Miskolc is the third biggest city in Hungary. Although it’s primary an industrial city, right next to it is a mountainous area with unended forests, the Bükk National Park. But before hurrying to get out of the city, stay a there a little more to get to know it. Miskolc is the perfect example of an off-the-beaten path city that succeeds to surprise its visitors and make them want to return as there are so many things to do and see. It has a pretty center, interesting museum, beautiful churches, a wine quarter and unique thermal baths in a real limestone cave. Another attraction that was more recently included in the city is Diósgyőr Castle, a retreat for queens and kings of Hungary in medieval times.
With so many tourist attractions, things to do and see, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the beautiful and much under-rated city of Miskolc, Hungary. I’ll get to the list of the best things to do in Miskolc in this post, but first of all, let’s see some basic things you should know before heading out to Miskoc for a few days of adventure.
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Where is Miskolc?
Miskolc is located in the north-east of Hungary. Unfortunately, there’s no international airport in Miskolc. If you’re in Romania, it lies at around 200km (3 hours) from Oradea or Satu Mare. One can also get to Miskolc from Budapest by train, bus or car in around two hours. Eger, another wonderful Hungarian town is just an jour away. Miskolc has good connections to all these cities, being easily accessible both from Romania and Hungary.
Where to stay in Miskolc?
Depending on where you’ll spend most of your time, you can choose to stay in Miskolctapolca, Lillafüred and Miskolc. Each area has its hotels, restaurants and things to do. Miskolctapolca and Avalon Park represent a tourist-friendly area, where the thermal cave baths and an adventure park are. Lillafüred is a scenic resort in the Bükk Mountains, in the middle of nature. If you prefer the cityscape or want to be able to enjoy the wine quarter of the city in the evening, Miskolc city center would be the best option for you. We chose to stay in the city center both times we were accommodated in Miskolc and loved it.
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The Miskolc City Pass
As many cities in Europe, Miskolc has its own city pass, which is a bargain for those that want to see as much of the city and attractions as possible. Besides, the pass doesn’t only include the attractions in the city center, but also the ones in Lillafüred and the cave baths. There are 4 options you can choose from, based on the time you want to be able to use it: 24, 48, 72 and 120 hours. During this time, you also get free public transport and discounts at several restaurants, bars and other providers. The savings raise up quickly if you plan to visit more attractions. You can purchase it in advance online.
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Best 15 things to do and see in Miskolc, Hungary
There are a lot of things to do in Miskolc and its surroundings. Let’s explore 10 on the highlights that you shouldn’t miss.
1. The main street in the old town, Széchenyi István útca
Bordered by beautiful old-looking street lamps and stylish pastel buildings, Széchenyi István útca, is the main street in town and it is a pedestrian one. Only the tram is allowed to pass through the middle of it. The sidewalk is large and many cafes have terraces so that people can sit outside and enjoy a nice day. Walking along its main artery, I remembered Kosice in Slovakia, which also has a similar main street and is one of the sister towns of Miskolc. Facing the main street, one will see some of the most impressive buildings in Miskolc: the National Theater, Pannonia Hotel, Miskolc Gallery.
Top tip: in winter the tram is dressed up for the holidays. It has won several prized for its decorations, that make its outside resemble a huge moving gingerbread.
2. Tour the wine bars on Avas Hill
Every summer evening (or at least on weekends), Avas Hill transforms into a gigantic wine bar. Everyone of drinking age in twon seems to climb up the path, buy a glass and hand out from bar to bar with friends. As the entire region is known for great wines, it’s no wonder. But what we really liked was the atmosphere. There’s no sitting or tables, there’s just hundreds of people talking and hanging out. It’s like a summer Christmas market.
There’s even a wine festival, but there’s no date for it, I’d say it’s all summer long, as we’ve been to Miskolc two times, once in June and once in September, and the festival was life both times. However, I’m almost sure this is not the case in winter. The wine is so important to Miskolc, that a bunch of grapes have been depicted on the coat of arms since the 17th century until today.
Join the locals for a glass or two, but make sure to skip the wine bar at the bottom of the hill as it was horrible compared to the others. One year and a half ago, this was the only place that accepted payments by card. The second time we came prepared, but now all the bars seemed to accept also cards. Also, note the sign at the entrance into the graveyard. I don’t remember seeing it at the entrance in any other church. But here it’s indeed needed.
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3. Visit Ottó Herman Múzeum
Named after Ottó Herman, this is actually a Hungarian arts museum gathered from the whole surrounding region. The main hall contains paintings from baroque to Art Nouveau in chronological order. They are signed by great Hungarian painters like Jakab Bogdány, Ádám Mányoki, József Rippl-Rónai, Mihaly Munkacsy or János Nagy Balogh. The museum is closed on Monday.
4. Check out the Pannonian Sea Museum
The museum modernized in 2013 will take you on a trip back into the times of a prehistoric Pannonian Sea. Most of Hungary was submerged under its waters up to two million years ago. The collection educates and entertains its visitors of all ages. For example, one cand learn the story of the fossilized seven million years old cypress trees found south of Miskolc, in Bükkábrány. Fossiles of other animals and plants are also on display.
5. Stop by the Actor Museum
A few steps from the National Theater, you can visit the Actor Museum, one of the most interesting in Miskolc. You’ll enter the magical world of the theater. Part of the collection are various costumes used in beloved plays, bilboards, old documents, pictures and personal objects that belonged to actors. In the multimedia sector one can view some old shows.
