When it comes to traveling in Slovakia, most travelers go to Bratislava and think they have seen Slovakia, but they are missing so much of the country by ending their trip there. East Slovakia has a lot to offer for travelers who are interested in the country, and its place in the EU.
Kosice, the largest city in East Slovakia, is a major hub of art, culture and excellent gastronomy. Due to its location being in between Hungary and Poland, Kosice has always been an important hub throughout its history attracting merchants across the region. I was invited by my friends to visit their hometown and they showed me so many places I would never have seen if I was here alone so here it is, a list of hidden gems and cool things to do in Kosice, suggested by the locals.
Things to Do Map
When to Go
May - September is a good time to visit Kosice and its surrounding. Kosice doesn't attract as many tourists as their western Europe counterparts which makes it a great place to visit during peak season.
Where to Stay
Kosice - Hostel Happy Bulls - 17.66 USD/Night (Dorm) | 41.20 USD/Night (Private Room)
How to Get Around
Kosice is quite small so most of the attractions I have listed here are all within walking distance except Spis Castle.
For Spis castle, you will have to take a bust from Kosice main bus station to Prešov and then change the bus to the one heading towards Spišské Podhradie. You can not miss the castle, as it is proudly located on a hill. The entire trip should take you no more than 2 hours one way so I would recommend you do it as a day trip instead of cramming all into one day.
This place is cheaper than most countries but not dirt cheap. Expect to pay around 30 - 50 USD per day per person including accommodation and food.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
Things to Do in Kosice
Stroll down the Crafts Lane (Hrnčiarska)
The Crafts Lane or the Hrnčiarska street is possibly one of the most interesting attractions in Kosice. As I mentioned before, due to the city's location, Kosice attracted many merchants some of whom set up their shops on this street. As you walk along the cobblestoned street, you will find several local craft shops selling anything from pottery to local herbs. The shops can be distinguished easily by a very cool plaque on the floor with a symbol of their crafts.
Get the iconic photo with the Júliusa Jakoby Statue
One of the most iconic photos you might have seen of Kosice is a statue of an old man in the middle of a street with a church in the background. That is the statue of Júliusa Jakoby, a talented Hungarian painter and a prominent figure in the Hungarian and Slovak art who called Kosice his home. The statue is located on the Alžbetina street connecting to the main square where the St. Elisabeth's Cathedral is.
Climb Up the North Tower
If you know me, you know I like climbing up towers in Europe and this is no exception. St. Elisabeth's Cathedral has an old north tower where anyone could climb. You can buy a ticket inside the cathedral and the gatekeeper outside will let you in.
The stairway is old, small and there is only one way to go up and down so do be careful. The view from up there though is quite something. The North Tower is right at the center of the square so you will be able to get a 360˚ view of Kosice, and see how far the city spans.
Admire the St. Elisabeth's Cathedral
St. Elisabeth's Cathedral is a gothic style cathedral built in the 13 centuries when Slovakia was still part of Hungarian Kingdom, and it is considered to be the biggest in the country. Inside, you will find the main altar of Saint Elisabeth which is a great example of the remarkable medieval art of Slovakia.
Witness the Beauty of the Jakab Palace
The Jakab Palace looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. The palace, with its Neo-Gothic style and its spiky green roofs, reminded me of the castle I saw in Hong Kong's Disneyland. Although the building is closed for public, the exterior itself and the surrounding things to do makes it worth a visit. Near the Jakab Palace, there is a nice cheap Italian Pizza Bistro called "ZaZza" where you can grab their delicious pocket-sized pizza rolls for only a Euro.
Check out all the beautiful architecture in the Town's Old Square
The town square of Kosice is where all the cool architectures are. The State Theatre and the Singing Fountain, the Andrássy Palace, the Urban Tower and the Old Town Hall are a few of Kosice most beautiful architecture.
The State Theatre and the Singing Fountain, for example, is a small green oasis in the middle of the city, and in front of it is a stunning Plague Column that commemorates the gratitude to Mary for an end in the plague epidemic in the 17th century.
The Andrássy Palace also shows a great example of a Neo-Renaissance style architecture in its striking red/orange color that makes the palace stood out from the rest.
Wonder at the origin of the Kosice Gold Treasure
The East Slovak Museum is worth visiting for its exterior alone but the inside, more specifically the Kosice Gold Treasure vault located in the basement of the museum is what got me interested. The discovery of this tressure is considered to be the richest finding of gold coins in Slovakia. They discovered over 2,900 gold coins during a construction work in a building in 1935. The coins have been found to originate from all over Europe from England all the way to Poland. It is estimated that the gold treasure was buried around 1679 by a very rich man who fears that it might have fallen into the wrong hand.
A Day trip to Spis Castle
Kosice is not too far from the Spis Castle, a Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance stone castle, the biggest of its kind in Central Europe, so it would be a shame if you did not drop by there before you leave. You can take a bus from Kosice main bus station to Prešov get another bus from there to Spišské Podhradie where the Spis Castle is located above.
It's truly amazing to be able to walk around the fort, from wall to wall, all the while, enjoying the beautiful scenery of the High Tatras mountain range from the top of the fortress. You can also learn more about the origin of the castle, how people used to live inside the castle and all the fancy torturing machines they have back in the days in the museum inside.
If you have your own car, you can drive a little further to have a nice traditional lunch at the Spišský salaš restaurant, popular among the local tourists. They serve delicious Slovakian food like Vyprážaný syr (fried cheese) and bryndzové pirohy (dumplings filled with Slovak sheep cheese) that goes very well with the local (Czech) Coca-Cola, Kofola. The location of the restaurant is shown below:
Eat at Med Malina
If you want to try traditional food in the city center, I would highly recommend Med Malina, a small, cozy and super traditional restaurant that serves plenty of delicious Slovakian homemade food at a very reasonable price. You can try the dishes I mentioned above here as well or try something new like Svíčková, a beef sirloin in cream sauce serves with white bread. I'm drooling now, thinking about all the Slovakian food I had. The location is shown below:
Get a quick morning coffee fix at Cup of coffee
Cup of Coffee cafe or Šálka kávy is located not too far from the Old Square right at the corner of Hviezdoslavova and Hlavná streets. They serve delicious coffee and croissant, perfect for a fast breakfast before you explore the city. The cafe is decorated with vintage furniture, cozy lighting, and wooden pianos. With a great book and a cup of coffee, I could see myself spending time here every morning if I live there.
Relax in between exploration with a latte at the cozy HalmiSpace cafe
HalmiSpace cafe is possibly one of the most beautiful cafes in Kosice. Located in a hidden away second floor of an old building where you will have to go into a courtyard, walk up an old stairway decorated with candle lights and you will find a cozy cafe that serves delicious speciality coffee in a spacious interior, beautiful coffee tables made out of old books, locals mingling with each other over cheap set lunch they serve here, and friendly staff that speaks English. What more could you ask for from a cafe. The location is shown below:
Enjoy the vibe at Kino Usmev Theatre
Kino Usmev is a retro soviet-style cinema that was converted into an independent film theatre with half of the area turned into a bar and another half, a cinema showing films in a cozy small theatre. If you ever wonder what young people do in Kosice, this is the place to experience it. The location is shown below:
Have cheap beers and snacks outdoor at Kembridž Pub
If you are looking for an outdoor place to drink cheap beers and snacks with a large group of people, the Kembridž Pub is just for you. The Kembridž Pub is a beer garden that is popular among college students as they are famous for selling cheap beers and snacks in an open area with plenty of seats. It is the perfect place to hang out with friends in the summer. The location is shown below:
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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