Kosice, the second largest city in Slovakia, is situated in the valley of the Hornad River and Kosicka kotlina (the Kosice Hollow), at the foot of the Cierna Hora Mountains in the north and the Slovak Ore Mountains and the Volovske Vrchy Hills in the west. From the east, the Kosice Hollow is bordered by the Slanske Vrchy Hills. To the southwest near the Hungarian border, the renowned Slovensky Kras Hills are situated. Historical core of Košice represents the biggest reservoir of historical monuments in Slovakia. In terms of art & history, the most valuable buildings are situated around the original Middle Age Square.
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Kosice has the warm, rather dry climate typical of hollows; the average January temperature ranges from -2 0C to -4 0C; average July temperature ranges from 18.5 0C to 20 0C; the average annual precipitation is 600-700 mm. The northwestern areas at the foothills of the Slovak Ore Mountains have a temperate mountain climate.
The‚ advantageous position of the city on the crossroads of the old long-distance trade routes was the decisive factor for the development of this place of habitation on the fertile soil of the river-terrace near the juncture of the Hornad and Torysa Rivers. The area has been settled continuously since the Paleolithic Era; an Aurignacian campsite, the earliest one known to have existed in Central Europe, was excavated at Barca near Kosice
The present cathedral stands on a site formerly occupied by a parish church, which was destroyed by fire about 1370. The patrons of the church included St. Elizabeth. The construction of St. Elizabeth's Cathedral began in approximately 1378 and was carried out in several stages:
The representative building of the State Theatre is situated in the city centre. It was built in a new- baroque style during the years 1879-1899, according to the projects of A.Lang and A.Steinhardt, where a former theatre building, built in 1788 - 1790, was situated. Originally before that a town-hall building was situated
The lower park of the chapel was ossarium where bone residua found when digging new graves were deposited. The upper part served for offices for the dead. In 1508, an aisle was built on the northern part being demolished during the reconstruction of the chapel in the years 1902 - 1904. On that occasion, old gravestone was bricked into its outer walls to be saved from destruction. The outer decoration is Gothic; the turret is fit in the roof structure. The patron of the dead, the Archangel Saint Michael vanquishing the Satan - the dragon is shown on the altar. There are Archangels Rafael and Gabriel on his sides. In the interior, there is a nice stone tabernacle, the ornamental sculpture "Ecce Homo" and rests of wall paintings from Middle Ages. The oldest coat-of-arms of Košice is situated above the door leading to the vestry.
Kosice Sights, sightseeing, culture:
The oldest guild regulations were registered from the year 1307 and the city received it's own coat of arm in 1369; the city of Kosice has the oldest coat-of-arms out of all the cities in Europe. Since the beginning of the 15th century the city had been in the leading post of Pentapolitana - which was the alliance of five eastern Slovak cities. From 1347 to the beginning of 18th century Kosice has kept the post of the second city after Budin in the monarchy. In 1657, due to the economical, administrative and political importance of the city, the first university was established; later the university was converted to a royal university and then to a judicial one, it was thought to have been in operation up until the year 1921. The presence of a Slavic community having settled here in 8-9th century was confirmed by study of the fortified settlement site at Breh in the area of Krasna and Hornadom. Another presumed settlement site of this type is at Hradova, where a castle was built later to control the important crossroads of the trade routes.
At the end of the 11 th century, the building of a Benedidine abbey as a center for the spreading of culture was begun at Krasna nad Hornadom; it was consecrated in 1143. Another fortified site, the above-mentioned Hradova Castle, was built in the first half of the 13th century. Several settlements arose along the road in the river valley between these two points, which are considered as the origins of the later town. According to existing data, by 1216 another monastery had already stood on the site of present-day Kosice and the settlement itself was mentioned in 1230. It was situated at the site of Slovenska Street; the first parish church in the area was built there too. This place of habitation expanded rapidly after the arrival of German colonists; its layout followed the settlement pattern provided by other towns, which had already been settled by the native folk. The German immigrants appeared as new inhabitants shortly after the Tartar invasion and they founded their homes next to the existing settlement.
Before 1249 they were granted their first privileges. Owing to them and to the advantageous situation of the settlement, Kosice developed relatively rapidly into a town. The Saxons who settled in Kosice achieved religious self-government very early, and in 1290 they were exempted from the jurisdiction of the archdeacon. Already by that time, the original, one-nave church of St. Elizabeth (1260-1280) stood in the middle of the spindle-shaped square (a typical shape for eastern-Slovakia towns).
The town's protective walls had been partially built by that time, as well as the Royal House and the hospital. The oldest building preserved from that period is the Early-Gothic Dominican church with remnants of the monastery located near the line of the town's western walls. The presence of this religious order testified to the definite urban character of Kosice at that time.
By the end of the 13-century markets were held in the town, which emerged as an important center for the barter of imported goods from Prussia, the towns of the Hansa League in Germany, and Krakow, Poland.
At the beginning of the 14th century the burghers of Kosice showed extraordinary resolution and courage. They fearlessly rebelled against the very cruel Palatine Omodej, to whose control King Char1es Robert of Anjou donated the town in 1304. Unable to find any other way of getting rid of their feudal oppressor, they murdered him in 1311 . Kosice won the ensuing lawsuit with Omodej's descendants. After this event, the Omodejs joined the opposition against King Charles Robert. The burghers of Kosice played an important role in the King's victory in the decisive battle against the Omodejs near Rozhanovce on 15th June 1312. Their participation in this victorious battle won Kosice the charter of a Free Royal Town in 1342, and strengthened its economic and military power. Rapid development and urbanization of the town followed.
