Székesfehérvár was the center of Hungary for a long time, and the town still has traces of that role. The unique historical heritage still pervades the town. Caring for the town and preserving it is especially important not only because of the historical significance of the town, but also because of the history of the country.
In those times, Chief Prince Géza chose this area as a residence with a good reason, and we can also have a feel of it by looking around the town. Visiting this place, we can really taste the essence of the country; we can go back to the time of its foundation and absorb the atmosphere of more than one thousand years of Hungarian history.
Gorsium – the Roman Age name of Székesfehérvár
Each road leads to Székesfehérvár, as the ancient Hungarian proverb goes. However, such a Hungarian proverb does not exist, the sentence was true of the biggest town of Central-Transdanubia for quite a long time.
Thanks to its ideal location, the area has been inhabited since ancient times, and in the Roman Age, outstandingly important roads and routes intersected, thus making Gorsium, the predecessor of Székesfehérvár, an important regional center.
Székesfehérvár itself was founded by Chief Prince Géza in 972, and later, his son, St. Stephen elevated it to a real town and world-wide royal center. It used to be the exclusive coronation town of Hungary for more than 500 years.
Besides having important commercial and military routes, it became one of the significant stops of the holy pilgrimages in the 11th century. Between 1543 and 1688, the people of the town lived their everyday life under the rule of the Turkish military groups that were staying in the country temporarily.
By the end of the 18th Century, Székesfehérvár became an outstanding cultural center of the region, and this role became more and more significant between the two world wars.
The Second World War left the town with serious destruction, and after the war, the settlement and its surroundings were converted into an industrial center. Following the regime change, the repressed cultural life was pushed into the foreground, and the town became an important tourist target of the region.
What is out around?
Obviously, a strong contributor to the above mentioned facts is the fact that Székesfehérvár is located on the edge of the Velence Mountain, in the direct proximity of Bakony, only 10 kilometers away from Lake Velence.
It is little wonder that the town with its great features is among the most popular scenes for spending great time with a wide range of pastimes.
According to researches, only a little time spent in nature has a proven beneficial effect on humans, not to mention if we spend “a little more than little” in the open air. Coming here in the surroundings we have a good chance of doing so, and we do not even have to go far from the city to have a little “natural therapy” like this.
On the southern edge of Székesfehérvár, Sóstó nature reserve welcomes us. It has been a beloved holiday resort since the first half of the 1900s. This area is really colorful in its geography, it is bordered by marshland on the West and sandy area on the South, and its northern border is the town itself.
Several botanical specialties can be found here; among them are different orchid types. Several visitors are so fascinated to see all these beauties that they are as happy as a lark, by the way, larks and other special birds are protected species here.
At the same time, a well-built duck-hawk wouldn’t let itself be caught easily, so insisting on the principle “all for the eyes” is in the interest of everybody. Beside the study path going in the area, we can put up our tents in Zöldtanya (Green Farm) – which is the information center and regional museum of the nature reserve – if we feel like.
The forest of Sárpentele is also only a stone’s throw away from the city center. Zsigmond Széchenyi, the world-famous hunter, writer and natural scientist spent his childhood here. In the middle of the comfy forest, we can find a built fire pit, restrooms, forest furniture and even a playground for ball games.
If somebody still misses something, they can use the forest gymnastics trail of 2×800 meters. Favorite running routes also lead to this place, and as the area tempts everyone to do this kind of activity, it is useful to pack in your running shoes.
After a light jogging from the forest of Sárpentele we can find ourselves in the Sárrét Conservation Area. It used to be a wetland, and although the marsh amount has reduced since then, we can still trace the vegetation rich in scare species.
The wide meadows are sometimes spotted with forest blocks and canals, and it provides a changeable natural habitat for 177 protected bird species. Besides this, we can find here different species of dragonflies, amphibians, grass snakes, not to mention the unbelievably wide range of flora and fauna. We can spend even a whole day roaming here without getting bored with the landscape.