6. Enter the Gothic Reformation Church on Avas Hill
The oldest monument in Miskolc is a Reformation Church at the beginning of Avas Hill. It dates back to the 13th century, but initially had a Romanesque architectural style. The late Gothic details were added in the 15th century. Next to it stands an almost as old clock tower. During the Ottoman occupation, the church lost its roof and it was left to the mercy of nature for 20 years, until it was reconstructed. The cemetery surrounding the church is the oldest in Miskolc. Tombstones from the 17th and 18th centuries are a proof of this.
7. Walk around the Wooden Church
I don’t know if you can enter it, as it was closed when we were there. However, I didn’t expect to see such a structure in Hungary. The current church was built in 1999, after the previous one from 1938 burnt down. But this wasn’t the first church there. There was an even older one from the 18th century. As an interesting story, István Bató, a citizen from the 19th century left a large amount of money especially for the church to be rebuilt in case it ever burnt down, which did happen.
8. Check out the Greek Orthodox Church
Built in the 19th century in the Baroque Zopf style by Greek refugees running from the Ottomans in the 17th and 18th century. This Orthodox Church has the largest Iconostasis in Central Europe. It is one of the most iconic buildings in Miskolc and the interior features more than 80 paintings from the Life of Jesus by Jankovich Miklos. In the courtyard of the church, you can visit a museum displaying old wooden icons, documents, liturgical embroideries and fabrics. One of the most precious exhibit is a Black Madona donated by the Russian Empress Ecaterina the Great.
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9. Go to the zoo
King Louis I had his private zoo on this place, next to Diósgyőr since the 14th century. This means that this zoo might the the oldest in Hungary. Some of the animals you can see here are part of the Bükk local fauna, brown bears, oxen, wildcats and deer. Exotic animals, like kangaroos, racoons, monkeys, tigers, panthers or camels can also be seen.
10. Climb up to Miskolc-Avas TV Tower
High on top of Avas Hill stands a sovietic-era structure from the 60s. It has certainly seen better days, but it is still safe to climb up to the first level and enjoy the best views over Miskolc. The walk uphill is not as tiring as you might think at first sight. You have to go on a mild path through the wine bars and then through a park. We were surprised to see how quiet the area is during daylight compared to the evening before.
11. Visit Diósgyőr Castle
Just 8km west of Miskolc, at the foothills of the Bükk Mountains, stands Diósgyőr Castle. It was built in the 12th century and renovated in the 14th century by Louis I of Hungary. Over the next 150 years it was passed to six different queens. Hence it gained the nickname “Castle of queens”. Unfortunately for us, the castle has been under renovation for almost two years now, during our three visits to Miskolc. But this also means it should soon open its gates again to the public. Normally, in May and August, there’s a medieval festival with reenactments of key moments in the history of Hungary.
12. Soak in the warm water of the thermal cave baths in Miskolctapolca
Hungary has thermal baths in almost every town. Some of them were arranged by the Roman or Ottomans. Many of them are worth a few hours, for relaxing or a interesting feature. But out of all these, Barlangfürdő, the cave thermal baths in Miskoltapolca are unique and well-known. Visitors can soak in warm water in a natural cave carved into the foothills of the Bükk Mountains.
Inside, there are 7 pools surrounded by the bare limestone cave walls, tunnels and small waterfalls. The temperature of the water is between 29 and 32°C, which is not as hot as other thermal baths in Hungary, but good enough, taking into consideration the setting. During summer, outside pools are also available, even if not as interesting. For a small extra fee, you can also enjoy the saunas and steam baths. Entrance is free with Miskolc pass. Otherwise it costs around 10 euro.
13. Take the narrow-gauge train to Lillafüred
Only 30 minutes by train, bus or car from the city center, there’s the picturesque town of Lillafüred. This is surrounded by the dense forests of the Bükk Mountains. In the mountain resort, you ca visit the highest waterfall in Hungary, which is just 20m tall and two caves. Another highlight is Hamori Lake, where you can rent a boat and float on its calm waters. From Lillafüred start several hiking trails that can take the most adventurous ones to the highest peaks in Hungary, over 1000m high. For a country associated mostly with unended plains, this might come as a nice surprise.
14. Take part in a festival
In Miskolc one can take part in a festival almost anytime. We didn’t plan it, but every time we were in Miskolc there was at least one festival. First of all, during the warm season there’s a wine festival going on at the wine bars on Avas Hill.
During winter, for one month before Christmas there’s a Christmas market. By chance we were there the last weekend before Christmas, when the last candle is lit and people go around the town with small candles, like on Easter. There were concerts and several stalls selling mulled wine, hot chocolate and marzipan. But the star of the market was the huge crown with four lit candles.
At the end of winter, in February or March, there’s a jelly meat festival, a locals’ beloved dish. During May and August, there’s a medieval festival at the castle. Besides, during many weekends there are smaller festivals, like a books’ one, we ran into.
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15. Taste the delicious Hungarian food
There’s no shortage of delicious food in Hungary and Miskolc is no exception to the rule. Besides jelly meat, which locals love and dedicate a festival to it, you can try goulash, pork cutlets, fisherman’s soup, langosh or cabbage rolls. Whatever your budget or preference, you won’t go hungry in Miskolc!
Reflections on the best things to do in Miskolc, Hungary
As you can see, there are lots of great things to do in Miskolc for everyone. With so many things to do and see, you could easily spend a weekend or even more days in the city. However, if you’re just passing bay, you should still stop and check out Miskolctapolca Cave Baths, the most famous attraction in the city. If you have more time at your disposal, Lillafüred resort is just 30 minutes away, as well as the caved houses in Nosvaj. Another thing we recommend is to combine Miskolc with Eger, another highly under-rated city in Hungary, and spend an entire week in the area. I think it’s safe to say that you won’t get bored.
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