A City Guide
With a population of nearly 64,000, Békéscsaba lies along the southeastern border of Hungary, about 200 kilometres from Budapest. The city is Békés County's most important communication hub, accessible by car and train and even by plane due to an airfield in the vicinity.
Historic buildings, a new cityscape, the environmental heritage and an abundance of events and programmes attract many visitors each year.
Of the cities with a county seat status, Békéscsaba can boast of the largest green belt. Thanks to an open space dotted with parks, trees and flowers, pleasant promenades, it is one of the country's nicest areas.
A lovely spot in the city is the Élővíz Canal arising from the Fehér Körös, meandering through the city and flowing into the Kettős Körös. The Music Pavilion, erected in 1850 in Széchenyi liget (a city park) along the bank of the canal, is a modern visitors' centre with a fine layout for eco-tourists and nature lovers. The park is also the 'lungs' of the city; its unique flora and clearings are ideal for having a short rest or taking leisurely strolls in an enchanting setting. The bank of the canal is lined with statues of famous people with ties to the city.
Superb listed buildings in Békéscsaba include the Fiume Hotel built in the 19th century, the Jókai Theatre and the Town Hall designed by architect Ybl Miklós. The Great Lutheran Church, the largest of its kind in Central Europe, and the period piece Small Lutheran Church, built in 1745, are landmarks of Békéscsaba. The Slovak Museum (a dwelling house turned into a skanzen-type building) offers a glimpse of a former Slovak lifestyle.
Along with the above buildings, another major contributor to the inner cityscape is a Roman Catholic Parish Church, a remarkable piece of brick Gothic style in Hungary, completed in 1910.
Built in 1922, the Árpád Baths, thanks to recent renovations, now have 10 pools and offer medical and wellness services in the heart of the city.
Gourmands can also enjoy the delicacies of the table in Békéscsaba. One of the best-known foods is the smoked sausage that bears the name of the city. Slovak dishes include strapachka. These are dumplings made with potatoes that are browned in butter or bacon dripping. The dumplings are then topped with breadcrumbs, bacon, cooked cabbage, chives or green onions and/or cheese. They are served as a separate course, as a side dish with meat, or can be the main dish. There are also various kinds of cabbage soups and the famous plum pálinka (a traditional type of brandy), which are a must for those who love to wine and dine.
Visitors to Békéscsaba can choose from a wide selection of quality gastronomic and cultural events all the year round.
Held in October, the Csaba Sausage Festival has become one of Hungary's most prestigious gastronomic events. A series of cultural events and entertainments and 'disznóvágás' (killing a pig with the help of neighbours in a backyard and making sausages, ham and black pudding from it) add to the appeal of the festival. The true highlight of the festival is a sausage-making contest, where Hungarian celebrities also try their hand every year. Open-air events in Békéscsaba include the Csaba Beer Festival, Csülökparádé (a cooking competition where different varieties of 'csülökpörkölt' (pig's trotters stew) are prepared) and Lecsó (thick vegetable stew which includes peppers and tomato, onion, lard, salt, sugar and ground paprika as the basic ingredients) Festival.
Every summer, the courtyard of the Mayor's Office is the scene of 'Városházi Esték' (Town Hall Evenings), a series of programmes featuring well-known artists. Every third year the city hosts an international puppet festival. August is the time when, during the ZENIT Young Musicians' Meeting, brass musicians take over.
Further attractions include the Spring Festival with heralding spring as its main theme, the Csaba Expo International Exhibition and Fair, Scherzo, the National Festival of Musicals, featuring young artists, and the National Festival of Solo Dancers with renowned solo folklore dancers.
Békéscsaba was also the birthplace or hometown of a number of people who, at some time in their lives, earned international recognition. Without doubt, the most famous of them all was painter Munkácsy Mihály, the pride of the city. The Museum of the Year and Hungary's Most Visitor-friendly Museum in 2008, the Munkácsy Museum has the largest collection of his paintings in the world.
The former Steiner-Omaszta Manor, now the Munkácsy Memorial House, displays the memorabilia of the great painter (whose roots link him so closely to the city), and also houses a number of highly enjoyable permanent or temporary exhibitions. The Jankay Gallery and the Meseház ('the fairytale house') are also well worth a visit.
After a cultural experience you might like to go on a local cross-country walk. Walking and cycling are both ideal if you wish to visit tourist attractions around Békéscsaba and discover the beauty of the rural landscape. The Körös Rivers are Hungary's cleanest rivers, with well-kept stretches suitable for swimming and fishing along their banks. Also, doubling as places of accommodation and catering, there are several equestrian farms in the vicinity of Békéscsaba.