kamila

Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

Banska Stiavnica – one of the most beautiful towns in Europe

I really believe Slovakia is one of the most underrated countries in Europe! It has so much to offer! Incredible Tatra mountains, amazing castles, great urban destinations like Kosice. And then there’s this little gem that probably not many have heard of yet it’s one of the most beautiful towns in Europe. I’m talking about Banska Stiavnica!


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Banska Stiavnica

This small mining town is located in the middle of Slovakia, around 170 kms away from Bratislava and 240 kms away from Kosice (second biggest city in the country). The first settlement in this area was founded in 3rd century BC but it wasn’t until 13th century when the town became really important, in 1238 it even gained the status of one of the first royal towns in Kingdom of Hungary. The local Slavic population was joined by Germans and together they’ve created one of the most prominent places in the area and the main producer of silver and gold in Central Europe. Of course that made Banska Stiavnica a target of enemies and resulted in building well-needed fortifications around the town, including two castles. The town was also known for its innovations in the mining field, one of the local schools – Academy of Mining and Forestry – was named the first technical university in the world. Banska Stiavnica was growing steadily, at the end of the 18th century it was even third biggest city in the Kingdom of Hungary, but since mid 19th century its importance was declaining. These days Banska Stiavnica is just one of the most beautiful towns in Europe, bringing lots of tourists each year who constantly fall in love with the place (I’m not an exception!). It is so stunning and rich in monuments of big value that in 1993 UNESCO put it on its on World Heritage List – this title was really well deserved!

Banska Stiavnica

Banska Stiavnica has been on my mind for many years, from the moment I’ve seen some pictures of the town. It just never really was on my way. Finally, after visiting Kosice for few days, I figured I can stay in Slovakia for the rest of the week (that was 4 days) and it’s a perfect opportunity to head to one of my dream destinations. And I wasn’t disappointed! Banska Stiavnica turned out to be even more spectacular than I imagined and saw on the pictures! From the moment I arrived and walked towards the center and my hotel, Grand Matej, I knew it’s a special place and with every step I was more and more impressed! Still it was just a foretaste of what I was about to see in next 3 days!

Banska Stiavnica

The next morning I started my first proper day in one of the most beautiful towns in Europe with a visit in the tourist information. It’s located in the main square and a really friendly girl there gave me some maps and brochures in English and recommended some trails around that would help me get to know the place. I spend way too much time sitting in the main square and studying the maps but partly also because it was so pretty I didn’t want to leave! But the rest of the town was even better! The maps I got had few trails marked, both in the town and around, and I made a good use of them. I walked most of the paths in the city, taking some random streets, avoiding the crowds, and enjoying the place more and more! The bad thing about Banska Stiavnica is that the town is located on the hill and you need to walk up pretty much (and sometimes it gets really steeply) but then the good thing about Banska Stiavinca is that the views from the top are breathtaking! Few times I almost had to pinch myself to see if this place is real, I just stared at the picture-perfect place below, not fully believing it exists! And it didn’t matter if I looked at one of the numerous churches, the castle(s), the Jewish cemetery or the 15th century urban architecture – every single thing was just stunning! In the late afternoon I climbed to the upper part of the town again (those wooden steps were a killer!) to see the townscape in the soft light of the sun setting down. It looked magical! I just sat at the bench, with no one around me, and tried to take all in, remember every detail of this spectacular scenery right in front of my eyes!

On my next day in Banska Stiavnica I had a plan to see a little more of the surroundings of the town, as it turned out it’s full of attractions too. A little hike up from the main square through the forest to one of the most surprising and serene places of this trip – to Velka Vodarenska lake. I really don’t know what I was expecting but definitely it wasn’t that! Velka Vodarenska is one of the oldest reservoirs in the area, dating back to 1510. It might not be the biggest one but certainly is a very unique spot due to its unbelievably cyan colour of the water, kind of like in the Adriatic sea. There were few people swimming and sunbathing, just enjoying the place, but it felt like a different world from the town below. I spent quite some time there, relaxing in this beautiful surroundings. From Velka Vodarenska I hiked up a little bit more and got to Glanzenberg. Now the archelogical site, this area used to serve as the old town of Banska Stiavnica. Not much is left from the good old times but it’s definitely worth to go up there as the view is pretty spectacular! On the clear day you can even see Tatra Mountains and Kekes – the highest mountain in Hungary. When I visited the weather was really decent so I was certain I could see something as well!

