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Introducing Košice

The world may now finally realise what Košice residents have long known: that East Slovakia's industrial powerhouse has cosmopolitan clout and a buoyant cultural scene plonking it firmly on Europe's city break map, fiercely independent of Bratislava. The reason: as 2013's European Capital of Culture, Košice has accordingly initiated a new string of attractions including major arts installations in a combination of impressively revamped buildings, and eclectic events to enliven city streets.

Košice was always a medieval gem awaiting discovery. New enhancements build on an arts scene already home to the paintings of Andy Warhol and one of Europe's loveliest theatres. Its vast oval-shaped námestie (central square) contains the largest collection of historical monuments in Slovakia and when the buzzing cafes and restaurants open up here of a mellow evening, it's hard not to love the city or, at least, want a spirited affair. Out of town, nature encroaches spectacularly with the delights of Central Europe's grandest cave network. It's the base of choice, too, for forays deeper into the tradition-seeped east.

Košice received its city coat of arms in 1369 before any other city in Central Europe and for centuries was eastern stronghold of the Hungarian kingdom. On 5 April 1945 the Košice Government Program – which made communist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia a virtual certainty – got announced here.