Let’s be real. The central European country of Slovakia isn’t likely to be high on most people’s bucket lists. But maybe it should be? Slovakia is a gorgeous country, with enough culture and natural beauty to satisfy anyone’s travel needs. It’s also much less under-the-radar relative to some other places in Europe, making it a great alternative destination. Enjoy this compilation of some of Slovakia’s best sites, the ultimate Slovakia bucket list.
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Ultimate Slovakia Bucket List
Contribution: Kamila, My Wanderlust
Not many people visiting Slovakia seem to know about Bardejov – a small town located in the northeast part of the country, near the border with Poland.
The town, dating back to the Middle Ages, is one of the UNESCO sites in Slovakia. This prestigious title was granted for the well-preserved fortified medieval look. Today in Bardejov you can visit the small but charming old town, with rows of colorful houses surrounding the marketplace and winding lanes.
Be sure to climb to the tower of Saint Giles church – it might be a bit challenging but the view from up there is stunning. You can see the whole town and beyond, with the beautiful rolling hills of the Slovak countryside. Don’t miss the Museum of Icons with beautiful examples of sacral art from the 16th to 19th centuries. Save some time for the visit in Bardejovske Kupele – part of the town that is a spa.
In the past, it was visited by many well-known people, including the famous Princess Sisi. Today you can enjoy here affordable and high-quality treatment and feel the charm of the old-time spa town. Bardejov is a perfect addition to any Slovakia bucket list.
The easiest way to get to Bardejov is by train, there are daily connections from Presov. The train station is only a short walk away from the old town and all the attractions.
Bojnice Castle is one of Slovakia’s top tourist attractions. Situated on a hill overlooking the town of Bojnice, the castle is part of the Slovak National Museum.
This fairytale-like place attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and is a popular setting for fantasy-inspired movie sets.
The castle is set on the site of a medieval castle from the 11th century and was mostly owned by Hungarian nobility in the past.
Inside the castle, you’ll find an art and history museum (Slovakia’s most visited museum!) as well as the original furniture from the last Hungarian family to own the castle.
Bojnice Castle is also the site of many events throughout the year, including Castle Fairytale, the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits, and the Summer Music Festival. It’s got something for everyone, making it well-deserving of a spot on Slovakia’s ultimate bucket list.
Bojnice Castle is located in Bojnice, SK. To get to the castle, a train from Bratislava takes about four hours. From the train, you arrive in the town of Prievidza, from which you must take a 10-15 minute bus ride to Bojnice.
Painted Village of čičmany
The village of Čičmany is an aesthetic treat for any visitor to Slovakia. This small village, with a population of only around 200 people, is full of black timber houses decorated with traditional designs in white lime paint.
The lime paint was originally used as a preservation agent to protect the buildings but soon became widespread due to its aesthetic appeal.
There is a museum detailing information about the village, but it is only open during the summer months, so be sure to plan your visit accordingly!
Learn about Slovak folklore in this open-air museum and enjoy the beautiful, intricate painted buildings.
The village of Čičmany was designated the world’s first folk architecture reserve in 1977 to ensure preservation of the beautiful buildings and culture that still survives here today.
It was previously destroyed by a fire and subsequently restored, meaning some of the buildings are much newer than the village’s 13th-century origins. Still, they are all built and decorated in ways which preserve the village’s unique appeal.
Čičmany is located in the Žilina region of Slovakia and is about 2 hours from Bratislava by car. It is possible to get there by public transport (bus), but transfers are required.
Contribution: Manouk, Groetjes uit Verweggistan
Spišský hrad (or the castle of Spiš) is one of many beautiful castles in Slovakia. Actually, it is more of a ruin. Still, this castle is an essential component of any Slovakia bucket list.
You will find the impressive Spiš Castle on a hilltop, overlooking all of the areas around it. It has been there for over eight centuries, but unfortunately, it burnt down in 1780.
