Szombathely and its surroundings offer many sights. There are a number of historic buildings and museums waiting to be discovered.
Szombathely is a city that the Romans have looked up for themselves and where you will not find a building without some ancient and interesting history.
Not only the city itself but also its surroundings are worth exploring: the city is built on hills and the base of the Alps is nearby, so everything is good for a little hike and exploring the surrounding settlements.
Sights of Szombathely and its surroundings
7. Boating Lake
9. Vas Skansen
12. Lake Bath
13. Jákis’ Church
14. Arpadian Church
16. Jeli Arboretum
18. Körmend Castle
Sights in Szombathely
Main Square – Szegedy House
Szombathely’s Main Square itself is interesting if we look only at its unusual shape: since the 13th century, it has had the shape of a triangle.
Every Saturday city market and fair were held here, hence the name of the place originated from here. (“Szombat” means: saturday. “Hely” means: place.)
Whether you believe in superstitions or not, it’s worth a visit to the Szegedy House, number 13, the oldest building in the city.
The house was built by canon János Szegedy according to the plans of Menyhért Hefele between 1784 and 1786. The space is full of Baroque and eclectic buildings anyway, and this late Baroque house fits perfectly into the street view.
It was the first two-story house in the area, as the canons did not want to fall behind the bishop’s building. Shortly after the completion of the building, he had to resign his position and sold it to the Festetics Count of Keszthely.
Years after, the building changed hands a lot: until 1950, it was used by the police and the jurisdiction, and in the 1990s, it was returned to the possession of the Premonstratensians.
Currently, the main gymnasium is located in the courtyard of Szegedy House, and on the firewall, you can admire the frescoes presenting the history of Szombathely.
Sarlós Boldogasszony Cathedral
The cathedral is the main church of the diocese of Szombathely. The clean-cut church is of the late Baroque style and is of considerable size, being one of the largest churches in the country.
Significant size in numbers: 28 meters inside height and it reaches 62.5 meters outside with towers. The cathedral was built on the site of the former castle, on the site of the old palace and the castle church.
Not far from here are the ruins of the former governor’s palace and the ruins of the Basilica of Saint Quirinus that have been left over from the Roman times.
One of the biggest changes in the life of the city was when Maria Theresa made the city a bishop’s seat. The cathedral was also designed by Menyhért Hefele and was built by János Szily, the first bishop of Szombathely. Fortunately, the bishop did not allow the destruction of the Roman ruins, saving the most beautiful parts for posterity.
The Second World War had a devastating effect on the city and almost everything was destroyed in the temple, except for the two towers. The war also damaged the interior murals and the organ.
However, after the end of the world burn, reconstruction began, and the church was restored in the most original way possible.
Like so many other things in Szombathely, it is related to Menyhért Hyhele and forms a wonderful trio with the cathedral and the Diocesan College.
The late Baroque building was built in the late 18th century. The most beautiful hall of the palace, with its ornate stairs, decorated with frescoes by Anton Maulbertsch. There is also one of the country’s first museums, the Sala Terrena, built on what was once a medieval castle.
There is plenty to see here, and even King Matthias admired one of them: Roman inscriptions collected by former bishop János Szily have attracted many visitors ever since.
The walls of the hall are also decorated with frescoes that capture the ancient memories of Savaria. Even the palace’s balcony has an exciting story because, in 1991, it was blessed by Pope John Paul II.
Sala Terrana Museum
On the ground floor of the Episcopal’s Palace, you will find a unique exhibition from the Roman period, which was for the first time a museum of Hungarian archeology (uniquely the first in the country).
Bishop János Szily was fortunate enough to recognize the value of the antiquities and did not let them disappear. Thanks to this, we can watch them to this day.
I especially recommend, to the lovers of paintings, the works by István Dorffmeister, most of which were inspired by Roman pieces found in the land of Savaria.
In addition to the typical Roman mythological figures, there are real-life memories, such as the triumphal chancel arch of Emperor Titus. The exhibition is not only aesthetically pleasing but also important from an archeological point of view, as it gives us a unified picture of Savaria’s life at that time.
Although the Bishop’s Garden, located in the center of Szombathely as a little green oasis, was closed for renovation in 2019, it is definitely worth a visit.
