Things to do in Slovakia

Home to incredible natural beauty and a rich, storied history, visitors will love what Slovakia has to offer. Nature enthusiasts should make a beeline for the High Tatras, which boast gorgeous, unspoilt mountainscapes with lakes and waterfalls aplenty. One of the best starting points for hikes is Štrbské Pleso, where walking trails access the lovely Skok Waterfalls.

An alternative to the High Tatras National Park, the Slovak Paradise National Park in the east of the country is also a superb hiking destination and invites visitors to explore the magical forests and valleys of Slovakia.

In addition to glorious natural resources, Slovakia is home to many ancient castles and romantic ruins, which are well preserved and still in use. The most popular with tourists include Spiš Castle, a UNESCO-listed ruin and one of the biggest castles in Europe; Bratislava Castle, looming above the capital city; and Devín Castle, said to be more than 5,000 years old.

Slovakia is renowned for its rich folkloric traditions and well-preserved architecture, with Bratislava's Old Town home to many historic buildings and a number of interesting skanzens, open-air museum villages, scattered around the country.

The UNESCO-listed town of Vlkolínec boasts the best wooden folk architecture in the country, while the Východná Folk Festival, held annually in July in the village of Východná, is said to be one of the best folk music and dance festivals in the world.

Bratislava Castle photo

Bratislava Castle

Standing sentinel on a rocky hill above the Danube River, the white castle is the towering gem in the crown of Bratislava's spectacular skyline, and provides excellent views of the…

Bratislava Castle

Standing sentinel on a rocky hill above the Danube River, the white castle is the towering gem in the crown of Bratislava's spectacular skyline, and provides excellent views of the ancient city, as well as over Austria and even as far as Hungary when the weather allows. It has been inhabited for thousands of years owing to its important location on the Danube River in central Europe, and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times in its history, undergoing a series of reconstructions and extensions. Four towers make up the enormous building, enclosing a courtyard, a Treasure Chamber, and collections of the Slovak National Museum.

Website www.visitbratislava.com/places/bratislava-castle/

Devin Castle photo

Devin Castle

Perched above the confluence of the Morava and Danube Rivers, Devín Castle is one of the most important archaeological sites in Slovakia. The oldest traces of settlement date back…

Devin Castle

Perched above the confluence of the Morava and Danube Rivers, Devín Castle is one of the most important archaeological sites in Slovakia. The oldest traces of settlement date back to 5,000 BC, and the mighty fortress citadel was impenetrable for centuries until the arrival of Napoleon's troops, who sacked it in 1809. The village of Devín is also quaint and worth visiting, with a number of shops and restaurants. The river, while certainly photogenic, is a hotbed for mosquitoes, so visitors are advised to arm themselves with effective insect repellent.

Website www.slovakia.com/castles/devin-castle/

High Tatras National Park photo

High Tatras National Park

The majestic peaks of the High Tatras are a must-see in Slovakia, stretching through Tatra National Park and across the northern part of the country in the Carpathian Mountains nea…

High Tatras National Park

The majestic peaks of the High Tatras are a must-see in Slovakia, stretching through Tatra National Park and across the northern part of the country in the Carpathian Mountains near Poland. The mountains, valleys and lakes of the Tatras offer countless opportunities for hiking, cycling, skiing, swimming, river rafting or just relaxing in a pristine natural environment. Small but increasingly popular resorts in the area include Strbské Pleso, Starý Smokovec and Tatranská Lomnica. There are scenic cable cars and funiculars scattered about, including those at Lomnický Stít and Hrebienok.

Website www.slovakia.com/national-parks/high-tatras/

Piešťany photo

Piešťany

Located just an hour's drive north of Bratislava, Piestany is Slovakia's premier spa resort town and a great place to go for tourists looking to relax and rejuvenate in style. The …

Piešťany

Located just an hour's drive north of Bratislava, Piestany is Slovakia's premier spa resort town and a great place to go for tourists looking to relax and rejuvenate in style. The range and quality of treatment available in Piestany is world class, though its relative obscurity means it's far more affordable and unfrequented than similar spa towns in more popular areas around the continent.

Piestany is situated in the beautiful, forested region of the Vah River Valley and is fringed by mountains to the north. The spas are the town's main attractions, catering to mostly foreign patients with chronic rheumatic and arthritic diseases. In the summer, tourists arrive looking for mud therapy, massages and even dietary advice.

The town offers a range of accommodation and resort amenities, such as a nine-hole golf course, Jacuzzis and steam baths. Other sights and attractions include a 13th-century monastery and a number of great walking and hiking trails.

During summer, Piestany hosts a popular arts festival as well as celebrations of country- and folk music. Budget-conscious travellers looking to spend some time in a top-class European spa resort should seriously consider Piestany, which, like the rest of Slovakia, is an unassuming gem of a European holiday destination.

Website slovakia.travel/en/spa-piestany

Old Town Hall photo

Old Town Hall

Set in the heart of Bratislava's historic city centre, the Old Town Hall is the perfect jumping-off point for sightseeing in Slovakia's capital city. Its Gothic tower is the oldest…

Old Town Hall

Set in the heart of Bratislava's historic city centre, the Old Town Hall is the perfect jumping-off point for sightseeing in Slovakia's capital city. Its Gothic tower is the oldest stone building in the downtown area, and was erected in 1370, before the rest of the building was completed in the 15th century by joining three adjacent townhouses together.

A distinctive building with its colourful roof, it now principally functions as the home of the Bratislava City Museum. The museum is small but certainly worth a look, housing a collection of strange and unsettling artefacts: torture instruments, the old town dungeons, antique weapons and armour, and even a cannon ball that was shot into the wall by Napoleon's forces in 1809.

In the summer, the Old Town Hall hosts open-air music concerts in its courtyard. Many of Bratislava's other great tourist sights (such as the Main Square and Primate's Palace) are within easy walking distance of the Old Town Hall and there are numerous cafes and eateries serving excellent Slovakian cuisine.

Website www.welcometobratislava.eu/old-town-hall-tower/

Vlkolínec photo

Vlkolínec

The small town of Vlkolínec is the best place to experience the famous and unique folk architecture of Slovakia, consisting of medieval houses and churches often built from logs j…

Vlkolínec

The small town of Vlkolínec is the best place to experience the famous and unique folk architecture of Slovakia, consisting of medieval houses and churches often built from logs joined without nails. Located about three hours from Bratislava, near the Czech Republic border, Vlkolínec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for tourists who are interested in European history and the folklore of the Carpathian Mountains.

With a name derived from the Slovak word for 'wolf', the town is set in a picturesque alpine landscape and features around 45 of the distinctive wooden houses, numerous carved wooden statues, and a museum exhibiting the instruments that were used during the construction of the town. There is also a Baroque chapel with a wooden belfry. A truly interesting little town, Vlkolíne certainly shouldn't be missed by history buffs.

Website www.slovakia.com/museum/vlkolinec/

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