Slovakia was a ‘connecting country’ in our long overland trip from the Netherlands to Indonesia. What this means: it was on the way from the Ukrainian city of Lviv to Timisoara in Romania. Our time in Slovakia was limited, and we regretted that. Because you guys: Slovakia is amazing! Poland remains my number one destination in Central Europe, but Slovakia is a close second. We spent a few days in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice and I can highly recommend this city to everyone. Kosice is not as well-known as Bratislava and it is also smaller than the Slovakian capital. But I have to say: smaller is better. Kosice is a compact city, so you can see all there is to see in just a few days. Therefore, it is an ideal destination for a city trip! Here are 7 reasons why Kosice will win your heart. Ready?
1. Kosice has a unique center: almond-shaped square
European cities revolve around squares. This is often the center of the city and the place for culture, shopping, and outdoor cafes. What do most squares in Europe have in common? They are often shaped in a square. Take for example the square in Krakow or Brussels: they have four corners. Kosice took a different approach. The central square in this Slovak city has a long almond shape and stretches out for 1.2 kilometers. It runs from the Peace Marathon Square (Maratónu Mieru Namestie) to the Liberators Square (Osloboditelov Namestie). The square is flanked by a rainbow of colorful buildings on the parallel Hlavna streets.
In the middle of the square of Kosice, there are three striking buildings in a row. The first one is the small St. Michael’s Chapel. Tip: don’t miss the beautiful pattern on the roof! In the middle of the square stands the enormous St. Elisabeth Cathedral, the largest church in Slovakia. You can climb up the 60-meter high tower, something we somehow totally missed out on doing (entrance fee tower: €1.50).
The last one of the three buildings is the impressive State Theater. The building itself is gorgeous, but I have also heard that the interior is quite stunning as well. Between the State Theater and the St. Elisabeth Cathedral there is a small park with a singing fountain. I have not seen the fountain in action, but I heard there is a show every hour. It is probably cheesy, but why not stick around to see it.
2. Stare Mesto: beautiful architecture in Kosice
My finger was practically glued to the shooting button of my camera. I wanted to take pictures of everything I saw because Kosice is super photogenic. The architecture in the Stare Mesto (Old Town) is amazing. If you pay close attention, you will see all kinds of architectural styles. From the decorative details, characteristic for Baroque, to the typical pointy Gothic arches and bows, you can see it all in Kosice. Is architecture not your cup of tea? No problem, because what it all boils down to is that the old town of Kosice has many stunning buildings. My favorites were the Andrássy Palace and the East Slovak Museum.
A special mention goes out to the interesting wooden church near the East Slovak Museum. The Slovak Carpathians boasts a collection of over forty wooden churches. Eight of them are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. The wooden church in Kosice is actually from the village Kožuchovce. It was moved to Kosice, because it was felling apart.
3. Fairytale castle in the middle of the city: Palace of Jakab
Speaking of amazing architecture, one of the most extraordinary buildings in Kosice is the Palace of Jakab. Take a look at the photo. Isn’t this just a fairytale castle? It reminded me a lot of the castles in the Romanian region of Transylvania. And the funny thing is: this building is located right in the center of Kosice, a 5-minute walk from Hlavna street. Unfortunately, it is not possible to go in, because the building is private property. As the name suggests, this palace is built by a gentleman with the name Peter Jakab. This guy was a local builder. Jakab not only built this building, but also the State Theater of Kosice. The man had talent!
Address: Mlynská 30.
4. Hrnčiarska street, the most beautiful lane in Kosice
Did you like the pictures of Hlavna street (see number 1 in this post)? Wait until you see what the Hrnčiarska street looks like. This narrow lane looks like it rand away from the medieval period. Low colorful houses, cobblestone street, and the church tower in the distance: it is as if you step back in time. Hrnčiarska is the Slovak word for pottery and that is one of the crafts you used to find in this street. A tanner for bags, a metal shop for pans, and a grocery for spices. The crafts are not forgotten. Moreover, some shops are still running to this day. The crafts are honored by a series of gray placards on the pavement of this street. This way, visitors quickly recognize which craft was carried out where.
5. Kosice is a ‘mural city’
Naturally I have to include this on my list: street art in Kosice. The Slovak city has embraced street art and nowadays has a collection of 30 gigantic murals. The works are part of the Open Mural Gallery (OMG) art project, set up by the Slovak art platform Street Art Communication. I have tried to see as many murals as possible during my visit. In the end, I managed to see 12 works in one day, which is pretty impressive! Showing them all in this article is a bit too much. So I will write up a separate article with photos and locations.
6. June in Kosice: a balloon sky
Are you visiting Kosice in June? Then you could be treated to a sky full of hot air balloons. Every year the city organizes in June the festival ‘Balloon Fiesta’, where pilots from Slovakia and abroad fly a battalion of hot air balloons above the city. Coincidentally, we were in Kosice during the festival and were very lucky with our accommodation. The apartment was located on a hill just outside the center of Kosice. This meant that we sat front row for the show. Some balloons had a rather special shape. Can you spot the clown in the photo?
7. Alternative Kosice: Tabačka Kulturfabrik
I love cool, artistic, and innovative ‘hipster’ places. For Kosice this is the Tabačka Kulturfabrik, a former tobacco factory that has been converted into a cultural center. The center is the result of a long search of a local citizens’ initiative for a space to discuss and create modern art and music. After starting in the 90s in the early years of independence, the collective moved around from building to building until they saw the tobacco factory in 2009. The building has been renovated and is now a creative zone for music, film, and art. There is cool street art on the walls, a courtyard to relax and a gallery, cinema, coffee shop and burger joint inside. In other words, this is a perfect place for a lazy afternoon on the terrace with a coffee or a bite.
Address: Gorkého 2.
Have you also fallen in love?
In conclusion: Kosice is an awesome city trip destination. I would have loved to see and do much more, but unfortunately it rained quite a lot during our stay in Kosice. All the more reason to come back and see more of Slovakia. I truly feel that Slovakia is an undervalued destination. I hardly hear anyone about it and yet this country offers everything for a great holiday. It is a half-day drive from the Netherlands, it uses the euro and has historic cities, castles and national parks.
Is your next trip going to Slovakia?