For those who don't know where Kosice is, all they have to do is to look in eastern Slovakia, near the border with Hungary. There, they will find this city of 240,000 inhabitants, which is the second biggest behind Bratislava. The first written mention of the city was in 1230 as Villa Cassa. During these 8 centuries it has been known with many different names, although the name Kosice was first used around 1450.Until 1918 it was part of the great Hungarian Empire. But did you know also that it was the first town in Europe to be granted its own coat of arms? And that the oldest annual marathon in Europe takes place here?
Even though there is an international airport, many visitors come from Budapest which is around three hours by car. The route is actually quite peaceful as you will see many valleys. When you reach Kosice, you will probably realise the same thing as me: although it is a modern city with several industries and shops, not only it doesn't destroy this picturesque environment but it seems to be in harmony with it. The city centre has undoubtedly contributed to it, which is among the best preserved in Central Europe and gives you the impression that it is a place which has remained unchanged over the years.
Once you get off at the railway station or the bus station, from the first steps one can understand the uniqueness of Kosice. There is a beautiful park, maybe one of the few however located in the center, the Mestsky. With fountains, a spond and tennis courts nearby, it is often a good destination for the locals to relax. Just a few metres away, a small bridge leads you to the center. Which might not be so impressive, but the locks that the couples in love leave on it perhaps will remind you a miniature of Pont des Arts in Paris.
The first thing that will grab your attention is the Jakabov Palace. Unlike what many people maybe expect, there is no particular story behind it, but it is very stunning as a building. However, after a few minutes you will reach the most characteristic landmark of the city. Of course we are talking about the St. Elizabeth Cathedral (or Dóm svätej Alžbety as it is known in Slovak). Built between 1378 and 1508, it is the largest cathedral in the country. Despite being more than 600 years old, it seems like it was built perhaps less than a dozen of decades ago, and like all gothic churches it has an impressive decoration of mosaics in the roof. I have been in other Cathedrals too, but I can say that only a few impressed me like this one. Maybe because it's in an ideal environment, and its interior immediately attracts the visitor's attention.
However, what impressed me so much probably was not the Cathedral, but its surroundings. It is not a coincidence that the city was awarded the title of European Capital of Culture in 2013, along with Marseille. Wherever you look on the main paved street of Kosice, you will see delicate buildings, statues or fountains. And each one of them is so unique that makes this area more breathtaking. In addition, the silence and peace gives the impression that it is more like a big traditional village or town rather than a city with more than 200,000 inhabitants.
And now would you like to learn about what amazing buildings you will see here? First of all, the State Theatre with the wonderful facade and the small park with the fountain right in front of it.And the St. Urban's Tower (Urbanova veža) next to the Cathedral, with the small collection of waxworks inside. In the same street there are also a lot of stunning buildings like the Historical Town Hall, the baroque Church of the Holy Trinity (Premonštrátny kostol) and the monument in honor of the victims of the plague (Immaculata). Add also to this list the various mansions or palaces, and you will understand that perhaps this is one of the few streets in Central Europe with so many well-preserved landmarks in such a small area. Finally, some other interesting sights are the Orthodox Synagogue (Ortodoxná synagóga v Košiciach) and the zoo, which is the third largest in Europe!
One of the biggest advantages of Kosice i think is the fact that it isn't one of the so-called "touristic" towns. I mean that even though its beauty is so rare, you won't find uncountable souvenir shops, people that will reach you to sell you things on the street or a huge crowd of tourists.
So, i would strongly suggest if you ever go to Slovakia or neighboring countries for several days, to visit it. Not only because of the peace and tranquility it has to offer to the visitor, but also for the possibility to organise some excursions to this region, from meadows to lakes. Especially in spring when the weather is cool and the city full of colors.