St. Elisabeth's Cathedral in Kosice, Slovakia

day trip from budapest: košice, slovakia

(Last Updated On: March 30, 2021)

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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.

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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.

Street in Kosice, Slovakia lined with cars with the sun going down and reflecting light on the buildings.  There is a purple hue to the sky and yellow-golden shadows on the rooftops of the buildings.  Both the street and the sidewalks are made of cobblestone.  It is winter and on the few trees lining the street, there are no leaves.

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.

interesting places

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.

Front façade of the State Theatre in Kosice, Slovakia.  The building is ornate with columns and detailed carvings.  There are four stories and on either side of the front door is the schedule for the opera/ballet.  There are street lamps flanking the front door.  The reflection in the windows of the building are blue-ish purple.  The sky is bright blue with very few wispy clouds.
State Theatre

singing fountain

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.

The Singing Fountain in Kosice, Slovakia - not operating.  It is winter and the fountain is covered with snow, puddles, and leaves.  Light is flooding in through the trees.  St. Elisabeth Cathedral is in the background.
The Singing Fountain – Not too impressive when it’s not operating, hah!

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.

Exterior of the Slovak Technical Museum.  The building is a coral-orange color with the Slovak and the European Union flags hanging above the sign.  The sign is written in Slovak and reads 'Slovenske Technicke Muzeum"  There is a small shrub next to a sign on the outside of the building, the text is not legible in the photo.

plague column

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!

The plague column in Kosice Slovakia.  The column (statue) is in an enclosed area on the street medium, which is very wide.  Both the streets and the median are made of cobblestone.  The roofs of the Slovak buildings are colorful - blue, red, purple, lilac.  There is a man walking in the foreground carrying a bright blue bag, heading to the left of the photo.  There are a few trees near the column that have no leaves.

med malina

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?

Interior of a restaurant (Med Malina) in Kosice, Slovakia.  There are wmall wooden tabls and chairs, with decorations in shades of red, orange and cream colors.  Each table has a vase with a single rose in it, and is pre-set with a placemat, silverware, and an empty water glass.  There is a beamed ceiling with hanging lights.  There are no diners in the restaurant at this time.  The dividers between sections are made of panels of lace, but do not reach all the way up to the ceiling.

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!

Table displaying a number of different medals that the Eastern Slovak and Czech armies had over the rise and fall of the republic.

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.

Vault to the Kosice golden treasure in Eastern Slovakia.  The walls are a pale teal color with black images of houses, people working in fields, riding horses, and building houses.  There are steps going further beneath the ground that you can see inside the doorway of the vault.  The vault door is open.
Underground vault holding the Košice Golden Treasure

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.

Exterior of St. Elisabeth's Cathedral in Kosice, Slovakia with birds flying overhead and no clouds in the sky.  The building is extremely ornate with detailed spires and carvings everywhere.  The outside of the windows are adorned with iron carvings.  There is a small shrub in the foreground.  The roof of the cathedral is a reddish color with detailed tile work.

halmi place

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.

jakab’s palace

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!

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