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Košice, Slovakia

Updated on December 5, 2012
Main Street, with St Elizabeth's Cathedral
Main Street, with St Elizabeth's Cathedral | Source

Košice is the second largest city in Slovakia with a population of around a quarter of a million and located in the eastern end of the country close to the border with Hungary. Like many cities in Slovakia, Košice has a very multi ethnic past and present. All of present day Slovakia was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary until 1920. Though today Slovaks are the ethnic majority, the city has been home to Hungarians, Germans, gypsies, Ruthenians and Jews.

The city is known as Kassa to Hungarians and Kaschau to Germans. In old Latin documents the city was referred to as Cassovia.


St. Elizabeth's Cathedral is the largest church in Slovakia and is an impressive sight both outside and in. The church holds weddings every Saturday as it has for centuries and masses are given in Slovak and Hungarian.

The cathedral is famous for being the final resting place of Hungarian rebel leader Ferenc Rákóczi and other Hungarians who unsuccessfully rebelled against the Habsburgs at the beginning of the 18th century.

Košice will be European Capital of Culture in 2013 alongside Marseilles, France. Much renovation work is being completed in time for the year long celebration.

Košice was the first city to be granted a coat of arms. It was granted by the King of Hungary in 1369.

The city's coat of arms
The city's coat of arms | Source

Things to See and Do

Košice is a modern, busy city with a beautiful pedestrianized main street full of cafes, bars, restaurants, museums and shops. Although the center is small, there is much to enjoy just by wandering through the side streets and coming upon interesting sights on your own.

If you're a history buff it would be wise to brush up on your knowledge of Hungary's past. The city is full of important events and places closely connected to Hungarian history. The city had a very important military garrison during the Austro-Hungarian Empire years with mant old barracks still visible on the outskirts of the city center.

The old city hall is known for it's ornate design. This building is also worth checking out because it houses an office of the city's tourist board where you can pick up maps, souvenirs and advice on what to do.


Old City Hall
Old City Hall | Source

If history isn't your thing, then just walk up and down the main street like everyone else does. This is a form of active people watching popular throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Buy an ice cream cone and take your time during the hot summer months. You stop and rest at one of 3 public fountains located along to street to cool down.

If you'd like something ever more relaxing, the main street bars and restaurants all have outside seating in the street where you can sample Slovak or international dishes and drink one of many fine Slovak beers on offer. The most famous beer is called Zlaty Bazant, or Golden Pheasant.


Tear drop shape of main street, with the cathedral and state theater
Tear drop shape of main street, with the cathedral and state theater | Source

For shoppers the recently opened Aupark Shopping Centre should not be missed. This was opened at the beginning of 2012 and is located right on the southern tip of the downtown area and right next to the new Hotel Hilton.

Košice is located in a large valley and is almost totally surrounded by beautiful hills perfect for hiking trips or short strolls. The best place for these activities is just north of the city center called Cermel.

The city zoo has also recently been renovated and is worth a visit.

Cermel
Cermel | Source

Košice also hosts an international marathon every October, drawing runners from around the world. In the winter months many people sky in Cermel or travel two hours to the Tatra Mountains to the north, which has top class skiing and hiking facilities and transportation.

Košice has belonged to different countries just within the past century: Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Hungary (during World War II), Czechoslovakia again, and finally to the independent Slovak Republic. The majority of the city's Jews were shipped to Auschwitz in 1944. The city has two synagogues, both of which have been renovated after decades of neglect. There is also a large population of Calvinists.

Not far from the city is a large steel mill now owned by US Steel. This has brought an influx of Americans to the city over recent years and has put it on the map to a greater extent.

Košice is easily walkable and the public transport system is excellent with buses, trolly buses, and trams getting you anywhere in the city.

For those who enjoy visiting historical cemeteries there are two worth seeing: Rozália (North) and the main cemetery on the road south towards Hungary. Both of these are still in use and have many beautiful sculptures and memorials, many belonging to noble families.

Detail from St Elizabeth Cathedral
Detail from St Elizabeth Cathedral | Source

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