Slovakia is spending more and more money to renovate and keep up their cultural heritage. In the castle, you can walk around with a free audio tour (you only pay a 10 euro deposit to make sure you return it) which explains a lot about the structure. But the best part is a stroll over the walls of the castle, overlooking the village down below. On a sunny day you can see a lot of the surrounding area.
You can visit the castle of Spiš by parking your car nearby along the road and hiking up the last part. It is also possible to travel to the village of Spisské Podhradie by car or public transport and hike all the way up to the castle.
The town of Piešťany is where you’ll want to visit if you’re in the mood for spa treatments while visiting Slovakia. Piešťany has an extensive history and worldwide prestige in curing different bodily ailments with its muds and thermal waters.
The unofficial symbol of Piešt’any is a peacock. This is in reference to the local myth of a peacock who waded in the muddy waters until its broken leg was mended. The alternative emblem, a bronze crutch breaker, is another reference to the healing properties of the sulfurous muds and thermal water.
The first spa buildings were erected in 1778, and since then have attracted many prominent visitors (including Ludwig van Beethoven!).
Come here for a relaxing weekend of indulgence for a little R&R after sightseeing in Slovakia. After checking off many items on your Slovakia bucket list, you’ll be grateful for the chance to decompress.
From Bratislava, a train will take just under an hour.
In the mood for a little luxury on your Slovak trip? Why not spend the night in a castle? Halič Castle is now operated as a high-end hotel which will give a taste of what Slovak aristocratic life was like!
Originally mentioned in historical records in 1386, the castle was primarily owned by the Forgach family. It was then purchased by a Kosice development company and opened as a boutique luxury hotel (with a spa!) in 2016. Destination wedding, anyone?
To get to Halič Castle from Bratislava takes roughly two and a half hours by car or four and a half hours by bus.
Contribution: Karolina, Lazy Travel Blog
One of the best Slovakia bucket list items is to visit the alp-like Tatra Mountains. Poprad, the biggest city in this region is the ideal home base for those who would like to explore the natural wonders of the Carpathian Mountains.
Propad is rich in history and international ties. It was once a German settlement before it became part of the Hungarian Kingdom. And then, after that, it was also handed over to the Polish Kingdom before it was liberated in 1945. This resulted in strong Polish and German influence in the city’s culture.
The best parts of the city are the burgher houses from the 18th and 19th centuries that line the Namestie sv. Egidia Square and the late 13th-century Early Gothic church of St. Egidius. Within this city, one can also find one of the best-preserved medieval urban units in the town of Spišská Sobota.
Outside the city lies a treasure trove of hiking trails and slopes for hiking and skiing enthusiasts. One of the steepest slopes for skiers is located by the Tatranska Lomnica, one of the biggest mountain settlements in the High Tatras. Stary Smokevec, on the other hand, is one of the best starting points for those who are eyeing to conquer one of the High Tatra’s peaks. From this point, one can ride the cableway to the waterfalls of Studeny Potok, Cold Creek.
The easiest way to get to the Tatras of Slovakia is Poprad-Tatry Airport. It is from Propad that the Tatra Electric Railway begins, allowing tourists to conveniently reach the resorts in this region. Be sure to visit Zakopane in Poland during your trip! It’s one of the most beautiful places in the Tatra mountains.
Ever wanted to take a boat ride on an underground river? Domica Cave in Slovak Karst National Park offers its visitors a truly special experience for the ultimate Slovakia bucket list. It’s been included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.
Discovered in 1926, the entrance to the cave is situated at 339m above sea level. There are two routes that visitors can choose from. One of which is shorter (45 minutes) and the other slightly longer (60 minutes). Part of the experience is the underground boat ride along the river Styx.
The cave is beautiful, with cascading pools and different shaped stalagmites and stalagtites in a dripstone orientation.
If you’re afraid of bats, however, you may want to sit this one out. There are 16 different species of bats living in Domica Cave (1,500 individual bats!).
Domica Cave lies on the Slovak-Hungarian border. It is part of a 25km long underground system, of which roughly ¼ is located in Slovakia.
