I’ve been dreaming of visiting Bardejov from the moment I’d seen a picture of this fairy tale alike town in north-east Slovakia. The rows of colorful houses and green hills in the background made this city seem too beautiful to be true.
Years have passed and even if I’ve been nearby numerous times I never made it to Bardejov. Not until this summer.
As soon as I found out about new daily bus connections with Tiger Express, from Cracow to Kosice via Bardejov I didn’t wait long to go. Two weeks after the route has been inaugurated I was on my way.
The journey from Cracow to Bardejov takes a little bit over 3 hours but the bus has wifi and the scenery outside is rather stunning all over the way so I didn’t really notice the time passing by. I was lucky as besides me and my friend Jo there were no other passengers and we had the whole bus to ourselves (on the way back, on the other hand, the bus was full).
This journey one more time made me realize how beautiful Poland is and how many places I still have to visit or revisit. But this weekend was all about Slovakia!
I must admit I was slightly afraid that Bardejov won’t live up to my expectations, that it looks so beautiful only on the pictures, that it has only the market square and that’s all. Well, the moment I arrived I knew there was nothing to worry about!
History of Bardejov
Bardejov was first mentioned in 13th century but the town was inhabited even before. In the Middle Ages it was one of the most important and prosperous places in Upper Hungary, with trading routes from the Balkans to the North crossing through the town.
It was quickly surrounded by the city walls that remnants lasted till now. Back in the 15th century the town within the walls was inhabited by over 3.000 people living in 517 houses! That’s a really good result for that times! There were 64 crafts and 51 guilds.
Still the peak of Bardejov’s prosperity came in the 16th century and that’s when the majority of current monuments were built. At that time the city had its own public library, printer or theater. Unfortunately shortly after the series of unfortunate events destroyed the greatness of Bardejov.
With the industry boom in the 19th century the town tried to regain its position but with no big luck. Now Bardejov is provincial town in north-east Slovakia where life goes at its own pace. And it just feels good.
First impression of Bardejov, Slovakia
The moment I entered the market square of Bardejov I felt like transforming into the fairy tale. Rows of colorful houses, cobbled ground, cafes hidden in the shadow and the beautiful town hall in the middle looked just too perfect to be true. This view exceeded my expectations so much, no picture can show what a beauty Bardejov really is!
The day was crazy hot so in the mid day there were hardly any people around, only few random tourists here and there. I really don’t understand how come people don’t know about Bardejov?!
This has changed couple of hours later when the main square filled with Polish retro cars and numerous passersby who admired those beauties. I must admit that even if I’m not much into motorization it was really interesting to see all the machines that used to be pride of the roads. And this was only one of the events that Bardejov had to offer on that day!
For such a small town the culture is really booming there. During my weekend visit in Bardejov, besides sightseeing, I could also attend couple of concerts (from classical to rock music), see the photo exhibition, visit couple of museums or enjoy the fountain show. I really wish I could have done all of that! Not to mention all the quirks around like the street art and the Beatles house!
My favorite place in Bardejov
The market square was my all time favorite place in Bardejov. It was fairly big and look like a rainbow with rows of colorful houses, all of them with bright red rooftops. I’ve spent way too much time there, just hidden in the shadow, sitting at the bench and looking at the people passing by. It was one of these perfect moments that you want to keep with you forever, the world around me was simply beautiful.
Already in the medieval times the main square served for market purposes. In the year 1320 the town was granted the privilege to organize 8 days long fair. Later on it was extended to 16 days and eventually Bardejov could organize more than one fair per year. At present times the tradition is still alive and each year at the end of August a Bardejov fair takes place.
There are 46 houses at the market square and every single one of them is the prettiest with its pastel color. At number 21 you can find the tourist information with maps and guide books, so useful when exploring the city.
Half way through the market, at number 12 there’s Roland Restaurant – the only restaurant in Bardejov located in the basement of the historic house (this is especially much needed on the hot day like during my visit).
And at the corner of the main square and Veterna street, next to the Polish-Slovak house, you will find the best ice cream in the town! Other town houses worth looking at are at numbers 13, 16, 26, 41 and 42.
Bardejov – an UNESCO gem
Bardejov is one of the 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Slovakia (others include i.e. Banska Stiavnica, Levoca + Spis Castle or the wooden churches in Kosice region). The town was awarded due to its well preserved fortified medieval look, typical for this region.
And even if centuries passed by you can still easily imagine how the city used to look like back in the golden times. The picturesque old town is surrounded by the city walls that back in the Middle Ages were the most modern in Slovakia. Right now it is one of the best preserved fortified systems in Europe hence Bardejov is often referred to as Slovak Carcassonne.
Until these days 9 towers and 2 gates remained, giving a perfect picture of the Bardejov’s great and impressive past.
Incredible museum in Bardejov
Inside the city walls there’re rows of narrow cobbled lanes with even more colorful, red roof houses. In one of them, at the corner of the market square and Rhodyho street you can find Museums of Icons. For me it was one of the most surprising and beautiful museums I’ve seen in a while.
