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Top 10 Things to do in Kosice

In 2014 we went on a Central Europe Trip which took me amongst others to Bratislava – this is why we this time, for our Eastern Europe Trip in 2018, chose to visit Kosice in East Slovakia instead for which I compiled a list of the top 10 things to do in the city of Kosice.

The largest church in Slovakia is located in Kosice

1. St. Elizabeth's Cathedral

Though Kosice is only Slovakia’s second largest city it still has to offer the largest church in this country with a capacity of over 5000 people, St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral. But not only is this the biggest cathedral in Slovakia, it is equally one of the easternmost Gothic churches and of course the pride of the city of Kosice. The oldest church supposedly originated from the 11th century but was destroyed by a fire which eventually led to the construction of this church around 1380. When St. Elizabeth became the town’s patron saint, the church was rededicated to her giving it its today’s name. The church houses the fascinating Altar of Elizabeth which is a rare gothic double spiral staircase, one of only five of its kind in Europe. The best thing though this church has to offer, is the climbing of the 60 meter high tower from where you’ll have a perfect view of the city of Kosice.

Such a happy memory from this place in Kosice

2. The Singing Fountain

The Singing Fountain located in a small public park nestled between the imposing Cathedral of St. Elizabeth on one side and the national theatre on the other is one of the highlights of the city. The joyous sounds and the dancing movements of the Singing Fountain contribute a lot to the visual appearance and liveliness of the town’s main street. The atmosphere around the Singing Fountain is the most relaxing one you might find in the midst of the heart and centre of the city. The fountain itself is a nice sight, but in the evening when it comes alive with changing colours moving to the music, just adds another beautiful dimension to an otherwise nice attraction. If you can then make sure to be there on the hour as the fountain takes off every hour to the ringing bells of the cathedral which provide the background music for the fountain’s dancing streams of water dancing synchronized with the music – it’s a beautiful sight.

The glorious main street and the very center of Kosice

3. Hlavná Ulica

The glorious main street and the very center of Kosice where all of the city’s historical monuments are concentrated is the ‘Hlavná Ulica’. Kosice’s main street is definitely one of those European streets which have been taken right out of a postcard. Stretching from the north with the Immaculata monument to the southern end at the Liberator’s Square, the street breaks off into two parallel branches with squares, fountains, small parks, the cathedral, the Urban Tower, the State Theatre and St Michael Chapel in the middle of it, so you can basically jump from one incredible monument to the next. On the outer edge of Hlavná Ulica are stately palaces, municipal buildings and generally beautiful townhouses. The fact that it’s totally pedestrianized makes it perfect for a stroll to see the city’s sights along the street, do my favorite activity, people-watching or visit one of the cafés and just generally enjoy the city’s lifestyle.

The attractions in Kosice are gathered around the main square

4. Immaculata

In a little fenced enclosure in a small park at the upper part of Hlavná Ulica is Kosice’s 14 meter tall plague column, Immaculata. Created in the 1720’s it was erected as an expression of gratitude to Virgin Mary for overcoming the plague, war and famine that had hit Kosice in 1709-1710. The Immaculata is a Baroque column on a stone basement crowned with a sculpture of the Virgin Mary surrounded by sculptures of St. Joseph, St. Sebastian and St. Ladislaus on the sides of the pedestal. According to local legends the relics of St. Valentine are hidden underneath the structure.

This beautiful building in Kosice cannot be overlooked

5. The State Theatre

Taking a stroll around the before mentioned Singing Fountain you will come across this impressive entrance to an equally representative building, the State Theatre, designed by the architect Adolf Lang in a Neo-baroque style during the years 1879-1899, putting on its first performance in 1899. This beautiful building lies only a few meters away from the magnificent St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral though still manages to stand strong by itself with a different kind of beauty. The State Theatre counts as an important historical monument and is an equally important landmark of the historic center of Kosice. In addition to the eclectic exterior with Neo-baroque and Art Nouveau elements, you will be enthralled by the interior as well which is richly decorated with ornaments, beautiful Art Nouveau elements and the ceiling of the building which is decorated with scenes from the famous William Shakespeares' tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and others. The State Theatre is one of only two theatres in Slovakia, the other one being the National Theatre in the capital Bratislava.

A unique underground archaeological museum beneath the streets of Kosice

6. The Lower Gate

During reconstruction works of the Main Street in Kosice in 1996 the monumental remains of the lower city gate which were part of Kosice’s medieval city fortifications were uncovered which you today can visit in a unique underground archaeological museum. Get lost in the maze-like passages in the underground spaces with defense chambers, fortifications and waterways and discover the history of an archaeological complex of the city fortification from the 13th century with the oldest walls in the city.

Kosice flourished in the Middle Age

7. The Executioner's Bastion & Rodosto

The most stunning example of Kosice’s medieval fortification structures and the largest bastion in Slovakia is the Executioner’s Bastion built in the late 15th century. This structure was rebuilt on a site in the historic center of Kosice and is one of the medieval fortification places of Kosice which used to protect one of the entrance points to the city – the Painted Gateway. This structure provides an excellent evidence of the extensive fortification system that allowed Kosice to flourish in the middle Ages. Its name derives from the fact that the bastion originally was situated in close proximity to a dreaded medieval executioner’s house. In 1906 the Executioner’s Bastion was selected to house a memorial to Kosice’s great hero, Francis II Rákóczi. Part of the Executioner’s Bastion therefore houses a replica of the Turkish exile home of the last leader of the anti-Habsburg uprising which is named after his exile place ‘Rodosto’, bringing an oriental touch to the city. The exhibition houses relics reminding his life, the history of the house and his funeral.

Standing amidst the historical centre of Kosice

8. The Old Town Hall

In the midst of the city’s historical center stands a two story tall building in a Baroque and Classic style dating back from the years 1779-1780 – this is the beautiful Old Town Hall, one of the more important historical landmarks in the city. The façade is richly decorated with pilasters and bears the city’s distinct coat-of-arms above the balcony, it’s no wonder that many people gather around this building to take pictures because it’s a striking and unique architecture. Walking through the dome-shaped passage you can enter the courtyard and if you have tickets for some of the events you can even go further on to see the interior in the Forum/Slovan Cinema, a reconstructed covered hall which now holds concerts and theatrical performances. The Old Town Hall is actually a good place to start your visit in Kosice as is now hosts the Visitor´s Center and tourist office of the city on the ground floor together with a shop and a small exhibition about the city.

The breathtaking architecture of Jakab's Palace

9. Jakab's Palace

When we first arrived in Kosice by train we had to walk from the train station to the city center (which by the way is just about 5 minutes away) to our accommodation which made us come across this monumental palace, the Neo-Gothic Jakab’s Palace, located on the periphery of the city park. At that time I was just amazed by the breathtaking architecture not knowing what this building actually was. I later found out that the palace was built in 1899 as a private house with parts of the construction of St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral which were discarded, that’s interesting though. After the liberation of Kosice by the Red Army in 1945 the palace even served as the seat of the President of Czechoslovakia, Edvard Benes.

Kosice has the largest zoo in Slovakia

10. Kosice Zoo

I’m often in conflict with myself when going to zoos because on one hand I love animals above everything; I love to watch them and am delighted when they are having the time of their life. On the other hand are zoos not exactly the right place for them to be, they are often locked away and fenced in. Therefore I was above all happy when I walked through the Kosice Zoo which is the largest zoo in Slovakia and the third largest in Europe in terms of area with its 292 ha. This is really a spacious and immensely large zoo providing plenty of space for the almost 250 species of animals. Being this size you should definitely make sure to wear the right footwear because you’re going to need it.


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