Slovakia, in Central Europe, borders the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Austria, and Ukraine, and is a vibrant mix of leisurely cafe culture and winding streets, and picture-perfect towns with rugged castles, Gothic churches, and sprawling lush forests.
Known for its spas and geothermal waters, you can relax in an aqua park, or take to the mighty Carpathian Mountains and indulge in a whole host of winter sports. Follow us as we take you on a journey through this fascinating undiscovered country, with stops at spa towns, protected villages, open-air museums, collapsed volcanoes, frozen lakes, and much more.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Slovakia:
The largest city in Slovakia, as well as being the capital, Bratislava lies on the River Danube and borders both Austria and Hungary. Come here for a trip to the imposing Bratislava Castle, perched on a plateau above the city and originally built in the 10th century. The city is located in an area of lush vegetation so there are a wealth of parks, open spaces, and lakes in and around Bratislava, including Rusovce Lake, although if you choose to venture there, be forewarned, it is also famous as an area for nudists! If you head into Old Town in Bratislava be sure to take a ride around on the tourist train that will give you a whistle-stop tour of the city so that you can take in the history and culture from the comfort of a seat. Bratislava is also known for its eclectic music scene, from underground clubs that feature up and coming experimental artists, to its annual Bratislava Music Festival and jazz festival known as Jazz Days.
The region of Liptov is considered by many locals and one of the jewels in the crown of Slovakia, and as such it is one of the most visited areas of the country. The largest ski resort in Slovakia, Jasná, is found in the Liptov region, and if you enjoy winter sports then there are a wealth of trails here for all different abilities to try, including both skiing and snowboarding options. If you prefer water to snow then you can visit Aquapark Tatralandia, one of the largest water parks in all of Central Europe, where all the water comes from thermal springs, said to have healing properties. For those interested in the local folklore, a trip to the sleepy village of Vikolínec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-do, and you will find log houses, a quaint wooden chapel, and a folklore museum.
3. Slovak Karst Caves
Slovakia is home to almost 2,500 caves, and more are being discovered as time goes on, with some 400 having been explored to date. The entire Slovak Karst region of caves has UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and if you like spelunking then you can’t 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 then you should head to Ochtinská Aragonite Cave. If you are feeling brave, you can also visit a section of Domica Cave that features boat rides on a river known as the River Styx, the river in Greek mythology that passengers had to cross to reach the Underworld.
The charming city of Košice was named the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and has a cosmopolitan feel to it that expertly mixes the old with the new. Explore the Old Town where you will find medieval architecture and many of the buildings here are protected. For a fine example of Gothic style, head to St Elisabth Cathedral, built in the 14th century, as well as the St Michael Chapel that also dates from the same period. If you like culture then you can spend an afternoon in the East Slovak Gallery that pays tribute to Slovak art, or the East Slovak Museum to learn more about the history of Slovakia.
Come to the town of Levoca if you are a fan of Renaissance architecture, which the city has in abundance, including the Roman Catholic Church of St James whose claim to fame is that it has the highest carved wooden alter in Europe. The Old Town is still encircled by the original town walls, and has been named as 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 sits in the square with the rather alarming name, ‘The Cage of Shame’ which was used in days gone by to punish criminals.
Known predominantly as a spa town, come to Pieštàny for some rest and relaxation as you bathe in the medicinal thermal waters as well as the sulphuric mud, said to cure a number of ills. The spa is located on the aptly named Spa Island and features a range of treatments and baths that make use 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, and if guests want to experience the local flora and fauna they can walk through the park area on Spa Island and take in the fountains and statues, and there is also a Social Centre that features galleries and museums.
Found near the borders of the Czech Republic and Poland, the city of Žilina has a pretty historic centre famous for its quaint churches as well as the spectacular views of the surrounding Mala Fatra Mountains. For art lovers, there is the powerhouse Museum of Art Žilina which features both classic and contemporary pieces that give an insight into the folk traditions of the region. If you want to experience more of the local scenery, then head for Žilina Dam where you will find walking and running trails, skating and cycling paths, and even volleyball and basketball courts. You can even try your hand and paragliding at the nearby Stranik Hill.
