There is one place in this world that we are particularly fond of and that is the city of Győr in northwestern Hungary. Indeed, the sixth largest town of the country is very similar to most others in Central Europe. What makes it so special is the fact that it was the destination for our first trip together as a couple. And that is the reason why we want to write about Győr in today’s #throwbackthursday.
Győr: A Short History
At least partly due to its good location, the city lies between Budapest and Vienna, it is an important economic, industrial, ecclesiastic, educational, cultural and sports center.
The interesting history of the city of Győr (pronounced [ˈɟøːr] ) is reflected by the many names it is known by. The Germans call it Raab and the Slovaks Ráb. In Turkish it’s Yanıkkale. Located by the Danube, the area has been inhabited since ancient times. The Celts were here, and so were the Romans and the Slavs were here too. before the Magyars came around year 900. Hungary in general has had a very colorful history and the same applies to Győr; it was occupied by the Mongols during the Mongol invasion of Hungary (in 1241-1242), it was burnt down by the Czechs in 1271 and together with the rest of the country it was occupied by the Ottomans. The fortress in city served to protect Vienna. Despite the Turkish occupation, Győr remained fairly free and the city developed culturally. The Baroque era commenced earlier than in the rest of the country and this epoch can still be witnessed today in the enchanting city center. In times of peace, the city has flourished.
Győr: Things to Do
The fantastic thing about Győr is that there are so many sights to admire in a city that is very walkable and compact. The vast majority of the sights are either beautiful houses from the baroque era, palaces, churches or religious monuments. You will come across them all while strolling around the city center. The town also boasts with one of the most visited theaters in Hungary, the National Theatre of Győr, as well as a philharmonic orchestra.
A good place to start is the impressive Town Hall. Another sight one must visit is the remaining part of the Győr castle that was in use already during the Ottoman wars. The castle was reconstructed in the 16th century and partly blown up by Napoleon. Only parts of the castle remain to this day.
The main square is the Széchenyi Square (in Hungarian Széchenyi tér), which is surrounded by baroque buildings. Throughout history it has been the focal meeting point in Győr and to this day it is home to numerous festivals. One of the buildings at the square is also the oldest baroque church in Hungary, the Benedictine Church.
Visitors will probably sooner or later end up on Baross Street, which takes up most of the pedestrian zone. This is where one will find restaurants, shops, and the tourist information.
Some of the old buildings house museums of different sorts; e.g. in the Esterházy Palace one finds the Town Museum of Arts. One place that I would have visited – had I known that it existed at the time – is the Diocesan Treasury and Library with its 67 thousand volumes of books, 190 incunabula and 362 manuscripts from before 1850.
When in Hungary one really needs to eat. I still dream of the delicious lamb with rosemary and potato mash that we had at a cozy restaurants in downtown Győr. The prices in the city were very decent. Keep in mind that many shops close early on Saturdays (and might not open on Sundays).
How to Get There?
The town is within easy and convenient access from all three capitals – Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava – that are nearby. We traveled by bus from Bratislava, the bus stopped here on the way to Budapest. We returned on the same day, altogether we had about 5-6 hours in the town. There are also frequent trains, and the journeys to Vienna and Budapest take a little more than an hour.
As the town is quite small, we think that one day is enough for exploring it. Thus we would recommend it as a day trip from one of the aforementioned cities.