In southern Hungary, on the banks of the Tisza River there is the beautiful city of Szeged. Today it is the administrative center of the Csongrad municipality, which is home to about 163,000 people. According to one version, the city got its name from the Hungarian word sziget, which means “island”. Another version suggests that its name comes from the old Hungarian word szeg, which translates as “corner”, as Szeged is located in a place where the Tisza River turns.
History of Szeged
A settlement has existed at the site of the present-day city since ancient times. The first time its name was mentioned in 1183. In the 13th century during the Mongol invasion the city was completely destroyed, but later it was restored. In the 16th century Szeged became part of the Ottoman Empire, where it remained until 1868 when it was annexed to the Habsburg Empire. The town flourished in the 19th century. At that time the industry was developing, a sausage factory and railroad were built.
But in 1879 a catastrophic flood wiped out almost the whole of Szeged. For several decades the city was rebuilt anew.
This Hungarian city is located in a continental climate zone. The annual rainfall is around 518 mm, and even the driest months are rainy. Most rainfall occurs in June, and the driest is February. July is the hottest month in the city, when the average temperature rises to +20.8 ºC. There are 210 sunny days a year. January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of -1.4 ºC.
What to see in Szeged?
After the destruction caused by the flood, only a few architectural landmarks have survived in Szeged, Hungary, with other buildings dating from the 19th and 20th centuries:
- Szeged Cathedral (Temple of the Obet) . It is the third largest Catholic church in Hungary. It was built in honor of the Virgin Mary as thanksgiving for the fact that the city was able to recover from the devastating flood. Construction began in 1913, but it was not consecrated until 1930. The red brick building was built in the neo-Romanesque style. The façade is decorated with a huge clock with the largest clock face in Hungary and a big rose, which is a remarkable element of the decoration. Services in the temple are accompanied by organ music. The building has 57 towers and two 90-meter bell towers. The temple can accommodate 5 thousand parishioners simultaneously. The interior design is sustained in the Art Nouveau style, especially the mosaics look beautiful.
- The tower of St. Demeter . It was built after the flood on the site of the bell tower of the Orthodox Church. In the tower were the leaders of the Hungarian revolutionary uprising.
- Serbian Orthodox Church. It is located on the Dome Square. The building was built in the baroque style in honor of St. Nicholas. The richly decorated iconostasis creates a mystical and bewitching atmosphere in the church.
- Synagogue . The synagogue was built in 1907 under the direction of the architect Bomhorn Lipot. It is a monumental building that combines two main styles: Neo-Moorish and Art Nouveau. The synagogue’s dome towering over the city is particularly beautiful.
- National Theater . The building was built in 1883 in the Neo-Baroque style, but a year and a half later it burned down. It was subsequently rebuilt several times. The last reconstruction was completed in 1986. The stage decoration was purchased from the Vienna Ringertheater. Today various celebrations and festivals are held there.
- Reyok Palace . The building was designed in the style of the so called Hungarian Art Nouveau. The facade of the building and its stairs are decorated with bright colors, which were made by the artist Pal Fekete. This interesting architectural object the locals call the “croup of the horse” because the palace is located behind the statue of a horse in honor of the heroes of the First World War.
Szeged, Hungary has a number of welcoming hotels, the photos of which you can see below:
- Tiszavirág Szeged 4*. The hotel is located 200 meters from the center of Szeged and 800 meters from Cathedral Square.
- Art Hotel Szeged 4*. From the city center to the hotel is only a 3 minute walk. Wellness center with whirlpool bath, Finnish sauna and steam bath attracts many guests.
- City Hotel Szeged 3*. The hotel is situated on the banks of the Tisza River. Its rooms have a beautiful view over the city.
- Bella Hotel 3*. Located next to the bus station and the church Rokus. There is a beautiful large garden in front of the hotel.
- Szivárvány Panzió 2*. This mini-hotel is located in a residential area of Szeged, 600 meters from the train and bus stations.
