A small, cosy city to raise your kids in, but at the same time, a big county capital full of students which, in the past years, has been growing and becoming more important in the region. The proximity of Lake Balaton makes it even more attractive to live in, not to mention programmes organised all year round, but do you know anything about the historical significance of Veszprém?
Veszprém is one of the oldest urban areas in Hungary, the administrative centre of Veszprém County. Its Castle, together with those of Esztergom and Székesfehérvár, is one of the oldest castles of the country.
It was already standing in its place back in the 10th century, in the times of Géza, the Grand Prince of Hungarians, who was the father of Hungary’s first king, Stephen I of Hungary.
The castle itself played an important religious role in the country’s history, as
Stephen I defeated the armies of his chief opponent near Veszprém, thus becoming the first king of the country and making Christianity the official religion.
It became the first episcopal seat of Hungary some years later.
Veszprém was not only important for our first king but also for his wife and Hungary’s first queen consort, Queen Gisela. Together with her husband, she played a fundamental role in spreading Christianity and Western culture in Hungary. Veszprém was her favourite city and thus, for centuries,
queens of Hungary were crowned by the bishop of Veszprém in the city, giving it the nickname “the city of Queens“.
Veszprém was not only one of the first cities to have a castle but was also among those to have a university. Students had the opportunity to study law and arts in the beginning, until 1276, when the university was destroyed in a fire. Its successor, the University of Pannonia, is more than 70 years old, and today, the most important faculties are of Engineering, Agriculture, and Information Technology. The city has numerous secondary schools, from which two are among the best ones both in the county and in the country every year, which gives the city another nickname, “an academic city“.
There is no unilateral agreement on the origin of the city’s name; however, there are several theories. The most probable one is that the name comes from a Slavic word “bezprem” which means “uneven”, “with hills”, referring to the geographical characteristics of Veszprém lying on seven hills. According to another explanation, and this is, of course, the dearest to us, Queen Gisela withdrew her fur coat with a cry of “no fur” (“Vessz! Prém!”) to contribute to the cost of building the St. Michael’s Cathedral.
Nowadays, Veszprém is a little less medieval and much more international, despite its beautiful old centre and castle area. It is no surprise that
Veszprém has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2023.
The city is full of programs all year round. In the winter, we can choose from two wonderful theatres offering either traditional or modern plays or go to a concert at the newly-built concert/theatre hall called Hangvilla. At Christmas time, taking a long walk in the old city centre in the little, narrow, medieval streets just under the castle offers a wonderful experience. If we get too cold, which does happen in the snowy weather, we just head to the main street, called Kossuth Street, where the Christmas market is set up, and we just grab a bite of a traditional chimney cake or a sip of a good mulled wine.
When spring sets in, and the weather gets a little bit nicer, the number of leisure and outdoor opportunities multiplies. The Veszprém ZOO offers the perfect activity for kids and grown-ups, with its dinosaur park and African Savannah-like playground, not to mention, of course, its hundreds of inhabitants.
If we would like to escape from the city a little bit, the best destination would be Lake Balaton, of course, which lies only 15km from Veszprém.
It can be reached easily and quickly, not only by car or bus but also by the newly-built and regularly maintained cycling track that starts in Veszprém and goes up to the lake itself, offering not only a beautiful panorama on the way but also a healthy option to arrive there.
As spring turns into summer, the city offers a huge number of concerts and festivals. VeszprémFest brings the best musicians to town every year on its numerous stages throughout the city. The nr1 music festival is the so-called Utcazene Fesztivál where hundreds of unknown bands and singers play on the streets from the early afternoon until the evening to fight to be chosen the best. And when the night falls, it is time for national and international heavyweights of the music industry.
The list of activities to do in Veszprém goes on, but we would need several articles to write about everything, so we are closing with one suggestion: make a New Year’s resolution and make sure to visit this wonderful and picturesque gem of Transdanubia this year.