Košice, Slovakia’s beguiling second city in the east of the country. There’s an impossible amount of noteworthy sights to get through in the Historic Centre, but the good news is that they’re all packed tightly in the space of a few streets.
Best Time to Visit
May to September is a good time to visit Kosice.
Top Places to Visit in Kosice
- Hlavná Ulica (Main Street)
All of Košice’s historic monuments are concentrated onto one glorious street. In the north, at the Immaculata monument, the street breaks off into two parallel branches. On the outer edge of the street are stately palaces, municipal buildings and townhouses.On the inside are the city’s main sights, all in a line and interspersed with squares, fountains and little parks,. The cathedral, Urban Tower, State Theatre and St Michael Chapel are all here, so you can jump from one incredible monument to the next. Hlavná Ulica is part of Slovakia’s largest historic centre, and you can duck down the side streets where more churches, museums and old-time restaurants await.
2. St Elisabeth Cathedral
With pride of place on Hlavná Ulica is the westernmost Gothic cathedral in Europe, and also Slovakia’s largest place of worship, begun in 1378. The cathedral is unusual as its north portal, rather than its west or south, is the one that is most ornamented. Pause beneath the relief in the tympanum showing people arriving at the gates of heaven, the last judgment and Christ on the cross. Also go around to the south facade, where above the main window is a sun dial from 1477. Inside, the frescos are also from the 15th century, as is the sensational double spiral staircase leading to the King’s Oratory. There’s tons of detail to get through, but make time for the the crypt of Hungarian national hero Francis II Rákóczi, and go up the 60-metre church tower for a view to remember.
3. Urban’s Tower
Next to the cathedral is its former campanile, which was raised during the 15th century. These days the inside holds a small waxwork exhibition of famous people from Košice’s past.Urban’s Tower is also in the Gothic style, but with little extras added down the years like the portal, which was carved in the 17th century, and the arcades on the corners from the beginning of the 20th century.These protect historic ledger stones from the 1300s and 1400s, which were embedded into the tower’s stonework after being removed from the cathedral.The tower’s original bell was cast in 1557 and weighs seven tons.
4. St Michael Chapel
The last of the ensemble of Gothic monuments clustered around the cathedral is this lovely chapel constructed in 1300s. Found where the city’s cemetery used to be, it was initially an ossuary dedicated to St Michael, the patron saint of the deceased, and like Urban’s Tower it has ledger stones in its outer walls going back to the 1370s. In the 17th century it became known as the “Slovak Church “, as it was the only place of worship where masses would be conducted in the Slovak language.Despite its small size the chapel has all the attributes of a church, including a sacristy, oratory and choir.
5. State Theatre
Košice’s striking Neo-Baroque opera house is also on Hlavná Ulica and replaced the first theatre which went back to 1756. It was designed by the German-Hungarian Adolf Lang who specialised in that bold Historicist style and contributed many grand monuments throughout Hungary. In the lavish auditorium, tilt your head back to see the painstaking detail of the gilded stuccowork and frescos of scenes from Shakespeare’s tragedies. You can ask for a tour at the entrance during the day, but you might as well just come by in the evening to watch an opera or ballet as tickets are absurdly cheap.