They call Uzhgorod "the city of poets and painters”. It’s not surprising, because the atmosphere of this cozy old multicultural city offers for oeuvre, and a lot of Ukrainian artists really live there or often visit this inspiring place. Beautiful landscapes, fresh mountain air, loads of architectural and historical attractions, inexpensive cafes (that propose delicious dishes and local grape wine) and cheap souvenirs attract visitors to the city.
The most famous attractions of Uzhgorod are: Uzhgorod Castle, Roman Catholic Church of St. George, Uzhhorod's Philharmonic Orchestra (former synagogue), Greek Catholic Cathedral and the Residence of Bishops, Botanical Garden, Museum of Folk Architecture, Uzhgorod Central Rail Terminal and many others. If you visit Uzhgorod in April-May, you may enjoy the blooming of Sakura trees that grow on banks of the river and on the city streets.
There are many interesting attractions not far from Uzhgorod, too. If you have time, you may visit the remains of Nevytsky Castle of early 13th century and its picturesque surroundings; Mukachevo and its famous Palanok Castle; Beregovo and its thermal springs and wine cellars. If you visit Uzhgorod in winter, you may get to skiing bases from the city.
Short historical review
Uzhgorod is situated in the western part of Ukraine, on banks of Uzh river which divides the city in two halves (old and new sections). Uzhgorod is a center of Zakarpattya Region that neighbors with Slovakia on west and is surrounded by Carpathian Mountains on east. The most ancient settlements (of Early Slavic) were situated on the territory of the modern city more then 100.000 years ago.
During the 9th century a fortified castle changed into an early feudal town-settlement, which became the centre of a new Slavonic principality, at the head of which was a legendary prince Laborets. In 895 AD the town was captured by Hungarians and begun to grow. In the early 14th century Uzhgorod showed strong resistance to the new Hungarian ruler, and as the result in the middle of the 14th century the town came under the rule of Druhets (Italian counts) for almost 400 years. During the Druhets rule Uzhgorod Castle and many other attractions of the town were built. In 16-17th centuries Uzhgorod was well-known as a handicraft town. In the middle of 19th century as a result of Hungarian revolution the town became a part of the Austrian Empire. After the First World War Uzhgorod became a part of Czecho-Slovak state. After the WWII the city became a part of the Soviet Union, and in 1991 – a part of the independent Ukraine.
Now Uzhgorod is an administrative center of Zakarpatska Oblast (Zakarpattya Region), one of the biggest industrial and cultural centers of Transcarpathian region; the population of the city is about 116.000 people.
Attractions of Uzhgorod
It is not possible to get lost in the center of Uzhgorod because it’s very compact. The right bank of the river Uzh is actually the old city. Passed the footbridge from the left bank to right, you find yourself at the pretty large Theatre Square.
On the right hand (if the river is behind you) you will see the grate building of Uzhhorod's former synagogue - now the Philharmonic Orchestra, the building of Puppet Theatre and the souvenir market between the Theatre and the Synagogue.
Uzhgorod’s Philharmonic Orchestra
This large red building decorated with arches, moldings and arty-crafty ornaments is considered the masterpiece of European architecture and the most beautiful building of Uzhgorod.
This impressive structure was built in 1904 from Italian building materials in pompous Romantic style with Byzantian and Arabic elements. During 40 years the synagogue was a spiritual center for Uzhgorod Jews. After the WWII by order of the KGB the synagogue was turned into a Philharmonic Orchestra, and it’s a big luck that it wasn’t destroyed like a lot of religious buildings in USSR.
Only one part of the building was injured then – the Moses Scroll on the top of the structure, it was broken. Today the lira – a symbol of music arts – is placed there. Nowadays the former synagogue is the main concert hall of the region. It has the unique acoustics that attracts amateurs of Organ music - it’s assumed that Organ music sounds in a special way in the Philharmonic Orchestra.
Moving left from the square you’ll get to Korzo Street, where most of the shops and restaurants can be found. This street has kept the old city architectural style: it’s narrow, built up with two- and three-store houses, most part of which is decorated with moldings. The name is translated from Italian as "a street to walk”. This is how former owners – Druhets - called it.
One of the houses on this street is named the White Ship House – from the name of old barrel house that was placed here in 17th century. On this street you’ll also find a Cactus Pub – the most popular place among Uzhgorod youth - and many other cafes for different taste. On the cross of Korzo Street and Voloshyna Street there is an interesting Monument to Uncle Kolya the Lamplighter.
Monument to Uncle Kolya the Lamplighter
This monument was established few years ago but it has an interesting history.
Uncle Kolya was a real person, a lamplighter who for 40 years every evening lighted all lanterns in the center of the city.
He was a local celebrity, very smart, intelligent and well-read person. Uzhgorod citizens even called uncle Kolya "the walking encyclopedia” for his fanaticism in reading.
