1. BRATISLAVA – capital city of Slovakia
The capital city of Slovakia – Bratislava, is the gateway to Slovakia and indeed one of the places you have to visit on your tour to Slovakia. The most beautiful part is the Old Town, even though it is not very big. My favourite activity is an evening summer walk through the old and narrow streets of the Old Town, followed by a walk to the Bratislava castle, from where you will see the evening silhouette of the city.
Apart of that, Bratislava has a rich history. Since it was founded in the year 907, a lot of happened in this area. It´s because of the strategic place, which has often played a big role in the history of central Europe. In the medieval times, Bratislava was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, the seat of the Hungarian Diet, central administration and the coronation town of the Hungarian Kings and Queens.
Bratislava now is the modern city and the seat of most important political, economic, social and scientific bodies and institutions.
Places to see in Bratislava
Bratislava Castle – the monumental building, looking like a table turned upside down, has been dominating the landscape of Bratislava for centuries. The existence of the castle was mentioned for the first time in 907 in written documents. Since then it has undergone numerous reconstructions. The last one happened just recently, couple of years ago, when the castle´s gardens were refurbished and reopened.
Slavin memorial – The Slavin monument reminisces the lives of more than 6800 Soviet soldiers who died in the WWII, during the liberation of Bratislava in April 1945. Many of fallen soldiers are buried directly in Slavin. Slavin memorial was built in late 1950´s. It offers spectacular views of the whole city of Bratislava.
St Martin´s Cathedral – is the biggest Gothic church in Bratislava. It played especially important role from 1563 till 1830, as the location where 19 monarchs of the Hungarian Kingdom were crowned. Probably the most significant coronation took place in 1741, when Maria Theresa was crowned It´s history goes back to 13th centuries and similar as other sites, the cathedral has undergone numerous reconstructions throughout the centuries.
The Blue Church – built at the beginning of 20th century, represents the art nouveau architecture in Bratislava. It has become famous mainly due to it´s color and shape resembling a gingerbread house. Nowadays it still remains in use and is popular for weddings by locals. Therefore it´s uneasy to get inside of the church.
2. THE HIGH TATRAS
The High Tatras range is part of the Tatra Mountains, which, in turn, are part of the Carpathian Mountains. The range lies on the border between northern Slovakia and Poland, and is preserved in both countries with National Park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve listing. With its abundance of high peaks, rugged valleys, alpine tarns and wildlife, the High Tatras are often likened to the Alps, but smaller and more personal.
There are 26 mountains in the High Tatras that rise to 2500m or higher. The highest (Gerlachovsky Peak, 2655m) and second highest (Lomnicky Peak, 2654m) are both located just outside Tatranska Lomnica, the town where your apartment-hotel is, providing incredible views in every direction.
Places to visit in Tatra mountains
Strbske pleso – very famous place in Tatras because of the lake of the same name. Lake Strbske pleso is part of the village. It´s very easy reachable, because no hiking is required. Just a short stroll from the car park or train station. The panorama of the Tatra mountains behind the lake is breathtaking and beautiful in each season. Strbske pleso changes into a center of winter sports in winter. You can go skiing, ski touring or cross country skiing.
Skalnate pleso – Skalnate pleso is a lake situated 1700m asl. But don´t worry, you don´t have to hike there, you can just hop on a cable car and make the way really easy. The bottom station of the cable car is in Tatranska Lomnica. The price of return ticket for an adult person is 19 EUR in 2020. There is a cafe and restaurant right next to the lake where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or lunch.
Peak Lomnicky stit – is the second highest peak of Slovakia with the height of 2634m asl. Good news is that you can get to the top with a cable car. To get there you need to get the tickets first. You can do so on the website of Tatra Mountain resorts. The cable car goes to the top from Tatranska Lomnica and you have to change at Skalnate pleso.
Little disadvantage is that you have to buy the tickets in advance for certain hour, but you don´t know what the weather will be like in that time. You should buy the tickets for the cable car to peak Lomnicky stit couple of days in advance in the summer season, because the demand is high and the tickets are sold quickly.
Hrebienok – A crossroad of many hiking trails heading to Big or Small cold valleys, to Peak Slavkovsky stit or to Skalnate pleso start here. It´s easily reachable by a funicular which operates from Stary Smokovec or by foot. It takes about 5 mins by funicular and 40-60 mins by foot. Once you are there, lot of people tend to go and see the waterfalls situated nearby or to see the Ice Dome in winter.