I’m a huge enthusiast of old wooden architecture and this part of Slovakia, as well as southern Poland and western Ukraine, is famous for old wooden churches. Some of them are even on UNESCO World Heritage List. Yet I somehow didn’t expect to be that impressed by the icons collected in the museum. Oh how wrong I was!
From the moment I entered the building my jaw was constantly dropped at the beauty of all exhibits gathered there. They were so unique, so simple and so amazing, a real masterpieces! But the most impressing was the whole altar that was moved into the museum. All the exhibits come from 16th-19th centuries and together they create a real spectacular collection, one of this kind that can be found in Slovakia!
Bardejov has few more interesting museums (like the one in the town hall) but for me Museums of Icons was truly incredible!
The best view of Bardejov
Still the most spectacular thing to see in Bardejov is not the city walls or the Museums of Icons. It’s the Saint Giles church, dominating the market square.
The current look of the gothic basilica comes from the middle of the 15th century but the church in this place was present already two centuries before. What looks spectacular from the outside is even more magnificent inside. The Gothic interior with its 11 altars really takes the breath away, it is truly amazing!
For me however the best was the tower of the church, one of the highest in Slovakia. Climbing up might be slightly challenging but the view is so rewarding. I always enjoy looking at places from a higher perspective and Bardejov was no different. From up there the medieval architecture of Bardejov was best seen, with streets designed like the chessboard and walls surrounding the old town.
I spent way too much time at the tower, just staring at the view in front of me. It was kind of hypnotizing, with lush green hills rolling and the red rooftops completing the scenery. Even the concrete blocks of flats, so typical for this part of Europe, didn’t spoil the scene for me, it was so perfect!
Bardejov – one of the most pleasant towns I’ve ever been to!
Before visiting Bardejov I wasn’t sure if there’re plenty things to do and see in those 27 hours I had. I was looking for options to spend the time around the town too (and of course I’ve found many of them, from hiking to seeing famous wooden churches or ruins of the castle). Turned out there was nothing to worry about! The time in Bardejov flew by really fast and I still feel I didn’t give the town as much attention as I should have.
On my way back to Poland I’ve realized that for the first time in a while I’ve really chilled out, both physically and mentally. The atmosphere and the slow life of the town was really what I needed at that time and if I have a chance to return to Bardejov, even for more days, I’d do it with no hesitation (especially that I didn’t manage to see all I wanted to).
I only felt sorry for all the day trippers who stormed through the city, seeing this amazing place but not really getting to know it and missing what’s the best there – the laid back atmosphere that helps you to relax so much… Together with the beauty of the place they make Bardejov one of the most pleasant and enjoyable destination in Central Europe.
Do you enjoy slow travel? Have you been to Slovakia? What was the most pleasant town you’ve visited?
Bardejov practical information:
- I went to Bardejov from Cracow with Tiger Express. There’re two connections per day, the journey takes 3,5 hours and the tickets start at 9€/one way
- There are couple of accommodation options in Bardejov. You can find and book them here!
- Everything in Bardejov is within a walking distance but if you need to use a city bus the ticket is 0.50€
- Best restaurants in Bardejov can be found inside the city walls and especially on the market square. Prices are very affordable and you can try all the best the Slovak cuisine has to offer.
If you think of visiting Slovakia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Visit Kosice – a perfect city break destination in Europe
- Bratislava-more than just a day trip from Vienna
- Top places to visit in Slovakia
- 17 Great Day Trips from Bratislava, Slovakia
- and more!
If you’re looking for articles about any place in particular this map with posts might be useful for you. Or just take a look at the “destinations” page.
My trip to Bardejov was in partnership with Slovakia Travel but as always all the opinions remain my own.
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Kelly25/08/2016 at 19:48
Lovely! This looks like a beautiful destination for relaxing.
kami31/08/2016 at 13:28
it was indeed! Amazing place!
Kasia26/08/2016 at 02:28
zdaje mi się to bardzo urocze bajkowe miasteczko, jeśli ktoś lubi małe, a nie przepych w mieście, to dla niego świetne. i trochę mi przypomina inne miasteczka słowacko-czeskie, które miałam na swojej drodze… ale, że Ty wiedziałaś o tym miasteczku.. ja nie słyszałam przyznam szczerze. pozdrawiam!
kami31/08/2016 at 14:22
fakt, te wszystkie czeskie i słowackie miasteczka są przeurocze. Chcoiaż w moim osobistym rankingu Bardejov jest naprawdę wysoko, dobrze mi tam było :)
Karolina Groszek26/08/2016 at 08:01
Nie słyszałam aż do dziś! :)
Kami and the rest of the world28/08/2016 at 19:55
lepiej późno niż wcale :)
Evi Mielczarek26/08/2016 at 08:04
Prezentuje się bardzo sympatycznie :)
Kami and the rest of the world28/08/2016 at 19:55
dokladnie takie było :)
Barbara Świderska26/08/2016 at 08:38
Super miasteczko, byłam kiedyś w pobliżu na wyjeździe szkolnym;-).
