Kőszeg located in Vas County, is Hungary’s one of the most variegated, most “multicultural” rural towns in Transdanubia, where three cultures blend: Hungarian, German and Croatian.
Kőszeg and its region are not only eye-catching, but exciting too. There is everything: good wines, culture and suitable surroundings for roaming.
Once upon a time…From the Middle Ages till present
There is no need to worry, I won’t start a long history lesson, but it is worth to mention a few key points from the city’s past. Kőszeg has always been an important settlement in Hungary’s military term.
Its name comes from an Arpad-era castle, which can still be seen on the Óház Lookout. The settlement played an important role in the history of both Hungary and Austria. Soon, in the 1300s, the town received the title of the royal city. The Germans got into the city during the 200 years Habsburg rules, while the Croatian population came during the Turkish era.
Yet, one of the greatest turning points in its history had been during the Turkish assault, when Miklos Jurisics Captain defended the city against the Osman force. This prevented the conquering of Western Hungary and Vienna. From this point, if we can put it this way, the city has done well in marketing and started to grow in every way.
Walking in the historical city center in Kőszeg
A city with such a colorful history, time certainly leaves a mark on, not in a bad sense, but on a lot of attractions.
The most obvious and must-see point of the city is the Kőszegi Castle or Jurisics Castle, inherited after the big Turks Beater Captain. The building is located in a pleasant old town and it consists of two parts: the front and the inner Castle. On the court, there are some remains of a pilgrimage castle, which can be seen together with Captain Miklós Jurisics’ statue who repressed the Turkish troops. At 11 o’clock, we can hear the bells commemorate the enemy’s retreat.
In the east and south wings, we can find the Castle exhibition, where we can see the Golden Room, Crown Room as well as the landlord’s table and the gun room. Nature lovers shouldn’t miss out on the patio’s medicinal and herb garden, where you can shop right away in the Nudeshop.
As I mentioned, the city was important from a defending point of view, and one of the unavoidable relics, the city defending system center is the Gates of Heroes. In addition, the so-called towers, or musicians of the tower lived here.
Today the tower and the General House function as a museum, and hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions. During greater events, to this day, the tower music plays for the visitors’ great delight.
The Main Square in Kőszeg is a sight itself, but we can find many more exciting buildings here. The Heart of Jesus Church is the tallest building in the city with its 57 – meter high tower.
After the town had grown out of its parish church, construction began on the plans of Ludwig Schöne from Vienna. The building has a very unique furnishing, its windows are definitely worth a look, and we can thank the interior paintings for Otto Kott, a Venessen master. Another attraction of the church is the organ made by the Rieger Brothers in their factory in 1894, which has been admired ever since.
There is still more to be seen on the main square, among which is the country’s oldest trinity statue, erected in memory of the plague in the 1700s.
Not far from the main square, we can find Hungary’s most beautiful square, the Jurisics square, which once used to be Kőszeg’s center. Also, we can find the country’s oldest town hall, which still works in its function.
The Jurisics Square still retains its medieval character, but it also features Baroque elements, and its houses on the western side were already standing in the 14th century. On the square, we can see the former City fountain-there was once a chain fountain in its place- which today is one of the gems of the square, with plain and classicist elements.
The most beautiful places for hiking
Not only is the Old town and its surroundings worth a walk, but also the Kőszeg Mountains aren’t just any hiking places.
If you are looking for a light hike, I recommend the route of Kálvária, Óház-roof, and the Seven Spring. The nearly 10km long tour promises beautiful sights and light, but not too strenuous tour for the adventurous.
Right from the start, the National Blue Tour route features exciting sights, the Crown Bunker, where the Holy Crown was concealed during the WWII, at the behest of Ferenc Szálasi government.
From here, after a short walk, we arrive at Kálvária Mountain, at the top of which we can see the Kálvária Church, which was built during the plague epidemic. From here we have a wonderful view, a perfect view of the whole city.
In a few minutes’ walk away, we can find the Trianon Cross, which, if we look closely, we can even find traces of shots. We reach the Pinter- rooftop through a beautiful, beech forest, where we can descend on the Devil’s Rock on a path lined with chestnuts, which has quartz phyllite material and plate-shaped recess in the center. It is not hard to guess, where its name comes from.
We travel through amazing landscapes: on a trail full of wooded, mossy rocks, and in the autumn, on a chestnut carpet, until we reach the ‘sky-high’ ‘beech pines’, the so-called Fatalin beech pines. Almost miraculously, the nearly 300 years old trees escaped from the loggers and any other dangers. It is definitely worth a stop here for a short break, more so as we arrive at the Óház-rooftop after a short ascent.
After the pulse and breath increasing climb, we arrive at the famous Óház Gazebo, where Kőszeg’s first castle was standing in the Middle Age. The panoramic view of the facility, which has been converted into a gazebo, but has been built on nearly a thousand-years-old alps, is amazing: not only the city and the Kőszeg Mountains can be seen, but in clear weather even the Alps too.
We don’t even stop on the steep alpannonia route until we reach the favorite destination for the visitors, the Seventh Spring. It was named after the seven leaders of the Hungarians, to whom we owe the Hungarian state. The spring is a well with seven outlets, but its water quality is questionable, so it is one way don’t drink from it.
The past has certainly left a footprint in the area, and not only are medieval and WWII relics here, but for example, the ruins of what used to be a former border guard can be passed. Walking along the Iron Curtain tourist route, we are getting closer to the Austrian border.
After a short walk, we reach The Andalgo Nature Trail, which takes us to the once very popular walking path through 10 stations.
Wine intoxication of Kőszeg
The wine of Kőszeg is closely linked to the history of the city and according to the legend, the story of the ‘nectar’ that once came to the table of kings goes back to Roman times.
This little wine region has a centuries old tradition of making wines. Even the Roman settlers started to cultivate vineyards here, the name Pogány (Pagan) vineyard and the Roman hill come from here too.
It quickly became famous for its quality wines and was already sold in Czech and Austrian pubs in the Middle Ages. In fact, over time, the nectar broke into the Polish, German and Silesian markets, right on the table of kings.
Later, a large percentage of vine-growing areas were destroyed, but today, thanks to many local families, wine culture is booming again. For example, the Kőszeg-Vashegy Wine Route has been established, but there are also many wine festivals that promote local specialties. Besides the two wine museums, there are many wineries where you can take part in wine tastings.
In a few words, why you should visit Kőszeg
There are few cities that have been influenced by so many different cultures, yet they have retained their individuality, and perhaps these influences have made them what they are today. It pulsates with life, culture and the hospitality of those who live there.
Whether it’s a romantic stroll through the ancient castle walls and small streets, or memorable hikes in the Kőszegi Mountains, or even a wine tasting in a small local cellar, one thing is for sure: a good experience is guaranteed.