Let’s explore Sopron and its surroundings together. Historic sights, castles, beautiful squares, viewpoints, and a rare landscape reserve are just waiting for us…
We Hungarians, for some reason, like to label our cities, or even our big heroes: the largest Hungarian, the wise man of the country, the city of queens and so on. And we like to mention Sopron as the most loyal Hungarian city.
Following the conclusion of the Trianon Peace Treaty, in a referendum in 1921, the city and its surroundings made it clear that they wanted to belong to Hungary.
However, I do not like labels and this beautiful area along the western border of the Alps has repeatedly proven that there is more to it. I rather think of the VOLT Festival or the big hikes, the beautiful monuments, and the dearest inhabitants.
Sights of Sopron and its surroundings
Sights in Sopron
1. Sopron downtown
2. Main Square
3. Fire Tower
4. Goat Church (Kecske Templom)
5. Town Hall
7. Castle district
8. Castle Wall Promenade
9. Széchenyi Square
10. Petőfi Square
11. Deák Square
12. The palaces of the New street
13. Károly Viewpoint
15. Eszterházy Palace
16. Fertő-Hanság National Park
17. Pan-European Picnic Memorial
18. Episcopal Palace
19. Széchenyi Mansion
20. Széchenyi Mausoleum
21. Nagycenk Széchenyi Museum Railway
The heart of Sopron is a typically closed downtown, which was already surrounded by walls and moat in the XIV century, the line of the streets follow this. Anyone who likes the typical winding cobblestone streets will not be disappointed.
The city center was transformed after a fire of 1676: the beautifully arched beautiful streets are lined with towers that give it a truly special atmosphere.
It is a real-time travel through here: ancient houses, arched gates mark the past. The city center can be divided into two main parts: the Main Square and the Orsolya Square.
The layout and location of the square have remained unchanged since the 13th century, and time has really stopped here. We can enter the square from the Loyalty Fountain, passing through the Front Gate.
Almost every building on the Main Square is a historic building, so there is plenty to see. Its names changed in every age, it was Main Market, City Hall Square, and even Beloiannis Square.
The center of the square is defined by the statue of the Holy Trinity, surrounded by other exciting buildings and streets.
If every city has to have a symbol, then Sopron is definitely the Fire Tower. Its typical Baroque onion dome with a double-headed eagle is up to 58 meters high, so there are few points in the city where it cannot be seen.
We can best admire it from the Main Square. Its cylindrical body was built on the Roman wall remains in the 13th century. The Renaissance balcony, on the other hand, was built on it after the Great Fire.
On the copper dome, a two-headed eagle is located as a windbreaker, and rain, more than likely, will come if it moves north to south. So it’s worth keeping an eye out for when you’re on the go and you’re not sure if you need that extra umbrella.
The guards who served here had no responsibility other than to signal the fire to the inhabitants if the enemy was approaching, and even if strangers wanted to bring wine into the city. Indeed, we Hungarians have interesting priorities.
And if that weren’t enough, by 1829, the city guards were city musicians. They provided lively dance venues for weddings and other events.
Following the renovations in 2011, the Fire Tower regained its shape 100 years ago and once again had a wide driveway leading to the Main Square.
Closer to the side of the Fire Tower is the Loyalty Gate, which was erected in memory of the referendum already mentioned. It is worth fighting us up for the tower’s balcony since there is a magnificent view from there.
Goat Church (Kecske Templom)
On the main square, one of the city’s most famous churches stands, the Goat Church, which is not far from the Fire Tower. The building has many names, and the goat attribute is said to be linked to Henry Richards Gaissel, one of the richest citizens of the city, whose family coat of arms featured a certain goat.
The church was built by Franciscan monks in 1280, and its typical structure, such as the one-nave hall, suggests this. Another interesting fact is that in the 17th century, two famous Hungarian noble families – Eszterházy and Széchenyi – chose this church as their burial ground.
By the end of the 1700s, the church was completely emptied after Joseph II dissolved the begging orders. There was a time when even hay was kept between the ancient walls. Then the church was finally taken over by the Benedictine order.
In the mid-1800s, the Benedictine church was rebuilt in neo-Roman style, following the plans of Ferenc Storno. The crowned stone tower also got its present form. Nowadays, one bell remains, and the other bell disappeared during World War II.