Tatranska Lomnica – One of the most popular villages in the Tatra mountains where holidaymakers decide to stay. It´s easy reachable by trains, there are many hiking paths in the area and it is a center of skiing in winter in the High Tatras mountains. Many good hotels and restaurants are situated here. The museum of Tatra National Park (TANAP) and botanical garden of Tatras is situated in this village.
Stary Smokovec – Bottom station of a funicular going to Hrebienok is situated here. Stary Smokovec is a very nice village with lot of hotels, good restaurants, bars and coffee places. Tricklandia is also situated here if you´ve heard of it.
Belianska cave – The only publicly open cave in the High Tatras. It´s worth of seeing anytime, but especially on a rainy day, when it´s not suitable for hiking. But in this case, visit the cave as soon as possible, because otherwise you can end up in a long queue. The adult ticket costs 8 EUR (payable in cash only), the temperature inside is around 6°C even in summer, so don´t forget to bring some long sleeve shirt or jacket along with you.
3. THE SPIŠ CASTLE – UNESCO
The Spiš Castle was built in the beginning of the 12th century and is one of the largest castles in Slovakia and even in Europe. In 1993 was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, thanks to its Roman palace. There are only few palaces left, built in this style in Europe. The Castle is an exceptional example of medieval fortification architecture and thanks to that, it remained unconquered, though seriously damaged, by Tartar invaders in 1241.
An extensive fire in 1780 turned the castle into ruins. They say that the fire was caused by the knights distilling schnapps. Since then, the castle was never really restored.
The Spis castle was built on a strategic place – dolomite rocks above surrounding lands and above the village of Spisske Podhradie.
Because the castle is highest point of the area, you will get an amazing view from the top of the old watchtower. The way to the top of it is an experience in itself. You will be walking on a narrow and low original staircase.
The castle is open from April till the end of October. Sometimes also in November according to weather conditions. The entry fee is 8 EUR/adult person. You can wait for guided tour or go and explore it on your own with an audio guide, which you can get for free (10 EUR deposit). There is no fee at the car park (may change in the future).
4. THE SLOVAK PARADISE
Slovak Paradise National Park is accurately named. With a wealth of forests, meadows, plateaus, canyons and caves, the park’s landscape is a playground ready for you to explore. You have a plenty possibilites for hikes that include a system of ladders, catwalks and bridges past waterfalls and lush vegetation in the park’s remarkable gorges.
Slovak Paradise National Park is composed of several smaller nature reserves, the first of which was established in 1890. The park protects a wide range of natural features, including forests, meadows, plateaus, gorges, caves (more than 350 of them!) and waterfalls. With over 300km of trails, including some that delve into the park’s gorges, Slovak Paradise is a wonderful place to explore.
The most famous and interesting gorges are situated in the north side of the national park, around the villages of Hrabusice, Podlesok and Cingov. The gorges that we recommend to hike are Sucha Bela, Piecky, Klastorska Roklina and canyon – Prielom Hornadu. Prielom Hornadu is a canyon, because river Hornad flows through it.
You can´t be afraid of heights, if you want to go hiking in the Slovak Paradise. It´s because the ladders are 5-12 meters high on average. Majority of wooden bridges (which look like horizontal ladders) don´t have any handrails or chains to hold on to. It´s pure adventure!
The Slovak Paradise is the only national park in Slovakia, where you have to pay the entry fee. 1 day ticket per person is 1,50 EUR. You will also need to pay for parking, which costs 3-5 EUR. They take only cash.
5. BANSKÁ ŠTIAVNICA – UNESCO
The history of Banská Štiavnica (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is closely associated with mining industry. In the 18th and 19th centuries was Banská Štiavnica one the richest and most important centers in the Habsburg Monarchy, as it became the European centre for mining, academics, scientists and technologies related to mining.
Banska Štiavnica had the third largest population in the Monarchy and the town became extremely wealthy, because of the rich gold and silver veins. The rich entrepreneurs built large, expensive and beautifully designed buildings and palaces and formed the beautiful historic town in the mountains.
The sites of worth visiting in Banska Stiavnica are the Old castle, New castle, open air mining museum or calvary. Calvary is the only one with no entry fee. When you walk to the very top, you will get beautiful view of the whole town and surroundings. Definitely recommended.
