The Castle of Eger with the István Dobó Castle Museum inside is amongst the most visited and most well-known monuments in Hungary. Its popularity can be attributed to the fact that this former border castle is one of the most complete in Hungary.
Walk along walls with arrow slits and those bastions which have born witness to many a battle to reach the most important and oldest part of the fortress, the inner castle. Almost every bit of the inner castle area has its own story. Parts of the original castle walls are still standing and cannons are positioned on the cannon hill from where there is a fantastic panorama of the city.
Exhibitions are arranged in the cellars, just as in the Dobó Bastion and several other places. The underground corridor system and the arrow headed (or Italian) bastions can be visited, as can the excavated remains of the first cathedral of Eger.
The two-storey Bishop’s Palace (püspöki palota) dominates the courtyard. The oldest building of Eger, it was built in the years before 1475 and was later extended and renovated. However, its most beautiful part, the Gothic arcades have remained in their original splendour.
The building of the castle was started after the Mongol invasion and, although it kept a strategic role in more recent centuries, it won its true fame in 1552 when 2,000 heroic people under the lead of captain István Dobó fought off the besieging Turkish army of many tens of thousands. The castle and its valiant soldiers became legendary when Géza Gárdonyi wrote his novel titled ‘Eclipse of the Crescent Moon’ (‘Egri csillagok’) in the 20th century. This book was voted the most popular novel in a Hungarian TV show in 2006. The writer was buried in the castle.
Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Apostle and St. Michael:
Designed by József Hild, this Classical cathedral was erected between 1831 and 1836. It is 93 metres long, its cupola 18 metres wide and the twin towers 54 metres high. The monumental dimensions are particularly impressive from the steps leading up to the main facade.
The steps are framed by statues carved from stone depicting the Hungarian saints, King St Stephen and King Ladislaus, next to saints Peter and Paul. All are works by Marco Casagrande.
Eight 17-metre high Corinthian columns support the portico closed by a tympanum. The reliefs displayed by the external facade convey scenes from the life of Jesus Christ. Three statues on the elevated gable personify the virtues of Faith, Hope and Love.
The cathedral’s interior is covered by three domes. Paintings have been created by the most renowned artists of the period. The high altarpiece depicting St John when plunged into oil was painted by József Dannhauser. On the southern side nave’s first altar a depiction of St Michael by Michelangelo Grigoletti stands out. All details bear witness to the fact that archbishop László Pyrker who commissioned the cathedral took care to enlist the help of the most excellent artists and professionals of the day.
The cathedral’s organ was built in the mid-19th century in Salzburg. Together with its loft the Classical organ case effectively concludes internal space. From 15th May to 15th October visitors may listen to brief organ services: Monday through Saturday from 11.30 am to 12 pm and on Sundays from 12.45 to 1.15 pm.
Access to the cathedral’s crypt is from the south. Besides the archbishops of Eger, many outstanding personalities from the city have been laid to rest here. This tradition is continued to this day.
The structure of the Lyceum built in the second half of the 1700’s follows a Baroque style. Its facades are mostly decorated with Rococo ornamentation except for the main facade facing the Basilica, influenced by upcoming Neo-Classicism.
Stepping through the main facade’s large threefold gate, we enter into an oval hall and to a twin staircase. On the first floor the ceremonial hall opens in front of the main staircase. The hall is decorated with frescos by Franz Sigrist allegorising the four faculties of the college. The faculty of law is symbolised by the statue of Justice and the High Court (Excelsa Tabula Septemviralis); the faculty of philosophy with geological surveyors and with the symbols of astronomy, military and political geography; the medical faculty with images of an autopsy and healing; the theology faculty with images of high priests, angels, the heavens and other allegoric images.
The library is located in the great hall of the south wing. From the floor to the ceiling its walls are clad with late Rococo bookshelves. The fresco on the ceiling depicts the Council of Trent. The shelves are decorated with oval medallions ornamented with leaves and with relief portraits of writers and scientists. Alongside the other books, 700 manuscripts and codices and 87 incunabula with several unique volumes amongst them can be found in the library catalogue.
The frescoes on the ceiling of the chapel were painted by Anton Maulbertsch in 1793.
In this building called the Lyceum teaching began in 1793. Over time it has had a law faculty, a lyceum, and a teacher training college. Since 1949 it has been a teacher training college bearing the name of its commissioning bishop Károly Eszterházy.
The most northern monument in Europe from the time of the Turkish occupation, the minaret is built out of carved sandstone. The djami on its east side was dismantled in 1841 in the course of the city replanning.
With a 14-sided ground plan this tower is 40 metres high. Inside its tall trunk 97 winding steps lead up to the iron balustraded circular terrace. The stone cone on the very top of the minaret is ornamented with a crescent moon and a cross. Since 1997, some 350 years after the legendary battle, the sound of the muezzin calling is once again heard in a summer event series.
Of the three minarets remaining in Hungary (Pécs, Érd, Eger), this is the tallest and the best preserved one.
The Turkish baths:
It was until Eger finally fell to the Ottoman forces in 1596 that an organised bathing culture arose in the town.
Altogether there were three bathing facilities built by the Turks in Eger in the 16th/17th centuries but only one survives, that commissioned by Pasha Arnaut.
Topped with a golden cupola it must have been an impressive sight indeed, today the gold has gone but the baths remain despite undergoing many refurbishments over the years.
