So we started this series featuring our favorite Hungarian cities… beyond Budapest. Because Budapest, our capital is quite a well-known city but a lot of people visiting Hungary ask about what else is there in the country that is worth seeing. Now we hope that we can give you some ideas. Though we haven’t written further pieces after the first post about Szeged since last August but here comes a new year with new hopes. 😀 We still have 6 amazing cities to show you and we will do so. So welcome to Pécs!
An ancient city with rich history
Pécs is located in the southern part of Hungary close to the Croatian border. At the place where Pécs is today a Roman city Sopianae stood in the second century. Later it became a significant early Christian center and the center of culture and art in Hungary in the Middle Ages. Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs with its underground burial chambers and memorial chapels is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hungary’s first university was founded in Pécs in 1367. It also has a rich heritage from the age of the Ottoman occupation. Actually, no other Hungarian city is that rich in Turkish architecture as Pécs.
Charming city center
Pécs was selected to be the European Capital of Culture in 2010 and a major renewal of the city center has followed this event. Which means nicely renovated houses from the Middle Ages, Baroque, Classicism, Rococo and Art Nouveau. And this is what makes it a place which has stolen our heart easily.
While it’s interesting to read about the long and rich history of Pécs, the thing we loved the most is just hanging out in its charming city center. Széchenyi Square is the main square enclosed by beautiful buildings such as the Mosque of Pasha Gazi Kasim or the Town Hall. (Uhm… Is the name of this square familiar? Well, there’s probably a Széchenyi Square in every Hungarian city and István Széchenyi is said to be “The Greatest Hungarian” – read about him here if interested.)
There’s not only one walking street in the center rather the heart of the city is a walking zone itself. Király Street is the main walking street, but all the surrounding small streets have some nice surprises: beautiful buildings like the majestic Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul or the National Theatre of Pécs, a lovely marzipan museum and café (at Apáca Street 1). And hey, there’s Hungary’s most popular place for lovelocks, too, if that’s your thing.
The Mosque of Pasha Gazi Kasim was originally a Gothic church but it was turned into a mosque after the Ottoman occupation and it has all the typical Ottoman architectural elements. Today it operates as a Catholic church but the combination of Muslim crescent moon and Christian cross on its dome symbolizes very well what a unique mix this church is.
Jakovali Hassan Mosque is the only Turkish age mosque in Hungary that has remained intact together with its minaret. Its interior are entirely in line with religious doctrines even today and it is used by the Muslims living in Pécs.
Museums for the lover of arts
We usually prefer science or natural history museums to art museums and most of the times we skip even the most famous art museums of the world (like Louvre… just to mention one). They are not our thing. We have respect but no love. But there’s two smaller art museums in Pécs that I actually enjoyed very much.
Csontváry Museum is a permanent exhibition of the most significant artworks of Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka, one of the first Hungarian painters who has became known in Europe. He is a painter from the early twentieth century and I especially liked his large landscape paintings.
Vasarely Museum is a representative of a completely different style: the so-called Op-Art (optical art). Victor Vasarely, a Hungarian–French artist often mentioned as the father of Op-Art was born in Pécs. He donated a series of graphics, hundreds of silkscreens, tapestries, sculptures and serigraphs to the museum of Pécs which is on display in Vasarely Museum today. The playfulness of these artworks and the optical illusions are so much fun!
Have you heard about Zsolnay Porcelain?
Zsolnay Porcelain Manufacture was established in Pécs and their unique handmade products are world famous. Their ceramics were widely used by many famous Hungarian Secession architects such as Ödön Lechner, Miklós Ybl or Imre Steindl. It can be seen as decoration in buildings such as Matthias Church (Budapest), the Hungarian Parliament (Budapest), Museum of Applied Art (Budapest), Gellért Baths (Budapest), Kecskemét Town Hall, Szeged Town Hall or Subotica Town Hall (in Serbia).
Our favorite museum in Pécs is by far the Zsolnay Museum established in the Zsolnay family’s former home (Káptalan Street 2). There you can get to know more about the family, the history of Zsolnay and unique masterpieces are also on display. We are definitely not experts in porcelain (neither in arts in general) but even we could recognize how unique and beautiful these pieces are!
Pécs is 2 hours drive from Budapest and it’s about 3 hours by train. The city center is small and it’s easy to explore everything on foot. Other places worth exploring near Pécs are the medieval castle of Siklós and Villány Wine Region.
Have you ever been to Hungary? Would you visit Pécs?