Salgótarján is the county seat and largest city in Nógrád county, Hungary. Once a small mining town, the city was built in a very modern communist style, leaving much to be desired in terms of classical architecture. Nevertheless, the city boasts two excellent castle ruins and several hiking opportunities through the forested Cserhát hills.
The city is only accessible by train from Hatvan. Trains leave typically every other hour and take roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. Nearly all the trains are személy, or slow trains, and they will stop at every small town. Fortunately, the scenery and hills are quite lovely and the trip goes by quickly.
Counting the suburbs there are three train stations: Zagyvapálfalva, Salgótarján külső and Salgótarján (the main station). For most tourist purposes the main station is the only one that stops downtown and the only one that matters. The Somoskőújfalu station can be used to reach the castle ruins, but even then it's simply easier to take a bus from downtown.
The intercity bus station is also downtown, opposite the main train station. Nográd Volán [dead link] provides local bus services throughout the town. Unless you have a whole day of hiking planned, this is the only way to get to the castle ruins. Bus #11A goes to the castle in Somoskő and bus #11B to the ruins to in Salgóbánya. Both of these buses only run once an hour. If you want to visit both castles it gets tricky as you'll have to visit one, then backtrack to Ifjúság u. where you can catch the other bus.
Taxis are another option and you have to call in advance.
The downtown is incredibly compact and easy enough to get around by foot.
- Nógrádi Történeti Múzeum Bányászati Kiállítóhelye (Mining Museum). On Zemlinszky Rezső út 1. is the first underground mining museum in the country and the second in all of Europe. There is an exhibit showing the history of mining in the region, from old times to present. The main attraction, however, is where they let you into actual sections of the mine and show some of the different equipment once used there.
- Nógrádi Történeti Múzeum (Nógrád History Museum). Downtown on Múzeum tér 2. is the town's principal museum. The exhibits contain several items about the history of the county. There is a special exhibit on János Balázs, the Romany poet and painter who lived in the city.
- Plébániatemplom (Cathedral) located opposite the County History Museum is the main church in the town.
- Somoskő (Šomoška) Castle (take bus #11A from downtown) in the suburb of Somoskő is the more restored of the two castles and has an awesome presence atop a 526 meter tall hill. One of the three original towers is restored. The castle lies on the slovak side, but it´s easily accessible from the Hungarian village of Somoskő without need of passport control as both countries are part of EU-Schengen border system.
- Salgói Castle Ruins (take bus #11B from downtown) is in the suburb of Salgóbánya. Though not as restored as the other castle, it provides excellent views of the region from its 625 meter perch.
From casual walks to more serious treks, from anywhere in the city you're never far from the hills.
- Pipis hegy is the hill directly west of downtown. This quick and easy hike also features a Kálvária (Calvary) monument.
- Study Trail is a 2 km long trail that leads to the Salgó castle ruins. Along the way signs explain the local flora, fauna, and geology.
- Pikoló Étterem A cozy restaurant with a huge variety of traditional Hungarian meals.
- Tavaszi Cukrászda. A modern and stylish confectioner offering a variety of traditional Hungarian cakes, ice cream and coffee.
- G & D Kézműves Cukrászda. Artisan confectioner with freshly baked bread, pastry and cakes.
- Green Gates Guest House. Modern, family friendly guest house with 2-bedroom suites, wellness area, large garden with swimming pool and delicious Hungarian food.
- Salgó Hotel. A two-star hotel at the foot of Salgó castle has several double rooms and a traditional Hungarian restaurant.
- Medves Hotel (near the Salgó castle at the end of Medvesi út).
- Galcsik Hotel.
- Attila Guesthouse.
- Fil'akovo and the rest of Slovakia are just across the border.
- Hollókő is directly accessible by bus. It is a museum village with a castle and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Szécsény is a small town with a mansion, firetower, and a few museums.
- Balassagyarmat is the former county seat and the Palóc capital of Hungary.