Why visit: Open Air Plays of Szeged, Votive Church, Jewish heritage, Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museum and Fisherman's soup
Things to Do and See in Szeged
Szeged lies on the banks of the river Tisza. The city and its surrounding area have been inhabited since ancient times. According to the legend Attila, king of the Huns had his seat nearby and was buried here. Despite its rich history, the layout of today's Szeged was mostly shaped by the great flood of 1879, which literally wiped away the whole town, leaving only 265 of the 5,700 houses. Emperor Franz Joseph visited the devastated area and promised that the city would be rebuilt. During the following years, a new and modern Szeged emerged from the ruins, with palaces and wide avenues. The University of Szeged, one of the most distinguished universities in Hungary, was also established after the great flood. Among its teachers was Albert Szent-Györgyi, one of the founders of the Faculty of Science. He received the Nobel Prize in 1937 for his discoveries in connection with Vitamin C.
The most notable square in Szeged's inner city is Dóm tér. This is where the symbol of Szeged, the gigantic Neo-Romanesque, brown-brick Votive Church stands. Every summer in July and August, Dóm tér gives home to the famous Open Air Theatre Festival of Szeged, a celebration of opera and theatre. The festival features exciting new performances as well as returning favorites. The city's oldest historic monument, the Saint Demetrius Tower, is also located in the square.
The Old & New Synagogue
Szeged is also known for its Jewish heritage. The former Jewish quarter of Szeged was located near Hajnóczy Street. The neo-classicist style Old Synagogue, built in 1843, is now a cultural center. The New Synagogue, built in the early 1900s, is one of the largest synagogues in Europe and the second largest in Hungary (after the Great Synagogue in Budapest). The eclectic, Moorish-Art Deco-style building symbolizes the history of Jewish assimilation.
Széchenyi Square and Kárász Street
Széchenyi tér is the largest square in the city center. It has a beautifully landscaped green park with trees and benches and the neo-baroque style City Hall, built in 1799.
Kárász utca, Szeged's Váci utca, filled with fashionable shops and outdoor cafés also starts at Széchenyi tér. Be sure to check out the Virág Cukrászda on Klauzál tér for delicious cakes and ice-creams.
The Reök Palace, located in the center of the city (at Tisza Lajos körút 56), is considered as one of the finest examples of the Hungarian Art Nouveau style. It was built in 1907 by Ede Magyar, a famous Hungarian Art Nouveau architect responsible for many of the city's buildings. The palace was commissioned by a wealthy business man and landlord of the time, Iván Reök. Today, the former residential building serves as an arts center.
Boszorkánysziget (Witch Island)
The largest witch-hunt in Hungary took place in Szeged in 1728, when 13 people were burned at the stake for witchcraft on a peninsula of the Tisza river. Ever since the small island is called Boszorkánysziget (Witch Island).
Other places of interest include the Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museum (at Felsõ Tisza-part 10, open Tuesday-Saturday 3pm to 6pm) and the Szeged Zoo, known as Vadaspark, which is the largest zoo in Hungary (located at Cserepes sor 47 and open daily 9am to 9pm, the entrance is from Kálvária Street).
Szeged has the most sunny days in Hungary, which is perfect for growing paprika and it also grants the city its nickname 'City of Sunshine'. Szeged is Hungary's third largest city.
Getting to Szeged from Budapest: Szeged is a two-hour drive from Budapest. Highway M5 connects Szeged with the capital. Inter-City trains run from Budapest's Nyugati Station and the ride takes about two hours. Buses leave from the Népliget bus terminal.
No trip to Szeged is complete without tasting the famous Szeged Fisherman's Soup, made of carp and catfish. The 'Halászcsárda' on Roosevelt Square is a good option, or even better, visit Szeged during the International Tisza Fish Festival, held annually on the first weekend of September. If you like markets, visit the Mars tér Market, which by the way is not only a great place to mingle with the locals but it's right next to the infamous Csillagbörtön, the country's most strict prison. In the 1950s many political convicts were brought here.