These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Košice: The easy-living Eastern capital

By Zuzana Kostelniková


It’s very easy to get to, stay or live in Košice. Everything is close, reachable on foot or by car in 15 to 20 minutes. Košice is a friendly place with two faces, like most larger Slovak towns - surrounded by grim housing estates, but concealing many treasures inside the downtown core. The metropolis of the east and the second largest Slovak city, Košice offers everything, from a beautifully reconstructed downtown to many cultural institutions, shopping malls, places to spend free time, and, increasingly, progressive industrial areas. Once a key royal town in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Košice has never lost its aristocratic atmosphere, and today is on target to regain its former reputation and importance.


Getting into town

Air

    
 
 Photo Ján Svrček

Košice is home to one of the smallest international airports in Central Europe, but prides itself on the efficiency of the facility. In the past two years it has been completely rebuilt, and its new terminal offers speedy service for travellers. The airport is about 6 kilometers south of the center of town (about 10 minutes by taxi, the ride costing Sk250 or €6.50). Regular flights several times a day to and from Prague, Bratislava, Vienna and Poprad - Tatry, served by Czech Airlines, Sky Europe Airlines and Austrian Airlines.
Tel: (055) 683-2123
www.airportkosice.sk

Train

The train is the most comfortable way of travelling in Slovakia, and all Intercity (IC) and Eurocity (EC) trains in the country start and finish in Košice. The train station is about a 5-minute walk from the Old Town. Regular international connections to Prague, Budapest, and Krakow.

For information on timetables and railway connections you can use the website of Slovak Rail (www.zsr.sk), which is also available in English.

Bus

The bus station is right next to the railway station. For short distances it’s better to use the bus than the train, as it runs more often to the surrounding villages. Direct long-distance buses serve Bratislava and Prague, as well as various European cities such as London, Munich, Prague, Copenhagen, and Brussels (www.eurolines.sk).

Car

The D1 freeway from Bratislava, which is planned to go through Žilina and Poprad to Košice, is still being built. At the moment, the journey takes about 5 hours on both the northern and the southern routes, if you drive like a demon and don’t stop. Thanks to the growing network of freeways in Hungary, the connection from Budapest is much easier these days, and takes about 3 hours. Many Košice residents now travel to Bratislava via Budapest, which requires a knowledge of how to get across downtown Budapest, as the ring road takes too long.

Taxi

Taxis are available everywhere in the downtown core, such as outside Hotel Slovan, at the Dominikan Square, and at the Peace Marathon Square. However, it’s always cheaper if you call ahead rather than pick one up off the street:
CTC Taxi, Tel: (055) 16-666
VIP Taxi, Tel: (055) 729-5444,
729-5445, 729-5446
Rádio Taxi, Tel: (055) 16-333

Excursions

The services that Košice offers tourists have improved greatly in recent years, and the Town Information Center in the Dargov shopping mall now organizes regular sightseeing tours for foreigners as well as for Košice citizens. Guides are professional, and tours are available in English, Russian, Spanish and French. You can also choose from among various sightseeing themes in accordance with what you are most interested in being exposed to.
Guided tours:
www.kosice.info/guide
www.milankolcun.net
Tel: (0905) 550-656
Tel: (055) 16-186

Day trips

Kavečany Zoo

The Košice Zoo in Kavečany is the largest in Central Europe. More than 100 species of animals can be seen. The most popular attractions are the bear brothers born in 2002, whose growth has been followed by the media. Outside the zoo are other attractions including a ski site in winter and a bobsleigh run in summer. www.kosice.sk/zoo/index.htm
Tel: (055) 633-8103
Open:
Summer (April 1 to October 31), daily 09:00 to 19:00
Winter (November 1 to March 31)
daily 09:00 to 15:00

Čermeľ Valley

The Čermeľ Valley is a popular place for relaxation, featuring the largest woodland park in the Košice surroundings. The children’s railway is an attraction that takes kids and adults up the valley to the Alpinka leisure area. Many walking and hiking routes to Bankov and further to the Jahodná ski and leisure park start here.
www.kosice.sk/detskazeleznica/index.html

Hradová Watchtower

The Hradová Hill to the north with its watchtower can be seen clearly from the city. A short walk will bring you to the ruins of the former fortress. No wonder it was built on this spot - from the tower the whole Košická kotlina (valley) can be seen. More precise information with pictures of what you are looking at in every direction can be found on the top floor of the the watchtower.