The beautifully decorated interior of the temple is also worth a visit, mainly due to the side altars, also dreamed up by Ferenc Storno.
The Town Hall has also been on the Main Square since 1497, although the building at that time was smaller than its present-day counterpart.
During the great fire in Sopron, this building was also damaged, and although it had been a home to civil servants for 400 years, it was proved to be small and today’s larger version was completed at that time.
The new City Hall has undergone a major transformation of the Main Square, and its alteration is still debated. The new version was built in Neo-Renaissance style and was handed over during the millennium, ceremonially.
In its place was the former St. John’s Chapel of Nepomuk, which can now be admired in the Villa line area in its original form.
The floor plan of this beautiful two-story late-historicizing building was neatly adapted to the crappy line of the wall. The façade overlooking the Main Square and its arcade entrance is a beautiful sight.
Perhaps the most beautiful building on the Main Square is the Storno House, a two-story, palatial baroque corner house. Nowadays, it is home to the Sopron Museum’s Storno collection and the local history exhibition.
The dwelling house was once owned by Miklós Haberleiter and his family, who even welcomed King Matthias during the siege of Vienna in the 15th century.
That’s what few families can say about themselves. Over time, the building changed hands, and finally, Ferenc Storno bought it from the Festetics Count family.
The story of the new owner is a fairy tale anyway, as he changed from a chimney sweeper to a restaurateur and painter. This work was later continued by his sons, so if you are curious about the work and life of this extraordinary family of artists, please visit here.
Not only the wonderful creations but also the everyday life of the family living here and the home culture of the late 19th century can be known here.
There are many interesting things attached to the house, for example, the big wooden gate with a pelican baroque knocker or the richly decorated balcony.
The Castle District, no matter how surprising, was formed on the outer edge of the old moat and follows the curve of the old city walls. It has been the commercial center of the city since the 12th century.
The district has a nice past, with inner houses dating back to the 1400s, but the inner house rows were “only” completed at the end of the 18th century.
The specialty and atmosphere of this part is due to the fact that houses of different sizes and heights were built here, so sometimes you can feel yourself in a storybook.
At that time, the fairs and the markets were held here, and after filling the moat, small shops were opened. A real trading paradise has been created here, even with multi-premise shops.
In fact, as was the case, many neighboring buildings were united by a common partition by marriages. This construction then regrettably backfired during World War II, when these houses collapsed in an almost instantaneous bombing.
However, for example, the large towers, i.e. the area in front of the round bastion was liberated, and several modern buildings were added to the old street view.
Today, there is only one large tower of the four, and at its foot, the line of the old moat can be followed. Not far from it, the church of St. George is towering.
Castle Wall Promenade
It seemed strange to me at first, but then it made more sense if a city never had a castle but a castle wall. Well, Sopron is just like that. The castle wall here, it served to protect the city center and greatly influenced it.
The triple wall ring has evolved over the centuries and can be discovered by visitors during a good walk. One of its oldest parts is the city wall built in the IVth century where on the Amber Road, hundreds of merchants passed with their little merchandise.
Later, the city became depopulated and the so-called red rampart, the fortress of the granger’s Castle, joined this wall. The castle walkway starts from the Bünker: you can walk among the classical, romantic buildings behind the Theater Street, to the courtyard of the County Hall, then to the main square and its reinforced concrete gate.
During the walk, the simple traveler may find himself in the interesting foundations of a Roman bastion, the House of Fabricius, where the famous Hungarian poet, Sándor Petőfi, was often a guest, its foiling windows in the house or the remains of a medieval residence tower can be found in the General’s House.
Roman ruins of city remains are never enough, so I can recommend the City Hall Street Ruins as part of the walk, where you can see how the road to the East was blocked.
Walking down the narrow or wider roads, we are sure to get to know Sopron’s past better, while being part of an unfathomable atmosphere.
Széchenyi Square can be found in the center of Sopron, where there was originally a lake, which was known as Kétpék. Here, you will find many monuments and attractions.
The former pond, where Széchényi Square was eventually built, is said to have been called “Bipartisan” because it was used to punish bakers who made products of inadequate weight.
The lake was finally drained at the instance of the Széchenyi family, so the name of the square can be figured out. The trees were donated to the town by István Széchenyi for landscaping.
Count István Széchenyi became the honorary citizen of Sopron, whom they consider to be the greatest Hungarian, so of course, we can find a statue of him in the square.
