Ukraine

Uzhgorod, Ukraine – an overlooked city with a Central European vibe

(Last Updated On: 02/06/2020)

I don’t remember when exactly Uzhgorod, Ukraine made it to my personal list of places to visit in Ukraine (or Central Europe in general) but I remember how long I’ve been hoping to visit this city. And I didn’t even have any major reason to go there, I didn’t know much about Uzhgorod before my visit there.

I just had a feeling that this is my kind of place and I will like it there. Of course, I was right.

There might not be too many things to do in Uzhgorod but the city has this peculiar Central European vibe that each fan of the region would enjoy.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Where is Uzhgorod?

Uzhgorod is located in the very south-west corner of Ukraine, literally at the border with Slovakia and not too far from Hungary, Poland and Romania aren’t too far away either. The river Uzh goes through the city.

Lviv, Ukraine is around 250 kms away, Kosice, Slovakia less than a hundred kilometers away, Krakow, Poland 300 kms away and Budapest, Hungary 330 kms away.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Short history of Uzhgorod, Ukraine

First traces in this area date back to the 12th century BC. Numerous tribes have been living here until the Slavic settlement was founded in the 8th century.

In the middle of the 13th century, the Mongol invasion went through the settlement, burning it down, but only a few years later the castle was already rebuilt.

For most of the time Uzhgorod was part of the Hungarian state and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War First the city became part of Czechoslovakia. That’s also when the modern development of the city took place.

After World War Two Uzhgorod changed its belongingness and was incorporated into the Soviet Union and eventually became part of independent Ukraine as the administrative capital of the youngest Ukrainian region – Transcarpathian).

The turbulent history, especially in the 20th century, and the multicultural pasts makes Uzhgorod a truly unique and fascinating place to visit.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

How to get to Uzhgorod, Ukraine

Getting to Uzhgorod has been always a challenge and despite being close everywhere, the city has never been an easy citybreak and weekend destination.

I flew from Warsaw to Kyiv and then took the night train to Uzhgorod – there are six of them daily and the journey takes between 12 and 16 hours, depending on the connection.

I could have gone all the way to Uzhgorod but of course I had to complicate it a bit which resulted in tiring and adventurous trip.

You see, there is a beautiful railway line through Carpathian mountains, from Lviv to the village called Sianki and then, after changing the train, all the way down to Uzhgorod.

These are local trains, which means wooden benches, no air-condition and windows barely opening. But the views are great and so picturesque!

After a quick walk around Lviv, one of the cities that I simply adore, I took the train to Sianki. It took almost 5 hours but it wasn’t that bad.

There, after 20 minutes, I was supposed to catch the train to Uzhgorod. The first part of this journey, between Sianki and Volosyanka, is apparently the most beautiful one, with lots of curves and viaducts.

I can’t vouch for that – when I arrived to Sianki it turned out that there are works on the tracks and there is no train to Uzhgorod. Locals were as surprised as I was and we had to wait for the bus for over 2 hours.

There is really not much to do in a small village in the mountains at the end of Ukraine, although the landscape around was beautiful. To say I was disappointed would be a huge understatement but there was nothing I could do about it.

The train ride from Volosyanka to Uzhgorod might have offered some splendid views too but the windows were so dirty I could barely see the world outside.

I spent the whole day traveling, I arrived in Uzhgorod over 10 hours after leaving Lviv, and I still barely could admire one of the most scenic railway lines in Ukraine. I still remember how tired I was after that trip so when I got to my hotel all I wanted to do was just sleeping.

So if you have the idea of taking the train via Sianki and Volosyanka think twice. It might be a good idea but it might be also a trip from hell.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

You can also easily get to Uzhgorod from Kosice, Slovakia. The cities are some 3 hours apart, and that includes border crossing.

I took the bus from Uzhgorod to Kosice and it was a fine trip. The bus is operated by Regio Jet and the ticket costs around €6,50/one way.

Both bus and train stations are located next to each other, some 2 kilometers away from the center and Korzo street.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Where to stay in Uzhgorod

I stayed at Hotel Atlant (8,4/10 on Booking) which I can definitely recommend for its perfect location, close to most of the sights, affordable prices and a good standard. You can check the reviews and current rates here.

Other recommended Uzhgorod hotels include:

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Things to do in Uzhgorod, Ukraine

Once I rested after the journey from hell I was ready to discover Uzhgorod properly. There are not too many things to do in Uzhgorod really but enough to keep me occupied for a day and a half.

My hotel was conveniently located only a few steps away from Korzo – the main pedestrian street of Uzhgorod. That’s where you should head first when visiting Uzhgorod, to feel the vibe of the place.