Opal mine

For more adventurous visitors, there is an exceptional place about 30 kilometers from Košice in the Slánske Hills between the villages of Červenica and Zlatá baňa - a unique opal mine. Harlekyn, the world’s largest opal, was found here at the end of the 18th century. Even Queen Elizabeth II wears a Slovak opal in her crown. Visitors who suffer from claustrophobia or are afraid of bats will not enjoy this excursion. There are about 22 kilometers of mine corridors, while the public tour penetrates about 1 kilometer into the shaft. You can see old digs and exploration sites, and, the mine administration claims, even small chips of opal.
Tel: (0905) 539-103, 539-101

Key areas

Hlavná Ul. (Main St.)

    
 
 Photo Ján Svrček

As the name says, this is the main street in Košice. Most of the city's monuments and shops are concentrated here, while all city feasts and markets, such as the Christmas market, take place on Hlavná as well. Start your walk on Námestie osloboditeľov square and finish up on the Peace Marathon Square - at any time of year, you will enjoy this bright and busy street. In the last decade it was completely rebuilt, although some of the historical elements were preserved, such as the rails of the tram route that no longer exists, or the stream. In the winter the street is illuminated, giving it a very romantic atmosphere, while in the summer the city center turns into a modern tourist strip with bars and patios open until late at night.

Favourite meeting points include the Singing Fountain and the Aida sweets shop (see also things to do section, below).

Bankov

Bankov Hill and recreation area lies to the northwest of Košice and is the city’s favorite playground. It is frequented by bikers, hikers, and people walking dogs. It’s a perfect place for impromptu barbecue parties, and offers several pubs, a mini golf center, a stream and the classy Hotel Bankov with its restaurant.

Anička

This is the biggest city park with a swimming pool open in the summer, boat rentals, a merry-go-round and horse rides for children, and mini golf for the adults. Next to the Hornád River on the northern outskirts of town.

Popradská

A complex of streets named after various Slovak towns, also known as Košice’s “Beverly Hills”. The suburb features fancy houses of all colours and shapes owned by the cream of Košice society, many enclosed by high stone walls. To the west of the downtown core, before you reach the KVP neighbourhood.

Luník 9

It is one of those urban ironies that right beside the wealthiest part of the city stands the poorest - the infamous Luník 9 housing estate, 90% of which is inhabited by members of the Roma minority.

Shopping

Košice residents, like their counterparts in other Slovak cities, favor the new malls for shopping. Most of these facilities lie on the main roads on the outskirts of the town, but some new shopping centers have also grown up in the city’s housing estates.

The biggest shopping mall, Optima, lies to the west on the road towards Rožňava, offering more than 70 shops and restaurants, a supermarket and a drive-in movie theater, which unfortunately is on the fritz. Given that many families from the Košice surroundings visit the Optima as a form of weekend trip, it is advisable to visit the mall during the week. The shops are open daily from 09:00 to 22:00, and offer every kind of shopping including brand names such as Pietro Filipi or Saxoo London. The Panorama Cafe on the second floor offers a nice view of the surrounding fields and the Pereš suburb.

The Cassovia shopping mall situated on the outskirts of the Železníky housing estate to the south of the city center, and the Galeria mall in the middle of the Terasa housing estate are smaller than Optima, but more comfortable for quick shopping in the middle of the day. The Cassovia mall also has a decent restaurant, Michelangelo, with fantastic pasta meals and huge pizzas.

Visitors should also visit Košice’s flea market, situated opposite the Cassovia shopping center. The stalls are full of cheap Asian imports including clothes, shoes and all kinds of trinkets. Keep your bags close to your body and don’t visit if it’s raining, as the market is on a dirt (mud) surface rather than asphalt.

Things to do

    the Janko Borodič Theater beside the Singing Fountain.
 the Janko Borodič Theater beside the Singing Fountain.
 Photo Ján Svrček

A friend from Dublin, when she first saw pictures of Košice, exclaimed: “I thought it was more like a village, but this looks like a smaller version of Prague!” The center of Košice does indeed have a big city atmosphere with many imposing monuments, such as the St Elizabeth Cathedral or the Singing Fountain in the park just to the north. Hlavná ulica (Main Street) will not take you longer than 30 minutes to walk, but will take you past some of the most beautiful spots in Košice.

