Buried treasure. Giant murals. Gothic architecture. Toboggans and fine wine. Kosice is the biggest city in eastern Slovakia, but few people have heard of it. Which is a shame; it has a lot to offer and is an ideal long weekend getaway.
Just two and a half hours from London, it’s accessible and affordable.
Whether you want to admire the architecture and immerse yourself in history (for example, it was the first settlement in Europe to be granted its own coat-of-arms, and there is evidence of habitation dating back to the Palaeolithic era) or hang out drinking coffee, eating fine food, or sipping local wines while watching the world go by, Kosice is the place to do it.
Almost everything is centred around (or just off) the long main street, which is lined with aristocratic palaces, Catholic churches, and townhouses in in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau styles. There is a busy pedestrian zone with plenty of boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. Everything is within walking distance; making Kosice the ideal short-break destination. You can see a lot, and experience a lot, within a small, accessible radius.
Climb the stone steps inside the 60m northern tower of Slovakia’s largest church, the St Elisabeth Cathedral, and you’ll get an amazing view of the city and surrounding hills. If the day is clear you may be able to see a traditional wooden house perched on top of one of the many blocks of flats on the outskirts of town. No one lives in this wooden eyrie above the world – rather it’s an art installation showing how the traditional way of living has changed over the years.
If you love the sparkle of precious metal then visit the East Slovak Museum and take a long lingering, green-eyed look at The Kosice Gold Treasure. It’s one of the most significant finds of its kind in the world. This horde of 2920 gold coins was found in 1935. It weighed over 11kg and was hidden sometime after 1679. The coins and gold chains were probably buried in an attempt to protect them from Istvan Thököly who occupied Kosice in 1682 during his anti-Habsburg uprising.
One of the best ways to see the city is on a walking tour. Visit the musical fountain, sit with the sculpture of prolific author Sándor Márai, admire colossal murals painted on the sides of tower blocks, sit quietly in ornate churches and then head into the sun to treat yourself to a mouth-watering ice cream or lunch in one of the cafes (which cater well for vegetarians – although less so for vegans).
You could easily spend all your time in the city itself, however, if you do fancy going further afield, then hop on a bus to Kavečany. Here you can experience the thrill of a toboggan ride. The stainless steel track (no snow required) has 800 metres of downhill twisting and turning. You can reach speeds of up to 50 kph. Don’t worry; you have full control of the brakes so can slow down if preferred. It’s exhilarating and one ride will not be enough!
If you have a little more time available, then take a drive into the countryside to sample the world famous Tokaj wines. At Ostrozovic vineyard you can take a tour 13m underground into the labyrinth of cellars where the barrels are covered in noble mould and the sweet wines are waiting to be tasted.
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