When it comes to vacation, probably few people think of Slovakia. However, this country is equipped with numerous historical sights and outdoor activities.
You can expect medieval towns, dilapidated castles and tram-like landscapes. These places are just waiting for you to explore them.
Slovakia also has a long and eventful past. Among other things, it was under the rule of Hungary. However, it was also conquered by the Mongols and Ottomans. Since its peaceful secession from Czechoslovakia in 1993, Slovakia is now an independent state for the first time in its history. So despite its young age, Slovakia is blessed with a rich cultural heritage.
You will certainly not regret spending your next vacation in this Central European country. A relatively undiscovered destination awaits you. Therefore, we tell you the 26 best places to visit in Slovakia.
26. Banská Bystrica
Surrounded by the Low Tatras mountains and nestled in the valley of the Hron River, Banská Bystrica is certainly one of the most interesting towns in Slovakia.
The history of the town begins with the first written mention in 1255, when the Hungarian king Belo IV granted Banská Bystrica the rights of precious metal mining and the appointment as a free royal town. The mining of gold and copper began, supported by mostly German immigrants.
In the course of the Middle Ages, Banská Bystrica thus became a rich mining town, so that at the end of the 15th century, the Thurzo family and the Fugger family of bankers from Augsburg established the first international copper mining company in Europe “Hungarian Trade”. This was a gain for the town. In this period Banská Bystrica got the town castle, the church of Virgin Mary, the church of Holy Cross, the hospital church of St. Elisabeth, the church of St. Francis Xavier and many others. In 1776 the town became the seat of the Roman Catholic bishops and at the end of the 18th century the Gausitz.
Since 1552 the main attraction of the main square and the visitor is the clock tower, the “leaning” tower. After the renovation of a neighboring house, the tower now deviates 68 cm from the vertical. If you are well on your feet, you should climb the steps to the lookout tower – you will be rewarded with a magnificent panoramic view of the city!
One of the most attractive objects on the main square is the Beniczky House with its unique arcaded loggia. The Renaissance house with the sgraffito facade is today the seat of the Central Slovak Museum. Still to be mentioned is the historical Betlen House in Dulna Street, where Gabriel Betlen was crowned Hungarian king in 1620.
The most beautiful and important sights of Košice are located in the city center. Here is one of the most important sights of the city, the Elizabeth Cathedral. The construction of the cathedral was started on the site of a burned church in 1378. On the cathedral there are 51 gargoyles in the shape of animals and one with a woman’s face.
One of the other sights in Košice is located on the southern side of St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, the Chapel of St. Michael. The chapel was built in 1330 and stood in the middle of a cemetery. Today this cemetery is a park, but those who are superstitious should not go to the cemetery with their loved one, because according to esotericists there are often fights here.
Of course, among the sights of Košice cannot miss the Urban Tower from the 14th century. First decorated with an onion roof, it was given its present pyramidal roof at the end of the 18th century. In the tower there was the urban bell weighing 5 tons which was destroyed in a fire in the middle of the 20th century. In 1970, the Urban Tower was declared a national monument together with the monuments of Košice: the Elizabeth Cathedral and the Chapel of St. Michael.
The State Theater of the city with its Musical Fountain is one of the sights of Košice. In a small park in front of the Baroque theater, water fountains dance to the beat of classical music. For lovers of classical ballet and opera, the State Theater is of course also one of the most outstanding sights in Košice.
24. Orava Castle
One of the biggest tourist attractions of northern Slovakia is Orava Castle, built like an “eagle’s nest” on a rock above the Orava River in Oravský Podzámok.
It was a county castle and the seat of the Orava manor, to which almost the entire Orava region belonged. In 1556 the castle came into the hands of the Thurzos, who ordered the most extensive reconstruction. In 1611 Orava Castle got its present form. Today the castle area consists of the complex of the lower, middle and upper castle with palaces, fortifications and towers. The castle is the seat of the Orava Museum with several exhibitions.
