You can wander around for days in Sopron, but I guarantee you even the most excited or experienced tourists give up before seeing all the attractions. So where is it worth to go in the city?
I collected all the worthy attractions in Sopron, without the need to list all of them. In addition to the sights I will tell you a bit about the history of the city too.
The beginning of the fall of the Iron Curtain
Although the politic “climate” of the two continents divided by the iron curtain was more mellow by now, the full turn around wasn’t here just yet. For years the eradicating of European division has been on the daily agenda of the Paneuropean Union and West Germany.
On the morning of the 19th of August 1989 not many people thought that by the afternoon this day would be one of the most important days in European History.
However, along the border that made the dividing line tangible, the fire order remained in force. The eastern wanting to be a free western, or the Germans who wanted to live with their families again in West Germany played with their lives.
The Paneuropean Picnic near Sopron became one of the venues for political discussions about the reunification of Europe. They temporarily opened the Austrian-Hungarian borders to symbolize the efforts towards a united Europe.
The program was meant to be a little cooking with the in-laws (the Austrians). However, the many Eastern-German refugee population who lived in the country heard about it and paid their respects at the event. Of course, they weren’t attracted to the pork chops or the pickled cucumbers, nor the intellectual discussions.
The symbolic opening of the border
At three on the afternoon, they opened the rusty gate on the Hungarian-Austrian border according to the preliminary program.
But then, contrary to the preliminary program, hundreds of Eastern-Germans who were waiting in the crowds ran for it. The opened section was only guarded by six Hungarians, with valid fire orders in their pockets.
The Hungarian border guard commander, who had a great understanding of the situation, not only did not give fire orders to his soldiers, they helped those who fell while running so quick.
Six of them couldn’t have done much against the hundreds of determined border breakers, even with the guns, and the commander wanted to protect the Eastern-Germans from “their own foolishness, that they might do” as well.
This is how the symbolic opening of the border became the true beginning of the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the first real step towards a united Europe.
There are those who like it hot
However, Sopron isn’t only exciting and interesting due to this symbolic day. Its location and features have attracted settlers here since prehistoric times.
At the place of the city, located at the Alpokalja, in the valley of Ikva used to be a Scarbantia during the Roman era, and its remains can still be found here to this day.
Sopron became a free royal town in 1277. After Elizabeth of Luxemburg in 1441 pledged Sopron and its area to Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, was purchased back by Matthias Corvinus in 1463.
In 1529, the Turkish troops paid their “respects” here too, but they only managed to destroy the city, not occupy it.
From here on it became a haven for those not wanting to be part of the Turkish leading. Between 1553 and 1681 they held five national assemblies here.
During the 1655 plague half the people living here passed away and in 1676 due to two pre-teens unfortunate chestnut cooking the whole city burnt down.
Sopron, the most loyal city
It was during this renovation, that today’s baroque downtown was born. In 1921, during a referendum that followed the Trianon peace treaty – which was questioned by many people – the population of Sopron decided not to join Austria, earning the most loyal city title.
Monuments in Sopron
During the Second World War the city was hit by several bombs. Even during the renovation works following the war, a great emphasis was placed on the protection of monuments.
As a result, in 1975 Sopron received the gold medal of the European Heritage Prize. The protection and renovation of monuments has been continuing, earning the city the ICOMOS award in 2016.
And there are plenty of monuments here, placing Sopron on Hungary’s invisible podium at the second place.
The Main square and its area is a perfect example of this. All the building here are monuments. The layout of the square remained the same since the 18th century.
At the centre of the square is the Holy Trinity statue, which was erected in 1695, in memory of the plague, and which is similarly to the one in Szentendre is a votive monument.
One of the bordering houses at the square is the first public building of the city, the Town Hall has been there since 1496.
This building was also the home of the 1681 National Assembly. In 1892 Sopron outgrew the old building so it was demolished and four years later the people of Sopron celebrated the millennium with a new, eclectic Town hall.
This is where the city’s most famous church is, the Kecske church (Goat church). The Franciscan House of Worship built in 1280 did not got its name from the order’s unique love of goats.
According to the origin stories the richest citizen of the town murdered his opponent after a disagreement and fled from the law to the neighbouring Austria.