I was lucky to visit Banska Stiavnica during its annual event – Stiavnicky Zivy Sach (Live Chess). For the whole day the town was in a festive mood, the main square was full of stalls and it was clear that something big is about to happen. In the evening first there was a game when kids were live chess figures – it was so much fun to see how joyful the event was for the little ones! I could understand most of what was happening and I enjoyed the whole game surprisingly much, so much laughs were included there. Afterwards a real treat and one of kind event has begun – a live chess game conducted by chess grandmasters who played with their eyes covered. Stiavnicky Zivy Sach was one of the most unique festivals I’ve ever been to and it is one of the numerous reasons to visit this beautiful town!

I was really sad to leave Banska Stiavnica! It really was one of the most beautiful towns in Europe and I enjoyed it big time, it definitely outgrew my expectations! Even if at first I was slightly worried what I’m gonna do there for 3 days it turned out it was not enough to see everything that this place has to offer and I’m really hoping to return there sometime in future to explore some more. With each visit I’m falling more and more for Slovakia and I believe you too should visit this country as soon as possible! And Banska Stiavnica is a perfect starting point as I’m sure you’d love it as much as I did!

banska stiavnica (4)

Practical information

Getting to Banska Stiavnica isn’t the easiest but well worth the effort. There’re 2-3 buses per day from Bratislava and few trains per day from the local junction – Hronska Dubrava. The nearest big town is Zvolen, some 30 kms away.

I stayed in the Hotel Grand Matej and I definitely can recommend this place! It’s located directly in the center, on the main street leading to the town square (5 minutes walking). My room was spacious and had everything I needed! The prices start at 39€ for a single room.

The center of Banska Stiavnica has few decent restaurants and some lovely cafes (however all I visited had a terrible service). There’s also a small grocery store on the main street, just one street away from the main square.

Tourist information is located in the main square, in the yard on the right side (Nám. sv. Trojice 6). You definitely want to stop by there to get maps with the trails and to learn more about the town!

To learn more about the town, its attractions and legends visit the official website of Banska Stiavnica.

Have you been to Slovakia? Would you like to visit Banska Stiavnica? What are the most beautiful towns in Europe you’ve been to?


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If you think of visiting Slovakia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!

Note: my trip was in partnership with Slovakia travel and Region Stiavnica tourism however all opinions remain 100% mine, as always!

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18 Sie '15

There are 54 Comments.

  1. Live chess look really amazing!

  2. What an adorable little town. I’ve never heard of Banska Stiavnica before but I think you’ve just thrown it up on my radar. How is the culinary scene there? Would you rather go for the festival, hiking, the food, or just all of the above? haha :-)
    Ron | Active Planet Travels latest post…Top 25 Ridiculous Signs You only see in AsiaMy Profile

    • There is lot of useful information at banskastiavnica.travel. Festivals of classical music & jazz and more mostly off-mainstream culture events during the saison, see event calendar (only in Slovak, events=podujatia). For gastronomy go to ERB brewery&restaurant, Cosmopolitan restaurant or BS Street food, try excelent local wine in ViNOCENTRUM. 24 man-build water reservoirs are hidden in forests around Stiavnica, you can swim there or hike/ mountain-bike from one to another on 250 km of marked MTB trails. Map in the infocentre.

    • kami
      19:17 07/09/2015

      I think Igor answered all your questions Ron and he did it so much better than I would :) you should definitely visit Banska Stiavnica, it’s amazing!!

  3. It always felt too close to go there and now I live far away and never visit these regions – bummer :( It’s beautiful indeed!
    Anna @AnnaEverywhere latest post…Luxury travel – what does it really mean?My Profile

    • kami
      19:40 07/09/2015

      you should definitely consider going to Slovakia next time you’re in the area, it’s stunning!

  4. Looks like a lovely place. Will have to put this on the List. :)

  5. Dzięki za ten wpis! Słowacja to dla osób z Krk super miejsce na weekendowe wypady i z chęcią pojadę Twoimi śladami i skrobnę coś po polsku :)

  6. Thanks for this feature Kami – It toally agree with you that Slovakia is one of the most underrated countries in Europe! We visited on a contiki tour through Eastern Europe way back in 2007, and we had all recently seen the movie Eurotrip which paints a really bleak and horrible picture of Bratislava. But we went through and spent a day there and absolutely fell in love with how beautiful and charming the city was. Banska Stiavnica reminds me a lot of Bratislava from your pictures, so I’m committing to get back to Slovakia to spend more time exploreing the country than just the one day we had on our tour.

    Thanks for the inspiration!
    Meg Jerrard latest post…How to Save Money on a Ski VacationMy Profile

    • kami
      19:43 07/09/2015

      Ah, this movie is terrible to promote Europe (but also pretty funny). Slovakia is amazing and it has so much more to offer than Bratislava. Actually I prefer Kosice over it so next time you’re in the country be sure to visit its second biggest city! And Banska Stiavnica is nothing like Bratislava but so much better! You’d love it as much as I did, I’m sure of that!