The village of Vlkolínec (first mentioned in 1376), located in the Great Fatra Mountains, not far from the town of Ružomberok, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993. The reason for this is the 45 still preserved wooden log houses and farmyards, which are a beautifully preserved ensemble presenting the building style and way of life of this mountainous region. Among the most famous buildings are the two-story bell tower, the communal fountain and the stone church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary. One of the farmhouses with typical household goods and everyday objects is open to the public. The surroundings are also fantastic, inviting you to go hiking, mountaineering and climbing in summer and cross-country skiing and skiing in winter.
22. Stará Lubovna
This town is perhaps best known as the home of the famous Stará Lubovna open-air museum, also known as the Museum of Folk Architecture, which includes the nearby Lubovna Castle and traditional smaller dwellings and picturesque houses. Many of the dwellings are made of logs, and visitors can tour the site to learn more about life in Slovakia in the early 19th century. In addition to the log homes, there are also working buildings such as blacksmith shops, a water mill and a village school so visitors can learn about the local crafts of days gone by, as well as a Catholic church that is also made entirely of wood. At Lubovna Castle you have a view of the town from the preserved lookout towers, as well as its own museum and guided tours for visitors.
Bardejov is located at the foot of the Beskyd Mountains and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, mainly due to its preserved medieval town center. History buffs and architecture enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the town square, where traditional period-style burgher houses can still be seen, as well as the town hall, a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, which now functions as a museum and is also the oldest museum in the entire country . The city’s fortifications and original 15th century walls are also still standing and have been lovingly preserved for visitors to explore.
The Roman Catholic wooden church in the village of Hervartov was built in Gothic style about 500 years ago and was dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. In the 19th century a women’s prayer room was installed, which got a paved floor. The tower of the church tapers upwards. Inside the tower there is a cross. The wall paintings there are from different periods. Thus, the paintings – the Gothic image of Francis of Assisi, St. Christopher and St. Catherine of Siena – were painted around the end of the 15th century. Particularly interesting is the colorfully painted altar of the church, it was completed in 1470 after 10 years of construction.
19. Slovak Paradise National Park
Slovak Paradise National Park is one of nine national parks in Slovakia and the perfect place to admire the local flora and fauna. It offers forests, lush parklands and cool caves. There are over 300 kilometers of hiking trails for hikers of all fitness levels. Bird watching and biking are also popular activities in the park. There are also canyons, gorges (especially the Sucha Bela gorge), lakes and ravines in the park, as well as the famous UN World Heritage site Dobšinská Ice Cave, which is basically an area of frozen water in a cave, and one of the few caves in the region open to the public.
Come to the town of Levoca if you are a fan of the Renaissance architecture that the town has in abundance, including the Roman Catholic Church of St. James, whose claim to fame is that it has the highest carved wooden altar in Europe. The Old Town is still surrounded by the original city walls and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the town square you will find the Old Town Hall, which is now a museum for those who want to learn more about the region, as well as the iron cage that still stands in the square with the alarming name “The Cage of Shame” ‘, which was used in earlier times to punish criminals.
17. Spis Castle
The Spiš region is located near the border with Poland and is best known for the mighty Spiš Castle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site from the 12th century. The castle has its origins in the Romanesque style and is made of stone with fortifications to protect it from looters. The site is now open to the public, who can visit the building, which also houses the castle museum. For history buffs, the museum is not to be missed and there are even medieval torture devices on display.
16. Banska Stiavnica
The town of Banská Štiavnica is nestled in a caldera that was the result of a collapsed volcano that today forms the Štiavnica Mountains. The town has an abundance of picturesque old buildings, including two castles known as New Castle and Old Castle. Built into the volcanic landscape for which the town is famous is the Cavalry, a large complex that is largely Baroque in style and has over twenty chapels and churches where visitors can see lovingly restored murals and frescoes. Also noteworthy in Banská Štiavnica is the town square, which is called Holy Trinity Square because of the statue of the Holy Trinity. The square is enlivened throughout the year with markets and events such as musical performances and folk dances.