To get to Domica Cave is far more accessible from Košice (just over an hour by train) than Bratislava (five and a half hours by train). So if you find yourself spending a few days in Košice, it makes for the perfect day trip.
The Trenčín Castle is situated upon a steep rock in the town Trenčín. The castle is one of the largest in Europe, and a great addition to your Slovakia bucket list.
The existing Castle area is administered by the Museum of Trenčín. It consists of a set of palaces and its characteristic Matúšova veža tower. Among the things to admire, visitors also like to see the Delová bašta bastion and dungeon. There are numerous exhibitions, medieval games and nighttime attractions occurring at the castle throughout the year to suit people of varying tastes.
The castle fell into decay after a fire in 1790. The extensive reconstruction that followed allowed even further access to its most impressive parts.
The Trenčín Castle lost all military significance toward the later years of the 18th century, due in part to the fire. Last owner, Iphigenia De Castris D´Harcourt, donated the castle to the city of Trenčín in 1905.
If you’d like a guide to explain to you the historical significance and stories that come with the castle, do not visit in January. No guides are available during this month.
To reach Trenčín Castle from Bratislava involves a train ride of an hour and forty minutes – an easy day trip!
Contribution: Brianna, Curious Travel Bug
Orava Castle isn’t the largest castle in Slovakia, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful. While visiting, you may get strong Dracula’s-castle vibes. Many of the shots from the vampire movie Nosferatu were filmed at Orava Castle. It was also the inspiration for the Witcher fortress in The Witcher video game series.
Orava Castle sits high above the Orava river and village of Oravský Podzámok on a rock cliff. This natural defensive position has been fortified in some manner since at least 1241. Like many castles, it’s been through quite a few stages of rebuilding, most during the 14-18th centuries.
After WWII, the castle became a national monument. A visit to the castle takes you through restored rooms and exhibits on the Tatra Mountains as well as on the history of the castle and region. From the castle, there are fantastic views of the village below. The castle needs at least 2 hours to see but you may need longer.
Located in northern Slovakia, it is best reached by car or by joining a bus tour. It can be done as a day trip from Zakopane, Poland or combined with other activities in the Tatras. Another worthy stop nearby is the Demänovská Cave of Liberty, the most visited cave in Slovakia.
Stará Bystrica is a quaint village in Northwestern Slovakia, close to the Czech and Polish borders. It is undoubtedly best-known for its astronomical clock, and a pretty cool observation deck. The village itself is a nice place to visit with children, due to its playgrounds and zoo.
The main draw of Stará Bystrica, however, is the world’s YOUNGEST astronomical clock, finished in 2009. It is the first and the only astronomical clock in Slovakia and the biggest wooden statue in Slovakia which depicts the Virgin Mary, a patron Saint of Slovakia. It is also the only astronomical clock in the world showing the true solar time and it is the most accurate astronomical clock in the world as it is controlled by a satellite and fancy software.
Situated in the centre of town, the clock adorns the facade of the House of Culture.
Every hour from 8-22 visitors can see a parade of Slovak saints at the blue doorway. The exterior of the House of Culture is adorned with six bronze sculptures of noteworthy Slovak figures.
The large astronomical clock also shows the position of the sun and the moon, position of the sun within the zodiac, the phases of the day and the moon phases as well as determines local time. All astronomical data are specially configured for the geographical position of Stará Bystrica. There is a tourist center and souvenir shop under the astronomical clock.
Getting to Stará Bystrica from Bratislava involves a four-and-a-half-hour bus. If you really want to see this clock, consider booking a room for a few nights if you’re based in the Slovak capital.
These mysterious ruins in the Carpathian Mountains were made famous mostly due to the last resident of the castle, countess Elizabeth Báthory. Her history certainly gives it a dark tourism feel.
When the castle was erected in the 13th century, it was initially one of the defense castles that guarded the western border of the Hungarian Kingdom. During the late 16th and early 17th centuries, it was the residence of the infamous chatelaine Elizabeth Báthory, aptly nicknamed the ‘bloody countess.’ Rumor has it she murdered over 500 girls, bathed in their own blood, in order to preserve her own youth and beauty. Somewhat founded on tall tales and somewhat substantiated by history books, the castle is for sure a mysterious place to visit.