    • Yep, I live in Slovakia, underrated, but great for us, great skiing, awarded wines, low cost destination, culture, land of the castles and spas

  7. I’m definitely adding this to my travel list! Should be an easy trip from southern Poland next time I visit my folks. :)
    Pola (Jetting Around) latest post…Giveaway: Travel tote by Catrinka ProjectMy Profile

    • kami
      19:45 07/09/2015

      Definitely! It’s such a great place it’d be a pity to miss it!

  8. Looks really nice! I hope to visit.

  9. Wygląda zdecydowanie zachęcająco :)

  10. Nie lubię czytać blogów w języku angielski… taką mamy piękną polszczyznę… Słowacja jest fajna ale w języku polskim albo słowackim ;)

    • kami
      08:44 19/08/2015

      i dlatego właśnie poświęciłes swój cenny czas, żeby mi napisać, że nie lubisz mojego bloga (i wielu innych, potencjalnie dobrych)? cóż, dziękuję za wyróżnienie :) nie wiedziałam, że fajność zależy od języka w jakim została opisana.

    • Ewa
      12:40 20/08/2015

      To chyba raczej twój problem a nie autorki..

  11. Bardzo urokliwe!

  12. One of the towns that are high on my list. Gosh, how I love Slovakia!

    • kami
      19:46 07/09/2015

      you should go there as soon as possible! It’s incredible!

  13. HI Kami, You’re right…Banska Stiavnica is quite the picturesque town! Great photos! :) I would love to explore Slovakia once we are back living over in Europe!
    Joy @MyTravelingJoys latest post…Walking in Sydney: From Manly Beach to Spit Bridge and Across Sydney Harbour BridgeMy Profile

    • kami
      19:47 07/09/2015

      Thanks! Any plans of coming back to this side of the globe? There’re so many great places in Slovakia it would keep you occupied for couple of solid days!

  14. Hey, since you recommend Slovakia so much, I know we’re gonna go there as soon as possible. It’s so close it can’t be wrong. PS. But I partially agree with Marcin’s comment above ;-)
    Karolina / OOPS!sidedown latest post…Polska też jest fajna: na tropie żubra z BiałowieżyMy Profile

    • But this blog is in English… :v

    • kami
      19:49 07/09/2015

      I definitely recommend Slovakia, so many hidden gems there! And well, does every Polish person have to write in Polish, German in German and Norwegian in Norwegian? I don’t think so. This blog has always been in English.

  15. I was just in Slovakia last month for about 2.5 weeks. We visited Bratislava, Kosice, Slovensky Raj, Levoca, and the High Tatras. I have never even heard of Banska Stiavnica, but it now on my list for my next trip to Slovakia, but I will definitely be returning! I love small towns and beautiful views, so this town sounds perfect!
    Toccara latest post…Dining with Locals in BudapestMy Profile

    • kami
      19:59 07/09/2015

      You visited some of the great places in Slovakia! It’s such an amazing country, isn’t it? And Banska Stiavnica is really such a gem, I’m sure you’d love it big time!! what was your fave place in Slovakia?

  16. Zawsze miło odwiedzić sąsiadów zza południowej granicy. Nie tylko wygląd, architektura czynią miejsce wyjątkowym. Takie wydarzenia także mają bardzo dużą rolę w percepcji miejsca. A tak na marginesie, czy figury szachowe także walczyły między sobą?

    • kami
      20:00 07/09/2015

      tak, walczyły :) mam wrażenie, że ta Słowacja jest u nas bardzo niedoceniana, jak już ktoś do południowych sąsiadów jedzie to w większości przypadków są to Czechy. Ale i transport publiczny na Słowację za bardzo nie istnieje :/

  17. I can see why you would have been sad to leave! Banska Stiavnica does look like such a beautiful town–I’d love to visit! I’ll have to add it to my list :) The festival sounds like so much fun too–I always love attending events like that!
    Jenna latest post…Robot Restaurant in Tokyo, JapanMy Profile

    • kami
      20:01 07/09/2015

      I like being surprised by events like this :) And I hope you will get to visit Banska Stiavnica one day, it’s amazing!

  18. Jak widać niedaleko naszych granic jest również bardzo pięknie :)

  19. WOW – had no idea that this town is listed on UNESCO World Heritage List!!! Impressive

  20. Mnie Bańska aż tak nie porwała żebym nazywała ją jednym z najpiękniejszych europejskich miasteczek. Ale rzeczywiście jest urocza.

