks and clinking their glasses after executing 13 Hungarian generals known as the ’13 Martyrs of Arad’.
– Source: The Mirror

11. Hungary has also produced 15 Nobel prize winners making among the countries with the highest number of Nobel prize winners per capita.
– Source: The Telegraph, Britannica

12. The Rubik’s Cube was invented by Hungarian Erno Rubik in 1974. After he invented the puzzle, Erno Rubik was unsure if it could be solved. It took him a month to unscramble it. As of 2020, over 350 million cubes have been sold globally.
– Source: New York Times

An adult plays with a Rubik’s Cube
The Rubik’s Cube was invented by Hungarian Erno Rubik (Shutterstock)

13. The biro pen the biro was also invented in Hungary in 1938 by journalist László Bíró.
– Source: Smithsonian Magazine

14. Hungary is home to one of the world’s first official wine regions. The UNESCO-listed Tokaj region has been producing wine for centuries but it was in 1737 when the decree of Emperor Charles VI (Charles III, King of Hungary) officially established the area as a closed wine region.
– Source: UNESCO

15. One of Hunagry’s most recognisable sights is the Parliament in Budapest. It is Hungary’s biggest building and the world’s third-largest assembly building. Completed in 1902, it has 691 rooms, 28 entrances, 10 courtyards and 29 staircases.
– Source: CNN

The Parliament building on the Danube River at night
The Parliament building on the Danube River (Shutterstock)

16. In Budapest, there is a life-size bronze sculpture of the TV character, Lieutenant Columbo. American actor Peter Falk (who played Columbo) is rumoured to be related to the 19th-century Hungarian writer and political figure Miksa Falk.
– Source: Wall Street Journal

17. Escape artist and magician Harry Houdini was from Hungary. Born Erik Weisz in Budapest in 1874, he moved to the US where he found fame as “The World’s Handcuff King and Prison Breaker”.
– Source: The New Yorker

18. Memento Park in Hungary is home to a collection of toppled communist-era statues including an enormous pair of Stalin’s giant bronze boots – all that remains of a statue of the dictator that was torn down in 1956.
– Source: BBC Travel

Stalin's boots on a plinth
Stalin’s boots at Memento Park (Shutterstock)

19. The world’s greatest female chess champion is Hungarian. Judit Polgar is universally recognised as the strongest female player of all time and became the world’s youngest grandmaster in 1991 at the age of 15.
– Source: Britannica, World of Chess

20. The Great Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagóga) in Budapest is the world’s second-largest synagogue. Built in 1859, the synagogue features a 1,200 sq m hall which has 1,472 seats for women and 1,497 for men.
– Source: Time Out

21. Hungary has its own version of cowboys. The Hungarian Plain is home to csikos, horsemen who have ridden the steppe for hundreds of years. Csikos wear wide-brimmed black hats and long blue pleated tunics and herd cattle on the plain.
– Source: The Guardian

Hungarian cowboys
Hungarian cowboys (Shutterstock)

22. Hungarian names are regulated by law. Parents must choose from a government-approved list of names. Any variations have to be approved by application to the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
– Source: Department of Hungarian Linguistics (PDF)

23. Hungarian is considered the world’s seventh hardest language to learn and takes around 1,100 hours to learn.
– Source: Foreign Service Institute via Atlas & Boots

24. Gyermekvasút Railway (Children’s Railway) near Budapest is operated entirely by children. Local students get to work on the railway roughly every 15 days as long as their grades don’t dip.
– Source: CNN

25. Hungary is famous for its thermal spas. The country has over 1,300 thermal water springs with 123 in Budapest alone.
– Source: National Geographic

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Hungary using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.