Cathedral complex: A Gothic masterpiece, the St Elizabeth Cathedral, built in the 14th century, is the city’s most recognizable landmark. From the west tower, which is open to the public, you get a marvellous view of the whole of Košice. Next to it stands the newly reopened (after many years of reconstruction) St Michael’s Chapel, the city’s second-oldest building, and the St Urbain Tower, a medieval bell-tower from the 14th century containing the fire-damaged Bell of St Urban (it is said that the shadow of the former bell ringer can be seen in the windows).

The Singing Fountain is one of the favorite features of the downtown core. In the 1990s, former Mayor Rudolf Schuster invited Russian engineers to build a copy of a fountain from Russia. The water in the fountain moves in keeping with the rhythm of the songs that are played over a PA system, while at night colorful lights join the performance. When the nearby bells start to ring, the water moves according to their melody as well. Waiters at the nearby patios are the only ones who are not so enthusiastic about the Singing Fountain, as any of us would be if we had to listen to the same Beatles or Celine Dion CD all day long, and every day of the week.

Košice is very proud of its State Theater (Štátne divadlo), which fronts the Singing Fountain park and offers high quality ballet and drama performances in the Opera house. The repertoire includes modern plays from living authors as well as classical drama, which has a very strong reputation here. The Baroque State Theater building is one of the town’s main features, and was built by an Austro-Hungarian firm in 1899 (for more go to www.sdke.sk).

As a multicultural city, Košice also offers performances in Hungarian at the Thalia Theater, and remarkable Roma plays at Romathan, the only professional Roma theater in the city (see www.romathan.sk).

Movie theaters in Košice offer all the biggest hits of the season, but for some reason attendance has been falling in past years. The only performances that are regularly sold out or at least full are those at the city’s alternative cinema clubs - visit the Gallery on Lower Main Street near Vratná ulica, or the Cinefil on Dominikánske Square, a few meters to the west.

Walking down the Main Street you will pass several classical galleries. Modern art by young artists can be found at the Löffler Gallery on Alžbetina Street, while in the Rotunda on Zbojničná Street you can also find exhibitions of the work of the patients of the Košice Psychiatric Clinic.

Museums in Košice offer rich and historically valuable exhibits, but in a very lackluster way. The only museum really worth mentioning is the Wax Museum in the Urban tower, where you can see 23 personalities from Slovak history, including Andy Warhol, František Rákoczi II, Ján Bocatius (who very much resembles former Mayor and President Rudolf Schuster), and many kings and queens. The only bone we have to pick with the Wax Museum is the price of admission - Sk120 (open Tues-Sun 10:00 to 18:00).

Cultural life in Košice has improved a great deal in recent years. Along with traditional institutions you can also find smaller clubs and alternative theaters such as the Little Madrid Theatre, or larger centers such as the newly opened IC Culture Train in the Opátske part of Košice (see www.icct.sk).

A detailed daily culture program for the city and the region of Košice can be found on the web page of the town’s Information Center, www.mickosice.sk).

Internet cafes

There are many well-marked Internet cafes in the center and the nearby streets. Many charge low prices and have pleasant and helpful staff.

In the center

Internet Café 115, Hlavná 115
Net Club, Hlavná 9
XP Internet Club, Hlavná 5
Internet Reading Room, Hlavná 48

Near the center

Valve CyberCafe, Rázusova 1
Teledom, Timonova 27

Gifts to buy

In order to be sure that you are buying souvenirs that are really from Košice region, rely on the help of the Information Center (open Mon-Fri 08:00 to 19:00, Sat 08:00 to 13:00, Dargov, Štúrova 1, Tel: (055) 16-186). The center has a small but cute selection of typically Slovak gifts, such as straw dolls, wooden toys and ceramics. If you don’t want a traditional gift but still want something very original, visit a few crafts shops with handmade products on the “Street of Crafts”, as Hrnčiarska Street is known (it runs parallel to Hlavná and can be found behind the Mikluš Prison). There you will find bakers, blacksmiths, woodcarvers, basketmakers and others.

