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We collected all the attractions that are worth to check out at Kecskemét, which is the centre of Hungary, so it’s easily accessible even from Budapest.
“Famous city of the lowlands is Kecskemét, I was born there, and I eat its bread.” – wrote Sándor Petőfi in one of his poems, even though it’s well known, that the legendary poet was born in Kiskőrös, so in the poem it expresses a passing desire.
Although not everyone can be born in Kecskemét, everyone should visit the city of tolerance at least once.
The town got the tolerance description because there are five churches of different ecclesiastical denominations, which managed to peacefully co-exist even during troubled times.
Even the name of the city is interesting (kecske means goat), it’s unclear for many, why the word goat is in the name of the settlement.
According to one of the legends, during the 13th century, bishop Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of Barátok Church, gifted a goat to everybody who converted to Christianity. Who knows, if the story is true or not, as a legend it’s pretty interesting.
Before getting into the attractions of the city, it’s good to know that Kecskemét is the closest to the country’s geometric centre, Pusztavacs, so it can comfortably visited from anywhere, and from Budapest it’s only 45 minutes away.
Kecskemét, the centre of Hungary
Kecskemét lays at the heart of Hungary, between the rivers Danube and Tisza, south of Budapest. The ancient core of the town was created by the intersection of trade routes.
Kecskemét, using its favourable locations quickly emerged from the surrounding towns as a tax collection and sales point. The town got the city rank in 1368.
Although Kecskemét is not one of the largest cities even in a Hungarian scale, we can still take part in an interplanetary travel, while enjoying the city’s attractions.
This space traveling is thanks to Sándor Pál Lakatos, Munkácsy-prize winning sculptor, who has set up scaled-downs of the planets of our solar system at various points in the city, in the exact order they actually follow each other.
The sun can be found right at the eastern corner of the City Hall at the Lestár square, and with a short walk we can find ourselves at Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
Zoltán Kovács E., astronomer also took part in the planning of the planets. Thanks to the exact size scales, the bronze made Sun is easy to find with its 41,8 cm diameter.
On the other hand, Pluto will not be as simple, as you have to look for a piece of work that’s smaller than a poppy seed.
The creators of this great tourist attraction placed the last planet with style, in front of the city’s Planetarium, so those who got in the mood for some space travelling can continue their route, this time with modern tools.
They can project any starry sky for us here, showing the rotation of the Earth, but the institute can also truly replicate nights from the tens of thousands of years ago.
It’s worth to take the walk until the Planetarium, as besides Kecskemét, we can only see similar attractions in Switzerland and the USA.
The locations of the statues:
- Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars – Lestár square, Kossuth square, next to and front of City Hall
- Jupiter – Szabadság square, near the Hírös source fountain
- Saturnus – In front of Hornyik János Hanga watch store
- Uranus – Irinyi street, in front of Mezőgazdasági Szövetkezetek Háza (House of Agricultural Cooperatives)
- Neptune – Irinyi street
- Pluto – Lánchíd street, in front of the Planetarium
After the intergalactic adventure, we can travel in time here, as this is the city’s oldest building. Its construction began in the 13th century, but the work extended until the beginning of the 15th century.
This church built in gothic style, in the spirit of the tolerance was used together by Reformed and Catholic believers for a long time. After 1647 it was placed in the hands of monks of the Franciscan order, that’s how the city named it Barátok Church (Church of Friends).
It was rebuilt many times, but it kept its baroque and rococo features, and besides the church, the Saint Anne Chapel was also built.
At its northern side is the ruin garden, which served as a cemetery until 1777. Those, who are interested about churches even just a little bit, should definitely enter and view the uniquely placed altars, which were painted by József Falkoner and József Prohászka.
This building near the main square was planned by Géza Márkus in 1902, so it’s not among the oldest buildings of the city, but without doubt is one of the prettiest.
Many Hungarian elements can be found on the Art Nouveau style house, like the visitor has fallen in the world of folk tales.
Its colourful majolica ornaments, yellow, purple and green creating a wonderful unity, which is made full by the specially made doors and windows.
The building functions as a museum since 1983, with several permanent painting exhibitions and you can view the works of world-famous Hungarian artists like, Mihály Munkácsy, Bertalan Székely, Ödön Márffy, József Rónai-Rippl, János Vaszary and Dezső Czigány.
In addition to the domestic artists, the magnificent works of El Greco, Goya and Rubens are also displayed at the exhibition halls.
Science and art in the synagogue
Another characteristic building of the city is the synagogue built in Moorish romantic style. This large church is considered one of the prettiest romantic buildings in the country by art historians.
This synagogue completed in 1871 is decorated with cavetto and small towers to enunciate the onion dome and the large windows even more.
