There is something about Pécs that makes you fall in love with it. Maybe it is the Mediterranean vibes on the main square, or the friendly size that gives you every benefit of a big city with the inviting atmosphere of a neighbourly town. Perhaps it is the charming streets with cosy coffeehouses and lively bars, the picturesque buildings and museums on every corner. In my opinion Pécs has all of that, along with being built upon a history that is worth getting to know. If possible, you might even fall in love with Pécs a little bit more.
It was about time I would invite you on a trip through my hometown, Pécs. I believe it is the one of the most beautiful, cultural and liveable cities in Hungary, and a city-trip to the most southern county in Hungary should definitely be added to your itinerary.
As I have the privilege of being a tour guide in this city, please join me on a time travelling journey into the more than two-thousand-year history of the city. Under the name Sopianea, in the second, third and fourth century the city was inhabited by the Romans, and until today we can still see their print on the city. Have you ever visited the Catacombs in Rome? It may be hard to believe, but there is only one place on earth where you can see similar impressive and art-historical valuable burial chambers and original fresco’s, and that is in the Cella Septichora of Pécs. Not only ruins and forgotten glory, but the real possibility to step into their burial chambers and see for yourself, so make sure to add this stop to your schedule!
Pécs is the city for everyone; for the carefree tourist strolling around the alluring streets, backpackers and hikers, but also for art-admirers and history lovers Pécs is considered the place to be. Not far away from the Cella Septichora, behind the (once four kilometres long) city walls and next to the remains of the oldest university in Hungary, we find the four proud towers of the Cathedral. The official name is the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul, but whether you say Cathedral or Basilica, Dome or church, you can’t go wrong! That building has suffered and survived, from multiple fires and style adjustments, and even underwent a religious transformation when it functioned as a mosque for almost 150 years. What interesting stories the stone figures on the top of the cathedral would be able to tell us if they would come to life…
Not only the Cathedral experienced different winds blowing through its walls. The unwavering heart of the city, though known under numerous of names, felt the footsteps of the medieval merchants, heard the tunes of the Turkish snake charmers and was the stage of countless city events and town markets. From stones of the catholic church the Mosque of Pasha Qasim was built during the Ottoman invasion, nowadays the cross and the halfmoon on top of the green cupola accurately symbolise the interesting duality of art and religion within those walls. While the religion is clearly brought back to its origin, the Turkish elements remain, which made a visit to the church never so intriguing and surprising before. Imagine a mihrab, a Muslim praying corner facing Mecca, with Jesus Christ on the cross above, and an angelic painted sky with hints of original prints of the Quran still left on the walls. Just like the Roman burial chambers of Pécs, a Mosque like this is a rareness.
The music lovers will find their place here too, where the enormous organs made in Pécs echo, and on the rhythm of its melodies you can stroll through the park like the famous composer Zoltán Kodály did in his days. Let the Dome Square inspire you like it inspired composer Franz Liszt, gazing from the balcony of the bishop’s residence onto the city towers while composing one of his new masterpieces.
And for those who like polished beauties, hold your breath; Pécs was and currently still is the home of the world exhibition’s valuable collection of Zsolnay porcelain. Their family’s heirlooms are probably the most integrated in the daily life of its citizens, nevertheless one of the main highlights of the city. The people of Pécs walk passed its exquisite designs every day; think of the façade of the County Hall and the stunning Zsolnay Well at the main square, even every time you pay a visit to the post office you walk under the roof of an artist’s work. Not even to mention that hundreds of the university students study at the place where the Zsolnay porcelain was born; the factory quarter. The Zsolnay Quarter is from a tourist’s perspective perhaps the most unique part of the city to visit, as it is a place where history and future come together and you can marvel at the beauties of the ceramic factory from up close.
But whatever Pécs has to offer isn’t all hidden in the past. Only ten years ago, Pécs became the European Cultural Capital, thereby being able to dust of its pride and lift the head up high. With all the festivals, events and theatre to prove my word, the city definitely did not get stuck in the golden ages of its glorious past, but has more and more to offer every day. Of course not to overlook the beautiful surroundings either, as Pécs is situated in the embrace of the Mecsek mountains, with its own “sea-side” at Lake Orfű and countless of charming places to visit in the region like Villány, Óbánya and Püspökszentlászló.
This makes Pécs not only the perfect destination for a weekend city-trip, but even for a longer holiday it is the ideal landing’s place, as all the gems of the Baranya County are just a stone throw away. Pécs is an eventful and colourful city, the perfect harbour in every season, and even though I might be prejudiced, but I am sure that just like me, you will fall in love with Pécs at the first glance.