Kosice, the second biggest city in Slovakia and one of the best places to visit in Slovakia, is among the most underrated cities in Europe that you should put on your bucket list right away. With so much history, numerous monuments and attractions you surely won’t be bored there and you should plan at least a weekend in Kosice.
I’ve visited the city around 10 times by now and I know I will be returning there in future too – there are just so many things to do in Kosice that I never have enough time to do them all. But even if you have only one day in Kosice you can see and do a lot – it’s a compact city and most of Kosice attractions are located within a walking distance from each other!
Things to do in Kosice
So, without any further ado, here are the best things to do in Kosice, Slovakia, in no particular order!
Visit St. Elisabeth Cathedral
St. Elisabeth Cathedral in Kosice is a real masterpiece and one of the main places to visit in Kosice.
The works started in 1380 but over the centuries it was rebuilt and renovated numerous times. It is considered to be the easternmost Gothic cathedral in Europe, this is also the largest worship place in Slovakia (around 5.000 people can enter the cathedral).
There are just so many sculptures and ornaments on the facade, making this building so unique and special. If you are lucky you might even spot the ugly wife of the sculptor turned into one of the gargoyles.
The interior is just as amazing and worth seeing as the exterior. Be sure to take a closer look at the impressive altar with high stained glass windows as well as the gothic double spiral staircase – there are only five of this kind in Europe!
Climb the Cathedral’s tower
After you visit the cathedral be sure to climb the cathedral’s tower too. The north tower (known also as Sigismund’s tower) is almost 60 meters high so climbing it might be a bit of a challenge for some but it’s worth all the efforts as the views from up there are really amazing.
You can admire the State Theater, rows of colorful houses on the main street, red rooftops of the old town and more. This is probably the best view of Kosice from above you can get.
The tower is open every day, the entrance is €1,50.
Visit St. Michael’s Chapel
Next to the cathedral, you can find a beautiful St. Michael’s Chapel from the 14th century – yet another great example of the Gothic architecture in Kosice. It used to be the cemetery chapel and the lower parts served as the ossuary.
These days it is a popular wedding chapel and some people like it even more than the impressive cathedral, especially that it played an important role for the Slovak citizens of the city. St. Michael’s Chapel has always been a Slovak church whereas the cathedral was German or Hungarian church.
On the exterior walls, you can find some of the marble gravestones from the 14th-17th century.
See the historic coat of arms
Did you know that Kosice has the oldest coat of arms in Europe? It was granted by King Louis I the Great in 1369 – that made Kosice the first town in Europe with its own coat of arms.
It was changed three more times, in 1423, 1453 and eventually in 1502. Since then the Kosice coat of arms remained unchanged.
You can find the beautiful sculpture with all four versions at the edge of the park near St. Michael’s Chapel.
Pay respect to Jan Kuciak
Near the coat of arms you can see the impressive 19th-century palace, now home to the State Scientific Library in Kosice. This is where all the important events, mainly protests, in Kosice take place.
The most important ones were, of course, Velvet Revolution in 1989 and recently after the murder of the journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová in 2018 (I was at those protests in Bratislava).
Even if it’s been two years since the murder you can still see the picture of Kuciak and Kusnirova attached to the palace and people are still putting flowers there, paying the respect to the brave journalist.
Visit the splendid State Theater
One of the greatest things about the former Austria-Hungary Empire was all the impressive theaters that were built in that period. You can find some amazing and similar theaters in Chernivtsi (Ukraine), Zagreb (Croatia), Cluj-Napoca (Romania) or Brno (Czech Republic). And Kosice is no different.
The State Theater, located in the middle of Hlavna street, not far from the Cathedral is such an impressive place. Built in 1899, it is truly impressive both from the outside and inside. It is so rich in decorations that you wouldn’t know where to look, there is so much beauty around you.
The good news is the tickets are really affordable, starting at a few euros only, so going out to see the play and marvel at the splendid interior is super easy.