Kami and the rest of the world28/08/2016 at 19:54
to teraz trzeba wrócić i zobaczyć miasteczko!
Wojtek26/08/2016 at 10:49
Beautiful city. We were there 2 times in 2016 and I hope that we will be there in future.
kami31/08/2016 at 14:30
it’s a pleasure to return there, isn’t it?
Ania Jastrzębska26/08/2016 at 09:51
Bardzo klimatyczne miasteczko! I jakie genialne domki <3 :)
Kami and the rest of the world28/08/2016 at 19:54
Maria Magdalena Krychowska26/08/2016 at 10:06
ja słyszałam i nawet dawno temu byłam ;-) z Jasła dobre miejsce na wycieczkę :)
Kami and the rest of the world28/08/2016 at 19:53
no tak, rzut beretem! z 50km będzie? :)
Diana Demi Marszewska26/08/2016 at 10:30
Słyszało się, słyszało na studiach (turystyka uzdrowiskowa) :))) Ale jeszcze tam nie dotarłam, a widzę, że przepięknie tam! :)
Kami and the rest of the world28/08/2016 at 19:54
bardzo! a i jeszcze do części uzdrowiskowej w pisaniu nie dotarłam, póki co samo miasto. ale uzdrowisko też dość wspaniałe!
Danulka27/08/2016 at 10:12
my hometown <3 u only realise what u have the moment you are gone far away though… thanks a lot for this post!
kami31/08/2016 at 14:39
you’re very welcome! I really enjoyed my time in Bardejov!
Hamak Life28/08/2016 at 20:51
Are these cars a part of exhibition? ;))) Or it’s just another fairy tale feature of this charming town?
kami31/08/2016 at 14:41
it was an exhibition ;)
Mr_Szpak28/08/2016 at 22:01
A może by tak po Polsku zacząć pisać? :P lubię oglądać Twoje zdjęcia, ale i coś bym poczytał… Tym bardziej że kierunki często pokrywają się z moimi… :)
kami31/08/2016 at 14:44
moi rodzice sobie jakoś radzą to i Ty sobie poradzisz, a nie wymagania ino ;)
kamieverywhere30/08/2016 at 22:31
Bardejov was the first place ever I visited abroad! As far as I remember it was in 1999. I liked this place, but for me it wasn’t as stunning as for you. I even don’t remember seeing city walls! Still, thanks for bringing me back good memories!
kami31/08/2016 at 14:48
you’re welcome :) maybe you need to revisit once you’re back from you trip? I bet it’s much better than you remember!
4everMoments Zimna woda, zdrowia doda! Piękny Bardejów Zdrój - 4everMoments11/09/2016 at 16:58
[…] Do Bardejowa Zdrój wybrałam się z przyjaciółką. O Bardejowie możecie też poczytać na jej blogu. […]
Jean G. Wash29/09/2016 at 15:46
I spent many hours touring this village. Impressed they had an “alternative medicine” hospital. A rare thing. Thanks for this beautiful posting. Wish I could go back but unable due to age. I have relatives in Presov.
kami04/10/2016 at 21:51
I didn’t know about the hospital, thank you for telling me! Thank you for your nice comment! All the best!
cher06/10/2016 at 21:26
Loved visiting this town, especially the church. The wooden carvings were so interesting.
kami17/10/2016 at 19:38
Indeed! They are so beautiful, I’m always impressed how a person can do such a thing!
Valentin28/09/2017 at 11:38
Bardejov was very nice city that I visited. First time some 10 years ago, and second time 2 years ago. And I want to go there once more.
I liked calvary, only a ten minutes of hiking.
I stayed in Bardejove kupele. It is a known Spa with lots of interesting buildings.
Castle Zborov was also very nice and big medieval fortress.
kami05/10/2017 at 09:44
I really enjoyed Bardejovske Kupele too! It is indeed a nice city and I’d love to return there too!
Expedition Slovakia13/01/2018 at 17:27
Visited this summer for the second time. Beautiful town with a lot to see and nice surroundings :)
And your blog is just great, we really like it.
Pozdrawiamy zo Slowacji!
kami29/03/2018 at 20:00
Thank you! I need to go back to Bardejov to see more of the surroundings, the are is so interesting and beautiful! Pozdrawiam!
Jana Farella06/01/2019 at 04:31
This is my home town! Thank you so much for such a beautiful description!! It’s so charming and magical, isn’t it?! I moved to San Diego 26 years ago, but I still miss it and visit often.
kami27/01/2019 at 15:25
Bardejov is indeed magical, you come from a very beautiful place! Thank you for your nice comment :)
Ciska van Geer06/10/2019 at 15:50
Thank you for sharing. We got the advise to go there on the way from Cisna to Zakopane and did not regret the stop. Your description is just as it is.
kami06/11/2019 at 21:36
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed Bardejov!