Dating back 1,000 years, the ruins of a former Benedictine abbey is now the Saint Ladislaus National Memorial. Along with a trail in the forest and a lookout tower, these are the must-see attractions of Somogyvár.
King Saint Ladislaus founded a Benedictine abbey here in 1091 in honour of Saint Peter, Paul and Giles. One of the largest buildings in Hungary during the reign of the Árpáds, the site is still impressive in its current state. The settlement was an administrative and cultural centre of medieval Hungary. The area was rich with vineyards and its economy flourished, especially thanks to the military road that led through it.
The monumental, three-nave basilica had two towers and, presumably, a relic of Saint Giles’s was kept here. The abbey had an eventful history: it was set on fire and then it lost its independence. Later it was rebuilt in a late Gothic style, and then it was reinforced and served as a border fortress until it was occupied by the Turks in the 1500s. The monastery slowly decayed over the centuries until excavations started in the 1970s and the area became a national memorial in 2011.
The visitor centre at the Saint Ladislaus National Memorial displays the life of the king and the legends about him, along with abbey history. The exhibition is interactive with touch screens and virtual time travel, taking you back to certain points in abbey history. To reach the national memorial, leave highway M7 at the Fonyód exit: Somogyvár is located just after Lengyeltóti.
Although the ruins can be reached by car, a trail runs through the forest with hundreds of stairs leading to the abbey. You can stop at Szent László Borozó along the way where you can get a lemonade or a glass of wine for free if you can tell the number of steps you had to climb – the good news is that you can learn this information from one of the signs before the trail even starts.
Tickets to the visitor centre are valid for the abbey ruins, too, or you can buy separate admission. Once you are at the ruins, you can walk freely among the ancient walls.
The best view of the ruins is from the lookout tower that’s also part of the memorial. You can see as far as the solitary hills of Tapolcai-medence from the tower. At more than 30 metres up, this is the perfect way to end the tour.