In the square, you can see the Dominican church and monastery, which, unlike other churches in Sopron, has two towers.
In addition, I would like to highlight the Daniel Berzsenyi Lutheran Lyceum, the oldest school in the city, named after its former student, the talented Hungarian poet Daniel Berzsenyi.
There was once a lake on the site of the castle belt. In the 18th century, this area was surrounded by estates and gardens, and later by rows of houses.
The lake, known as the Lóúsztató lake, was drained in the 1800s because it was planned to build a theater on its north side. It did not get its name in vain about Sándor Petőfi because he was a soldier in Sopron, so he is closely linked to the city.
This theater mentioned was eventually rebuilt, as the city had a great theater past. Already in 1722, the Jesuits were playing here, and later professional actors entertained the audience.
Sopron’s first stone theater was one of the oldest theaters in the country. The second stone theater later even functioned as a ballroom and was designed by Ferenc Löszl’s plans, then rebuilt and given its current form due to fire hazards. The Art Nouveau building also carries many folk motifs.
Another point of interest in the square is the old Casino, which was unfortunately burnt down in the 1800s but was successfully restored a year later.
The building was not only a Mecca for gamblers, but later also served as a barrack. What is interesting about the place is that the famous Hungarian composer Ferenc Liszt gave three concerts here. Nowadays, the building functions as an elementary school.
Deák Square is certainly not an ordinary square, as it is the longest square in Sopron and the second-longest in Europe. But it still has many interesting things.
There is still a stream flowing beneath the square, besides which there was once the outer city wall. The area is still surrounded by historicizing buildings and remains of a Roman cemetery have been uncovered during construction.
Among the buildings on the square, I would definitely highlight the Lenk-villa-Ferenc Liszt Museum. Built by the Lenk Merchant Family, the park is surrounded by rare plants and baroque statues as well as ancient tombs. In the museum, you can see the Roman finds already mentioned.
The palaces of the New street
We are immediately stumbling upon a paradox about New Street (Új utca), which is actually one of the oldest streets in Sopron. In the 13th century, the deep plots of land here were divided lengthwise, and thus the New Street was created.
It is a truly wonderful experience to walk through the narrow streets of ancient, medieval buildings. Later, in the former Jewish quarters, many noble families built palaces and noble houses.
There is something good in every bad thing, as they say: World War II, for example, caused great destruction here, yet it still resulted in the discovery of many medieval buildings and remains.
So there are many exciting buildings here, some of which I would highlight. At New Street 13, we find a house of Gothic origin, which had its Baroque façade after the Great Fire. It was once inhabited by members of the Széchenyi family and was probably connected to the Széchenyi Palace behind it.
At 16 New Street, there is a one-story Gothic dwelling house that was erected around 1480. It was once another medieval palace with ornamented wings. Its medieval character was forgotten for a long time until the remains of the stone lattice windows were discovered.
The prominent feature of the façade is the raised ledge. These midlevel relic remains saved it from demolition, so they were restored and can still be visited.
If you do not only want to visit the city but a little bit more out in the open but also don’t miss the Károly (Charles) viewpoint, which is the most popular holiday destination in the Sopron Mountains.
A comfortable walking path leads through the forests of the well-aired Lővérek to the viewpoint tower. The Károly Heights and the viewpoint tower were named after a printer Károly Romwalter, a member of the Town Beautifying Association and an eager tourist.
He built a wooden viewpoint tower at his own expense – so the site was renamed in his honor. Above all, literally, the entire Sopron and its surroundings are perfectly visible from the viewpoint tower.
Sopron’s villa with a garden is located on the slopes of the Sopron Mountains. The name Lővérek has existed since 1225, and it preserves the memory of the former Pecheneg shooters who once lived here.
In this wavy hilly area, these villas hide as if we were looking at a storybook. This beautiful environment is surrounded by the Alps and the Sopron Mountains and from a distance, you can see Lake Fertő. If you want to see something really beautiful, don’t hesitate.
Modern construction began in the 19th century when the locals began to populate the orchards with their holiday homes. There is no need to worry about traffic, as we have the Lőver Boulevard built around it and is available since 1920.
There are many sights on the way, such as a botanical garden where the former once seen more beautiful days. The mining officer training school of the predecessor of the Western Hungarian University is located here.