During the excavations here, pieces and buildings of the western city parts and group of buildings of the Colonia Claudia Savariensium were found. These places had such great names turned about in their days as Constantine the Great or even Emperor Valentinian.
There were plenty of unique things to get to the city, for example, the largest continuous mosaic surface in the province of Pannonia.
In the beautiful surroundings, you can see the former bathhouse and the base walls of the former shrine. If you didn’t have enough of the Roman sense of life, you could also walk down the basalt-covered road where legions once marched and their local merchants pulled their carts.
The castle ruin garden of the former medieval castle also contains arched remains of the former circular castle. In the ruin garden, the arched remains of the medieval castle can be found: the castle once played an important military role.
The fortress, which was in poor condition, was finally demolished by Bishop János Szily and this is how this exciting attraction was born.
Historical Theme Park: limes watchtower and kitchen
The history of Szombathely dates back to ancient times, and it was the richest period of the Roman times when it still existed as Savaria.
Many buildings, objects and customs preserve this, just to mention the Savaria Historical Carnival. But the Historical Theme Park is a must-see, with an antique science park on one hectare.
Anyone who thinks history is useless, boring, and dry should definitely visit here because here they are definitely getting it wrong. Antique weapons, buildings, exhibit objects await all visitors.
At the interactive exhibition, we can even take these objects into our own hands, thus further imagining ourselves in the lives of contemporary people. The main attractions of the park are the limes watchtower and the Roman kitchen, where you can get to know the conditions of the time in an authentic way.
Those who are interested in ancient food are in the best place: the only cookbook left for us of this time is of Apicius, which we can dip into.
The Boating Lake of Szombathely began to be formed in the 1960s, feeding on the Aranypatak (Golden Creek) created by clay mining. The lake soon became one of the locals’ favorite places to relax, not only for boating, fishing but also for sports.
Over the years, many trees and plants have been populated here from the local arboretum to become one of the most beautiful places in the area.
The 52-meter bridge built over the Boating Lake has been renovated in recent years and thanks to the lighting, we can calmly roam the area at night.
This lake is the perfect location not only for romantic walks but also for sports, water biking, boating, and easy relaxation.
The building has been operating since 1908 as a museum and library, which was then called the Palace of Culture. Nowadays, the museum, with its internationally valuable exhibits, has become one of the must-see attractions in the city.
Nearly half a million archaeological, natural sciences and ethnographic objects are kept in the institution. The prehistoric settlement next to Sé or the settlement of Velem and the ancient Savaria stands out among them. If you love specialties, here’s a tip for you to look out for, as here is Central Europe’s largest collection of Pannonian protophyta plants.
There are not only ancient but also dualistic time memories in the museum, in the Department of Natural History. The folk art treasures evoking Szombathely’s everyday life are an interesting point of the exhibition.
I can also recommend a permanent exhibition of the Landscapes-Ages-Settlements and the Roman lapidary in the basement. The most exciting parts of the latter are the Triassic sculptures torsos of the Capitol, the altar of votal and, pagan and early Christian gravestones.
I am always much more impressed by the exhibitions and attractions where I feel I can be part of a time travel. And the Vas Skansen museum perfectly reflects this feeling; a real old village unfolds before our eyes, with every little detail of it.
The Vas Skansen Museum was established as second in the country and has been operating since 1973, and has been expanding ever since. Some of the old, resettled houses are street-like, while others are scattered, more distant, at typically dispersed locations.
The main attractions include the main street of the village, the age-old hill, and the cellar row. Here, visitors get a truly authentic picture of the conditions at that time: besides poor peasant houses, wealthier peasant and noble homes also appear.
The original equipment from the 18th to the 20th century faithfully reflects the mood of the time and shows the evolution of various objects. In the center of the village, you can see a replica of a Peremeny chapel built in the 1800s.
But you will find antique items like the wooden bell leg of Molnaszecsőd from the early 18th century or the free chimney forge from Cák.
Not only were the houses and their equipment authentic, but also they were consistent with regard to the animals: the native Hungarian domestic animals were raised in the open-air museum.
Of course, old vine varieties and fruit trees were planted in the vineyards of the village, so even the flavors that can be found here are ancient.
There are many other programs available for visitors, such as craft activities. If I can suggest a time when it is particularly worthwhile to come to the Skansen, it is St. George’s Day Fair or St. Martin’s Day when you can see even more exciting things. Of course, in such cases, we need to count on a larger mass.
