Vác is located in Pest County, on the left bank of the Danube, and is also known as the center of the Danube Bend. The town is not only popular and important for tourism, but its cultural and historical monuments are invaluable.
The nearly thousand years old history of Vác and the ever-present cityscape, full of cultural life, I think is the perfect combination for everyone here to find what’s important to them.
History of Vác
Thanks to its favorable conditions, the area has been inhabited for thousands of years. According to a legend, it got its name after a hermit in what was then a wooded area called Vác. It is certain, however, that people have been living here since 1074, the time of the conquest of Hungary, and records of the settlement have been made.
One of the most important moments in the history of Vác was the establishment of the bishopric of Vác, – which was associated with King Stephen the First -, which also determined the future of the city. The bishop was also the squire of the city, and we owe many architectural monuments to this period.
Of course, Vác could not remain without a castle, so in the Middle Ages, the Vác castle was built, which was very valuable in military terms. Later, it became the site of many important battles. The Tatar invasion caused great destruction in the city, they started the rebuilding and settlement of the town with South German settlers.
The XIV-XV century brought a little peace to the city, thanks to the humanist bishop Miklós Báthory, who brought sculptors, painters, and architects to the town. Vác started to operate as a cultural center.
The Rákóczi War of Independence and the conflagration of 1731 did not help the reconstruction either, so the baroque cityscape of today was created in the second half of the 18th century.
Sights of Vác
The image of the city is greatly influenced by the Danube. There are parks on the downtown beachfront, while in the suburbs on warm days you can find beach people, and in cooler weather, you can meet walkers or sporting people.
There are many unusual sights in Vác; for example, the only Arc de Triomphe in the country, the unique Baroque bridge that can still be walked, a triangular Baroque square, but Vác even has its own mummy. I can promise that you cannot be bored here.
As in almost every settlement, the main square plays a central role in the case of Vác too. This community square, which is still popular today, played an important cultural, ecclesiastical and economic role, even in the Middle Ages. Its special triangular shape is due to the fact that the Vienna Gate once stood on the northern side of the square, facing the town hall, and a little further away from the Church of St. Michael. And these three main buildings have greatly defined the square shaping.
The houses surrounding the square are monumental complexes, built on real medieval foundations. On the south side of the square, we will find the Church of the Whites, next to it is the music pavilion filled with wonderful chimes. In the direction of the Vienna Gate, we find the former Episcopal Palace, which today is the Deaf-mute Institute.
For those who love art and culture, I recommend the former Nagypréposti Palace on the main square, which is today the Diocesan Collection of Vác. Another interesting sight is the Art Collection of Vác, which can be found in the Golden Deer Inn.
Culture sweeps around the city: for example, in the Greek Temple, which hosts art, historical and ethnographic exhibitions from spring to autumn. By the way, in the temple, even before WW II, they didn’t worship very much in the absence of prayers, so the church eventually sold the building, which was slowly becoming life-threatening. Around 1966, the building began to be converted into a museum.
The Temple of the Whites (Fehérek Temploma) is one of the gems of the main square. The Dominican temple was built in Baroque and Rococo style, and its simple exterior hides truly rich interior. During the renovations, a crypt from the outside was found underneath the tower of the church, which had been walled for a long time.
The room contained 262 coffins. Not only the decoration but also the naturally mummified corpses remained in good condition. This collection of artifacts,- which is unique in Central Europe-, can be viewed at the Memento Mori Exhibition.
As I mentioned, here is the only Triumphal Arch of Hungary, which was built to honor Mary Theresa’s visit. According to some stories, the queen couldn’t dare to drive through the stone block that had been built in just 5 months but rather walked past it. Just in case. But the triumphal arch is still standing, so there was no need to worry.
In terms of dimensions, we can speak of a stone gate that is 20 meters high, 12 meters wide and 4 meters thick. The beautifully decorated Triumphal Arch shows mainly the members of the ruling house and the symbols associated with them.
If you are curious about the remains of the medieval town, make sure to visit the restored Hegyes Tower and the city wall on the bank of the Danube. Currently, it is operating as a residential building.
The Franciscan monastery and church were built on the site of a castle that had been destroyed during the Turkish assault. We can talk about a truly ornate Baroque church, which the main spectacle is the Rococo styled two-story main wooden altar. The church is now again the property of the Franciscans, but it is empty so it can be viewed at any time.
If we really want to dig deeper into the history of Vác, we must definitely visit St. Michael’s Basilica Exhibition, which is located on the main square. The site of today’s town square used to be a settlement at the time of the conquest, and around the 11th and 12th centuries, locals could build a small church. Although the remains of this have never been found, only some parts of the cemetery next to it which may indicate the former existence of the temple.
In its place was built up the St. Michael Church, which even the Turks left behind during the occupation of Christians to own it during the time of the conquest. Around 1755, the Gothic walls were demolished and the construction of a longer basilica was planned, but during construction, Baroque basement walls and parts of the sub-church were discovered. In the end, the basilica was never finished, and the bishop of that time buried both; the old and the existing walls. Nowadays, the sub-church has been converted into an exhibition place, and the former artifacts can be viewed by visitors.
The Calvinist Church of the Suburbs is a striking piece of art, not least because of its snowy white facade and bell tower, which can be seen from afar. This is a truly modern and groundbreaking building, not exactly what comes to mind when we think of temples. In the hall, is a beautifully landscaped park, the Heroes Memorial Garden.
The Gombás – Stream’s Bridge, which is a unique monument at a national level, is the only Baroque bridge in the country that is still in use today. There are six statues on the bridge, including figures like the Apostles Peter and Paul. It is a truly special experience to walk around here, and admire these creations.
If we wish to go back into nature for a little while and explore the natural treasures of the area, don’t miss the floodplain nature trail. It is the only aquatic nature rail where the Danube’s wildlife is in its original state and we don’t even have to dive. Occasionally, the area is flooded and its restoration remains with the volunteers.
This is really a program that is exciting for both young and old. It may take a couple of hours or even a whole day to roam, depending on the distance we choose to take. By the way, we can make our way all over wooden-bridges, so we don’t have to worry about mud or anything like that. The trail is 510 meters long and has plenty to see while we can learn a lot about the creatures here. If we are lucky enough, we can see them, sometimes even the otters dare to come out.
Why is Vác a good choice?
Vác has hidden value that cannot be condensed in a day or two. Nearly a thousand years of history and culture are not enough, traces of which we can discover everywhere, life always sparkles in Vác. Museums, exhibitions and exciting programs await us at almost every season of the year, not to mention the exceptionally wonderful environment. At the Danube Bend and within it, Vác offers us many opportunities.