If you are looking for Instagrammable places in Kosice this is one of the must spots for the best pictures!
Have a coffee at Slavia Cafe
Slavia is probably the fanciest of Kosice cafes and the place you can’t miss. Located in the beautiful art-nouveau house, the first cafe was opened here in 1900. After the turbulent history, the cafe was reopened here a few years ago and now this is one of the best spots for people-watching.
Try to score the window seat and you can see the State Theater and observe the main street while sipping the coffee. The interior is beautiful too, with art-nouveau decor and glazed ceiling.
Enjoy cafe scene in Kosice
But Slavia isn’t the only great cafe in Kosice. Actually, the city is packed with cool places worth stopping by for a cup of coffee and a sweet bite.
You can find most of the cafes along the main street as well as Hrnciarska street. My favorite one, however, was Nico Caffe a bit outside of the center (but still within a walking distance).
You can read more about the best cafes in Kosice here.
Have a beer at Hostinec
The best place to have a beer in Kosice is definitely Hostinec. Located on the main street just behind the theater, in the so-called Levoca House from the 15th century, this is the oldest brewery in Kosice.
Today it is owned and run by the passionate people who love beer and put their whole hearts into its production. There are different kinds of beer you can try here, from lager to IPA and beyond, and all of them are produced in the same building.
Even if you are not a big fan of beer you should visit Hostinec for its original interior and good food.
Try the local beer
Since Slovakia is known for its good beer there are more local breweries you should visit, like Golem or Stanicny Pivovar (at the main train station, I don’t know any other train station with the brewery in it).
There are also good craft beer places you can visit in Kosice. My favorite one was Dobre Casy with the excellent selection of beers but other good ones include Tabacka, Nico Caffe or Republika Vychodu.
Walk down the main street – Hlavna
Hlavna – the main street of Kosice’s old town – is a perfect place for a stroll. The pedestrian promenade is packed with attractions – not only you can find here all the amazing places mentioned above, there are numerous other buildings you should take a closer look at: houses, palaces, churches or the Immaculata Statue.
Hlavna is also like a textbook of the various architecture styles, you can see here Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau masterpieces.
But the best thing to do here is to just walk the street and enjoy its vibrant atmosphere or sit down in one of the many cafes and watch the world go by.
Shop at Dominican Square
This charming little square is one of the oldest places in Kosice. It got the name after the Dominican Church from the beginning of the 13th century – you can still find it in the square. Besides cafes, restaurants, and pubs you can also shop at the local farmers’ market.
Unlike other similar markets in more popular cities in the region, the prices here are very affordable and the clientele is a mix of older residents, families with children and local hipsters.
Say hello to Sandor Marai
Sandor Marai was one of the most famous Hungarian writers, born and raised in Kosice. Even if he has a rather difficult relationship with his hometown, Kosice is proud of the famous resident.
You can find here his hometown with the memorial room with numerous memorabilia as well as the monument dedicated to the writer – a popular spot during sightseeing in Kosice. It’s located only a few steps away from the Hlavna street, at the corner of Masiarska and Zbrojnicna streets.
Visit Hrnciarska street
While there are many charming streets and lanes in Kosice, Hrnciarska is the queen of them all. The name literally translates as the Crafts Lane and that’s what you will mostly find here – numerous craft shops of some forgotten professions, as well as a few modern pubs and cafes.
The medieval lane with small colorful houses is a perfect place for a slow walk. You can stop by at blacksmith, carpenter or potter to see their works or go buy fresh bread or local herbs.
Every time I visit Kosice I try to walk at least once through Hrnciarska as this is such a pleasant place! It’s so pretty the picture of the street has been my phone’s screensaver for a few years now.
Try the local wine
You might not know that but Slovakia is pretty big on the wine scene and you can get really good wine in the Kosice region too. That’s also why wine is a very important part of the city itself.