There is also a new shop with amateur paintings and handmade jewellery on Poštová Street, and a very colorful and friendly shop selling handmade glass products by young Košice artists called “Slides for Joy” on Mäsiarska Street.

Hotels, Restaurants and Amusements

Košice’s accomodation services have improved a great deal in the past few years. The selection ranges from standard accomodation in smaller pensions in the downtown core, to hotels that used to be famous but are now only a shadow of their former selves, and modern two-, three- and four-star hotels with high standards.

Price Guide (for double room, per night)
A: Over €100
B: €50-€100
C: Under €50

Contemporary

Teledom*** B
Timonova 27
Tel: (055) 237-4401, 237-4410
www.hotel.teledom.sk
17 rooms, 6 suites, restaurant, wine cellar, congress hall, business center

A newly-opened three-star hotel close to the center. For a reasonable price you get a standard room, a decent meal in the restaurant, and a handsome selection of wine in the wine cellar. The Teledom is situated in an educational complex, and therefore can be a useful site for business meetings as well. The Educational Center is equipped with the latest information technology.

Hotel Centrum*** C
Južná trieda 2
Tel: (055) 678-3101, -2, 678-2257, -8
www.hotel-centrum.sk
96 beds, restaurant, café, business center, gym, Internet in rooms

Many foreign visitors use the services of this three-star hotel during conferences or expositions held in the nearby Congress Center near the downtown core. The Centrum has kept its low prices even following a reconstruction of the rooms, which now provide an Internet connection. The hotel also now offers a small gym as well as half-day trips to the famous Tokaj wine region, which is about 60 kilometers from Košice. The restaurant offers traditional Slovak cuisine as well as a classic international menu.

Good Value

Akadémia** C
Južná trieda 10
Tel: (055) 726-0700 www.hotelakademia.sk
46 rooms, 7 suites, restaurant, meeting rooms, sauna

This is a good choice for those on a tight budget. Clean and easy to reach near the downtown core, the two-star Akadémia offers a sauna and meeting rooms. The guest rooms are fitted out more modestly, with TV, radio, separate bathroom, phone and Internet connection. Those on a really tight budget can book into a unit that contains two double rooms with shared facilities for an even lower price in the student dormitory. The restaurant employs students from the nearby Hotel Academy, a secondary tourism industry trade school, who are gaining experience in hotel work and catering.

Classic

Golden Royal**** B
Vodná 8
Tel: (055) 720-1011
www.goldenroyal.sk
17 rooms, 7 suites, restaurant, congress center, business center, Internet

An elegant pension in a historical building in the Old Town with a gorgeous interior. The Golden Royal offers everything you expect from four-star accommodation. Comfortable suites and rooms are equipped with telephone, refrigerator, cable TV, Internet and minibar. The hotel restaurant has won many awards in specialized magazines and competitions. The interior presents a nice surprise upon entering this seemingly small building - a large winter patio resembling a botanical gardens with its many flowers. The hotel also provides a congress hall with AV presentation facilities, a dataprojector, video recorder, DVD and other technical support.

Hotel Bristol**** B
Orlia 3
Tel: (055) 729-0077, -78
www.hotelbristol.sk
AC, Internet, pool

One of the more luxurious hotels in Košice built in a modern architectural style very close to the center. The stylish air-conditioned rooms are equipped with everything you’d expect from a high standard hotel. Besides single and double rooms, a Junior Suite is available for business travellers or families. For those whose work has taken a toll, the hotel offers a refreshing Roman spa with relaxation options including a Finnish sauna, a steam bath, a Jacuzzi, a pool, massages and a chill-out zone.

Business

Slovan**** B
Hlavná 1
Tel: (055) 622-7378, -80
www.hotelslovan.sk
171 rooms, 12 suites, bar, restaurant, congress center, business center, Internet

Ideally situated in the center of the city at the foot of Main Street, the Slovan is a popular place for business meetings. Its café is always full of regular guests from the Košice artistic community, the media, the business sector and ladies out for a good time on the town. The formal hall on the first floor is often rented out for balls and weddings, and was the site of a preliminary round of the SuperStar talent search, similar to the American Idol competition. The hotel caters mainly to business travellers, and the rather socialist-looking exterior conceals a modern layout and rooms suiting a four-star hotel. Services include a beauty parlor, a souvenir shop, a night bar and a casino open until 04:00 for those without an early meeting.