This street with surroundings is the center of the city, that’s where locals hang out and that’s where you will find most of the cafes and restaurants. It was such a pleasant place!

I walked along Korzo and surrounding pedestrian streets many times during my stay in Uzhgorod and each time I enjoyed the area so much!

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

From Korzo it’s a little uphill walk to one of the biggest Uzhgorod attractions – the castle. It was built between the 13th and 18th centuries and is a real mix of styles.

The castle has always been a very important place in the city, even the name “Uzhgorod” literally means “the Uzh castle”. Today you can find here the Transcarpathian Regional History Museum, with over 14 thousands items.

It is an interesting place to visit (but don’t get overexcited) but the main reason to go inside the museum are nice interiors and lovely views over the city and surrounding mountains.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Next to the castle, you will find the open-air Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. It’s not too big (especially in comparison to similar museums in Lviv or Sierpc, Poland) but you can see here around 30 wooden structures from Transcarpathian region, mostly houses but also a school, a windmill or the beautiful wooden church of St. Michael from the 18th century.

Visiting the museum was among my favorite things to do in Uzhgorod. I didn’t expect it to be so good and interesting but the museum has surprised me in the best possible way (and the fact that I have a thing for folk architecture museums definitely have helped here).

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod is a treat for the fans of the 20th-century architecture. There is a rather big variety of styles in here, I was overexcited when I kept finding more and more interesting buildings around.

Not far from the castle, close to the river, you can find the beautiful art-nouveau piece that is now the Faculty of Physics of the local university. Unfortunately, despite my attempts, I couldn’t see if it’s equally pretty inside as the security didn’t let me in, twice.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Not far further, close to Korzo, there is a former synagogue building that now serves as the Philharmonic Orchestra hall. It was built at the very beginning of the 20th century in the Romantic style with popular at that time Byzantine and Moorish elements.

You can get a good view of the synagogue from the nearby pedestrian bridge across the Uzh river or from in front of the building if there is no scene blocking the view as it happened for me.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

There are a few more sacral buildings that you might find interesting. I especially liked the Holy Cross Cathedral, on the way to the castle, and Christ the Saviour Cathedral – a perfect example of the Orthodox church with onion-shaped domes shining in the sun.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Fans of the Soviet architecture will definitely appreciate the Transcarpathian Regional Administration building, located on the impressive Narodna Square.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Another interesting example of the building inspired by the Carpathian tradition is the local train station. This is such a beautiful structure, impressive both outside and inside (everything is marble!).

Uzhgorod Ukraine

In Uzhgorod you can also find many beautiful interwar villas and tenant houses built in the modernism style. There is also the whole neighborhood built in the times of Czechoslovakia when the country had to create its structure in Uzhgorod.

These buildings are located roughly between Korzo and Narodna Square, the best way to discover them is just to wander around, letting your intuition led you through the streets of Uzhgorod, taking random streets right or left. That was another one of my favorite things to do in Uzhgorod actually and I spent most of my time in the city just wandering around and enjoying the city.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Another place not to miss is the longest linden-tree alley in Europe. It was planted in 1928 and spreads over 2 kilometers along the river.

There are many benches between the trees on the embankment so it’s the best place to just sit down and relax, especially on the hot summer day. I can only imagine how beautiful the alley must look like in the autumn colors!

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod, like most of the cities in the former Austro-Hungarian empire and in modern Ukraine, has a pretty decent cafe culture.

You will find here numerous cafes, both in traditional and modern style, as well as coffee stands. Most of them are located in and around Korzo but even in some further parts of the city, you can be sure to stumble across a nice place to sit down for a coffee.

My two favorite places were Byron Espresso Bar and Eat Me! Cafe, both located on Voloshyna street just off Korzo.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

In the late afternoon, shortly before the sunset, be sure to walk along the embankment again. The warm sun glows in the river, the riverside cafes are full of people and the locals stroll down the pedestrian streets, enjoying the remaining hours of the day.

Before that moment, I already developed strong feelings for Uzhgorod but it was then, in the warm late summer afternoon, when I really fell for the city.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Is it worth to visit Uzhgorod?

I waited way too long to visit Uzhgorod but when I finally did the city didn’t disappoint. It might not be big on monuments but there are a few interesting sights worth seeing.

But the best thing to do in Uzhgorod and the main reason to visit the city is to enjoy its multicultural vibe, Central Europe at its finest.

Even if the city has been part of Ukraine for almost 30 years now you can still see its past clearly in the history, the culture, the architecture or the language which is a peculiar mix of Ukrainian and Slovak.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod reminds me so much of my favorite Cieszyn, on the Polish-Czech border and that could have been one of the reasons why I enjoyed this city so much.