You can find a few very good wine places in Kosice, perfect for trying both local wines and those from more distant regions. Some of the places you want to check out include Villa Cassa, Enoteca Centro, Barrique or Vinotéka Löffler.
Visit the synagogues
Just like many cities in Central Europe, Kosice also had a big and important Jewish community. Before World War 2 there were five synagogues in Kosice, now only two remained (others were either demolished or transformed into different functions).
The one on Puskinova street was built in the 1920s in the cubist style and was renovated to shine just like it used to.
The old synagogue on Zvonarska street is, however, abandoned and in the state of decay but that’s what makes it so interesting to visit. Unfortunately, it is open only during events but if you are lucky – go and see it inside, it is such a gem!
Kosice is good at giving the second life to places and one of the best examples of this trend is Kunsthalle. The former swimming pool, once one of the most valuable 20th-century architecture objects in Kosice, was closed down due to the grounds drop.
Eventually, when Kosice became the European Capital of Culture, the swimming pool was reconstructed and the art space was opened in the building. It is used mostly to show contemporary visual art, both Slovak and international.
But even if you are not a big fan of modern art be sure to visit Kunsthalle as it’s so interesting to see how the building was transformed and adapted to its new function.
Discover Kosice street art scene
One of the things that surprised me the most in Kosice (and made me super excited) was its amazing street art scene. You can see here around 30 murals all over the city, some of them created by world-famous artists like INTI from Chile, Phlegm from England or Point from the Czech Republic.
Admire Jakab’s Palace
Even is the palace didn’t belong to any famous or noble family, this is still probably the most beautiful building of that kind in Kosice.
Located at the edge of the Old Town, Jakab’s Palace was built in the Neo-Gothic style for the family of Peter Jakab – the man behind some of the most beautiful buildings in Kosice, such as the State Theater.
This is where the president of Czechoslovakia, Edvard Benes, stayed during his visit to Kosice in April 1945. Be sure to see this stunning building when you are in Kosice too!
Wander around charming backstreets
But one of the best things to do in Kosice is to just wander around the winding lanes of the Old Town. Be curious, go without the map, enter random gates and passages and you might be surprised how many wonders you can find there.
Umbrella-lanes, arches above the street, colorful houses and hidden cafes – Kosice Old Town is full of surprises really!
Thanks to the European Capital of Culture the former military barracks from the 19th/20th century were turned into the cultural complex. Inside you can find various institutions, such as Steel Park, literature center or fashion lab.
Kulturpark is creative, innovative and its aim is to serve everyone, therefore you can find a whole range of activities taking place here. The buildings are named after the aviation alphabet so you can see here Alfa, Bravo, Charlie etc.
The whole area is green and full of trees, making it a perfect place to relax too.
Visit the botanical garden
Even if the botanical garden is located a bit away from the center it’s well worth a visit. This is the biggest botanical garden in Slovakia, with over 4,000 species of plants (including 1,200 cactuses).
A botanical garden is a fascinating place even in the wintertime – the outdoor area might not be that spectacular but the impressive palm house will entertain you for sure!
Visit the remnants of the castle for the panoramic view of the city
Not many people know about it but Kosice used to have a castle. Some sources say that back in the medieval days it was even bigger than the famous Spis Castle!
Today you can see only a very few remnants of the grand structure but going for the detour from the center is definitely worth the effort.
Not only you can see the ruins of Kosice castle, but you can also go up the lookout tower and see panoramic views of Kosice and beyond.
Visit the East Slovak Museum and find the Golden Treasure
Founded in 1872, the East Slovak Museum is among the oldest museums in the country. While the whole collection is interesting and worth seeing, there is one special reason why you can’t miss this place and that’s the Golden Treasure.
During the renovations of Hlavna street in 1935 the pouch was founded – inside there were almost 3.000 golden coins and jewelry from all over Europe. You can see it all in the East Slovak Museum and trust me, it is one of the most impressive exhibitions you will ever see. All the gold is just dazzling!