This town in the north of Slovakia, popular in Slovakia for its status as a vacation resort, is also known as the entry point to the High Tatras via the Tatra Electric Railway starting in Poprad. The city is also known for its historic center with Baroque and Renaissance architecture in the form of the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Renaissance Bell Tower. To enjoy all that the city has to offer, visit Aqua City Poprad, where you can enjoy the thermal waters and local saunas, as well as a whole host of other fun activities like tobogganing and playgrounds. For those looking for something a little more energetic, there are bike paths all over the city where you can even enjoy another favorite city activity – roller skating.
14. High Tatras
The High Tatras is the highest mountain range in the country. It is a true paradise for hikers. This majestic mountain range is characterized by jagged peaks that rise far into the sky. In between, there are many slopes and valleys, as well as one or two sparkling mountain lakes. Particularly striking is Mount Krivan, whose summit is covered with snow all year round.
There are so many trails where you can see the breathtaking beauty of nature with your own eyes. But also in winter the High Tatras are perfect for various outdoor activities. That is why many skiers and snowboarders come here during the cold season to practice their winter sports on the numerous slopes.
13. Slovak Karst Caves
There are almost 2,500 caves in Slovakia, and over time more are discovered, of which about 400 have been explored to date. The entire Slovak karst region of caves has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you like caving, you should not miss a trip to one of the spectacular caves in the region. If you want to see one of only three Aragonite caves in the world, you should go to the Aragonite cave of Ochtinská. If you are feeling brave, you can also visit a section of the Domica Cave, which offers boat rides on a river called Styx, the river in Greek mythology that passengers had to cross to reach the underworld.
Bratislava is the capital and largest city of the country. This city is enormously diverse. That is why it is so much fun to explore it.
For one, you can discover numerous buildings from the Middle Ages in the historic center of the city. Especially impressive is the Bratislava Castle. It stands high up on a hill. From there you have a fantastic view over the city. In addition, you will find many Gothic and Baroque buildings and beautiful palaces in the old town. You should definitely visit them.
When you leave the old town, a completely new environment awaits you. You will encounter gray concrete blocks that date back to the communist era of Slovakia. Further out, you’ll find picturesque fields and idyllic villages. So variety is definitely provided.
Between this mixture of old and new buildings, you will find numerous restaurants and cafes. In addition, you can dive into the colorful nightlife of the city in the clubs and bars and turn night into day.
11. Slovak Carpathians
The Slovak Carpathians form a mountain range that runs through Slovakia and the neighboring Czech Republic and consists of the mighty White Carpathians on the Slovak side, including the White Carpathians Protected Area. The Carpathians are mainly forested and are perfect for those who like to commune with nature, as there are opportunities for hiking, walking and climbing in the region. In the upper regions of the Carpathians, there are nine ski resorts with skiing and snowboarding opportunities to choose from throughout the winter season.
The town of Trencín near the border with the Czech Republic is a historical region known for the dominant yet beautiful Trencín Castle, which is located on a rock and has a medieval design and is divided into two places, the upper and lower part of the castle. The town also has a traditional town square with views of baroque buildings and churches. Visitors can spend an afternoon exploring the winding streets leading off the square. Here you’ll find boutiques, galleries and local craft stores where you can stock up on souvenirs. Every year the town hosts a major music festival, considered one of the most popular in Slovakia, which offers more than just a glimpse into the past.
Located near the border between the Czech Republic and Poland, the town of Žilina has a pretty historic center known for its picturesque churches as well as spectacular views of the surrounding Mala Fatra mountains. For art lovers, there’s the Kraftwerk Museum of Art Žilina, which features both classic and contemporary pieces that offer a glimpse into the folk traditions of the region. If you want to experience more of the local landscape, head to the Žilina Dam, where you’ll find hiking and running trails, skating and biking paths, and even volleyball and basketball courts. You can even try your hand at paragliding on nearby Stranik Hill.
