My first visit to Szeged was on the 2nd March 2014. The Wizz Air flight from Luton airport to Budapest takes just over an hour. Then a short bus ride to Ferihegy train station to catch the train to Szeged. The trains are operated by MAV, and the two hour ride including my upgrade to first class with an allocated seat cost me just over £10. A bargain really compared to the overpriced service in the UK. Despite Hungary being in Europe, it still use its own currency the Hungarian Forint. The exchange rate is approximately 400HF to a £1. The local bureau de Change are pretty generous, so you do not need to worry about taking currency from home.
Szeged has been populated since the ancient times, with the Ptolemy naming it Partiscum. The name Szeged may come from the old Hungarian word szeg which means corner, because of the sharp turn the river Tisza takes as it flows through the city. There is another thought that it may derive from the Hungarian word for island sziget. It is also told that it is a reference to the colour of the river Tisza from szeg which means dark blond. Whichever the etymology of its name, the city is the fourth largest in Hungary. It is proud of its university, which is recognised as one of the most distinguished in the country.
Szeged is known for its paprika, which back in the 16th century was used as an ornamental plant, before it was cultivated to the herb as we now know it. Two of its famous dishes are Szekelygulyas, which is a goulash made with pork, sauerkraut and sour cream, and Halászlé which is a fish soup made of carp and catfish. There is McDonalds and Burger King if you prefer.
Photo: Conn Bardi
The river Tisza runs through the city and flows into the Danube in Vojvodina, Serbia. It is great all year round for walking, photography, and in the summer for swimming; unless of course you can brave the winter weather. If you can lay your hands on a push-bike you can cycle along the river and the trails beyond it. Otherwise, it is still worth walking along those paths, but do take a camera with you.
Szeged celebrates the Day of the City on the 21st May by holding its Open Air Theatre Festival. By that time the weather has warmed up and the city’s parks are full of colourful flowers.
There are far too many attractions to list in such a short space, but the most prominent feature is its architecture. Tall buildings with powerful presence decorate the city.
Photo: Conn Bardi
The Votive Church and Cathedral of Our Lady of Hungary with its twin spires is definitely one building to be visited. Its construction took seventeen years to complete, starting in 1913.
The Szeged City Hall is in the middle of the city. The National Theatre of Szeged was built in 1883 in a Neo-Baroque style. The main City Square is full of al fresco coffee shops, where you can enjoy a variety of cakes whiling the time away.
Photo: Conn Bardi
I would recommend visiting Szeged towards the summer months, when the flowers are blooming and the weather is warm. Although it can get quite hot during the daytime, the green scenery along the river is breath-taking. In the evening, the city’s buildings are dressed in their majestic lights. One local church, which I shall not name, must have been inundated with visitors that on its entrance it had put an ‘entry forbidden sign (red circle with a line across) with the words ‘Stop Tourista’. There are plenty of shops and a Tesco’s supermarket, if you are staying in a self-catering accommodation. If you are wondering you cannot get any club-card points at the latter. The city enjoys a daily open-air market with a full rainbow of fruit herb and vegetable stalls. Next it, there is an indoor market with butchers, nut, flower and other stall and shops.
I stayed with friends so I cannot recommend any hotels, but there are plenty around the city, and all within walking distance from the train station. Alternatively there is the tram service, which runs through the heart of Szeged to the train station.
Szeged is a tranquil yet vibrant town with plenty of history to be enjoyed. Its location is ideal for a relaxing holiday, and for river swimming. There are plenty of restaurants, hotels and attraction to entertain the visitor. Alternatively, the long sedate walks along the river Tisza ought to help recharge the batteries.