While the castle is no longer really a castle, the ruins offer stunning panoramic views and light hiking options (it should also be noted that after arriving by train, a steep hike is required to reach the ruins).
Elizabeth Báthory died in prison in 1614, but her legend lives on in the ruins of Čachtice Castle.
The castle was destroyed during the Bohemian Revolt in the early 17th century.
Čachtice Castle can be reached from Bratislava by train in just over an hour, making this ultimate Slovakia bucket list item super-doable as a day trip.
Contribution: Stephanie, History Fangirl
No Slovakia bucket list would be complete without including the capital city, Bratislava! This vivacious Eastern European capital city is charming, with touches of history everywhere. You can see the influences of time form Empress Martia Theresa all the way through the Communist era.
Start with the free walking tour of the city, which will explain Bratislava’s history as well as show you the most important sites in the city. You’ll see important Bratislava landmarks like Michael’s Gate and the Blue Church. The tour doesn’t include a visit to Bratislava Castle or a walk to Most SNP, so set aside extra time if you want to see those sites.
You can get to Bratislava internationally by plane. But, if you’re nearby it’s a popular day trip from Vienna or from Budapest. To get from Vienna to Bratislava, take the train which takes just a little over an hour. From Budapest, the train is about two and a half hours.
You can also see the city on most Danube River cruises since it’s right on the river.
If you’re going to be staying for a few days, you can find reasonable accommodation in the Old Town so you’ll be close to the city’s most important sites. There are some excellent options for day trips from Bratislava as well!
This adorable town is situated in one of the oldest and most distinctive regions of Slovakia – Spiš. The town of Levoča and its attractions are among some of the most beautiful in Slovakia.
As far back as the Middle Ages, Levoča had the right to keep supplies, was exempt from tolls and other privileges beneficial to trade, and was an important trading stop en route from Hungary to Poland and back.
The affluence and standing that Levoča once enjoyed are evident in the stunning church buildings with their lavish interiors, and the high-end residences surrounding the main square. The historic center of Levoča, surrounded by its lasting fortification, is a cultural heritage wonderland.
Enduring town walls, with some parts from the 13th century, surround the Old Town. More than 50 diverse architectural houses with arcades are located here!
Among the most impressive things to see in Levoča include the Roman Catholic Parish Church of St. James, the town hall, the house of Master Pavol of Levoča, the Evangelical Grammar School (which now serves as an art museum), and the Church and Monastery of the Minorities.
To reach Levoča takes approximately one hour from Košice by train. Bang out two in one on your Slovakia bucket list by combining these two places on your next trip!
Košice is the largest city in Eastern Slovakia and a cultural gemstone. In fact, in 2013 Košice was designated a European Capital of Culture. The people of Košice are super-friendly and English is widely spoken among the younger population.
Most tourist attractions of Košice are situated in the Old Town, which is the biggest Town Monument Reserve of Slovakia. Hlavné námestie square of Košice is the center of the historic town. It is said to be among the most beautiful squares in Slovakia (and rightly so!). It is pedestrian traffic only, and its perimeter is lined with a number of charming historical buildings.
Check out the Gothic Cathedral of St. Elisabeth. This building is somewhat separated from the rest of the square. It is the largest church in Slovakia and the easternmost Gothic cathedral in Europe.
The State Theatre is worth a visit as well, even if only to admire its beautiful outer facade. Catch a show, if you’re lucky, or simply enjoy the space that separates the theatre from St. Elisabeth’s, which includes a singing fountain – a very lively place to visit in the summer months!
Košice boasts a number of museums as well. One of the popular attractions at Eastern-Slovak Museum is the Golden Horde of Košice. The overall weight of the horde is 11 kilograms and has a fascinating story. The collection of golden coins comes from 81 mints of Europe. The majority of coins are from the 15th to 17th centuries.