While you are in the museum be sure to check the back garden to see the wooden church from the East Carpathian region.
Have a drink and watch a movie at Kino Usmev
A few steps away from the main street you can find Kino Usmev – the old cinema, originally from 1929, turned into one of the cultural hubs of the city. The decor is still original from the 1980s and very much retro but that’s not the only reason to visit the place.
Kino Usmev, besides playing less known and independent movies, is also a vibrant place with a bar, exhibitions, cultural events, and food trucks corner. It’s one of the favorite hangout spots for locals and you should stop by here as well, not necessarily for the movie (although these are good too!).
Enjoy the singing fountain
In the warmer months, the square between the Cathedral and the State Theater at Hlavna Street turns into the light, sound and water show. The singing fountain is a bit cheesy but at the same time mesmerizing.
You can spend here way too much time, just watching how the water plays with the sound of well-known songs and, in the evening, also with kitschy lights. Definitely recommended!
Take the ride at the Children Railway
While the name indicated this is an attraction for children I disagree – everyone can enjoy riding this old steam train (I most certainly did!)! This was the first railway of that kind in former Czechoslovakia, it dates back to 1955.
The Children Railway is a bit over 4 kilometers long and goes through the beautiful forest. The train runs from the end of April till the beginning of November so if you are in Kosice at that time be sure to include it in your itinerary.
Not far from the Children Railway you can also find Kosice ZOO – the largest zoo in Slovakia.
Learn about Hungarian ties with Kosice
Sandor Marai isn’t the only Kosice’s tie with Hungary. The history of the city has always been very much connected with Hungary and the city is known also under its Hungarian name “Kassa”.
Probably the most important sign of the past importance of Hungary is the fact that Francis Rakoczi, the famous leader of the Hungarian uprising against the Habsburgs at the beginning of the 18th century, is buried here, in the St. Elisabeth Cathedral.
Near Hrnciarska street you can find Rodosto House – the former house of Rakoczi that was transferred to Kosice from Turkey.
Visit the former Tobacco factory, now the cultural center
Yet another cultural spot and creative center in Kosice that is worth visiting. A former tobacco factory where now you can find bistro, pub and numerous local initiatives (such as Street Art Communication).
The walls of Tabacka are covered in street art, the whole place has a cool alternative vibe and numerous events will make you want to return here over and over again. Be sure to check their website to see what’s currently happening in Tabacka.
Go for the day trips in Kosice region
Not only Kosice is a great city to visit and spend a few days in, but it is also a perfect base to explore the Kosice region and Eastern Slovakia. And let me tell you this part of Central Europe has a lot to offer yet is still rather unknown.
From Kosice, you can easily go to the wine region of Tokaj (that most people associate with Hungary but a small part of it is in Slovakia too), explore the stunning area of Slovak Paradise or visit ruins of one of the biggest medieval castles in Europe – Spis Castle.
A bit further, but still easily reachable from Kosice, you can find the breathtaking Tatra Mountains with its high peaks or Bardejov – the picturesque town so full of monuments it has made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Eastern Slovakia is a gem that still waits to be discovered and Kosice is a perfect starting point to get to know this region!
You might also like
I visited Kosice and Slovakia so many times I’ve lost the count really. On the blog you can find more articles that might interest you:
- Kosice travel tips – all you need to know about visiting Kosice
- 21 Most Instagrammable Places in Kosice, Slovakia
- Best Cafes in Kosice, Slovakia
- Amazing Kosice, Slovakia in pictures
- Kosice street art – an urban gallery in Slovakia
- Culture in Kosice
- Slovak Paradise and Kosice Region by train
- Bardejov – the most enjoyable town in Slovakia
- Banska Stiavnica – one of the most beautiful towns in Europe
- Top places to visit in Slovakia
- 17 Great Day Trips from Bratislava, Slovakia
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