The figure of the lamplighter is made of bronze and placed on the wall under the lantern – it seems that he’s going to light it.
On the set under the figure there is a bronze handbag with books and newspapers that are spilling from it – Uncle Kolya’s belongings.
Voloshyna Street is fool of architectural and historical attractions as well. The main eye-catcher of the street is the Roman Catholic Church of St. George.
Roman Catholic Church of St. George
Beside the Church the Music School (built in 1766) is placing. After this building, instead of the Cinema (built in 1932), there’s the Gizella House. They seem the history of this building started at 1619 when the city owner, Yuriy Druhet, decided to build a Catholic church.
But its modern New Baroque look the church acquired in 1766. The altar inside the church was made in 1895 and was decorated with the work of famous
Baroque master Luchak Jogef Krakker (1717-1779). In 1820 the clock was installed on the tower, but in 1904 it was replaced by newer one which remained till now. The interior of the church almost haven’t changed since the time of its creation.
This two-story building, constructed in 1859, was the first educational institution for women in Uzhgorod.
In this house was placed the pre-school, kindergarten, boarding school for 30 students, music and handwork courses. On the second store there was the Jesus Heart Chapel.
The roof was crowned with the dome and on the top of the frontage, in the alcove, the sculpture of St. Gizella (985-1065) was placed. Gizella (Boldog Gizella) was a daughter of Bavarian Count. She got married the Hungarian king Ishtwan and become the first Christian queen of Hungary.
After her husband’s death she was persecuted and had to go back to Bavaria and went to the monastery. In Soviet times the sculpture of St. Gizella was immured but in 1996 it was opened for review.
In the end of Voloshyna Str. the most prestigious blocks of the city begin, known from the Middle Ages as a place where mostly the nobles lived. In this area the most impressive church of Uzhgorod - the Greek Catholic Cathedral is located.
Greek Catholic Cathedral
This twin-towered refined cathedral since olden times has been the main Christian church of Uzhgorod. At the beginning of 17th century the place, where the church is situated, was filled with burgers’ houses.
The city owner Count Druhet decided to make Uzhgorod the center of spirituality and to build a big cathedral in a heart of the town. He was very generous in his plan, so he allocated great funds for migration of the local citizens to another town district and for the building of the church.
Count Druhet invited Jesuit monks for managing the building process and in 1646 construction activities were finished – but under the patronage of Count’s wife, as Druhet died in 1645. The complex included not only the church but also the collage and the school. The church, named in honor of the rising of Christ, had only one tower. Radical changes of the appearance that gave the church its modern look were made in the end of the 19th century.
The interior of the church was recast several times, the last renovation was made in 1940th. In the undergrounds of the church there is a crypt, where a lot of outstanding persons of Uzhgorod are buried. On the territory of the cathedral there is a Residence of Bishops – an interesting building that unites in its design stylistic qualities of Baroque and Late Classicism. Now the library of the Uzhgorod University is located here.
The surroundings of the cathedral are interesting too. You may enjoy walking around and admiring cozy old lanes and houses braided with grapevine. If you go a little lower, to Olbrahta Str., you’ll find the Botanical Garden. You can feel like Alice in Wonderland in this garden – it’s very mysterious and full of plants which are unusual for this region. The Botanical Garden was founded in 1948 at the place of the walnut orchard where 96 walnut trees grew. Now the collection of the garden includes about 5000 plant species.
The history of Uzhgorod Castle counts more then thousand years. During centuries it was a symbol of the strength and inaccessibility of this city. Now Uzhgorod Castle is one of the most famous attractions in Ukraine.
By the way, the castle is also known for its wine degustation cellar were you can taste different sorts of local grape wine.
Nearby of Uzhgorod Castle in a place known as the Witch Pit (in old times women accused in witchcraft were burnt here) the Museum of Zakarpattya Folk Architecture is placing.
This skansen (a museum under the open air) demonstrates examples of traditional West-Ukrainian village architecture – houses and farm buildings, the church, the mill, the forge, the barrel house, the school and so on. Those structures were brought from different parts of Zakarpattya Region and reproduced on the territory of the museum.
There is a possibility to go inside of every building to learn the way of living of Zakarpattya people. Here you may dive into the atmosphere of the Zakarpattya village of 18-19th century with its unique wooden architecture. The main sight of the Museum is the wooden Church of Archangel Mykhail built in 1777 that considered a masterpiece of Zakarpattia folk architecture.
Inside this unusual church with a slender bell tower there is the exposition of folk sacral painting – icons of 17-18th centuries.
In general visiting of Uzhgorod gives a possibility to dive in the atmosphere of the Middle Ages and to rest from the crazy rhythm of megapolis life.
Video about Uzhgorod castle