If you’re looking for a unique day trip from Budapest, look no further than Kosice, Slovakia! This charming Eastern Slovak city is ideal if you want to roam unknown streets and soak in foreign culture. Košice is the largest city in Eastern Slovakia and was named the 2013 European Capital of Culture. A day trip from Budapest to Kosice is a unique way to spend a day in Central Europe.
Note: If you’re based in Bratislava, a day trip to Kosice is a bit too far. Check out our related post on the Best Day Trips from Bratislava instead!
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If you’re based in the Slovak capital rather than Budapest, check out these day trips from Bratislava!
Exploring Slovakia for more than a day? Here’s the ultimate Slovakia bucket list to make sure you see it all.
getting to košice
There are two daily trains that travel from Budapest to Kosice. One is at 6:00 and the other is at 18:00. The daily trains returning to Budapest are at the same times. You board a bus down the street from Budapest Keleti, which then takes you to Miskolc. At Miskolc, you get on the train to Košice. The entire journey takes about 3.5 hours. Yes, it’s an ambitious day trip from Budapest to Kosice, but didn’t feel at all rushed to me.
The train was comfy enough that I could fall asleep easily (with my travel neck pillow). You could see the subtle changes in the homes and landscape as the train crossed over the Hungarian-Slovak border. In the background was the silhouette of hills and mountains. Further into Slovakia, you could see the snow-capped High Tatras looming in the distance.
Purchase your ticket at the station. It’s way easier, just go a day or two before you want to leave. If you purchase international train tickets departing from Hungary online, you cannot print them at home! You need to print them at the Hungarian station. Especially if you want to take the morning train to Košice, purchase tickets at the station! This is the easiest way, and you don’t need to worry about anything selling out.
košice state theatre
Košice’s State Theatre was opened in 1899 in a Neo-Baroque building in the historic city centre. The building itself is an important historical monument and landmark for the city of Košice – just look at it, and you can see why.
The interior is elegant and ornate. A Viennese artist, Peregrin von Gastgeb, painted the ceiling with murals of scenes from some of Shakespeare’s best tragedies.
The theatre still houses ballet, drama, and opera.
Sadly, the singing fountain was not functioning when I visited! I came to Košice in February, and the fountain is not operational in the winter.
When it is playing, the fountain ‘sings’ different songs with a combination of 22 bells. It’s located next to the State Theatre, in a small park.
slovak technical museum
This museum displays exhibitions on subjects such as engineering, physics, industry and technology, energy production, and mining, among many others. They also have a planetarium and exhibitions on astronomy and space research.
The museum was closed the day I went, so I wasn’t able to visit. But as a self-proclaimed science geek, it absolutely would have been on my agenda.
This monument commemorates the end of the plague epidemic that overtook Košice from 1709-1710. The column was completed in 1723, partially destroyed during WWII, and has been continuously renovated ever since.
Local legend has it that hidden beneath the monument are relics of St. Valentine. I didn’t know about this before I went but, as luck would have it, I was in Košice on Valentine’s Day!
I cannot express how excited I was to try traditional Slovak food! I did some research before my visit and found this place, Med Malina. The restaurant is small, serving Slovak-Polish cuisine. They focus on slow food, local products, and ancestral recipes.
I was not disappointed. I had potato dumplings with sauerkraut and roasted bacon, which was to-die-for. And it was so cheap! 6,50€ for the food and a local beer for 1,60€.
If you look at the picture below, you’ll see how empty the restaurant was. That was when I’d initially sat down. By the time I’d gotten my food, the restaurant was bustling. Five of the tables were solo females (myself included). I couldn’t get over it! Plus, it was Valentine’s Day. Maybe I’d stumbled on some Slovak tradition?
eastern slovak museum
The Eastern Slovak Museum is in the historic city centre (as are all of the sites listed in this article) of Košice. The museum houses a number of permanent exhibits. It also maintains a great deal of exhibition spaces for transient exhibits related to history, archaeology, fine arts, historical photography, biology and nature, and other related topics.
Much of the museum is dedicated to the back-and-forth nature of territory and the identity politics prevalent in the region. From the establishment of the first Czechoslovak Republic, heavy Hungarian and Ottoman influence, to the independence of Slovakia, visitors can retrace the oftentimes turbulent history of the region. If you only visit one museum on your day trip from Budapest to Kosice, let this be it!
košice golden treasure
Found in the same building as the Eastern Slovak Museum, the Golden Treasure of Košice is the main tourist attraction in the city. Discovered in 1935 during routine construction, the collection is the largest (and richest) finding of golden coins in the country. It is one of the most significant on a European and global scale.
The collection consists of 2920 gold coins, ducats, three gold medals, and a Renaissance gold chain. It was found, intact, in a copper plated box adorned with etched animal motifs. The collection was hidden sometime after 1679, likely from Imrich Thököly, who occupied Košice in 1682 as part of the anti-Habsburg uprisings.
Though it was threatened by the tragic fate of treasures – a non-repayable loss – the entire collection was discovered intact. Since 2013 it has been displayed for the public in an underground safe in the East Slovak Museum in Košice.
st. elisabeth’s cathedral
Welcome to the largest church in Slovakia! St. Elisabeth’s Cathedral can hold over 5,000 people and measures 1,200 sq. meters (13,000 sq. feet)! It is the eastern-most gothic cathedral in Europe, and is referred to in the oldest town records, which date back to 1230.
Halmi Place is a great little café in a historic old building with vintage décor. They are self-labeled ‘multi-genre’ – they host events, concerts, and even have shared work spaces available. All of this in addition to the café, serving up vegetarian and vegan food sourced from Slovak producers.
If, like me, you’re exploring Košice on your own, this is a great place to stop and read, write, or people-watch for a while.
This neo-Gothic palace on the corner of Mlynska Street and Štefanikova Street was the residence of a famous builder. Peter Jakab, who built the State Theatre and the Eastern Slovak Museum, lived in the palace until 1908.
Jakab Palace now belongs to National Cultural Monuments.
košice back to budapest
Initially I had booked an Airbnb in Košice, but wound up returning to Budapest that same evening. It didn’t feel overly rushed or too tiring, and I was glad to not have to get up so early to catch the morning train again.
There are two daily trains from Kosice to Budapest for the return journey, departing at 6:00 and 18:00. Both trains are direct and take approximately 3.5 hours. The train ticket costs about $15-20 USD.
Košice is a vibrant, bustling city with plenty to do for an entertaining day trip (or longer!). A day trip from Budapest to Kosice is perfect, especially if you sleep easily on trains! If you are staying longer than a day or two, look into a day trip to Spis Castle. I’ve heard it’s even more beautiful in person! Think Košice is beautiful? Then check out these photos that will inspire you to visit Slovakia!