The first evidence of inhabitance can be traced back to the end of the Paleolithic era. The first written reference to the Hungarian town of Košice (as the royal village - Villa Cassa) comes from 1230. After the Mongol invasion in 1241, King Béla IV of Hungary invited German colonists to fill the gaps in population.
The city was made of two independent settlements: Lower Košice and Upper Košice, amalgamated in the 13th century around the long lens-formed ring, of today's Main Street. The city grew quickly because of its strategic location on an international trade route from agriculturally-rich central Hungary to central Poland, itself along a greater route connecting the Balkans and the Adriatic and Aegean seas to the Baltic Sea.
After the Communist Party seized power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the city became part of the Eastern Bloc. Several present day cultural institutions were founded and large residential areas around the city were built. The construction and expansion of the East Slovak Ironworks caused the population to grow from 60,700 in 1950 to 235,000 in 1991. Before the breakup of Czechoslovakia (1993), it was the fifth largest city in the federation. Following the Velvet Divorce and creation of the Slovak Republic, Košice became the second largest city in the country and became a seat of a constitutional court. Since 1995, it has been the seat of the Archdiocese of Košice.
The city has a well preserved historical center, which is the largest among Slovak towns. There are many heritage protected buildings in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau styles with Slovakia's largest church - St. Elisabeth Cathedral. The long main street, rimmed with aristocratic palaces, Catholic churches, and townsfolk's houses, is a thriving pedestrian zone with many boutiques, cafés, and restaurants.
- The St Elisabeth Cathedral is Slovakia's biggest church, as well as one of the easternmost Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Built between 1378 and 1508 and a Gothic masterpiece, is the city's oldest architectural landmark. The northern tower was completed in 1775, while the southern, Matthias tower as late as 1904. During the last phase of the restoration a crypt was built under the northern nave of the cathedral. In 1906 the remains of Francis II Rákóczi and his friends from Rodosto were buried there. Particularly imposing is the winged main altar with its three oversize statues and forty-eight panel paintings, while the lateral altars, Gothic wall paintings and sculptures add to the charm. Refurbishment work on the Cathedral is currently under way.
- St. Urban's Tower. is originally a Gothic prismatic campanile with a pyramidal roof. It was erected in the 14th century. A church bell installed in the tower has been dedicated to Saint Urban, the patron of vine-dressers. In 1775 the pyramidal roof was constructed with annion in the Baroque style with an iron double cross. There are 36 old gravestones (dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, one of these dates back to the Roman Empire in the 4th century) bricked into the exterior walls of the St. Urban Tower. The East Slovak Museum set up an impressive exhibition of foundrywork in the tower after the reconstruction in 1977. It was removed in 1995. Today, there is a unique wax museum exhibition in the tower.
- The East Slovak Museum is one of the oldest Slovak museums; it was founded in 1872. A neo-Renaissance building was erected in the early 20th century. It was the first building in the town designed to serve its needs as a museum. There are sculptures of Perseus and Vulcan on the facade of the building. The museum presents the Stone Age and the Middle Age period in eastern Slovakia, the Košice Gold Treasure, jewellery and numismatic exhibits. Also on the site of the museum, there is a wooden church from Kožuchovce (Svidník district). The church was founded in 1741 and it was brought to Košice in 1927.
- Jakab's Palace. At the end of Mlynska street opposite City Park, the site where the enchanting artificial brook called Mlynský náhon was originally created is now home to this charming palace. The palace was not the residence of some noble family, however, but the private house of well-known Košice builder Peter Jakab, who was also responsible for building the National Theatre building and the East Slovak Museum. In April 1945 the palace enjoyed its greatest heyday, when it was the residence of the president of the Czechoslovak Republic, Edvard Beneš.
- Immaculata. the Plague Column of the Virgin Mary from 1723. The column is situated in a small park and commemorates the gratitude to Mother Mary for an end to the plague epidemic from 1709 and 1710. It is a fine example of a Baroque sculpture surrounded by later sculptures of saints and angels. Legend has it that the bodily remains of St. Valentine are hidden under one of the columns.
St Urban's Tower