You can have lunch or dinner in a relaxed atmosphere in many restaurants in Szeged:
Every year in the second half of June the famous Rose Festival takes place in the small village of Söreg, close to Szeged. This is the birthplace of the beautiful Hungarian flowers. For three days, the streets and squares are decorated with decorations consisting of a million flowers. There are master classes for the guests of the festival on how to make bouquets and grow roses. During this time there are musical performances, shows and concerts, and its climax is a festive demonstration, in which both adults and children take part.
Tourists who come to Szeged in the fall should definitely visit the delicious sausage contest, because it is not for nothing that Szeged is considered the birthplace of salami. In addition to tasting this fresh and delicious product, you can also see the equipment on which it is produced. The city even has a sausage and paprika museum called “Pic”, and you can buy salami in any of the many stores in Szeged.
How to get to the city?
Those tourists who are interested in how to get from Budapest to Szeged, you can use air links: the city has a small airport, which takes local flights, including from the capital of Hungary. In addition, you can get to Szeged and the train, the road will spend about 2 hours. Trip by bus will take twice as much time, because the trip will take two changes.
The most interesting places in Szeged, Hungary
Szeged – one of the main tourist centers of Hungary, previously had the reputation of a health resort, and now attracts visitors with its architectural style of Art Nouveau.
Szeged is situated in the very south of Hungary, 170 km south-east of Budapest. The city is the administrative capital of the Csongrad province. Szeged has the status of a border city – 10 km from it is the border with Serbia, 20 km – the border with Romania.
Szeged is located on both banks of the Tisza River, the largest tributary of the Danube. The Tisza is quite turbulent and has played a decisive role in the life of the city. In 1879, 95 % of the town’s buildings were destroyed by the flooding of the river during a high water. After those events the town was rebuilt and generally got its present appearance.
The town has thermal springs, so as far back as the 19th century, Szeged became a famous balneological resort. Now in the town there are two geothermal wells: “Anna” and “Dora”.
How to get to the city
Despite the fact that the city has a small airport, regular and charter flights it has not taken for a long time. However, there is a theoretical opportunity to get here by small aircraft. So the owners of small private jets can fly directly to Szeged.
For the less wealthy tourists the gateway to Szeged is Budapest. From the capital of Hungary to Szeged you can take the M5 freeway with a maximum permitted speed of 130 km/h. The distance between the cities is 170 km. Like other highways linking Budapest with other countries, the M5 is a toll road. To travel on it you need to buy a vignette – a pass for travel on toll roads, without which you can get a heavy fine. You can buy a vignette online, the minimum validity of the pass is 10 days, the price depends on the size of the vehicle. For a passenger car vignette costs 2975 HUF.
Travellers on public transport can choose between two ways to get to Szeged from Budapest: by train or by bus. The city is connected to the capital of Hungary by high-speed trains, from Budapest trains leave hourly from the Western Railway Station. Travel time is 2 hours and 22 minutes. The cost is up to 3800 HUF. Bus routes to Szeged depart from the capital’s Nepliget bus station throughout the day, starting at 05:00 and ending at 23:00. Tickets cost up to 3,395 HUF. Travel time is about 3 hours.
Climate and weather in Szeged
Szeged has a moderate continental climate with warm summers, very mild winters and even moisture. The average annual temperature in Szeged is +10.6 °C, in January the average temperature stays at -1.8 °C, in July and August it is +20.8 °C and 20.2 °C respectively. The snow cover in winter is short-lived and melts quickly. The average annual rainfall is 495 mm, with June being the wettest month (9 days of precipitation).
Population of Szeged
Szeged is the third most populous city in Hungary. In total, a little more than 160 thousand people live in Szeged. The vast majority of the city’s residents are Hungarians by nationality (95%), the once large Serbian community in Szeged is now reduced to 0.5% of the total number of citizens. Other nationalities are Croats, Germans, Romanians, Slovaks and Roma, each with less than 1% of the total population.
Where to live in the city
Like any European tourist city, Szeged has an assortment of different accommodations. With over 140 hotels and apartments in Szeged in all price ranges, you should have no trouble choosing where to stay.