Primarily known as a spa, come to Pieštàny to rest and relax while bathing in the medicinal thermal waters as well as the sulfur mud, which is said to cure a number of ailments. Located on the aptly named Spa Island, the spa offers a range of treatments and baths that take advantage of the geothermal properties created by mineral deposits from the surrounding mountains. In addition to the spa itself, there are hiking trails and exercise areas. If you want to experience the local flora and fauna, you can walk through the park area on Spa Island and admire the fountains and statues. There is also a social center with galleries and museums.
7. Bojnice Castle
Bojnice Castle – also known as Weinitz Castle – is located in the village of Bojnice with 5,000 inhabitants – about 130 km (as the crow flies) northeast of Bratislava. It looks like a castle from a fairy tale. A wooden predecessor building was first mentioned in 1113. Over the decades, the wood was increasingly replaced by stone. In 1302, the nobleman Matthew Csák (1260-1321) – de facto ruler of western and central Slovakia – received the castle as a fief from the Hungarian king Wenceslas III (1289-1306). In the 15th century the castle was owned by King Matthias Corvinus (1443-1490). After his death, in 1528, the castle became the property of the rich Thurzos family, who rebuilt the castle in the Renaissance style. In 1646 the castle had passed into the possession of the Pálffys, during which further reconstructions had taken place.
The castle was given its present appearance between 1888 and 1909 by Johann Pálffy (1829-1908). After his death, Jan Antonín Baťa had acquired the castle from the shoe manufacturer Bata. After 1945, Bata’s property was confiscated by the communists and the chateau became the seat of a number of state institutions. A fire on May 9, 1950 had caused considerable damage. After the castle was rebuilt, it housed a branch of the Slovak National Museum, which focused on documenting and presenting historicism with numerous artifacts. In 1970 the castle was declared a National Cultural Monument.
The city is located in the south of Slovakia where the Váh River flows into the Danube. The sister city Komárom is located on the other side of the Danube.
The town was mentioned for the first time as early as 1075. At that time it was one of the most important fortresses in the Kingdom of Hungary and at the same time one of the few that the Ottomans never managed to conquer. In the years between 1867 and 1918 Komárno belonged to Austria-Hungary and in 1920 it was divided between Czechoslovakia and Hungary. The center of the town was given to Czechoslovakia. It was not until the so-called First Vienna Arbitration that it became part of Hungary again.
In Komárno there are some sights worth visiting. One of them is the Europe Square, which is called Nadvorie Europy. However, it was built only in 1999-2000 and contains 45 buildings representing the countries of Europe. The Museum of Hungarian Culture and the Danube Region, Podunajske muzeum, displays everything related to archaeology, history and folklore.
Among them are paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Baroque church sv. Ondreja from the 18th century is one of the historical sights, as well as the old and new castle. These are fortifications that were intended to repel the Turks. The Renaissance fortress dates from the 16th century, the fortification from the end of the 17th century. They were the largest in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
5. Halic Castle
The beginnings of Halich Castle date back to the 12th century. The first written reference dates back to 1386, when the Hungarian Queen Maria allowed the nobleman Stefan Lossonczy to build a stone castle on this place. The family owned the castle until the 16th century, when it passed into the hands of the Forgacz family, one of the oldest families in Hungary. The castle was in the possession of the Forgacz family from 1554 to 1948.
Over the years, the castle experienced a series of uprisings, wars and various rebellions until a terrible fire destroyed the castle in 1709. In 1762 a new baroque building was erected. According to the plans of the architect Meyerhoffer, the ruins of the castle began to rise from the ashes. A columned hall, a two-winged staircase, a chapel and a banquet hall with the richest and most sophisticated fresco decoration in Slovakia were integrated into the front wing.
The year 1897 marks the beginning of a new phase of the chateau in Halychy. Fratišek Wenkheim began the restoration of the entire estate – in honor of his wife from the Forgac family. The castle also includes a French park with a rose garden, which was created from 1820.
