Kosice (pronounced Koshitsa, and say it quickly) is Slovakia’s second largest city after Bratislava. Despite that, it’s still not terribly large. By comparison the city centre is of similar size to Krakow and about half the size of Prague. We had four nights there this week, flying with Wizz Air who have recently launched a new service from Bristol. Fares were extremely reasonable; around £45 each return including one 23kg hold bag. Flights from Bristol are on Tuesdays and Saturdays and take around 2 1/2 hours. It was our first experience of Wizz Air and the flights were very good – efficient and comfortable.
Kosice was the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and the city has good reviews for its bars, café culture, history, architecture and art. We booked accommodation just outside of the centre; a small family run boutique hotel called Vila Terrasse with quirky vintage style accommodation in a peaceful setting. Despite reading it would be a 25 minute walk into the centre, the reality was 45 minutes through a sweet woodland and not so sweet expanses of high rise housing estates. We made the most of our walk each day to contribute towards our daily 10,000 steps! And then got a taxi back each evening for around €3.
The main part of the city centres around a long, wide pedestrianised main street, punctuated by various monuments such as the St Elisabeth cathedral, Plague Column and State Theatre.We were struck by how quiet the city was. Even on Saturday, it was extremely laid back and tranquil.
On our first day we soon realised that it was going to be a struggle to fill our time with significant sight seeing, so we broke the main sights into chunks over the four days with the notion that we could take it easy and pad our time out with plenty of pit stops around the various bars and cafes- not such a bad plan…Beer is around €1.50 per half litre and table wine around €1.10 a glass. A meal for two averages around €10.
While roaming the main street and visiting St Elisabeth cathedral, we also booked tickets for a production of Bizet’s opera ‘Carmen’ at the beautiful State Theatre. And this was such a treat! Great seats on the Presidential Balcony for €12.
We visited the fabulous Miklus Prison, which is an eerie reminder of Kosice’s grisly history over the past six hundred years or so. A warren of a building to roam at your own pace, you start by learning of its construction as a pair of gothic houses until an eventual change of use to become the city prison where barbaric torture and gruesome executions took place in the freezing cold and claustrophobic cellars. Atmospheric indeed….
And on Friday, we awoke to find that there had been snowfall! It was magical. We walked through the neighbouring woodland to the city Botanical Gardens which was also very beautiful in the snow. When we headed back to the city centre we had no choice but to cosy up in a bar for a few winter warmers. Hot chocolate with brandy, anyone?
On our last day we took a visit to the Kosice Technical Museum on the main street. And I’m so glad we did because it was fascinating! Apart from the most incredible selection of vintage typewriters I’ve seen (it’s a weird passion of mine), it gave an overview of Slovakian history through the Bronze and Iron ages, as well as exhibitions in cartography and engineering, among other things. There was also a really good workroom of physics based experiments and toys / games for children and big kids alike!
We took in the art exhibition at the main Kosice museum which was OK, but is small scale and quite heavy on iconography which is an art form that makes me want to run screaming towards the nearest Antony Gormley sculpture. There was also a ‘countryside’ exhibition which we didn’t see as we were near to the museum closing time and the local bars suddenly seemed rather inviting….
- We had a really lovely slow-paced break but could have easily seen everything we wanted to in 2-3 days. It would be worth considering an excursion outside of the city if you’re there longer – Kosice castle is an hour away but would need a taxi ride.
- Visit Miklus Prison – it gives you a great overview of the history of Kosice as well as a chilling insight into routine punishments which were commonplace across Europe at that time…
- Visit the State Theatre or look on-line for a schedule of events – our night of ‘Carmen’ was a great way to spend an evening
- Give yourself time to bar hop – there are many!
- Explore the side streets and find little art shops and galleries – getting off the main drag can be very rewarding