The school grounds are planted like an arboretum and have a wide variety of plants. There are also several viewpoints, such as the Brewery Hill (Sörházdombi-kilátó) or the Castle Viewpoint Tower (Várhely-kilátó).
During the tour, of course, you will find many Art Nouveau style and richly decorated villas, giving you a taste of the past century. For the harder hikers, there are many tourist routes.
Officially, the Sopron Mountain is a climatic spa and its crystal clear air is beneficial not only for heart patients but also to everyone. During the hike, 7 lakes, 20 streams, and more than 40 springs can cross the trail of the tourists.
Fertőd is located in the Fertő-Hanság region between Győr and Sopron. The beautiful countryside was inhabited as early as the Stone Age, and there were Frankish memories from the time of the migration.
The estate was in the hands of several families, and eventually, it was handed over to the Eszterházys by Nádasdy and remained with them for the next centuries.
The family blossomed the area beautifully, and such famous people visited it as Joseph Haydn.
The small Hungarian Versailles is the third most important building in the country. This Baroque aristocratic residence is rich and beautiful in style at the European level. If you are in the area, don’t miss it, it may take a whole day.
The 20-room hunting lodge of József Eszterházy was redesigned by Prince Miklós and his wife, Countess Margit Cziráky, making it the favorite spot of the family. The golden age of the Eszterházy Palace dates back around the late 1700s, when balls, theater performances or concerts were held almost every day here.
From the outside, the palace offers stunning views, with almost all Baroque features that can be found on its façade. The exterior and interior are characterized by the splendor of the building: enough to mention that all 126 rooms are luxuriously furnished, not to mention the Music and Ceremonial Hall.
The family had a reputation as a rich protector and created a truly vibrant cultural life while supporting many artists and arts. Not to mention the rarity of music history that Haydn has lived here for 20 years in service of the family.
With the death of Miklós Fényes, the palace lost its prominent role in World War II and it only made things worse. Then, on the 150th anniversary of Haydn’s death, the museum opened in 1959 in a renovated building.
Thus, Hungary’s largest baroque palace, which is a World Heritage Site, can be visited today. The reconstructed main building and the magnificent castle park offer many attractions.
Among other things, you can see the unusual wrought iron gate, the courtyard fountain, the original suites, and Haydn’s former residence. Nowadays, even concert series are held in memory of the famous composer.
Fertő-Hanság National Park
It is located in the north-western part of Hungary, on 23,731 hectares. Its predecessor was the Fertő Lake National Park, which was later supplemented by the Hanság Landscape Protection Area. This created the first national park of our country crossing borders, as it was supplemented by the Austrian part.
The National Park has a mosaic structure and its main parts are the Fertő landscape, the Hanság with the Tóköz and the Répce side.
Fertő is the third largest lake in Central Europe and the westernmost representative of continental plain salt lakes. It has dried up several times over the centuries and its water levels fluctuate. It has a high salt content.
The environment is a perfect area for different waterfowl, so we can see many species. The meadows give a home to rare plants, like many protected species such and the great peacock eye or the death’s-head butterfly.
The eastern part of the lake is typically alkaline and has vegetation according to it such as michaelmas daisies. The area is maintained with traditional Hungarian domestic animals; you should not miss the racka sheep or the Hungarian gray cattle.
Fertő’s rare reptile is the highly protected Meadow Viper, which is a poisonous snake but bites very rarely, and even as the bee stings, it also causes pain and releases toxins. So there is no cause for concern if we go to this way, we should rather watch out for it.
The Hanság was formed by the surface-shaping work of the wind and is divided into two by the Hanság Main Canal. The remaining lakes give a home to a rich aquatic world and many other unique and protected animals can be found here. Among them is the dangerous and protected countrified viper, which should not be overlooked.
The park offers a truly eco-friendly vacation while learning a great deal about the animal and plant life around us. There are plenty of activities for visitors here, including organized tours, forest school programs and other events.
The park is waiting for visitors with numerous demonstration sites and accommodations.
Fertőrákos stands out among other Hungarian villages with its historical and artistic memories. It was the only village in the country that was surrounded by a stone wall and even had a bishop’s palace.
It is one of the important settlements of the Fertő landscape and can be found 10 km from Sopron. It was inhabited even before the Romans, and numerous Roman coins were found during excavations.