The building was built by the designer of Ludwig Schöne between 1880 and 1881 with the permission of the Battyhány family. In the courtyard, we still can see the well, the water of which may have led to the mikvah, where the ritual baths of Jewish took place.
The Szombathely Synagogue was designed to accommodate six hundred people, but this proved to be small by the 1920s. During the Second World War, it was part of a ghetto, and later, after the Jewish community was regrettably small, the building was sold.
Nowadays, it acts as a concert hall and hosts prestigious events such as performances by the Symphony Orchestra or the opening concerts of the Bartók Seminary.
The monumental building itself is spectacular; it carries style marks from romance to eclecticism and is one of Hungary’s first tower-like synagogues. Thanks to numerous renovations, the building is now almost in its original condition. In 2007, the renovated Bartók Hall was opened and a chamber hall was created under the Great Hall.
The gallery was opened in 1985 and has been operating independently since 1995. It is a Kunsthalle type of institution and hosts 10 to 15 temporary exhibitions a year.
The building has 2000 square meters of exhibition space, so there is plenty of space for various artistic activities. When we get here, we must always come up with something exciting. In addition to individual and group art exhibitions, it also hosts thematic performances.
The pieces exhibited here often go on their European journey; be it Germany, Austria or even Poland.
In addition to the restoration workshop, there is a specialized library of nearly 20,000 items. You can find older pieces in the collection, but it is especially is the home the of works of Hungarian artists of the 20th 21st century.
According to the organizers, the gallery has sought to collect the works of Hungarian artists who have tried to keep up with international trends in every situation.
In addition to the work of renowned early avant-garde artist Lajos Kassák, pop, minimal and concept art, which has flourished under political pressure, is also on display. In connection with this, I would mention the names of artists who have left the country ever since, such as Endre Tót or László Lakner and László Konkoly.
Those who love and appreciate contemporary art I have good news, as one of the main goals of the gallery today is to showcase the works of young artists. From paintings to installations, there are many forms of self-expression here.
The exhibition also includes a collection of 2,500 pieces contemporary textiles.
Lake Bath (Tófürdő)
I don’t know how you are, but in the middle of a big city tour, I like to spend at least a day relaxing. Fortunately, this is possible in Szombathely as well: the Lake Bath perfectly serves such needs.
Szombathely is also in the fortunate position of a good number of Hungarian settlements and has medicinal water. The thermal water is rich in sodium, calcium and magnesium and bicarbonate.
When used as a drinking cure, it is very effective in treating, for example, gastrointestinal disorders. For those who are not only looking for healing but also for some fun, there is the renewed Lake Bath. It is located on 5.4 acres with 5 pools.
I am not lying if I say that they thought of everyone in the family here: beyond the kids’ pool, through the learning pool to the adventure pool they have everything here.
The settlement is located in Szombathely district in Vas county, along the Austrian border. The origin of its name is controversial: there are some who believe it is an abbreviation of the name Jakab, but some derive it from the genus Csák.
Name here or there, this is one of the most beautiful sights around Szombathely. The area was inhabited as early as the Iron Age, and there are numerous bronze and Roman tombs and artifacts. The settlement, known as Lyak at that time, has existed here since the 11th century.
If it is Ják then, of course, the temple of Ják is a must. Construction of the monumental abbey began as early as 1214 and since 1223 there has been a lively monastic life in the settlement.
The Ják church is the basilica of the former Benedictine abbey if not one of the most notable buildings of the Romanesque style in the country. It is unique because it has survived, in a very good condition, and thus offers an insight into medieval monastery life.
That it survived is a small miracle since fate was not kind to it. There was everything we could imagine: fire, storm and of course the Ottoman troops. But in the end, it was always fortunate enough to get back to the right state.
Its characteristic feature is its inwardly deepened, multi-articulated main entrance, which is decorated with Normann motifs. Opposite the main facade of the church is the St Jakabs’ Chapel: it was the medieval church of Ják.
The history of the Ják temple is closely linked to that of the close-by monastery; it is certain that it has changed hands countless times.
The busiest year, if it can be said, was 1532 in the life of the temple. For the Turkish troops besieging Kőszeg did much to destroy the settlement. After the retreat of the armies, the monks probably returned, but after about 1562 the monastic life ceased.
