Banska Bystrica, Slovakia – the Former Royal Town

(Last Updated On: 27/02/2023)

Banska Bystrica, Slovakia isn’t very often on tourists’ radar. The city is somehow remote, located in the middle of the country and surrounded by mountains, and usually, it doesn’t make it to any Slovakia itinerary.

Even if for years Banska Bystrica has been on the top of my list of places to visit in Slovakia, I finally made it there only recently. And the city definitely didn’t disappoint.

It was the summer weekend, the main square was packed with people enjoying the warm weather and the event taking place in the city and I immediately fell for this vibrant place.

There might not be that many Banska Bystrica attractions but the city is definitely worth going to when you visit Slovakia! Below you will see why.

banska bystrica slovakia

Where is Banska Bystrica, Slovakia

Banska Bystrica, the city of almost 80 thousand inhabitants is the 5th largest city in Slovakia, located in the central part of the country. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is around 200 km south-west, Kosice is 200 km east and Tatra mountains 120 km north-east.

banska bystrica slovakia

Why visit Banska Bystrica

Banska Bystrica is one of the oldest cities in Slovakia, founded in the 12th century (although the first settlements in the area date to the BC times) and was among the first places in the country that was granted royal town rights, in 1255. In medieval times, Banska Bystrica was thriving as the trade and mining center and still today you can find some remnants of that time in the city and surroundings.

Banska Bystrica was also the starting point of the Slovak National Uprising in 1944, one of the most critical events in Slovak history. The museum dedicated to the uprising is one of the most important attractions in Banska Bystrica and probably the best example of brutalist architecture in Slovakia.

Even if the city went through major industrialization in the 20th century, it still remained charming in a way, especially in the central part. Banska Bystrica is also a great base to explore central Slovakia, with numerous interesting places around, including a few national parks.

banska bystrica slovakia

How to get to Banska Bystrica

Banska Bystrica can be reached by bus and train although connections can be a bit limited and time-consuming so it’s better to plan your trip accordingly. It seems like it’s easier to get from Bratislava and Kosice to Banska Bystrica by bus than by train.

You can find the bus connections (and purchase tickets) here and check train connections here.

banska bystrica slovakia

Where to stay in Banska Bystrica

If you decide to stay in Banska Bystrica overnight (which I recommend, especially in the summertime when the city is alive until late at night), there are a few accommodation options to choose from. Here are some recommended ones:

banska bystrica slovakia

What to see in Banska Bystrica

Banska Bystrica isn’t a very big city and all the attractions are centrally located which makes sightseeing really easy.

The center of the city is SNP Square (Námestie SNP), the most beautiful place in Banska Bystrica, packed with outdoor cafes and restaurants in the summertime. The square is surrounded by numerous buildings which are a true testimony to the long history of the city as some of them are as old as the 15th century.

The most important ones are the medieval town hall (with a very modern glass pyramid on top that looks just weird), the Central Slovakia Museum (located in a beautifully renovated renaissance house), the Baroque St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, and the Clock Tower from the mid-16th century that used to be part of the Town Hall. You can go to the top of the last one to see the panorama of central Banska Bystrica and beyond (unfortunately, when I visited the city it was closed).

But most of the buildings surrounding the main square are beautiful and worth looking at closely so wander around at a leisure pace and check all the details around.

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

Right in the middle of SNP Square, there are two more interesting objects that most likely you will spot right away.

Marian`s Pillar dates back to the early 18th century and was erected to thank Virgin Mary when the plague was over. The interesting fact is that when in 1964 Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union at that time, visited Banska Bystrica, the column had to be briefly removed as religious symbols weren’t very much appreciated then.

The other one is more quirky – the Black Obelisk stands proudly on the main square of Banska Bystrica to commemorate the Red Army and the Romanian Army who liberated the city at the end of Worl War 2.

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

The streets surrounding the main square are also really pleasant and worth strolling around so be sure to wander a bit. Some gates hide nice street art so don’t miss it too!

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

Just off the Main Square, there are remnants of the castle in the shape of the impressive Barbican. The medieval castle was created only to defend the city, it didn’t serve residential functions. The Barbican is from the 16th century and since 1572 it is home to the largest bell in Hungary (that Banska Bystrica was then part of).

Behind the Barbican you will find the oldest monument of the city – the parish Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary from the 13th century. At first, it was built as a Romanesque basilica but over the years it was renovated and rebuilt and today it is a real gem of Gothic architecture in Slovakia.

It’s worth visiting it inside too to see some real masterpieces, such as the altar in the Chapel of St. Barbara made in the workroom of Master Paul from Levoča.

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

Not far from the Main Square you can see a real jewel of brutalist architecture – the Slovak National Uprising Museum. It was my main reason to visit Banska Bystrica and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

The overwhelming concrete structure towers above the park and is impressive from every angle. Even if you are not a fan of brutalism, it’s impossible not to appreciate this massive building. Even if there are more interesting buildings from the 20th century in Banska Bystrica, this one definitely plays in its own league.

The museum is worth visiting if you are interested in the history of Slovakia since it’s dedicated to the anti-Nazi uprising in 1944 and documents the events from that time. Next to it, you can find the open-air part that showcases the military equipment from WW2.

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

banska bystrica slovakia

Besides the monuments and museums, Banska Bystrica is also a good destination for active holidays. You can go hiking, cycling, kayaking on the Hron River and in wintertime you can go skiing in the nearby mountains.

banska bystrica slovakia

Where to go next

Once you are done visiting Banska Bystrica, you can use the city as a base to explore the area as there are plenty of interesting places not far away. Some of the best places near Banska Bystrica include:

  • Špania Dolina – a picturesque village surrounded by mountains, once a popular mining center
  • Harmanecká Cave – one of the most important and impressive caves in Slovakia
  • Hronsek – the village where you will find a beautiful, UNESCO-listed wooden church from the 18th century
  • National parks: Great Fatra, Low Tatras and Muránska planina
  • Banska Stiavnica – a UNESCO-listed medieval town that is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Slovakia
  • Kremnica – a picturesque mining town dating back to medieval times

places to visit in slovakia

places to visit in slovakia

Travel Resources

Revolut bank card is the best way to save money when traveling. It’s a pre-paid service that offers very good exchange rates and no fees for ATM’s use. Click here to learn more and order your Revolut card.

You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in Banska Bystrica

Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for Slovakia here.

I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.

Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.

For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

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  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Slovakia too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. Thank you!


banska bystrica slovakia

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  • Reply
    15/02/2023 at 17:26

    Last autumn I was in Banska Bystrica for 2 days. Explored most of center. Had a great time to enjoy the vibe of city.
    Clock tower was opened and I enjoyed the view from above (did you know that it is leaned tower?). It was nice to see an exhibition of WW2 weapons near the museum. And the city center is just wonderful.
    For extra daytrips I would recommend town Zvolen which is south of Bystrica. Spa Sliač can be good for wellness relaxing.
    If you go north, in less then half hour you will reach Donovaly, a popular ski destination, but in summer it can be a good starting point for hiking. Further north there is Vlkolinec etno village. Town Ružomberok is also nice.
    Harmanec cave, Muran mountain and Špania Dolina are still on my bucket list, so I have reason to visit Banska Bystrica again.

    • Reply
      20/02/2023 at 13:07

      Thank you!

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