Lillafüred is a wonderful place to spend a day, there is something for the whole family: a fairytale palace, boating lake, narrow-gauge railway, the highest waterfall in Hungary, marked trails winding through the forest, caves to explore and stunning scenery to admire.
It was in the 1892 that Count András Bethlen, the then Minister for Agriculture decided to create a resort here after discovering it during a hunting trip. He called it Lillafured after his wife Lilla Vay.
The Hotel Palota was designed by Kálmán Lux to look like a palace of the King Mátyás era
However, it wasn't until much later that the area was fully developed. This was mostly the idea of István Bethlen, the prime-minister of Hungary in the 1920s. He wanted a retreat developed where members of the government could relax and entertain foreign dignitaries and the like.
The major work involved the construction of the hotel which lasted from 1827 to 1830. This magnificent looking building was the work of the leading architect of the time, Kálmán Lux.
As well as the hotel, a bob-sled track, a sledging area, a ski slope with lift and, most ambitious of all, a ski jump were constructed.
Today the area retains much of the beauty that first charmed András Bethlen and it really is worth visiting.
The Palace Hotel (Palotaszállo) dominates the valley, it is built in the neo-renaissance style and despite looking a very expensive establishment, it is quite reasonable. Even if you're not staying there you can go in and have a look at the stained glass windows depicting castles of historical Hungary (pre-1921).
The hotel is stutaed in lovely gardens with many interesting plants. Of particulr interest are the so-called Hanging Gardens below the hotel in which you can find the Lillafüred Waterfall, the highest in Hungary at 20 metres.
The Lillafüred Waterfall
At the foot of the waterfall is one of three caves in the area, the St. Anna Cave which is also called the Petöfi Cave after the Hungarian national poet, Sándor Petöfi, who visited the cave in 1847. It is of interest due to the interesting limestone formations and fossils of plants.
The other two caves, the St. István and the Szeleta also have sections open to visitors. The former has stalacmites and stalactites and the latter was the site of the discovery of many paleolithic remains.
St. István Cave. Many of the dripstone formations were damaged when the cave was used as a bomb shelter during WWII
Over the road from the hotel is the man-made Lake Hámori. It dates from 1820 when the two streams,the Szinva and the Garadna were dammed by Henrik Fazola, he of the Fazola Gates fame, in order to provide power for his iron furnace.
Today the lake is 1.5km long and 9m at its deepest; in the summer it is possible to rent boats and row around the lake. There is also a marked trail that takes you around its perimeter.
The narrow gauge forest railway runs for 14kms through some stunning scenery
The narrow gauge forest railway is undoubtedly one of the biggest draws in Lillafüred. Starting in Miskolc, it takes passengers up through the forested Bükk to Lillafüred, it then continues on its journey past the historical blast furnace of Ujmassa finally ending up in Garadna where there is a trout farm selling fine smoked fish and a museum telling the story of the forest railway.
The train stops in Lillafüred so it is possible to get on and off the train here. It runs throughout the year and in the winter heated and covered carriages are laid on.
Getting to Lillafüred is relatively straightforward from Eger. By car just follow the route below. It is a very scenic drive, taking you right through the Bükk National Park.
If you don't have a car then there is always the bus. There are no direct buses to Lillafüred from Eger, so you will need to take a bus from Eger's main bus station to Miskolc (for timetables and prices in English follow this link).
The journey will take about an hour, you need to get off the bus at Miskolc-Búza Tér. From here take a local bus nr.1 all the way to the end stop Májalis Park. From here catch either a nr.5 or nr.15 to Lillafüred and get off the stop Palotaszálló (Palace Hotel)
A far better alternative, however, would be to get to the train station Miskolc-Diosgyor and to take the narrow gauge forest train up to Lillafüred. The views are spectacular and a return ticket is only 2500huf (8 Euros) as of 2015.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Palota Hotel is THE place to stay in Lillafüred. Despite its rather grand exterior, it is a three star hotel so relatively affordable.
If you're on a budget, then try one of the private homes in the area offering B&B accommodation, generally such places are simple but clean and comfortable. Booking.com and Trip advisor are great places to find small, independent guest houses.
Even in the bleak midwinter Lillafüred looks pretty stunning