Košice: the winter wonderland of eastern Slovakia – Kiwi.com

With a Christmas market, skiing and other winter sports, fairytale castles, and cheap flights, the largest city in eastern Slovakia is the perfect place for a winter vacation with a little bit of everything.

Imagine a place with a classic Central European feel, easy access to stunning scenery, a relaxed atmosphere, quality skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports venues, and yet not overrun by tourists. That is Kosice.

History and culture

The Košice Singing Fountain illuminated at night, with St. Elizabeth's Cathedral in the background — Getty ImagesThe Singing Fountain and St. Elisabeth Cathedral are the two most prominent sights in Košice — Getty Images

Košice was the European Capital of Culture in 2013, and has been going from strength to strength ever since. It combines its impressive collection of monuments and buildings (big swathes of medieval, gothic, baroque and more) with a laid-back, forward-thinking culture of small cafes, bars, new pop-up restaurants and independent businesses, all happy to see you as you duck out of the sun. cold.

The old town is located around Hlavná, a long and wide boulevard where you can see many of Košice’s treasures. At the southern end, you’ll find the archaeological museum and the majestic St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, the largest in Slovakia, spectacularly adorned with altars, frescoes, bronzes, sculptures, and a mighty organ. Leaving the cathedral head past the Singing Fountain (it lights up at night and plays delicate melodies on 22 bells at different times) to the enormously lavish State Theatre, a magnificent sight under its atmospheric spotlights.

Christmas presents

Two women eating snacks at a Christmas market — Getty ImagesThe Košice Christmas market is sure to get you into the festive spirit, and the crowds are a fraction of the size of the largest cities in Central Europe. – Fake images

Visit in December, and Hlavná is also where you’ll find the Christmas market. Browse dozens of stalls selling traditional Christmas decorations, crafts and seasonal spiced treats like mead, mulled wine and dainty cakes. Entertainment comes in the form of folk groups, local bands, choirs and theater companies, as well as children’s activities.

After the market, one of the most rewarding things you can do is just explore the winding streets of the old town and see what you can see. Look up to see marvelous facades on grand houses, or dive into cozy cafes for a hot drink or piece of cake. If you don’t mind the cold, there are also a number of guided tours you can take, tackling things like Ko’s medieval history.šice, the history and legacy of košice’s Jewish population, or what the city calls “local nomad tours”: a couple of hours with young local volunteers, looking at everything from street art to the impact of communism, local characters and quirky stories.

Out of the city

The countryside around the city is beautiful, with mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, and in winter it provides the kind of scenery that only needs a phalanx of medieval knights on horseback heading for his castle to finish him off.

Ladder leading out of a canyon in the Slovak Paradise National Park — Getty Images Explore the rugged but beautiful Slovak paradise — Getty Images

northwest of the koThe šice region is the Slovakian paradise (Slovenský raj) National Park, one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Central Europe. Hike, climb and explore the peaks and valleys with the help of walkways and ladders to reach the best views of the surrounding landscape. You’ll need sturdy winter clothing, and some of the climbs are not for the faint-hearted, but you will be rewarded with postcard-perfect snow-covered scenery. It’s not called Slovak Paradise for nothing!

About an hour away from košice, also to the northwest, Spišský hrad are the ruins of what was once a mighty castle dating back to the 12th century. Perched on top of a spectacular hill, it dominates the countryside for miles around. Previously home to one of the richest and most powerful families in the region, it went through stages of fortification and gentrification, eventually falling into disrepair. That being said, however, it remains one of the most famous sights in Slovakia and evokes fascination and romance in anyone who visits.

family favorites

košice is a great place to come if you have children; the town itself is small enough to be walkable and friendly, and there is plenty to do around it.

Balloons for children at the Košice Christmas market — Košice AirportThe Christmas market will keep the whole family entertained, but if you go further afield, you will find other activities for children: Košice Airport

As mentioned above, the Christmas market is the obvious place to start. Its lights, music and delicious delicacies, as well as the spectacular tree, make it magical for the whole family.

Head back to Slovak Paradise, if you can’t handle the brisk climbs up the mountains stay down and explore the impressive Hornád Gorge. In winter, this section of the river freezes over and becomes the longest ice rink in the country. We doubt you’ll explore the 12 kilometers, but for a wonderful day out of the city that’s sure to tire everyone out, it doesn’t get much better.

If it’s wildlife you want, you can see a lot up close košice. The city’s zoo is the largest in Central Europe, with over 150 species of animals, and has special events throughout the year, including Christmas. Some of the animals won’t be on view in the winter (hibernating bears, for example), but there’s still plenty to see.

How about looking (far away) into the past? Košice DinoPark is located in a beautiful valley, where dozens of animatronic dinosaurs lie in wait, from a herd of peacefully grazing stegosaurs, to a T-rex lurking and waiting to pounce on its unsuspecting prey…! There’s a 3D cinema showing dinosaur stuff, plenty of playgrounds, as well as a museum displaying skeletal fragments and other prehistoric artifacts.

Ski, snowboard and more

Snowboarder on the snowy hills of Slovakia — Getty ImagesMake the most of all that snow — Getty Images

In the region immediately surrounding the city, there are more than 30 kilometers of ski slopes served by 52 lifts. Only Skipark Erika — Kojsovska Hola offers more than 5 kilometers of trails and runs, with its highest point at more than 1,200 meters.

For fans of cross-country skiing, there are loops and trails ranging from just over a kilometer to many more trial runs of up to 22 kilometres. Beautiful trails wind through the forest and along ridges, meaning there’s plenty to see when you stop to catch your breath in the cool, crisp air.

If you’re looking for something a little more grunt, the Rejdová ski area offers snowmobile tours through the Ore Mountains. The routes are of different lengths, the longest being 65 kilometers. You can even head out after the sun goes down, to do a bit of roaming in the dark with just your headlights to guide you!

Come to Kosice!

With flights to koFrom London, Düsseldorf, Vienna, Warsaw, Prague and more, as well as regular train and bus connections both locally and internationally, it really is an easy place to come for something a little different.

It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for in a winter vacation: relaxation, adventure, city life, family entertainment, sports, or anything in between. košice really is something unexpected.

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