Although today the building functions as the House of Science and Technology, this is where you can check out the plaster replicas of Michelangelo’s 15 statues, so it’s definitely worth to visit this beautiful building even for art lovers.
From distilling palinka to wood carving
We won’t only find folk motifs at the Cifra Palace, if you visit the Népi Iparművészeti Gyűjtemény (Folk Art Collection) you can get to know such a traditional craft and their distinctive motifs like embroidery, weaving, wood carving, pottery and many more.
The vaulted building with permanent and temporary exhibitions was built in 1793.
It functioned as beer house, then from 1917 as a city brewery, where in addition to many others an early version of the famous apricot palinka of Kecskemét was made.
The building was placed under protection in 1983 and became the museum that’s still open to visit.
The pálinka of Kecskemét
If it’s palinka that gains our attentions, we are at the right spot.
Next to the old distillery is a new one, to which the apricot really owes its reputation. The apricot palinka of Kecskemét is praised all around the world, so if we are in the area it’s worth to visit the Zwack Kecskeméti Brandy Manufacture.
According to written records, they’ve been brewing palinka here since the beginning of the XVIII. century, but the fütyölős barack was made word famous by the Zwack family in the 1930s.
According to gossip, after Prince Edward of Wales visited here in 1936 gave up drinking whisky and devoted himself to the apricot of Kecskemét.
It’s possible he diluted it with water, which is a bit strange in the Hungarian gastro culture, but as they say each to their own.
Everybody who visits the manufacture gets a taste of course, but even just for the sight it’s worth to spend some time at the old distillery, which is also an important part of the country’s history of industry. Visiting requires prior notice.
Kodály and Katona
Two of the greatest men from Kecskemét is József Katona, drama writer, and world-famous composer and folk music researcher Zoltán Kodály.
While it was wishful thinking for Petőfi, they were really born here, which the city remembers.
The Katona József Memorial House showcases the life and work of the writer, and if we are lucky, we can catch an interesting temporary exhibition here, in the topic of literature and city history.
For those who prefer music won’t be disappointed either, as naturally there is a Kodály memorial house too in the city. This exhibition showcasing the life of the composer is made full with the furniture and fine art works of Gábor Mezei.
Leskowsky Instrument Collection Foundation
Kodály inspired many people, so if you haven’t got enough of music yet, definitely visit the Leskowsky Instrument Collection Foundation, which is the country’s sole instrument exhibition that’s open to visitors.
The over 2000-piece collection can be exciting both for professionals and common people, as it guides us through the history of music from medieval times.
From the Hungarian folk music, there are special instruments here from all five of the continents. The collection is introduced in both English and Hungarian by professionals.
At the end of the lens
The Hungarian Museum of Photography is considered a real cultural delicacy, which contrary to its name is not only a Hungarian collection.
The exhibition showcases the full history of photography, the earliest piece is a drageotype from 1840, there are over a million photos in the collection.
You can view the work of world-famous photographers like Kertész André, László Nagy-Moholy, György Kepes or Robert Capa and this list could go on for a very long time.
In addition to the famous pictures the collection contains old cameras, lenses, photometers, flashes, projectors and many more former and current photography accessories.
If we are in the city, it’s well worth to make a pit stop here.
Szórakaténusz Toy Museum and Workshop
It’s worth to visit the Szórakaténusz Toy Museum with children, where above everything else, we can get an insight in what kids played with before there were video games.
Looking through the collection we realise that kids always loved to play, as the oldest pieces of the exhibitions is from prehistoric times.
The 1800-piece collection walks us through history and introduces among many, the Polish, Estonian, Mordvinian, Mexican and Japanese nations, favoured toys.
The interesting sights will more than likely entertain children and adults equally.
Flowers, saints and a lion
In addition to culture and arts in the city we can also find an arboretum of unmatched beauty. Those who love nature and large walks should definitely visit the Kecskemét Arboretum.
The plant collection that lays on 62 hectares is divided up by 14 nature trails, and by wandering on them we can admire over 1000 different plants.
In addition to the trees and flowers, this is where the Maria Chapel and the amazing Magyar Szentek Szoborsétánya (Statue Trail of Hungarian Saints) is found, with statues like Saint Stephen, Saint Imre, Saint László.
The Arboretum charms children as well, with its wooden playground.
If you want to admire animals after the plants, then head to the Kecskeméti Zoo.
You don’t have to worry that you’ll spend a whole day here, as this is the country’s smallest zoo, but at the same time there are animals here from all of the continents.
You can check out the tiger and bear house at the zoo, there are different monkeys, a bird lake, and even the king of animals, an African lion spends his days here.
If you haven’t got enough of nature just yet, you can check out the nearby Kiskunság National Park, even as a program for the whole day. Plenty of hiking trails that are free to visit are available and there are programs organised all year around for those interested.