Then came an unlucky period. Just as it was rebuilt after the fire, which was otherwise caused by the locals, lightning already struck. The last major reconstruction of the church took place between 1896 and 1904, according to the plans of Frigyes Schulek.
This is how it finally regained its almost original form. Unfortunately, during the construction process, the protection of the original pieces has not been given much attention, and as such, it contains few basic elements in its current state.
The temple is definitely one of the gems of the landscape that the traveler will notice from afar as he visits.
Szombathely is only 16 km from the village, which was formed by the unification of Csempeszháza and Kopács.
The origin of its name does not predict much good; whereas the old title, that is, fraudulent and comes from the deceptive, chestnut or the woodpecker, but not to worry, it is a must-see.
Of course, this place was not avoided by the Romans, too, and many brick pieces and tombs from this period have been excavated here.
Next to the Ják church, here you will find the second most important Romanesque monument, the Church of St. Michael of Csempeszkopacs.
In the middle of the village, on an artificial hill, lies the simple-looking church, a prominent figure in village architecture. Some time ago, a structure could have been standing here, as Roman bricks were found in the wall.
It was surrounded by a wasteland until the 19th century, and in the 1960s the church was restored and renovated. Its gate is similar to that of Ják, so it can be inferred that it was made by a Ják or Esztergom master.
One of the most beautiful sights is the Baroque altar painted of the Trinity in the interior of the church, made by István Dorfmeister. Not only the picture itself but also its frame is a masterpiece of applied arts.
There used to be parish fairs around the church, and today, to commemorate this, the annual Medieval Sunday is held.
Balogh small castle
Another attraction is the Csempeskopács, even though the settlement is so small, there is a small castle at the end of the 15th century so you do get to see it.
The building was built by Bertalan Balogh Csempeszháza, hence the name, later owned by Adam Béri Balog, the Kurucz General. Originally the late Renaissance building, he converted to a building of a Baroque style. Later, in the 19th century, it was returned to the Balogh family.
In the 16th century, there was a one-story mansion, whose walls were used to create a Renaissance-style building. Over the years, it served a number of functions: it was a former TSZ office and community center, and even its destruction was discussed in socialism.
It was finally restored to its original condition and has since operated as a Museum of Local History. Behind the mansion was an orchard in the 17th century, which has now been transformed into a park.
Kám is 25 km from Szombathely, and it is like a jewelry box in the countryside. Its story is related to Vas deputy-lieutenant Ferenc Rosty who at the time of Maria Theresa possessed 201 terriers acres in Kámon.
The majority of its inhabitants claim to be Hungarian, but according to population data, we also have a large number of people with German roots, which is not surprising even in the vicinity of the border.
Nature lovers’ attention: not far from here is the present arboretum, which is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens not only in Hungary but in Europe.
A little tip: if possible, visit in April-May when rhododendrons are in bloom. An amazing sight, I promise. Over 100 acres of land, we can see unique plants from all around the world.
Its history goes back to 1922. It is associated with Dr. Count István Ambrózy-Migazzi, one of the greatest botanists of his time. He did not believe that our climate was unsuitable for keeping evergreens and experimented until he had 5 hectares of built-up land.
However, with the death of the Count, the work was interrupted, and then World War II broke out. Subsequently, the area was declared protected and developed into a 70-hectare arboretum.
Lakes have been created along the Kaponyás Creek to provide the plants with humid air. Later, walkways, shelters, and benches were set up. From this year on, visitors can cross the popular canopy trail.
The main attraction of the park is the 300 different varieties of rhododendrons, which bloom in fairy tale colors when they splendor. The fairytale stuff is not over here; the Giants Forest with its mammoth pines is also an interesting sight.
I would definitely highlight the Magnolia Collection – nearly 15,000 stems – which bloom with daffodils. An indescribable sight.
For those who want a little exotic, there’s the Japanese landscape on the shores of a small lake surrounded by bamboo.
The recently opened foliage path is a truly special spot in the arboretum. The track, made of wood and steel in the Giants Forest section of the North American landscape, runs nearly 10 meters high and 130 meters long. This allows us to get as close to the canopy of trees as we have ever been. It is really a must-see experience.
A little extra tip: unfortunately no map is provided, though it would be justified by the large size. Anyone who does not trust that the arrows that are placed along the way will surely reach the target will prefer to photograph the only table, where we can see the whole area in the form of a map.
