In 2013 Kosice, as the first city in Slovakia, held the title of European Capital of Culture. And it was a well deserved award. The second biggest Slovak city, located in the eastern part of the country, has been always living in the shadow of bigger and supposedly cooler places: Prague, Brno (in the times of Czechoslovakia) or Bratislava. But when in 2013 all the lights were pointed at Kosice it turned out the city has so much to offer and can be actually one of the most interesting, even if not well known, places in Central Europe. The number of cultural projects and activities was overwhelming and now, 2 years later, Kosice still makes a perfect travel destination for all culture lovers! I was really surprised how many great spots are in the city, during my 4 days there I couldn’t be bored and I still feel I didn’t experience all I wanted to! So if you go to Slovakia and its second biggest city (totally recommended!) here’s a list of places and activities you cannot miss in order to get the most of culture in Kosice!
I’ve already written a separate post about Kosice street art but I will repeat it again – this city has the best street art scene in Slovakia and one of the best in (Central) Europe! Before going there I knew nothing about it and I was overwhelmed! Thanks to the local organization – Street Art Communication – walls of Kosice are covered in some really amazing murals created by world famous artists. The biggest number of works were created in 2013, during European Capital of Culture events, but Kosice has been being turned into a big street art gallery since 2008 and the plans for future look bright too!
A former indoor swimming pool now serves as the center for contemporary art that hosts exhibitions from all over the world. This architecture masterpiece, built in 1960s, wasn’t in use for a long time – River Hornad that was redirected from the center still managed to destroy the structure. For years the swimming pool was neglected, decaying quietly few steps away from the beautiful Old Town. But together with ECoC 2013 new funds for culture have arrived and it was decided to give a second life to the building and to turn it into culture center. The project was really successful as now it is a regional (or even Slovak) hub of art. This is the main venue for exhibitions, workshops or concerts that take place in an amazing yet quirky scenery. And outside there’s still a (working) swimming pool!
Another place that was revitalized for ECoC 2013 and was actually the biggest project made for this event. A complex of old military barracks from 19th/20th century was transformed into another cultural center. Every building got a name after the aviation alphabet (so Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc) and they are home to some interesting institutions, such as Steel Park, literature center or fashion lab. The whole place is supposed to be interactive, creative and serve to everyone therefore there’s a wide range activities available. And everything is surrounded by a nice, green scenery!
This is definitely among the quirkiest piece of art I’ve ever seen and the one I loved big time! The typical old Slovak wooden houses were moved to the top of the concrete block of flats, so typical for this part of the world. The artist behind that idea, Tomas Dziadon, wanted to put years of history on people’s shoulders, literally, and he did it in the most creative way. But as it happens with the art it’s often misunderstood and out of 5 chosen location he didn’t get a single permission for his project. Eventually he put an ad in the newspaper and the location found him! It’s a random block of flats, one of many like this in Central and Eastern Europe yet its inhabitants were brave enough to deal with art. There was a lot of criticism towards Dziadon and his work but the wooden houses became kind of a symbol and can be seen even from far areas of Kosice.
One of my favorite things in Central Europe is its cafe culture and Kosice is no exception here, even if it’s not in the typical grand style like for example in Vienna or Prague. There’re so many nice spots in the city, I could easily spend a week there, just hanging out in the cafes and enjoy its vibe and relaxing atmosphere. Some of the best cafes can be found on Hrnciarska Street, probably the most beautiful lane in Kosice. This narrow street with colorful houses is where best craftsman stores and cool cafes, like Rozpravka, can be found! Closeby, on Zvonarska street, a “Friends”-themed cafe is located, it’s called “Smelly cat” so there’re no doubts how the place got its name.
Probably my favorite place in Kosice. A former tobacco factory turned into the alternative culture center, with street art of the walls, a cool pub and interesting events every day. There’re concerts, theatre plays, workshops, movies screenings, discussions – basically everything you would expect in the place like this. The coolest kids of Kosice hang out in Tabacka and I can’t blame them as this spot is pretty awesome, I’d probably be there most of my time too! Every city should have their own Tabacka!
I really love how cities in Central Europe are changing, how cool and hip they become and how they’re ruled by the art (either street art, contemporary art or some other original works). And Kosice is a perfect example of how culture and its institutions are for people, easily reachable and offering something for each taste. That’s why I’m a big supporter of European Capital of Culture as it brings a lot of ideas and investments in this so well needed field and gives a big positive change to cities and its people. And even now, 2 years after this prestigious title, culture in Kosice is doing really well and as a result makes this Slovak place one of the most interesting city break destinations in Europe!
Here’s a map of all the places I’ve mentioned!
Make sure to watch this great video about Kosice made by my friends from Visegrad Hostels!
Have you visited any European Capital of Culture cities and experienced their changes? Do you think you’d enjoy culture in Kosice? Would you like to visit Slovakia?
If you think of visiting Slovakia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
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