Bankov**** B
Dolný Bankov, near Košice
Tel: (055) 632-4522
www.hotelbankov.sk
17 rooms, 2 suites, restaurant, café, bar
meeting room, pool, business center, gym, Internet

The Romanesque Bankov Hotel stands about four kilometers from downtown Košice in the quiet surroundings of the Košice Forest Park. It is perfect for both nature lovers and business travellers wanting to leave the city behind. Transfers available to and from Košice Airport to the south of the city. Hotel Bankov has an indoor heated pool, sauna, excercise equipment and massage facilities. Bike rentals are also possible - Bankov Hill is a favorite place for bikers, and the forest is full of marked bike routes, some leading to the Jahodná recreation park about 15 kilometers away. The hotel offers special packages for couples that want to get away for a romantic weekend for two, including a candlelit dinner.

Dining

It’s still difficult to find a restaurant in Košice where you can get a decent meal after 21:00, but some restaurants modify their hours of business according to the season. Some also serve meals on patios lining Hlavná ulica.

Price Guide (meal for two,
including main course, desert, wine and tip)
A: Over €30
B: €20-€30
C: Under €20

Ajvega restaurant C
Orlia 10
Old Town
Tel: (055) 622-0452
www.ajvega.hostinec.sk

The Ajvega Mexican/vegetarian restaurant offers a brilliant selection of vegetarian meals cooked from eco-vegetables according to the owner’s original recipies. Five meat dishes from the grill are also on offer, along with freshly squeezed juices.

Góvinda C
Puškinova 8
Old Town
Tel: (055) 620-0128
www.govinda.sk

A stylish interior with pictures and statues from India, and meals served on stainless steel dishes. The vegetarian menu is prepared according to spicy Indian recipies and from vegetables grown on the eco-farm of the Krishna community. Every day you can choose from five to six meals. Try the homemade sweets, consisting of condensed milk, fruit, nuts, honey, and light cocoa - marvellous.

Keltská krčma B
Hlavná 80
Old Town
Tel: (055) 622-5328

The Celtic Pub, serving steaks and international cuisine, is situated on the first floor of a burgher’s house on Main Street, advertised by a small sign hanging out front. This place is among the best-known in the city thanks to its lively atmosphere, tasty meals, and attractive interior furnished with candles and large wooden tables and chairs. The restaurant specializes in steak, offering only five vegetarian meals and one fish dish. The kitchen is super-fast, the staff are efficient and polite, and the meals are brilliant. During the summer it is possible to grill your own meal on the terrace.

Mandarin A
Hlavná 47
Old Town
Tel: (055) 625-0407

This fancy Chinese restaurant offers all the traditional meals, including various kinds of duck, seafood, poultry and other meat. The interior is bright, with comfortable chairs and a good view of Hlavná.

Stodola B
Dopravná 6
Outside the city centre
Tel: (055) 625-9340

The Stodola is situated on the second floor of a Mercedes dealership. The cute interior is kitted out in “Slovak country” style, featuring wooden benches with cushions, and two stuffed cows. The Slovak dishes on the menu have curious names like “Elephant Ears” or “Gypsy on the Grill”, but are nevertheless very tasty and are served on stylish wooden and ceramic dishes.

Caravella B
Orlia 4
Old Town
Tel: (0905) 344-961, (055) 623-0378
www.caravella.hostinec.sk

This Hungarian restaurant was closed in 2004 but is again open following an interior reconstruction. The menu has also seen some changes, and today specializes in various kinds of seafood cooked in the Hungarian tradition. You will also find an unusually large choice of Hungarian wines.

Rokoko A
Gorkého 9
Close to the center
Tel: (055) 799-9055
www.rokoko.sk

The stylish Rokoko offers high-standard international cuisine near the downtown core with its own parking, a stylish interior, a summer patio and a playground for kids. It offers regular Days of Czech Cuisine and a wide selection of poultry dishes. Sushi lovers will enjoy the separate menu featuring their favorite sushi. The restaurant offers a large children’s menu.