Yes, but even in Austria you have to die eventually, and murder is the best passport to hell. In the hopelessness of Ascension, our “hero” tried to lessen his sins buy donating all his wealth to the Church, which paid for the expansion of the temple.
The coat of arms of the murderer/donor’s family was placed above the entrance of the church, and its main motif was – hang onto your hat – a goat. You can place the rest together.
The most famous building of the square is surely the Fire Tower, the symbol of the city.
The 58m tall renaissance circular balcony of the tower, built on Roman foundations, was completed after the ominous, unfortunate chestnut cooking.
In addition to watching the fires, the here stationing guards also had to look out for advancing enemies. As the tower is open for visitors, we can also get a chance to imagine ourselves in this responsible role.
A few thousand steps
Moreover, if we go up to the Fire Tower when the weather is nice, we can lay an eye on all the beauty neighbouring Sopron, which makes it worth to go further from the centre.
We don’t have to go too far for attractions, as the Sopron Mountains are one with the city. The most famous and tourist favoured part of this is the Lővérek.
Over 40 springs, seven lakes and 20 streams are found in the area. Six lookouts give the opportunity to admire the area from above.
There are numerous hiking trails at our service, equipped with detailed hiker signs. One of the most popular of these is the Cyclamen hiking trail. It got its name after the cyclamen flower, which can only be found in this area in the country.
Along the trail we will see and abandoned quarry, Celtic tomb, a stream surrounded by massive trees, springs and as the highlight of the trail, the Várhely-lookout, from which you can see all the way to Lake Fertő.
The sportier people also have a chance to take the so-called sport hiking trails, where either the terrain is more difficult or other elements help tiring you out.
And if we get bored of the trees, we can admire the buildings of the villa district, of which many were built at the end of the XIX. century.
Mentioning Lake Fertő: this lake part of World Heritage, which lays at the Fertő-Hansági National Park, at a minimal distance from Sopron.
In addition to boat and rowing tours, we can also find one of Central-Europe’s most popular cycling destination here too. Although the larger portion of the lake belongs to Austria, so the best beaches too, thanks to the free passage of borders, it won’t stop those who want to bathe.
Festivals in Sopron
Those who want to spend their holidays in Sopron even more actively, won’t be disappointed either. An army of programs and event provide entertainment to all the dear guests.
In this category not many things explode larger than the five-day long VOLT Festival at the Lővér Camping, which is one of the country’s largest light music gatherings.
Besides the rock, electronic and pop genres, heavy metal, hip hop and international and national representatives raise the quality of the event.
And in addition, theatrical performances, exhibitions, movie screenings, sport programs and round table discussions add colour to the palette, and the beautiful surrounding is the cherry on top.
Each year more and more foreigners arrive, which is a good indication of the festival’s prestige.
Sopron Spring Days
Since 1983, the city is part of the Budapest Spring Festival programs, as a rural station. The Sopron Spring Days – similarly to the mother event – offers high quality, diverse programs for all age and interest groups.
Theatrical performances, concerts, dance shows by famous national and international performers dazzle the audience. In addition, they await visitors with fine- and applied art exhibitions.
Sopron Grape Harvest Days
We didn’t mention yet one of Sopron’s attractions, which is capable to make all of Sopron’s other attractions even more beautiful: which is non other than the soproni kékfrankos (blue franc).
The wine is the pride of the area, they call Sopron the capital of the kékfrankos as well.
According to legends, the name of the kind can be dated back to Napoleonic wars. The French soldiers stationed here got their daily wine through their blue coloured banknotes, as the local winemakers wouldn’t accept the white notes, which worth less.
Among other things, we can try this drink at the Sopron Grape Harvest Days event. Besides the local wines we can also taste other area’s wine too of course, but we can also attend the organised conference on this topic.
In addition, a harvest parade, folk dancers, a brass band, a children’s wine drinking competition, only kidding 🙂 , a toy park, gastronomy stands, concerts, a laser show and who knows what else will be there that will more than likely only be remembered by the drivers.
Does anybody have any doubts left about what a great spot Sopron is? Yes? Well, then there is nothing else to do but prepare and experience the above statement. And if by any chance, the doubting person falls in love with Sopron, I will generously hold in “I told you so”.