This is the only place where you can become a king
Getting to know Székesfehérvár won’t become boring, even after leaving the nature, since arriving back to the town we can feel like a child getting from his mother’s lap into the cradle.
The reason for this is that the town can be called the cradle of Hungarian history, being such a key place which was the dominant corner of the countries for centuries.
Here we can find Nagyboldogasszony-bazilika (The Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), which used to be one of the biggest churches of Europe in those times. Its construction work was started by St. Stephen, shortly after the state foundation. Its impressive size corresponded to its significance: for centuries every Hungarian ruler was crowned here, and 14 of them chose the church as their final resting place.
During its existence it was continuously extended and converted. It was the place where the royal insignia and the crown were guarded.
Unfortunately, the Turkish conquest put an end to its history, because at the re-conquest of the town, the besieged army exploded one of its towers used as gun powder storage, and in the fire, the whole building was destroyed. The remaining stones were used to repair the castle walls protecting the town. Within the wall-remains we can find today a national memorial site where we can see the sarcophagus of St. Stephen placed here for his final rest.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Another similarly important place in the history of the town is the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It was originally built as the first church of Hungary by the founder of the town, Chief Prince Géza, St. Stephen’s father. Although St. Stephen made his own church to be the crowning church, he himself was inaugurated as a ruler in this building.
On the site of this church, King Béla IV got his own sanctuary built which is one of the biggest cathedrals of the country, and doing so, he organized his own coronation here, breaking with the prevailing traditions.
The current image of the building was gained in 1771, inside it is decorated with frescos connected to St. Stephen’s life, and the solemnity of its interior is enhanced by the abundant use of red marble. In its crypt, we can find the marble coffins of King Béla III and that of his wife. In its northwestern tower, the visitors can see the Tower Clock Museum with the more-than-one-hundred-years old clocks of the church.
As for another monument of Székesfehérvár, it doesn’t lack grandiosity either, although it doesn’t look back to such a rich history as the scenes previously described.
The Bory-castle is a special building complex built for decades by Jenő Bory himself, who was an architect, sculptor and painter of Székesfehérvár. He started the construction in 1923, and he was working on it until his death in 1959.
Jenő Bory considered the building his own masterpiece. He worked mainly alone, with his two hands, using temporary help sometimes. Currently, it serves as a private museum where his own works, those of his wife, as well as the works of contemporary artists can be seen.
Besides these, we can walk in and around the castle as well, which provides a unique experience with its atmosphere and architectural solutions.
There is a lot you can do
In the present of Székesfehérvár, the past plays an important role. The most spectacular manifestation of this is the Székesfehérvár Royal Days, the internationally-known arts festival of the town, having its main scene in the historic downtown.
The event-series based on the celebration of King St. Stephen has been held since 1996 every August. The International Folk Dance Festival is organized as a “festival within the festival” being the starting event of the whole series in 1996, in addition to the Coronation Celebration Games, Regional Military Orchestra Festival and Folk Art Festival. Apart from these, a lot of classical- and pop music concerts, impressive stage performances and procession welcome the visitors who come here in a large number every year.
Those who long for lighter entertainment don’t have to miss anything good either, thanks to the Fehérvár Music Days or FEZEN festival, as it is known. In the more-days-long event organized yearly, more than 100 Hungarian and foreign stars perform, presenting and representing several genres.
Sport and healthy lifestyle get an outstanding role since several local professional sports associations are represented in the scene.
Whitsun is also eventful in Székesfehérvár since several traditions are connected to this feast. Among others, for example, in many places, branches and flowers are put into the window or on the fence to ward off lightning.
The Fehérvár’s population feels great and carefree at Whitsun because the whole town “blossoms” due to the Pünkösdi Virágálom (Whitsun Flower Dream) and event during which florists build their compositions yearly around another topic and visitors can see these works during a procession accompanied by music.
The audience can certainly choose the most beautiful work every year, and the creator of the 1st ranked composition can get valuable prizes besides swimming in glory. The event is accompanied by several cultural and entertainment programs.