There are no 5-star hotels, but this is more than compensated by the 4-star hotels: Hunguest Hotel Forras, Szent Janos Hotel, Novotel, Dom Hotel, Mozart Hotel and Soleil. Rooms cost from 11,000 HUF per night. In the hotels of lower categories you can find a room for 8000 HUF, and the cheapest options cost 4,500 HUF. Especially interesting options are guest houses and pensions. Rooms at such facilities can be found for 8000 HUF, and the level of service is not inferior to the “star” hotels. Hostels are an alternative to single rooms. A bed in a large room costs from 2600 HUF. The most popular and inexpensive hostel in the city is Hostel 66 (Sándor Petőfi Square, 66).
What and where to eat
Like the rest of Hungary, Szeged is a true gastronomic paradise for a gourmet. Apart from traditional Hungarian dishes such as goulash, paprikash and lecho, you can also taste regional specialties and products. Szeged is the birthplace of salami, a famous type of sausage invented here in the 19th century. The local brand of salami is Pik, so it is “salami Pik” that you should ask for in the shops and stores of Szeged. Other popular regional dishes include jalasle ear, made from river fish with the addition of paprika. Another famous dish of the city is Szeged goulash, whose recipe uses sauerkraut.
There are plenty of places to eat in the city. On the embankment of the river Tisza there are many fish restaurants that serve river fish, including fish soup halasle. The most popular are Roosevelt Téri Halászcsárda, Kiskörössy Halászcsárda and Fehértói Halászcsárda. It is not difficult to find traditional restaurants, vegetarian restaurants and fast food places in the city center. Coffee shops in the traditional Viennese style have recently developed in particular. Here you can not only taste the excellent coffee, but also treat yourself to local desserts – cakes, pastries and pastries.
Transportation in Szeged
Szeged has a well-developed public transportation system. You can move around the city by cab, bus, trolley buses and streetcars. In total, there are 5 trolleybus, 5 streetcar and 33 bus routes in the city. Public transport interval is short and amounts to 10-15 minutes for each route. Tickets for buses, streetcars and trolleybuses are the same and can be purchased from the driver, so you always enter the transport through the front doors. One trip will cost 350 HUF. Single-trip tickets or weekly or monthly passes can be purchased at newsstands. A monthly pass will cost about 7,150 HUF.
An alternative to public transportation is cabs. There are several cab services in Szeged, the cost to get into the car is about 450 HUF, the further price depends on how many cabs pass the meter. In general, a cab ride in Szeged does not exceed 2000 HUF.
In the summertime it is convenient to move around the city by bicycle. The city has built 63 kilometers of bicycle paths and 300 bicycle parking lots throughout Szeged. In the summertime you can rent a bicycle in the city. There are several bike rental shops in Szeged, mostly located in the center of the city. You should be aware that bike rentals are only open here from April 1 to October 31.
Despite the fact that Hungary is part of the European Union, the country does not belong to the euro zone. The national currency of Hungary is the forint; 1 HUF is approximately equal to 0.22 RUB. Come to Hungary, and in Szeged in particular, is better to bring euros or dollars. You can exchange currency for the forint at numerous exchangers or banks. As a rule, the most favorable rate can be found in the largest banks.
Sights of Szeged
As already mentioned, 95% of buildings in Szeged were lost during a flood in 1879, and the city was built almost anew. Therefore Szeged has formed a single ensemble, which is dominated by Art Nouveau style, or rather its Austro-Hungarian variation – Secession. This style, balancing on the verge of kitsch, is characterized by boldness, refinement, and singularity of forms. Szeged is a real sanctuary of Secession, not inferior even to Budapest.
The main pedestrian street of the city is Karas Street. Local “Arbat” was formed in the late XIX century and early XX century. In 2004 the Karas Street and Clausal Square, from which the street starts, received the European award Euro Nostra for the preserved architecture. As with all such streets Caras is a “realm” of cafes, restaurants, stores and souvenir shops. Music is always playing and there are frequent performances and theatrical performances.