The city of Trencín near the border with the Czech Republic is historic region known for the dominating yet beautiful Trencín Castle that lies atop a rock and which is medieval in style and is split into two sites, the upper and lower parts of the castle. The city also features a traditional town square which faces Baroque buildings and churches, and visitors can spend an afternoon exploring the winding streets that lead off the square and are home to boutiques, galleries, and local arts and crafts shops perfect for stocking up on souvenirs. Not just offering a glimpse of the past however, a large music festival, said to be the most popular in Slovakia, is held every year in the city.
Well loved in Slovakia due to its status as a holiday resort, this city in the north of Slovakia is also known as an entry point to the High Tatra Mountains via the Tatra Electric Railway that begins in Poprad. The city is also known for its historic centre that features Baroque and Renaissance architecture in the form of the Church of John the Baptist and the Renaissance Bell Tower. To take in all that the city has to offer head to the Aqua City Poprad where you can enjoy the thermal waters and the local saunas, as well as a whole host of other fun activities such as water tobogganing and playgrounds. For those looking for something more energetic, there are biking paths all over the city and you can even use these to indulge in another favourite activity in the city – roller-skating.
10. Stará Lubovna
This city is perhaps best known as the home of the famous Stará Lubovna Open Air Museum, also known as the Museum of Folk Architecture, which encompasses the nearby Lubovna Castle as well as traditional smaller dwellings and picturesque period houses. Many of the dwellings are made from logs and visitors can tour the site to learn about life in Slovakia at the beginning of the 19th century. As well as the log cabins there are also working buildings such as blacksmith’s, a water mill, and a village school so that visitors can earn about the local crafts of days gone by, as well as a Catholic Church also made entirely of wood. At Lubovna Castle there are views across the city from the preserved observation towers as well as a dedicated on-site museum and tours provided for visitors.
11. Banská Štiavnica
The town of Banská Štiavnica is nestled in a caldera that was the result of a collapsed volcano that now forms the Štiavnica Mountains. The town has an abundance of picturesque ancient buildings, including two castles known as New Castle and Old Castle. Built into the side of the volcanic scenery for which the town is famous, is The Cavalry, a large complex that is mostly Baroque in style and features over twenty chapels and churches that dot the area and in which visitors can view lovingly restored murals and frescoes. Also of note in Banská Štiavnica is the town square, named the Holy Trinity Square due to the statue of the Holy Trinity, and the square comes alive with markets and events throughout the year such as music performances and folk dancing.
The region of Spiš lies near to the border with Poland, and is most famed for the mighty Spiš Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates from the 12th century. The castle has its origins in the Romanesque style and is made of stone with fortifications to protect it from marauders, and the site is now open to the public who can tour the building which also features the castle museum. For those interested in history, the museum is not to be missed and even has medieval torture devices on display.
13. Slovak Paradise National Park
One of nine national parks in Slovakia, Slovak Paradise National Park is the perfect place to take in the local flora and fauna, and has forests, lush park lands, and chilly caves. There are over 300 kilometres of hiking trails to choose from for hikers of all levels of fitness, and bird watching and cycling are also popular pursuits in the park. There are also canyons, ravines, lakes, and gorges in the park as well as the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site Dobšinská Ice Cave, which is basically an area of frozen water inside a cave, and one of the few caves in the region that is open to the public.
Bardejov, located in the foothills of the Beskyd Mountains is a UNESCO World Heritage Site largely due to its preserved medieval town centre. History buffs and architecture fiends will enjoy visiting the town square which still features traditional burgher houses in period styles, as well as the town hall, a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture that now operates as a museum, also the oldest museum in the entire country. The fortifications of the town and the original city walls dating from the 15th century also still stand and have been lovingly preserved for visitors to explore.
15. Slovak Carpathians
The Slovak Carpathians form a mountain range that runs through Slovakia and the neighbouring Czech Republic, and consists of the mighty White Carpathians on the Slovak side, including the White Carpathians Protected Landscape Area. The Carpathians are mainly forested and are perfect for those who enjoy communing with nature as there are opportunities for rambling, hiking, and climbing in the region. In the upper regions of the Carpathians there are nine ski resorts to choose from with skiing and snowboarding opportunities that run throughout the winter season.