There are six pools in total ranging in temperature from 30 to 38 degrees Celsius. Unlike the four surviving Turkish baths in Budapest, Eger’s bath has dispensed with the traditional etiquette of Hammam bathing (except for one day a month – see below). What this means is that the bath is mixed, everyone is required to wear swimming costumes and bathers cannot follow the steps commonly adhered to in traditional Hammam baths.
However, if you’re lucky enough to be at the bath on the the third Thursday of the month then it is possible to experience the full Hammam experience.
As well as the pools, there are various saunas, steam rooms and a jacuzzi, your entrance tickets also allows you to go outside to the water complex next door.
The Valley of the Beautiful Woman:
The Valley of the Beautiful Woman, where there are almost two hundred cellars, has been closely related to the reputation of the famous wines of Eger. There are many legends connected to the valley. According to Ferenc Bakó, who is an ethnographer, the “beautiful woman” was the goddess of an ancient religion, the goddess of love similar to Venus. People showed her sacrifice in this place. Farmers talk about a very beautiful woman, who sold wine in one of the cellars. Others say that the valley was named after a lady of a noble house. According to records of the Archive it is not possible to determine the origin of the name, nor the time when the first cellars were built. The cellars were hollowed into liparite that can be found everywhere around the town. This material is easy to shape and its other advantage is that you can keep the wine at 10 – 15 degrees throughout the year. Apart from that the moss and the noble blight that lives in the cellars give it a special atmosphere. Their comfortable aroma help the wine develop a great aroma and also help its aging.
Town under the town:
In 1687 the Turkish army left the town. When the Bishop of Eger, György Fenessy, returned he did not wish to live in his former residency in the Castle, he bought building sites in the town and started to build a brand new Palace instead. The building material was the rhyolite tuff, a volcanic stone, which was mined from the hillside under the construction site. So by the time the Palace was finished it already had a huge cellar system underneath.
In 2007 the cellar system became one of the 7 Architectural Wonders of Hungary. The entrance of the cellar system can be found at Eszterházy square, next to the steps leading to the Basilica, at the right hand side, under the statue of King St. László.
The park with its 22 acres was built during the reign of Bishop Eszterházy. The fountain that you can see in the middle of the park was inaugurated in 2000. The park, having elements of the traditional French park building, has been a public park since 1919. In its southwest section there is a stadium, a football filed and several tennis courts.
Lajos Kopcsik is an internationally well-known master-confectioner, who is an Oscar award Winner, and Guinness recorder. His works goes back for several decades.
The objects made of sugar mainly represent fine arts, applied arts, folk arts, and the symbols of Eger. Thinking of children there are nicely decorated story books exhibited, as well. Visitors can see about 150 objects made of sugar-icing, for example a 2-meter-high wine-bottle, or the Minaret in miniature.
The master was really interested in a Baroque room made of sugar for a long time. Today, it is reality, where all the furniture and others (floor, wallpaper, carpet, pictures on the wall, stuccos, chandelier, stove, sofa, table, the bowl on it and the fruits in it…) are made of sugar. The sweet room took the master 3 years to make.
Bitskey Aladár Swimming Pool:
Bitskey Aladár Indoor Swimming Pool was opened in 2000. The building designed by Imre Makovecz is unique in Europe, due to its wooden structure and special architectural solutions; and has hosted many famous sporting events. The needs of athletes and other guests are served by a swimming pool with a surface of 1000 m2, a practice-pool and a jacuzzi. The gym, cosmetics centre, café and playhouse for kids is welcoming all young and adult guests who would like to relax after swimming.
The Archbishop’s Palace is an imposing Baroque building built in the shape of “U” and it was the Episcopal seat of Eger since 1804. The entrance of the palace is also very interesting, being made of wrought iron. In the northern wing of the castle lies the exhibition called the Center of the Archbishop’s Collections and houses the most valuable objects belonging to the Palace, most dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The most important ones are various relics, chalices, monastic robes and the most admired one is the coronation robe of Maria Theresa. It was renovated in 2015. The Palace beacame the performance of a cultural and touristic centre.
Egerszalók - Salt Hill:
The real gem of Egerszalók is the thermal bath complex. Here the hot waters from two ancient thermal springs have been flowing out of the side of a hill for ages, leaving behind beautiful mineral formations, called the ‘Salt hill’, that cascade down the hill like a frozen waterfall. The Salt hill of Egerszalók is unique in Europe.
Egerszalók - Stone Caves:
The stone caves of the Sáfrány Street are under the protection of the local government. The visitors can see an exhibition about local history and culture. Different types of showrooms are open to the public: folk rooms, handicrafts rooms, wine rooms. In addition, an open stage is available in the area.
Demjén - Thermal Valley:
120 meters from Demjén, towards Egerszalók, we can find the Demjén Thermal valley, which is a popular health resort thanks to its healing sulphurous thermal water gushing up from 690 m depth, at a temperature of 80ºC.
Szilvasvárad is one of the most popular weekend excursion spots in north-east Hungary. It is not hard to see why as there are a lot of sights and activities gathered into a relatively small area.
There is the Szalajka Valley, the ‘Veil’ Waterfall, the Istalláskő Cave, the Millennium Walk, the National Lipizzaner Stud with its museum, a fine neoclassical church, a prison museum and a whole lot more.
It has become a bit of a tourist trap over the last few years with the entrance to the valley packed with restaurants and dubious souvenir shops selling all manner of tat. However, if you can get past these, then it is a pleasant place to take a walk and enjoy the Bükk.