  21. Kiedyś, jeszcze w liceum byłam w Małej i Dużej Fatrze. Taak, Słowacja jest piękna! :)

  22. o tak! To jest zdecydowanie ten typ słowackich mieścin co uwielbiam najbardziej :) Lekka prowincja, góry, cudne widoki, sielankowa atmosfera na ulicy :)

  23. Great off the beaten path destination!!! It looks like a very charming village, I specially love the costumed characters haha!
    Raphael Alexander Zoren latest post…Highlights of my Alpine Life of WondersMy Profile

    • kami
      20:02 07/09/2015

      It was extremely charming, I haven’t seen such a beautiful town for a long time!

  24. Rzeczywiście, Słowacja to piękny kraj – sama przekonałam się o tym w tym roku! Byliśmy akurat na nartach, ale wokół było tak wiele miejsc wartych odwiedzenia, że zatrzymywaliśmy się często po drodze… :) a Bańska Szczawnica wyglada przepięknie! Chciałabym zobaczyć ją na żywo :)

  25. Very pretty, but you know I love mountain towns. I actually spent some town in the Tatra’s in Slovakia it’s been a while so I don’t really recall which towns it were, not this one for sure. How long would you recommend staying there?
    antonette – we12travel latest post…Losing your heart to the Harz – a movieMy Profile

    • kami
      20:06 07/09/2015

      But there’re some great mountains around Banska Stiavnica, perfect for hiking! I think 3-5 days there would be perfect, you’d have time to enjoy both the town and the surroundings! Also take a look at Igor’s comment below!

  26. Dear Antonette: Stiavnica IS in mountains. You can spend a week just hiking the surroundings and swim in the lakes (called tajchy http://www.banskastiavnica.travel/en/what-to-see/stiavnicke-tajchy/) – but it would be pitty. The town is charming and it´s timing with life in the saison. It turns in a lovely quiet place to rest in in spring and autumn. In winter we go skiing (salamandraresort.sk) over the next hill or ice skating on frozen tajchs. It is a fairy – the most beautiful town in Slovakia (for many in the world).

  27. wow – first time i’ve heard of it. But it’s truly a stunning town in Europe

  28. True, it is stunning and a great find. Its always fun to explore small towns apart from the touristy places.

  29. sometimes we just “click” with the place (that not to deny any preexisting beaty of the town:)

  30. A nie mówiłam, że pięknie tam :) I miło jest wrócić, choćby wirtualnie ;)

  31. I was in Banská Štiavnica few times already. It is very nice town, really one of the most beautiful in Europe. Although lots of buildings are in ruins now and would need some reconstructions, there are romantic streets as well as amazing surrounding countryside.
    Julius @ Traveltipy latest post…Visiting Baradla Cave in Aggtelek National Park, HungaryMy Profile

    • kami
      15:23 14/09/2015

      I haven’t notticed that many ruined buildings to be honest. But I agree about romantic streets and amazing countryside around, I really enjoyed my hike in the hills above Banska Stiavnica! Such a wonderful place it is!

  32. Jack
    06:07 23/10/2015

    BS is great, got married there, medieval and peaceful, there is fairy tale magic around every corner. The entire region has a certain energy of peace even though it is the center of Europe. Drive from Zvolen through Banska Bela and into Stiavnica, fantastic. Check out the best coffee shop anywhere, kinda up the hill, place called Divna Pani, so many cool nooks and places to absorb, make sure to look up in the largest room, unreal glass roof. Good service too. Love BS, kinda off the path but only 35km from Bystrica. Stay at Grand Matej or Kachelmann. Stastu cestu kamaratky.

    • kami
      18:30 15/11/2015

      Thank you for your comment Jack! I agree there’s some kind of magic in BS, such a stunning place it is! I was in Divna Pani and as much as I loved the place the service was really disappointing! Also I stayed in Grand Matej and it was really good, the location was unbeatable! If anyone is looking for a lovely European town I’ll always recommend BS!

  33. Valentin
    10:42 28/09/2017

    Banska Štiavnica is very beautiful city. I was there a few times.
    For more hiking I recommend highest peak Sitno. For less hiking I recommend Štiavnica calvary, very beautiful.
    I loved the streets in the city. And to drink a coffee in a bar.
    Yet, I haven’t visited Glanzerberg or Vodarenska lake.
    Greets from Osijek Croatia!

    • kami
      09:45 05/10/2017

      At least you still have reasons to come back as visiting Banska Stiavnica is always a pleasure :) Cheers!

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