The building is a splendid Secession-style building of such vibrant and evocative forms that it is often compared to the works of Antoni Gaudi. The building was erected in 1907 at the request of wealthy landowner Ivan Reyok and was named after him. Nowadays there is a museum in the palace. You can admire the facade of the building at any time, the museum exhibition runs on a schedule of 10:00 – 18:00, the cost of tickets – 400 HUF. The address of the building is Tisza Lajos Blvd. 56.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Szeged is the largest Catholic cathedral in Szeged, which is one of the three largest in all of Hungary. Construction of the majestic building began in 1913 and was completed in the 1930s, already in independent Hungary. The cathedral was built in the Neo-Romanesque style, and red brick was used as a material. Next to the cathedral built two 91-meter bell towers. The cathedral is so majestic that it is difficult to even take a picture of it. Address of the temple: Cathedral Square (Dom Square), 15. You can visit the cathedral from 08:00 to 12:00.
Szeged synagogue is a unique example of a Jewish temple in the style of Secession. Bright and majestic building amazes by its size: If in the Russian Empire synagogues are small inconspicuous buildings, then in Szegede Jewish temple rises up to 49 meters. Especially colorful are its stained-glass windows and modern towers. Now the synagogue in Szeged is turned into a museum. Address of the temple – street Yoshika, 10. Mode of operation: 10:00 – 17:00. The temple is open to visitors during tourist season from April 1 to September 30. Tickets cost 500 HUF.
Town Hall is a symbol of almost every ancient European city. In Szeged town hall is located in the city center on Secheny Square, 10. The town hall was built in 1883 on the foundations of the town hall of the XVIII century destroyed by a flood. The town hall style is neo-Baroque. In front of the town hall there is the former apartment of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, and the two buildings are connected by a small gallery bridge, called the “Bridge of Sighs”. In the inner courtyard of the town hall during the peak tourist season there are concerts of chamber music. In front of the town hall there are two fountains dedicated to the Tisza River.
One of the favorite places among tourists and citizens is St. Stephen’s Square (István in the Hungarian tradition). The ensemble of the square is decorated with a water tower more than 50 meters high. It is the first construction in all of Hungary, during the construction of which reinforced concrete was used. Its architectural importance is not diminished by the advanced technology of its time – as is the case with everything in Szeged, it is admired for its elegance and noble forms. Today the water tower has been converted into an observation platform from which the entire city – and its back alley – can be seen as if on the palm of your hand. Working schedule: 09:00 – 17:00. Tickets cost 610 HUF. Address: St. Istvan Square.
There are many museums open in Szeged, but the most unusual one is dedicated to the city’s main gastronomic achievement, salami Pic and paprika. It was in Szeged that Marko Pieck was able to invent the revolutionary salami recipe, and pepper has been grown in southern Hungary since the 16th century – just after it was imported from America. The first floor of the museum is completely dedicated to salami, the stages and secrets of its production. The second floor is occupied by the exposition, which tells about the history of pepper in Hungary and the nuances of growing and harvesting. Museum address: Tisza Embankment, 10. Working hours: 15:00 – 18:00 (Tuesday – Saturday). Tickets cost 980 HUF.
Interaction and communication with locals
Szeged is a completely safe city with well-lit streets, so the health of tourists is usually not threatened. The maximum that could threaten tourists is the theft of a wallet, phone or other valuables by pickpockets. Therefore, in crowded places should not be unnecessarily relaxed. Upon detection of the loss should immediately contact the police.
As in many European cities, we must remember that many stores here close at 17:00. Later work only supermarkets, but they are almost never around the clock. At the weekend stores and shops in general can take a day off or close immediately after lunch. So plan your shopping based on the opening hours of such establishments.
In Hungary it is not customary to include tips in the bill, but for most services they are quite expected. Places and institutions where it is customary to pay tips include cabs, hairdressers, cafes, bars, restaurants, beauty salons, etc. Therefore, you should not be lazy to add 10% of the check on top of the amount you pay.
Szeged can be called the epitome of provincial Hungary. This is a classic city of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire: bright architecture and rich history here combines with a unique Hungarian culture, similar to other European, but still having differences and its “zest”.