At the same time, Uzhgorod also feels like a completely unique place. Even if it is Ukraine it is so far away from Kyiv or even Lviv that it doesn’t feel much like the rest of the country.

It also doesn’t really feel like nearby Slovakia or Hungary. The city is its own Central European universe and that’s what makes Uzhgorod so special.

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Due to its location, kind of at the end of the world (especially transportation one), not many foreign tourists decide to visit Uzhgorod. I was there in the middle of August and I haven’t seen any other tourists really which was pretty nice as the city didn’t feel overcrowded (like Lviv in summer).

But Uzhgorod deserves to get more attention and visitors so next time when you are in this part of Europe do plan a trip to Uzhgorod. It’s worth all the trouble with getting there. And once you visit Uzhgorod I’m sure you will enjoy the city as much as I did!

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Uzhgorod Ukraine

Where to go next

Once you are done with visiting Uzhgorod you have a few options to continue your journey.

You can stay in Ukraine and visit nearby Mukachevo or go a bit further to Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk or Chernivtsi.

You can also hop across the border to Slovakia and visit its second biggest city – Kosice, or to Hungary and stop in Debrecen, Miskolc or Eger before reaching the capital – Budapest.

The Romanian gem of art nouveau architecture – Oradea – isn’t too far away either.

Here are a few of my articles on the nearby locations that you might find interesting when planning a trip in this part of Central Europe (all the links will open in the new window):


Travel resources

With over 15 years of independent traveling, I’ve learned which websites and services are the best when planning a trip. I always use and trust the following websites:

Money – My number one tip for everyone is to start using Revolut bank card to save money when traveling.

You get the card by mail within a few days and you can use it all over the world. You top up the card in the app on the phone, where you can also have accounts in different currencies and exchange money between them, for no extra fee and at very favorable rates.

Everything is super easy and fast, you only need an internet connection to manage your accounts in the app.

Revolut supports over 140 currencies and offers free withdrawal from ATMs all over the world. In the first 6 months I’ve used Revolut card in 12 countries, including Ukraine, in 3 continents and had no issues at all. And I saved a lot of money in the exchange rates!

Click here to learn more about the service and order your own Revolut card!

Accommodation – I always book my accommodation through Booking.com.

They have really good deals (especially with their “Genius” program that you become a member of after few reservations) and in most of the cases, if your plans change, you can cancel the reservation without any extra costs.

I also value them for a really good customer service that I had to use a few times.

Check the best deals on accommodation in Uzhgorod here!

Insurance – I never travel without the insurance as you never know what might happen on the road and better safe than sorry (I’ve learnt my lesson).

I can recommend World Nomads that offer the insurance dedicated to travelers just like you and me.

Click here to get the insurance policy for Ukraine here.

Day tours – I do go for a day trips when I travel as often they are the most convenient way to see the place that saves you time and money.

I most often use Get Your Guide that offers a variety of tours all over the world. Click here to check all the best tours you can take during your travels!

Offline maps – For years I’ve been using MAPS.ME app and I can’t recommend it enough!

It’s free, works offline perfectly fine and saved me many times. You can easily transfer Google Maps with all the bookmarks to maps.me and use them offline wherever you are.

Click here to download it to your phone before your next trip!


For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

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  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Uzhgorod too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. If you like what you are reading and seeing here and would like to support me and my blog please consider using those links. It would be like getting me a virtual drink that you don’t have to pay for! Thanks!

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Uzhgorod Ukraine       Uzhgorod Ukraine


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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Valentin
    02/01/2020 at 19:28

    I agree that Uzgorod is a city worth visiting.
    I was there on 1st August 2019. But I was there only for one day, starting and returning to Prešov-Slovakia (have you been there?), on same day. I would not recommend visiting Uzgorod for only a day because I spent 2 hours waiting to cross border from Slovakia to Ukraine. But that was nothing compared to 4 hours waiting from Ukraine to Slovakia.
    I belive I will come to Ukraine again, but that will be more days if I have to wait on border.
    I was strolling in the city, visited castle and had a lunch, coffee and ice-cream.
    It was my first time in Ukraine and I can’t wait to go again (except for border crossing)

    • Reply
      kami
      13/01/2020 at 12:27

      The road border crossing with Ukraine can be unpredictable, unfortunately, although it used to be better in Slovakia than in Poland (I heard stories of 10 hours waiting at the border, insane!). That’s why I always recommend everyone taking the train to Ukraine, to save time as the passport control is on the train. Uzhgorod is such a nice city and a good introduction to Ukraine, I’m glad you liked it!
      No, I haven’t been to Presov yet (only at the train station but that doesn’t count). I wanted to go but I always end up in Kosice instead ;)

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