Ukraine is an underrated tourist destination and there are many great locations that very few people know about. One of these locations is Uzhhorod, a city that is located in the west of Ukraine. Uzhhorod is actually an ancient city in Ukraine that has at one point or another been a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Ukraine. There is also a very unique tourist attraction. For those who are looking for new off the beaten path locations, I made a comprehensive guide to Uzhhorod including things to do and all the information you need to know to have an excellent time.
Originally settled by the White Croats in the later half of the first millennium, the land was quickly conquered by the Magyars, more commonly known as Hungarians. After Batu Khan and the Mongols burnt the town down in the 13th century, Uzhhorod was rebuilt by the Drugeths, Italian nobles from Napoli who had relocated to Hungary. The family ruled the town for 360 years and build Uzhhorod castle, an extensive citadel on a hill overlooking the city.
In 1804 Uzhhorod became part of the Austian Empire when Hungary was absorbed as a crownland. The city developed rapidly under the Empire with the construction of factories to create goods for trade. However after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following WWI, Uzhhorod was given to Czechoslovakia as part of the Treaty of Trianon.
Czechoslovakia held the city for 18 years until Miklós Horth, the regent of Hungary, petitioned Adolf Hitler for permission to occupy Carpatho-Ukraine which later became part of The First Vienna Award. In 1944 the Red Army of the Soviet Union captured the city as part of a campaign of the Eastern Front. Thousands of ethnic Hungarians were expelled, relocated, or killed, and the German troops were pushed further back into Czechoslovakia.
In 1945 subcarpathian Ukraine was annexed by the Soviet Union and the Uzhhorod region became the westernmost part of the Ukrainian SSR. After 1991, due to the fall of the Soviet Union, Uzhhorod became one of the 24 regional capitals of independent Ukraine.
Uzhhorod is a cute small city full of things to do, including visiting the castle. While any time between April and October would make for a pleasant visit, there is a “perfect time” to visit Uzhhorod that lasts just two weeks in a year.
From the end of April until the middle of May, Uzhhorod turns into the main tourist location in the whole country. All because of the famous cherry blossoms.
The city has more than 2000 Japanese cherries that are planted mostly in the Old Town. The walking streets of Uzhhorod turn into a pinkish sea of flowers.
During this time the city hosts ‘Sakura Fest’ with many activities. There are usually wine tastings, concerts, plays, picnics and more.
By the way, hotels during this time are always booked, so if you want a nice accommodation I suggest booking your room early and upfront.
There is no international airport in Uzhhorod, so the best way to visit this city would be by train. You can catch a train in Lviv or in Kyiv. Although remember that trains in Ukraine are not that fast. So if you are coming from Kyiv the train ride will take about 11 – 12 hours. From Lviv you are looking at around 6 hours.
Interestingly, to get back from Uzhhorod to Lviv is just 5 hours. That is because on the way to Uzhhorod trains usually do a loop and go through Chop (the westernmost point in Ukraine), which adds another hour.
Personally I recommend coming to Lviv first by plane or train (intercity). You need to visit this city anyways, since Lviv is a must see city for tourists to Ukraine. Plan on taking a train in the morning (at 8:41 or 10:11 AM). This way you arrive at a very convenient time.
The hotel is located in the very center of the Old Town, next to the walking bridge. This is certainly the best and the most expensive hotel in the city.
In this hotel they offer complimentary breakfast that in warm weather is served on the terrasse, otherwise inside the restaurant. The interior of the hotel reminds me of old classic Paris hotels with fancy furniture and big chandeliers.
The price here starts from 2400 UAH ($90) per standard room.
Railing on Booking.com is 9.2.
Atlant hotel is the place where we stayed during our trip to Uzhhorod. The place is quite nice, although it is not as fancy as the Old Continent, therefore not as pricey.
Atlant hotel also serves a complimentary breakfast. Although, do not expect anything special; the food is tasty but quite simple. The restaurant where Atlant serves breakfast is quite small for the amount of guests they have, so it can get really crowded.
The price of rooms are between 800 UAH ($30) and 1300 UAH ($46)
Railing on Booking.com is 8.3
Ungweiser hotel (although it is more like a hostel) is the best low-budget choice. This hotel is located in the middle of the Old Town, which is a great location for tourists.
The bar on site serves up some great central European style craft beers.
The price of a room is around 500 UAH ($18)
Rating on Booking.com is 8.4
Eat Me is a cafe with a great selection of delicious breakfasts. It is quite a trendy place and usually very crowded. The food here is great, but you will have to wait quite a while for your order.
This is a huge, multi-level cafe that also has a small summer terrace next to it. If you choose to sit outside, be aware that you probably will be bothered by gypsy a few times during your meal.
Vertep is a very traditional place that serves Ukrainian cuisine. For those who are craving borscht with sour cream or varenyky, this is the place to visit.
I have to warn you, although the food here is quite good and the prices are reasonable, the service can be a bit chaotic.
Hodynka is a restaurant located next to the river and it has a beautiful summer terrace overlooking this river. It is a quite nice place with a relaxing atmosphere and nice view.
The restaurant has a big menu and a good selection of beers. The prices are reasonable and the service is fast. This is definitely one of the best spots to be on a sunny warm day.
Uzhhorod is quite a special city in Ukraine. Two weeks out of the year this city turns into the tourist center of the country. All of this is due to a cherry blossom festival that usually takes place at the end of April and beginning of May.