Čičmany is one of the most beautiful villages in Slovakia, if not the most beautiful. Cute are especially the old wooden houses. Many of them are painted all over with white circles, crosses, squares, flowers and other shapes. The dark wood and white ornaments just go well together, with roofs with wooden shingles above. This is as picturesque as it sounds. Why then were the wooden houses in Čičmany painted with white lime paint? The answer is: initially mainly for protective reasons.
The white lime paint was intended to protect the wooden beams from the sun’s rays so that they would not crack or split. When applying the white lime paint, the women in the village probably thought that if they were going to paint, they should paint properly. They beautified not only their houses, but a whole village.
Around the backdrop of the Kremnica Mountains you can find the “golden” town of Kremnica. Gold and silver were probably mined in Kremnica and its surroundings as early as the 10th century, but it was not until 1328 that the Hungarian King Charles Róbert of Anjou granted the royal privilege to mine gold. Thanks to the great gold mining in the 14th century Kremnica became the seat of the main royal miners and mint. For almost 700 years the minting of coins – in 1329 the Hungarian penny was minted – laid the foundation of the town’s wealth.
The Coin and Medal Museum of the National Bank of Slovakia provides historical evidence of this development. Besides mining tunnels, working objects and equipment used in mining, old means of payment are interesting objects of the museum.
The wealth of the medieval town is symbolized by the renovated town castle, which is open to the public. The buildings within the city walls were built in the course of the 13th to 15th centuries.
The main square is surrounded by Gothic Renaissance and Baroque town houses. Architecturally noteworthy are the Frantiskánsky church with the monastery, the Baroque fountain from the 18th century, the Baroque column by Dionys Stanetti and the Neo-Gothic church of St. Catherine.
Not far from the center of ancient Kremnica, the well-being of body and mind is taken care of – the thermal baths in Kremnica enjoy great popularity.
There, where today the city of Trnava is located, ancient trade routes crossed already in prehistoric times, which naturally resulted in settlement. There are many findings from the Old Bronze Age and the Celtic period. In the 13th century the former Slavic settlement was repopulated by Germans, but their share decreased again in the course of the next years. The first written mention is found in documents of the year 1211, and since 1238, thanks to King Bela IV, it was also called Royal Free Town.
In the course of time, the initially agricultural town developed into a trade and craft center. After Trnava was granted market rights and thus the right to hold eight large fairs, the economic situation became even better. In 1831 the citizens of Trnava founded the first municipal theater, and in 1846 the Tyrnava horse-drawn railroad came to the town from Bratislava and then continued. The university was founded in 1992 and in 2003 there is the car factory where French models are produced.
Visitors can find a larger number of churches in the historical center of the town, that is why it is also called Little Rome. Among them, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas is one of the most famous. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is also famous, as it is now the seat of the Archbishopric. A small exhibition on the history of the city is shown in the Renaissance city tower on Trinity Square, and the city hall and the buildings of the former university are also worth seeing.
Presov is situated on the northern edge of the Kashov valley basin, where the Torysa and Sekcov rivers meet. The city center is located at an altitude of 250 meters and the 49th parallel runs across the city. Presov is divided into seven districts.
The valley of the Torysa River has always been an important part of the trade route from Byzantium to Warsaw. The region was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary when it was taken over by Hungarians. The latter founded other settlements besides the already existing market settlement. The German colonists moved to the area south of the Slovak market settlement and, at the invitation of King Bela IV, were to revive the depopulated areas. As a result, since the 13th century there have been Slovaks, as well as Hungarians and Germans in the region and each group of peoples has left its influences in the course of the following time.
Presov was first mentioned in a document in 1247, and the district of Solivar in 1261. Solivar means Salzburg, because salt has always been mined in the region. In 1374 the king granted the town the town charter, a town wall was built and in the same year the first craft guilds settled in Presov.
The historically significant old town, which still exists today, bears witness to these times. The Church of St. Nicholas is a late Gothic hall church and an important architectural monument. Since there are many historical buildings in Presov, the town is also called the Athens on the Torysa. The Eisenach-Budapest mountain trail runs through the town, providing additional visitors.