The opening times of each site and museum is different, therefore we recommend you to check the information about particular place on the official website of all museums.
Sites and places of Banska Stiavnica
Old Castle (Stary Zamok) – nowadays serve the as the main museum of the town with several different exhibitions. It used to be a church, but was rebuilt into a fortress against Turks in 16th century. The history of the place goes back to 13th century, when the first church was built.
New Castle (Novy Zamok) – was originally a church rebuilt into a small fortress in the middle of 16th century against Turks. Similar like the Old Castle. It was also used as a watch tower and part of the main fortification of the town. There is a permanent exhibition installed inside on 4 floors.
Open air mining museum – The history of Banska Stiavnica is all about mining and therefore you can go and visit an open air museum on the outskirts of the town. It depicts the history of mining in the area and Slovakia. You would be even taken to the underground, to the old mines.
Calvary – belongs to the most beautiful Baroque calvaries of Europe. It was recently reconstructed and now attracts more and more visitors. It is open daily at 10-16 from June to September and on Saturdays and Sunday from October to May.
6. OCHTINSKA ARAGONIT CAVE – UNESCO
One of the most interesting caves I have ever been to, is surely the Ochtinska Aragonit Cave, which is also part of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage. There are only 4 caves of this kind in the world – Slovakia, Czech Republic, Mexico and Argentina. It was discovered by an accident, while the miners were drilling the geological survey. The cave is a world rarity and unique natural phenomenon, due to the richness and variety of aragonit fill.
The way to this aragonit cave is a bit tough, as it is situated in less inhabited area of Slovakia and the roads are not in the best condition. But if you decide to visit it, you won´t regret.
The cave is open daily from May till the end of October, except Mondays. The entry fee costs 7 EUR/person. If you want to take photos inside, you have to pay 10 EUR surcharge.
7. WOODEN CHURCHES – UNESCO
Wooden churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area, which were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008, possess an extraordinary worldwide value. The churches include: Roman Catholic churches in Hervartov and Tvrdošín, Evangelical articular churches in Kežmarok, Leštiny and Hronsek, and churches of Eastern rite in Bodružal, Ladomirová and Ruská Bystrá.
Wooden churches are specific samples of sacred architecture in Slovakia.
8. Bojnice castle
When making a list of best places to visit in Slovakia, we definitely can´t forget about the Bojnice castle in the western part of Slovakia, situated about 2 hours away from Bratislava by car.
Bojnice castle is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in Slovakia thanks to a huge reconstruction which took place at the beginning of 20th century. The reconstruction was inspired by French chateauxs in the Loire valley.
The very first written mention comes from 13th century. Wooden fortress built in the similar place at those times was a predecessor of the current castle.
Bojnice is also very famous for ZOO situated right next to the castle and most popular in Slovakia. Often families with children head to Bojnice to visit the castle and the ZOO to spend a great day there.
The castle is open all year round. The entry ticket costs 10 EUR/person. The English tours are held daily at 10 o´clock. However be careful in May. Each Monday is closed, but only in May.
9. Orava castle
An impressive building on a high rock formation above a river. What is it? It must be the one and only Orava castle, the dominant site of the whole Orava region.
Similar like other castles of Slovakia, this one was initially build of wood at first and later after Tartar invasion rebuilt in stone in 13th century. The oldest part of the castle is on the top of the cliff. It was not so huge at the very beginning, but was growing bigger and bigger over the upcoming centuries. The castle is one of the best preserved castles of Slovakia.
The castle is open all year round except April, when it´s closed. You can only enter the castle with a guide during a guided tour. The ticket costs 7 EUR/person for longer tour and 5 EUR/person for shorter one.
10. Village of Čičmany
This is place is maybe surprising in our list of best places to visit in Slovakia, because it´s just a tiny village. However is really unique because of the original wooden decorated houses made by locals.
It has all started approx. 150 years ago, when the local people started to paint ornaments on their houses with lime in order to protect the wood. Later they realized it´s quite nice and unique and so they began to paint more and more ornaments of various shapes all around the house. The tradition sustains till nowadays and you can admire these houses when you come to visit the village.
You can visit the village every day of the year. There is a small souvenir shop and tiny museum, which are open daily in the main summer season and mainly during weekends in the off-season months.