Moreover, there is also a rare memory of this period: the Mithras Shrine, which was used by the sun-god worshiping soldiers. The history of the village cannot be called easy, many difficulties, wars, and fires have made everyday life more difficult.
Pan-European Picnic Memorial
In the case of the Iron Curtain, a fence system that divides Europe in a north-south direction must be envisaged. It was not possible to escape from East to West, or at great cost.
This border protection system crossed the Austrian border of Hungary for 260 kilometers.
In 1989, the Debrecen organization of the Hungarian Democratic Forum and the Sopron Opposition Roundtable parties initiated an event to demolish the fence and create a free Europe.
This is how the ominous case happened, which is history since hundreds of GDRs broke this iron curtain on the Austro-Hungarian border, which later led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
This was commemorated in Piuspuszta belonging to Fertőrákos, where a peaceful demonstration took place.
The well-located settlement, the proximity of Fertő, the clean air are all good reasons for the bishop of Győr finally build his castle here for the summer.
Since 1311, a diploma also proves that the episcopal estate operated here, a castle that gave a home to several ecclesiastics. When Győr fell into Turkish hands, the episcopal center moved here.
Thanks to the many owners, the appearance of the castle has also changed a lot. The final design of the rococo decoration is connected to the name of bishop Ferenc Zichy. Not only is it beautifully designed both internally and externally, but the associated garden is a real attraction with its spout, flower beds and fountain.
The main facade of the castle also commemorates the three main bishops under construction with their coat of arms. In the 19th century, thanks to Bishop János Simor, it gave a home to the country’s first glass-painting workshop.
If Nagycenk, then the Széchenyi family should be mentioned because their estates spread here. Ferenc Széchenyi lived here, to whom we owe thanks to the Hungarian National Museum, and his son István Széchenyi, who, as I have already mentioned, is considered to be the greatest Hungarian.
The origins of the city go back much earlier, as copper and bronze artifacts have been found here. The village is situated on the Sopron-Vas Plain and is connected to the extensions of the Sopron Mountains.
It lived its golden age during the Széchenyi family, which still holds many traces to this day.
The Széchenyi family served their country in many forms: as a politician, as a priest, and as a soldier, so it is no wonder that they were given the title of Count with time. Their name was irrevocably intertwined with Nagycenk.
The construction of the castle started around 1750 on the site of the Kiscenk manor house. Beyond the wrought iron gate there was a beautiful French garden. There is also a two-story chapel and a theater hall. On the middle front, you can admire the family coat of arms.
The building was later rebuilt and expanded according to age, in the Art Nouveau style. For example, the flush-toilets and bathrooms, which were new in Hungary at that time, were housed in the newly- constructed wings. In fact, gas lighting was also introduced into the castle.
The estate remained the property of the family until 1945, after which it became the largest floor space memorial museum in the country. In the István Széchenyi, Memorial Museum visitors can learn about the history and work of the family and István.
In the eastern part, in the former economic wing, is the stud farm, which was a great love affair for István Széchenyi, and the Red Castle on the west side nowadays functions as a castle hotel.
Once we have seen where the family lived, we must also see where they rest. The parish church of Nagycenk, which has since become a historical place of pilgrimage, is located near the church of Nagycenk in the churchyard.
The prestigious building was built in two turns: first, the oval chapel was built in 1778 and then the Classicist lobby was added between 1806 and 1810.
Each piece of the building is a real monument: here you can find the work of the painter Mihály Hess from Eger, and the piano from the 1800s, on which Ferenc Liszt plaid himself.
To the left of the altar, we can reach the crypt where many members of the Széchenyi family rest. However, in recent decades, relatives have been laid to rest in the sarcophagus behind the building.
The family is still buried in this graveyard, so we arrive at a cemetery garden with a very special atmosphere where the past and the present meet.
Nagycenk Széchenyi Museum Railway
In 1972, a museum railroad with a gauge of 760 mm was built near Széchenyi Mansion. The only 3,600-meter road between Nagycenk and Fertőboz is a real experience, even if the service is provided by, for example, children’s railroads’ operators.
During the trip, we get a little insight into the romance of old times. On the way, you can relax under the huge lime trees and admire the inactive but very interesting rail vehicles.
Here not only the railway carriages and locomotives that have ever worked in different parts of the country can be inspected, but there is also a must-see train swing and the steam-squirrel wheel.