The city has around 2000 Japanese cherry trees that are spread around the old part of the city. During the time of the cherry blossoms, Uzhhorod organizes many interesting activities that you can take part in or just be a spectator.
Uzhhorod castle is the second most famous attraction in this city (after Sakura Fest). The castle was built in the IX century mostly out of wood. In the XVI century the castle was completely renovated by Italian architects. Two big bastions (10 meters high) were built to protect the castle. At that time Uzhhorod castle had the latest fortification features that existed in Europe.
Nowadays, Uzhhorod castle is a museum of Regional history. The museum works from 10 AM to 6 PM except Monday and the ticket costs 50 UAH (~$2).
The castle itself is quite big and it is easy to miss something. For example I got lost and missed a whole part where they keep the transcarpathian animal installation.
The whole excursion will take about an hour and a half. Don’t forget to check the view from the fortification wall, it is great and you can have a glimpse of an old wooden church.
The Museum of Folk Architecture is located on the right from the castle and contains a collection of old wooden churches, schools and houses that were brought from all over Western Ukraine.
The Museum of Folk Architecture is a smaller version of Shevchenkivskyi Hai which is located in Lviv. The Uzhhorod Folk Museum is more like a small park that you can explore in half an hour. And although it is not as big and impressive as in Lviv, it is still worth it a visit.
The ticket costs 50 UAH ($2)
As soon as you arrive in the old town, start paying attention to the bridge railings, fences, and other things. There are 25 miniature statues that were placed in Uzhhorod (mostly old town) by artist Mykhailo Kolodko. This way you are not just exploring the city, but also playing the scavenger hunt.
Unfortunately for me, we barely found 15 of the sculptures. The rest of them I plan to find next time I visit Uzhhorod.
As I said before, the best time to visit Uzhhorod is the end of April. And not just because of the cherry blossoms, but also the majestic magnolia trees. Magnolia blossoms at the same time as cherries, so the whole city is covered in pink and white flowers.
You can find magnolia trees on random streets and corners, but the best place to see them is the Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden is located 10 minutes walk from the very center of the city. It is a nice place to walk and enjoy the aroma and colors of different flowers.
If you have read my Things To Do In Lviv article, you know that I put a few restaurants on a must-to-do list, however for Uzhhorod I am putting just one place. The restaurant “Pid Zamkom” is the oldest restaurant in the city (or so they say).
The place has an interesting vibe. It is quite a dark room with a few tables and many different things that make you think you are at a blacksmith workshop. From what we have seen and tried, the food and the drinks are quite good, and the prices are very affordable. However there is a small ‘but’ that I must mention. This restaurant has a menu that is handwritten in Ukrainian, so for those who don’t speak Ukrainian and want to visit this place I really hope you have or will find a Ukrainian friend who can help you with your order.
Word “Uzh” in Ukrainian is an old word for snake. The river was named after a snake because it is very windy. Maybe because of that the city kept most of the banks untouched, which creates a nice sitting area for a picnic.
Of course, you don’t need to sit on the ground and eat your food if you don’t want to. You can go and sit comfortably on one of the terraces overlooking the river as civilized people do. But in my opinion the food is always way tastier when you are sitting on the grass, a few steps away from the river, especially on a warm sunny day.
No matter on which side of the river your accommodation is, you will have to cross one of the bridges. There is of course a walking bridge that you should check out. They say it is a place where people meet and fall in love. People who already found their second half come to this bridge to hang a lock that symbolizes their love and union. (So unique right…not like every city in the world doesn’t do the same thing).
By the way, the walking bridge is a place where you will find a few miniature statues. This place is usually crowded with those who are in a hurry, with those who slowly admire the view from the center of the bridge, with some vendors and musicians.
Address: Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia Oblast, 88000
Just like with Kyiv, Uzhhorod has a special tort that has become a popular souvenir which visitors buy for their family/friends.
I, of course, know that if you are an international tourist, there is no way you are carrying a whole tort on planes or trains. However you can try it in Uzhhorod, at one of the best bakeries in the city.
Banosh is one of the traditional dishes that is very popular in Zakarpattia oblast and the Ukrainian Carpathians. Therefore it is one of the must try dishes in Uzhhorod, and Ukraine in general.
Hutsul Banosh is a dish made of corn grits and served with pork cracklings, bryndza cheese or mushrooms.
Banosh is a filling, but healthy dish that pairs well with different pickled vegetables, especially sauerkraut.
In Uzhhorod you can find Banosh in most of the restaurants that serve traditional Ukrainian food.
Mukachevo is a small city that is located around 45 km from Uzhhorod. Mukachevo is a great place to visit as a day trip, and it is very easy to get to.
Mukachevo’s highlight is its amazing castle – Palanok. Palanok castle is located on the outskirts of the city atop a hill called Castle’s hill (Замкова гора).
If you visited the Uzhhorod castle (which I strongly recommend you do), then you would notice a big difference between these two structures. Unlike Uzhhorod castle (which looks more like a palace), Palanok castle in Mukachevo looks more like a fortified fortress meant to withstand any attack. It consists of three parts: low, middle and high castle. Palanok castle is definitely one of the best preserved castles in Ukraine that is worth a visit.
Besides the castle, Mukachevo has a cute old town that you can explore and get lunch at one of the many restaurants.
Lviv is known for its beautiful architecture, reflecting its rich history and cultural influences. In…August 24, 2023