What to See and Do in Pecs, Hungary

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hometown friends are a special sort – you know, those who’ve known you for a lifetime and with whom you share tons of adventures growing up? Yes, I have those too. But the funny thing is that I met two of my 'hometown friends' on a night prior to my moving abroad two years ago. Yes, I’ve known them before because it’s a type of town where everybody knows of everybody, but this was the first time I was actually introduced to them and we spent the evening together. Best way to wrap up a life phase. 

This past spring I came home just in time to be asked if I’d join them on a road trip to a nearby town in Hungary. The two of them + one girlfriend + another friend had already planned it and they had an extra seat in the car. Why, sure! Especially because I’d never actually been to Hungary before, even though my hometown is really close to the border. (If we rule out the occasional landings and departures from the Budapest airport, that is, and we do because I say so.) So yes, a short one-day trip to a random town called Pecs was definitely something I was in the mood for.

The town is of a similar architecture as many others in the region of Serbia where I’m from – Vojvodina – meaning it has a visible influence of the Austro-Hungarian times. Only in Pecs (pronounced ‘petch’) it’s different because you can see mountains in the distance, while Vojvodina is all flat, so that was weird in a fun way. Almost as if you’ve moved any of the towns from Vojvodina to the mountains. 

Pecs is a town of art and history that’s pretty, cheap and reasonably close to Budapest, so if you’re staying in the capital for a couple of days, you might consider dropping by. Here’s what you can see and do there!

The Gazi Kasim Mosque
Quite unexpected for a western city, the building that dominates the main square (Széchenyi tér) is a mosque. The Mosque of Pasha Gazi Kasim dates back to the 16th century, when this part was under Turkish occupation and when Islamic architecture flourished. The mosque was later turned to a combination of a church and a museum, but the crescent moon and the cross of Islam are still there.

The Synagogue
The Synagogue of Pecs (Zsinagoga) was consecrated in 1869 after more than 4 years of construction. The top of the facade is dominated by a clock and a Jewish inscription, which translates as "The house of prayer for all people". The synagogue can be visited for an entrance fee of 500 HUF. We didn’t do it though... it might have been closed at that moment.

Early Christian Burial Chamber
Pécs has a history of more than 2,000 years. Its first settlers were the Celts, and then came Romans. The Necropolis of Sopianae, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates back to the fourth century. This is the largest Early Christian burial chamber outside Italy.

Zsolnay Ceramics Museum
Ceramics made by Zsolnay company is world-known, and they’re also responsible for a significant amount of the tile work decorating buildings around the town. There’s also a Zsolnay fountain downtown, one of the main sights of the town. People at the Museum speak broken-ish English but are so nice and willing to help and offer guidance!

The locks on Janus Pannonius street
You know the locks with names of lovers who decided they should lock in their romance forever? Well I strongly disagree with the concept – love should be free, right – but apparently, not many people share my opinion. There’s a street in Pecs that hosts hundreds of these, Janus Pannonius Street. Nobody knows how it all started, but it obviously became a thing and more locks are added by people who believe their love will become everlasting. By the way, you probably know about Pont Des Arts in Paris with the locks, but you probably have no idea that the custom originated in my home country, Serbia? You can read about it here.

The Barbican 
More medieval stuff please! The Barbican (Barbakán), the castle of Pécs, dates back to the 10th century. It was captured by the Turks in the 16th century, but the ruins of the medieval castle and the wall that once encircled the old city can still be viewed. And you can walk along the machicolation (the wooden walkway) on the top of the Barbican. 

Király utca – Király Street
Király Street is a lovely pedestrian street in the city centre, beautiful and bustling with people. It hosts many baroque-style buildings, including a church, a former monastery and Pécs’s National Theater. You’ll find shops here as well as restaurants and cafes, so we had a beer prior to the sightseeing and a super delicious lunch afterwards. 


Drink wine
The Villány region south of Pecs is a favorite destination among wine enthusiasts. The region has long, dry, sub-Mediterranean summers and mild winters, so winemaking has a long tradition here and Villány (along with Szekszárd, which is about 60km away) is considered the premier red wine producer of the country. Villány is famous for its full-bodied and spicy reds, so multiple sources recommend the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Which is why I have no idea how come we had white wine. One of the friends is even a winemaker himself back home. Hm. :) Anyway, most wineries in the region are open for visitor and offer wine tasting, so you could squeeze that into your schedule as well. Supposedly worth checking out: Bock, Csányi, Gere, Tiffán, Vylyan and Wunderlich.

Getting there from Budapest: Pécs is about a three-hour drive from Budapest. Highway M6 is the quickest route. Trains run from Budapest's Déli Station. Buses leave from the Népliget bus terminal. The Villány region is located 15 miles (25 km) south of Pécs.

Photos: Nebojša. That's why Manja, his girlfriend, is the star of my post :) by the way, his name literally means ’Daredevil’ in Serbian. Just an FYI ;) 

Would you visit this little gem?

Love, T.

P.S. If you're visiting Pecs, you can use this exact article as a tour guide by installing an app on your phone! I talked about it in this post.

Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article. The app is available for both iOS and Android—whoop whoop!

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