Golem C
Dominikánske námestie 15
Old Town
Tel: (055) 728-9102
www.golem.hostinec.sk

The Golem is a pub that reminds you of Prague with its delicious home-brewed Golem beer and quick service. There is a big choice of starters and finger food to go with the beer, including toast and the marvellous pickled Hermelin cheese. The selection of salads, pasta and meat meals includes an enormous pork knee served on a stylish plate with the cutlery stuck in the meat. Despite the size of the meal, the plate is usually taken away empty.

Bars & clubs

Radical Club
Námestie Osloboditeľov 22
Old Town
Tel: (055) 728-7634
www.radical.sk

A music club with live concerts and dance parties on Fridays and Saturdays. New stars of the Slovak pop scene, such as Samo Tomeček and Kontrafakt, have begun to play live there over the last few months.

Exit Club
Mäsiarska 8
Old Town
www.exitclub.sk

Košice’s favorite disco and dance club features various live concerts and parties on the weekends. Many DJs from other towns are invited to play here, giving the place a different atmosphere every week. Wild but friendly.

Jazz Club
Kováčska 30
Old Town
Tel: (055) 622-4237
www.jazzclub-ke.sk

Good club if you’re in the mood for live concerts (not just guitar-driven rock but also jazz and swing). The Jazz also has a long tradition of discos, and is one of the most popular places to spend a night on the town in Košice, despite its small size and the fact that in the winter garden it’s not possible to hear what’s happening inside.

IC - Culture Train
Contemporary Arts Center
Nižná úvrať 25
Vyšné Opátske
Outside the city centre
www.icct.sk

Newly opened cultural center about five minutes by taxi from downtown. The rich program includes music, theater, literature, dance, film, workshops, parties, and discos. Check their program on the web to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Live Club
Kasárenské square 1
Close to the centre
Tel: (055) 623-1219

A loud disco also offering concerts. The clientele is young, but this is still a place where people end up when everything else is closed. On the weekends it is open until 04:00, and can be a late-night pick-me-up.

Entertainment

State Philharmonic Orchestra
Dom Umenia, Moyzesova 66
Tel: (055) 622-0763
www.sfk.sk

Apart from Košice’s cinemas and State Theater, which have both already been mentioned, this is another cultural institution that should definitely not be missed. Well attended and top quality performances are held here during the week. The hall is in the former Jewish synagogue, which has great acoustics.

Golf Hrabina

Bukovec, Hotel Hrabina
Tel: (055) 685-3152, 685-3513
1 hour of instruction costs Sk150

This golf club is ideal if you have a day off, and lies beside by the small Bukovec Lake in beautiful natural surroundings. The course contains six holes.

Bowling alley

Popradská 84
KVP housing estate
Tel: (055) 642-0316

If you fancy going bowling you are better off booking a lane in advance. This bowling alley is located in a shopping mall in the KVP suburb about 15 minutes from downtown by car or taxi. A friendly place where you can mix beer and skittles for a fun evening.

Squash

Centrum Grunt
Trieda KVP 1
KVP housing estate
Tel: (055) 645-2741

This sports center offers various activities including a gym and an aerobics room. Great atmosphere, helpful staff and trainers.

Paintball

Červený breh or Bankov
Tel: (0907) 951-896
www.paintball.ke.szm.sk

Many firms now use paintball as a form of recreation for their employees. After all, it’s the only occasion when you can legally shoot your boss. For some this game is too aggressive, but when it’s played with intelligent people, it can be a blast.

Horseriding

Kavečianska cesta 41
Kavečany suburb
Tel: (055) 799-4031
www.pegascassovia.sk

Horse lovers will enjoy the opportunity to take tours on horseback offered by a civic organization in the Kavečany suburb, about 20 minutes from the downtown core by car or taxi.

Bobsled

Kavečany Zoo
Kavečany suburb
Tel: (055) 633-4901
www.cassovia.sk/bobodraha

Once you try it, you’ll keep coming back for more! The owners made a wise decision in offering multiple tickets for adults and kids. The track is 800 meters long and includes three tunnels and nine curves. It is only open in the summer, so don’t miss it on a sunny day! At other times the Kavečany Zoo is a worth a visit in its own right.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2006, which you can obtain from our online shop.

Make your comment to the article... (1 reaction already made)