Located in Őrség, Velemér between the Vas ridge, the Vas Mountain Range and the Zala Hills, and is part of the Örség National Park.
The history of the settlement is inseparable from the lawns and the Holy Trinity Church. Writing has come up with different names since the 13th century. It has been known as the Inner Guard since the 19th and mainly since the 20th century.
Its long parish halls and barns have largely preserved local architectural features. Older buildings, for example, are still harrowed. There are numerous nature trails in the area which offer amazing sights.
Holy Trinity church
The attraction of Velemér can be found in Paprét: a Catholic church made of stone and brick. The building was erected in honor of the Trinity, not knowing exactly when, but according to its style, sometimes in the late 1200s.
The interior is decorated with frescoes by János Aquila. The Reformation had a profound effect on the inhabitants, who, despite the Counter-Reformation, remained in their religion and handed over the temple to the Catholic Church.
Without worshipers, the building made little sense and was getting worse. During a fire, the frescoes inside were damaged, and the church was left without a roof for a long time
Finally, the building and the pictures have been restored several times and can still be viewed as they have been restored to their original condition.
Nowadays, they hold masses twice a year in the church, and they also rarely hold church services, except for example at weddings.
The town of River Rába has been the venue for many important historical events and is also a great place for hiking.
Its name dates back to the 1200s: after the Mongol invasion, the village with a large population declined and King Béla IV donated city privileges to the town.
After the Mohács disaster, the Middle Ages was already such a disaster-prone period in Hungary too, and the town was owned by András Tarnóczy but was later bought back by the Erdődies.
Meanwhile, the cityscape of Körmend has undergone a major transformation, which is not surprising given the turbulent period: the city was surrounded by planks and ditches.
Then, of course, the Turks also came, and at that time Körmend was declared a fortress. This meant that they had to fight. 1664 is a remarkable date in the life of Körmend, who with the conflict at that time prevented the Ottoman troops from crossing the Rába.
The Körmend’s story was accompanied by other battles: it took part in the Second World War. The city was invaded by Ferenc Rákóczi’s war of independence and then Napoleon-led French armies occupied the city.
Despite its hectic or rather busy history, the city has survived, which is a great attraction in the area.
The castle, also known as Batthyány-Strattmann Castle, and is located near the River Rába and was built in classicistic style.
The first stone castle was destroyed during the campaigns, and the castle still is visible today and was built by Baron László Szécsényi in the 15th century.
Thanks to luck, a contemporary castle register has been preserved, giving insight into the conditions of the Turkish occupation. In 1604 the Batthyány family received it from the grace of Emperor and King Habsburg.
The following centuries did not leave the castle and its inhabitants to rest either: the struggle for freedom and Turkish subjection made the daily military-fortified fortress difficult.
The castle was burnt down during the precipitate of the Rákóczi War of Independence in 1703. The building began to be remodeled in the 18th century. Not only was the facade redesigned, but new portions of its floors were added, as well as a tile roof and a huge balcony.
They lived in the beautiful Batthyányi Castle until 1944 and preserved priceless antiquities, most of which later, unfortunately, were lost.
Today, visitors can visit the Dr.László Batthyány-Strattmann Museum, as well as the country’s only shoe history exhibition.
There is a permanent exhibition of the Batthyány family house in the museum, which provides interactive insights into the story of the renowned family. Besides the famous Battyánies, they also gave the first responsible Prime Minister, Lajos Batthyány to the country.
Within the framework of the Exhibition of Generations Heritage, Körmend and its region unfold before the visitor. You can also find unusual pieces like the tin can of the 1700s or the blue-tinted printing press in the museum.
The unique Shoe Collection, already mentioned, introduces visitors to the evolution of shoe-making with 120 pieces. This allows us to follow the footwear story from the cobbler’s workshop to the industrially manufactured pieces.
One really interesting element of the exhibition is that if you close your eyes, you will see-tactile exhibition, created in the name of equal opportunities for the blind and partially sighted.
This way they are not left out of the experience: they can touch the object of art and copies of works and collections related to the Batthyány family.
This section of the exhibition is of interest to both the visitors and the visually impaired, including the item such as the Baroque Wig that can be tried on or due to the reconstructed decorated mace of Adam Batthyány I.