Košice is far from Bratislava, at five and a half hours by train. However, taking a day trip from Budapest to Košice is slightly more doable. A train ride takes three hours (less if driving). Take the early train (06:00) and arrive in Košice for breakfast.
Wooden Church of Hervartov
Contribution: Manouk, Groetjes uit Verweggistan
The small village of Hervartov does not look that special at first: just a cute Slovakian village. But soon you will see the eyecatcher: an original wooden church, made out of pine wood.
The church was originally built around 490. Imagine how long it has been standing here! Luckily, it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site now, which means it is protected and well taken care of. It has been renovated a few times in the past centuries, but the architecture has remained more or less the same.
It is often possible to visit the church for a small fee. Because the village is so small, you will sometimes be welcomed by a closed door. Luckily, the sign explains you how to contact the guide, who will come and show you the church.
The inside of the church is covered in frescoes. The explanations by the guide are only in Slovak, but it is translated in English on paper. You can borrow the handout and walk around trying to recognize the biblical stories represented on the walls.
Only small groups of people are allowed at once. However, the guide explains rather quickly, so you’ll never have to wait very long to explore the beautiful historical church. Definitely a great item to check off your Slovakia bucket list!
You can visit the church easiest if you have your own car. Parking is free in Hervartov. The church is never very far away from anywhere you can park.
Banská Štiavnica is the oldest mining town in Slovakia as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 18th century it was the biggest mining center in the Habsburg Empire. The town is situated in the center of Slovakia, in the midst of a great caldera created by the collapse of an ancient volcano.
This medieval mining hub evolved into a town with gorgeous Renaissance palaces, 16th-century churches, elaborate squares as well as castles. The city center seamlessly melts into the encompassing countryside, where you can find interesting remnants of the town’s mining past.
What remains of Banská Štiavnica’s metallurgic past include shafts, mining towers, tunnels, and a very intricate water management system. After the 19th century, the depletion of its mineral resources has brought about the decline in Banská Štiavnica’s city structure, the reservoir system, and a great deal of its mining system.
Banská Štiavnica is an accessible town due to its location in central Slovakia. From Bratislava a train will take under three hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Budapest for the same duration of time.
Contribution: Wendy, The Nomadic Vegan
The beautiful ruins of the Hrad Devín (“Devín Castle” in Slovak) are perched up on a hilly outcrop looking out over the confluence of the Morava River and the Danube River. This offers great views of the rural outskirts of Vienna on the opposite bank.
It’s not hard to see why this strategic location would have been chosen as the place to build a fortress. In fact, while the ruins visible today are mostly from the medieval period, fortifications were built on the same spot by the ancient Romans and the Celts, and even as far back as the Bronze Age.
In more recent history, the two rivers flowing below the castle acted as the Iron Curtain, separating the capitalist and communist spheres during the Cold War. Devín Castle remained militarized until 1989, when it finally became open to the public. While it lies mostly in ruins, this just adds to the atmosphere of this evocative place.
Even though Devín castle is only 12 kilometers outside of Bratislava, it’s worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the capital. Surrounded by lush green countryside, you may even see goats grazing under the castle walls. To get here from the city center, take bus 129 or bus 29 from the Most SNP stop. In the summer, it’s also possible to take a boat here from the passenger port.
Kláštorisko is the site of Carthusian monastery ruins in the midst of the Slovak Paradise National Park. It is the perfect Slovakia bucket list item for hikers, trekkers, and lovers of nature in general.
The trail from Podlesok through Hornád and Kláštorská gorges leads to the tourist routes crossroad at Kláštorisko, where you can see the monastery ruins as well. Pass by gorges, waterfalls, canyons, valleys, and an abundance of natural beauty on your way to the ruins.
Within the park you can find cottages, a restaurant, as well as Mountain Rescue Services.
Want to volunteer in the preservation and restoration of the monastery ruins? This can be arranged during the warmer months in summer courses in Kláštorisko. The volunteer projects also involve cleaning the monastery and guiding tourists.
Kláštorisko is easily reachable from Košice in under two hours by train.
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