The city lies close to the Austrian border on the Small Plains region, it is the seat of Győr-Moson-Sopron county. With a beautiful Baroque downtown, Győr is an important industrial, educational and cultural centre.
The region was inhabited since the Mesolithic, the oldest archaeological finds are from this era. The first settlement was founded by the Celts in 500 BC, they named the city Arrabona (the German name of Győr, Raab comes from this).
In the 1st century BC, after the conquest of Transdanubia, Roman merchants settled here and a military camp was set up. During the 400 years of Roman presence, the settlement grew to be an important economical and cultural centre. In the 4th century, escaping from the attacks of Germanic and Hun tribes, the Romans left the city. It was continuously inhabited by Slavs, Avars and Francs until the Hungarian conquest.
Győr become one of the first Hungarian settlements. King Stephen I founded an episcopate here and it became an important market town again.
In 1242, it was ravaged by the Tatars and later by the Czechs. Because of the bravery of its citizens, it received city status which further strengthened its position in trade. Around this time, the main square of the city was built and the settling Dominican and Franciscan monks built many ecclesiastic buildings.
During the Ottoman Wars, Győr’s commander Kristóf Lamberg, seeing the approaching Ottoman army, gave up the defense of the city and chose to burn it down. This made the rebuilding of the city center and the castle necessary. Although the new castle was one of the most modern structures of its time, in 1594, the soldiers gave up defending it against the Ottoman armies and it was reconquered only in 1598.
In the 17th century, Győr received free royal town status from Maria Theresa and it began to prosper. Many Baroque buildings were built – monuments of the city today - and many merchants settled here.
After the loosing the Battle of Győr in 1809, the city was occupied by the French. The towers of the castle were blown up but Napoleon’s armies left the city the same year. Győr had an important role in trading for a long time but later the industries were more important in the city’s life.
In the 20th century, Győr became an industrial city. From 1960 it began to develop rapidly, the city centre was reconstructed, a new theatre was built. After the political changes in 1989, Győr became a university town and a cultural centre.
The Town Hall is one of Győr’s most beautiful symbols. The Neo-Baroque building was built between 1896 and 1898 and it has more than 200 rooms. Concerts usually take place in the Great Hall.
On the Széchényi Square, Győr’s main square the visitor can see many Baroque monument houses. The Abbot’s House gives place to the János Xántus Museum which present an exhibition on the history of the city.
The Cathedral, the seat of the episcopate founded by Stephen I was built originally in Romanesque style and after the invasion of the Tatars it was rebuilt in Gothic style and expanded with Baroque parts in the Ottoman times. In 1996, it was given the status of basilica by John Paul II. The Herm of Saint Ladislaus, a 15th century relic preserving the king’s skull can be seen here.
The Bishop's Castle is the residence the bishops of Győr. It has a tower built in the 13th century and a chapel from the 15th century. Next to the tower is the Baroque Episcopal Palace which houses an exhibition on the life and martyrdom of Bishop Vilmos Apor.
The synagogue was built in a late Historicist and Secession style between 1868 and 1870. Currently it is a cultural centre, the Institute of Musical Art of the Széchényi István University is located here and an exhibition on the Hungarian fine art of the 20th century can also be seen.
On the main square, there is the Benedictine Church Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Hungary’s oldest Baroque church. Next to it is the Benedictine friary where the once Jesuit pharmacy was turned into the Széchenyi Pharmacy Museum.
The Evangelical Church, built in 1784-85 in Copf style is located at the shore of Rába and it is the venue for classical music concerts.
One of the most beautiful Baroque buildings of the city is the Esterházy Palace. The Radnai collection of the City Art Museum which shows works of Hungarian artists from the interwar period is housed here.
The National Theatre of Győr operates since 1978. The northern and southern walls of the building are decorated by ceramics of Victor Vasarely. It is also the venue of the world famous Ballet Company of Győr.
The János Xántus Zoo was originally founded as wildlife park in 1962 but the with acquisition of exotic animals it was turned into a zoo. Currently the visitor can see 100 species of animals here.