Hódmezővásárhely is famous for many things. The thermal spa, the town hall and its folklore. However, in recent years it has also begun attracting another kind of tourist. Many visitors now come here for dental treatment at the town’s many dental practices. The reason is simple, the same treatment can cost four or five times more in western Europe than in Hungary. Many dentists now specialize in treating foreign clients, most of whom come from Ireland, the UK and Germany.
Reasons to Visit Hódmezővásárhely
But there are many people that come to Hódmezővásárhely for other reasons too. Some visit the local spa and Olympic swimming pool, such as the two Finnish girls on the video, in Hódmezővásárhely for a couple of weeks of training.
“We are in a swimming camp” – said one of the girls. The local swimming pool has various hot and cold water pools and they held the European Junior Championship here in 2016.
If you walk or cycle around in Hódmezővásárhely, you will see a mix of buildings: some newer from recent years, others from the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Austro-Hungrian Era in Hódmezővásárhely
Back in those days there was a casino here, a theatre, various large hotels and a major hospital. Some of these still remain, but the casino has now closed down. The main square in front of the Town Hall is where most of the events and celebrations tend to take place. It is also here where you can see some attractive 19th and early 20th century structures, such as the hotel, the old bank, the post office and the Town Hall.
In recent years the local government has spent a lot of money renovating the old buildings and laying new pavements and roads. The council also construction new museums and reconstructed old ones. Now, Hódmezővásárhely is home to many museums, some of which have interesting exhibitions about the region’s history.
Museums in Hódmezővásárhely
Most of the museums are on the high street and around the main square. There are also various cafes and restaurants here so you can take a break if you get tired of walking or cycling all day. My favourite museum is the local history museum where I learned many things about the prehistoric people that used to live in this area.
Visiting all the museums on the high street will probably take you one or two hours. If afterwards you want a good cafe with a nice cake, I would recommend Szőke Cukrászda. It is on Nagy Sándor utca, just right from the end of the main street. They sell some fantastic cakes here and the coffees and other drinks are also exceptional, so if you are in town I would definitely recommend a visit.
Communist Architecture in Hódmezővásárhely
Once you’ve finished at the cake shop, head back into the center of town. As you head towards the town center, you will see some huge old socialist tower blocks on Andrássy Avenue.
At the end of this street is the Terror House Museum, which explains the town’s history during the years of the Communist and Nazi terror. If you are interested in life in Hungary during the cold war, make sure to visit. From here you can head towards Kálvin Square which has a nice fountain and some early 20th century architecture.
The local synagogue in Hódmezővásárhely
You will also find an imposing synagogue just next to Kálvin Square. There are still regular Friday services here but only with a handful of worshippers. The town once had a population of almost 1,500 Jews but since the Holocaust only about 80 has remained. The synagogue was in a terrible state for decades but the local council decided to renovate it at great expense.
The building now looks safe for decades to come, with most of the original ornaments in place. The two clocks at the front display the time the train transport departed to Auschwitz from nearby Szeged. Before the transport, local officials and police crammed the town’s 1,500 Jews into the local brick factory, exposing them to the elements.
The chandeliers in the synagogue were at the town hall loft for decades, however, not long ago a local craftsman restored them to their former glory. At the back of the synagogue is a major Holocaust museum remembering those that fell during the years of terror.
The Holocaust Museum in Hódmezővásárhely
The building at the back was the old Jewish school but it is now an educational center to teach about the horrors of discrimination and extermination. The exhibition showcases the deportation process and where the town’s Jews had to wait before embarking on their last journey in this life to Auschwitz. There are also video interviews with some of the survivors, who were children at the time.
Another section of the museum explains the horrors children had to go through during deportation. One of the most heart-wrenching displays shows children’s toys lost in transport. Probably the most heartbreaking display is the clothes of children floating over two coffins, with a flood of light behind them symbolising heaven.
The Local Market in Hódmezővásárhely
If you have come to visit on a Sunday, Tuesday or Friday, after the synagogue you can get back on your bike and cycle to the nearby market. The market is the main gathering place for local vegetable and fruit growers and you can also buy locally made fresh pastries and Hungarian speciality – lángos. Even my own mother used to come here to sell her fruits and vegetables in the early 1990s. I normally go out here early in the day to have breakfast and buy some food for lunch. The city has a very good cycle network, so if you still have some energy, go for a spin in the forest. These activities should keep you busy for a day or two, so if you are in Hungary try and make sure to visit Hódmezővásárhely!