At that time, a major part of the forests in the vicinity were changed into vineyards, and grape growing became one of the main occupations of the local inhabitants. A mutual cooperation treaty with Krakow was signed in 1324; the first of its kind. It contributed largely to the steadily expanding volume of long-distance trade along the route from southeastern Hungary to the Scandinavian countries by way of Kosice. These treaties document the town's important position in international commerce at that time. Another opportunity to improve its position was the right of storage granted in 1361. By the mid-14th century Kosice had only one rival in Hungarian kingdom - the principal center of the state and the residence of the monarch - Buda. The kings favored Kosice and paid the city frequent visits. The imposing appearance of Gothic Kosice was equal to its importance.
In 1419 the town controlled a monopoly in producing a special doth, fustian; therefore, all manufacturers of this cloth in Hungary had to move to Kosice. Ten years later, Kosice also gained a monopoly of bleaching flax linen, which was shared with Bardejov.
During the turbulent years of the struggle for the Hungarian throne, Kotice played an important role. At the end of the first half of the 15th century, under the leadership of Jan Jiskra of Brandes (who was an Ispan, an administrator of Saris County, with its center in Kosice) expeditions were undertaken against the Poles and Hungarians. Loans for these expeditions flowed out of Kosice's municipal treasury. All of the "Estates of the Tisza Region" submitted to Jiskra at the Diet of Sena in 1445; Jan Talafus became a captain of Kosice. The reformist Hussites retained their power over the town after the peace had been signed with Janos Hunyadi in 1450; they lost it only after their defeat at Sarissky Potok.
The patricians of the town originated from the merchant class at that period. Crafts and agricultural production had little significance apart from viticulture. The mass migration of people - especially Hungarian aristocracy - from the southern territories of the kingdom occupied by the Turks resulted in an enormous concentration of population within the town walls; the number reached 7,000. At the time when Buda was seized and occupied by the Turks, Kosice became the capital of the Hungarian kingdom for some time.
In the mid-16th century a great fire almost destroyed the whole town. It damaged St. Elizabeth’s as well as the town walls. Owing to the support of the royal court, a new Renaissance town arose on the ruins of the old one. During the reconstruction works, the free grounds, which had remained on the building plots, especially behind the houses, were built up with additional buildings with the purpose of housing the rising population. The significance of Kosice for the revitalization of the Hungarian kingdom in the east and southeast was also reflected in the gradual modernization of the fortifications. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the town became an almost impregnable fortress with three lines of walls and a moat. During the reign of King Leopold I, a star shaped citadel was built in front of the southern gate.
At the turn of the 19th century, the economy revived. Manufacturers producing English porcelain, hats, cloth and more, appeared in the town. The population was constantly rising, especially owing to the influx of people from the villages.
At the beginning of the 19th century, a bishopric was established in Kosice; the parish church of St. Elizabeth became a cathedral church in 1804.
Revival of the economy of the town was manifested in the town's architecture. The Reduta cultural centre, a ballroom, theatre, large burghers' and patrician houses, ornate aristocratic palaces, the Evangelical church, and a number of large barracks were built.
The arrival of the railway, which connected Kosice to Miskolcz and Budapest in 1860, and to Bohumin in 1870, provided a mighty new impulse for the economic boom of the town. Construction of a railway station east of the town center was also finished that year. On the site between the railway station and the city a large park was planted and a new street network was developed. The process of urbanization of the town was influenced by the traffic patterns of Vienna and Budapest, creating a system of circular avenues, which occupied the place of the demolished town walls. With the construction of new rental houses, Kosice attained a metropolitan character. The river terraces westwards above the city were built up with rustic country houses grouped around small squares. A synagogue was built amidst a row of houses situated along a southern axis next to the city in the year 1866; 20 years later a Graeco-Catholic Church was built in Cyrilometodska Street. The inhabitants of Kosice built a new theater and rebuilt the cathedral of St. Elizabeth into the neo-Gothic style. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Art Nouveau style appeared; it was applied to create romantic and historical facades. A system of suburbs, known as "glacis", was developed in the 19th century. In 1912, the Art Nouveau City Hall was built as focal point at the end of a boulevard running parallel with the old High Street. Kosice became a significant administrative, cultural and educational center of eastern Slovakia before mid-the 20th century.
Large blocks were constructed, new banks, post offices, the radio-broadcasting station, blocks of flats in Stara Bešenova, and schools as well as a modern Roman Catholic sacred building, the Queen of Peace Church. At this time the first negative interferences into the urban structure of the city appeared - such as the new Bata shoe-store. Large pre-fabricated blocks of flats built around the town center were an answer to the rapid industrial development and the rising population in the 1960s - 1970s. Many of the big, bulky solitary buildings were set directly into the center of rows of historic houses interfering with the urban structure of the city. In general, in spite of them, Kosice has preserved the historical atmosphere of Hlavna (Hight) Street and the circular avenues intact as well as the intimacy of the narrow lanes situated next to the former city walls.
The most significant historical, architectural, and art-historical structures of the town are situated in the center of the large, spindle-shaped square.
The declaration of the historic center of the town an Urban Preservation Area in 1981 was a result of the effort to save the historic environment of Kosice.
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