Slovakia is one of the most underrated countries in Europe, often in the shadow of more popular neighbors: Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, or Ukraine. Even if there are many exciting, interesting, and diverse things to do in Slovakia, still not so many tourists decide to venture further into the country.
They usually visit Bratislava only (usually as an easy day trip from Vienna or Budapest) and that’s it. Huge mistake! Slovakia has so much to offer and I guarantee you will not be disappointed when you decide to discover this amazing country.
Slovakia is also one of my favorite countries to visit and I’ve been traveling to at least once a year for over 20 years now. Even if I’ve been to all the best places to visit in Slovakia, I still manage to enjoy it to the fullest ever single time, either when finding new attractions or rediscovering well-known places.
And so if you are considering a trip to Slovakia or already planning your stay there, I put together a list of the best things to do in Slovakia to show you what an exciting travel destination this country can be. Read on and get inspired to visit Slovakia soon!
Things to do in Slovakia
One of the very best things to do in Slovakia is hiking. The country is vastly covered with mountains, offering beautiful hikes of different advancement levels hence everyone can enjoy the Slovak mountains.
The most popular and most spectacular are the High Tatras, located in the northern part of the country right at the border with Poland, with the highest peak of Slovakia – Gerlachovský štít (2,655 meters above sea level) – there. These are one of the most stunning yet underrated mountains in Europe and are somehow not widely recognized among international tourists.
But if you decide to visit Hight Tatras you will not be disappointed, the breathtaking views can easily enchant everyone. The good thing is, you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy the marvelous panorama around you!
Other mountain ranges that are less known but still perfect for hiking include the Low Tatras or Fatra Mountains.
There is one more unique place, perfect for hiking (although it requires a bit of shape to enjoy properly) – Slovak Paradise National Park. The area is known for its gorges, waterfalls, and sometimes extreme paths to get around (with ladders and such), and altogether you can find there some 300 km of hiking trails.
Visit impressive castles
Slovakia is home to some beautiful and impressive castles that you can easily tour when visiting the country. Even if it’s not such a big country, you can find over 100 castles in Slovakia!
The most important one is probably the medieval Spis Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the northeast part of Slovakia. Even if today the place is mostly in ruins, it still can impress with its grandness, it’s so easy to imagine how it must have looked at the peak of its prosperity.
Other beautiful castles that could easily be fairy-tale scenery are Bojnice, Trencin, or Orava castles.
The most popular one is, however, Bratislava castle, located high above the Danube river and dominating the capital of Slovakia. It dates back to the 9th century and used to play an important role in the region. Today it is the home of the Slovak National Museum.
Tour UNESCO-listed wooden churches
In the northern part of Slovakia, you will find nine historic Carpathian Wooden Churches that were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.
They were built between the 16th and 18th centuries and include Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Catholic churches. UNESCO awarded these historic structures as “good examples of a rich local tradition of religious architecture, marked by the meeting of Latin and Byzantine cultures”.
You can find the churches in Hervartov, Tvrdošín, Kežmarok, Leštiny, Hronsek, Bodružal, Ladomirová, and Ruská Bystrá. Each and every one of them is beautiful and definitely worth visiting.
Besides UNESCO-listed churches, you can find around 50 other old wooden churches in Slovakia, mostly in its northeast part near the border with Poland.
Visit former royal towns
In medieval times, when the territory of present-day Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, some of the most important towns were granted the title of “free royal cities” (or “libera regiae civitas” in Latin). This meant the places got a decent level of authority and privileges and could develop partly without Hungarian supervision.
There were 20 such towns in current Slovakia and many of them still have the medieval charm that make them a perfect destination to enjoy the slow travel and the old-times vibe. A few of the towns are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites, appreciated for their big historical and cultural value.
Some of the most beautiful and interesting former royal towns in Slovakia are Bardejov, Banska Bystrica, Banska Stiavnica, Bratislava, Kosice, Kezmarok, Kremnica, Levoca, Modra, Trencin, Trnava and Zvolen.
Visit the ice cave
Dobšiná Ice Cave, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Slovak Paradise National Park, is a truly spectacular place. The cave was discovered in 1870 and opened to the public only a year later.
Over the years it attracted numerous visitors, including some famous people such as Ferdinand de Lesseps (constructor of the Suez Channel) or the polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1900). This is also the first electrically lit cave in Europe (1887).
Dobšiná Ice Cave is almost 1,5 km long (only one-third of it is open to the public) and the average temperature inside is around 0°C (keep that in mind when planning your trip there). It is possible to visit Dobšiná Ice Cave only from May to September.
Enjoy spa towns
Slovakia is home to 21 spa towns, built on mineral springs (there are over a thousand of them in the country!). Many of these towns are a perfect getaway from hustle and bustle to slow down, enjoy the lazy atmosphere and take care of your body and soul.
My personal favorite Slovak spa town is Bardejovské Kúpele, just outside Bardejov. It dates back to the 13th century and was visited by some well-known people in the past, including Sisi (you can even find a monument dedicated to her there), Marie Louise (wife of Napoleon), or Alexander I – the Emperor of Russia.
Other popular spa towns in Slovakia are Piešťany, Trenčianske Teplice, or Dudince.
Admire brutalist architecture
If you like brutalist architecture (or at least appreciate what great structures were made of concrete), you will definitely enjoy Slovakia. There are so many impressive examples of this style all over the country and for some reason, some of the most amazing works are very much UFO-related. There is the UFO bridge and UFO sculpture in Bratislava as well as the UFO-shaped university in Nitra.
Another example of brutalism that is among the best of this style you will ever see is the Slovak Uprising Museum in Banska Bystrica, a reason itself to visit this city.
Even if you are visiting only Bratislava, you are in for a treat as there are so many great concrete masterpieces hidden there! I published the whole guide dedicated to brutalist architecture in Bratislava, you can find it here.
Take the scenic train ride
Slovakia is one of the most underrated countries when it comes to scenic train routes and the good thing is that you don’t need to take some special overpriced trains to enjoy them. It’s enough to catch the regular train, score the window seat and enjoy the beautiful views outside.
The most beautiful and easiest to take route is from Bratislava to Kosice via Trencin, Zilina, and Poprad. You will first admire the views along the Vah river and then the mountainous landscape of northern Slovakia, including the spectacular view of High Tatras. Trains running on this route are frequent and catching one is super easy.
Another scenic route is from Margecany (near Kosice) to Dobšinská Ľadová Jaskyňa (Dobšiná Ice Cave) via Slovak Paradise National Park. This is such an underrated yet beautiful train route, you just need to plan it carefully as trains here are not that frequent.
A bit further, towards Banska Bystrica, you can also stop at the small station Telgart Pension – the starting/exit point of the unique tunnel – the train goes the full circle inside, changing the altitude, only to enter the viaducts a bit further. Chmarossky Viadukt is the most impressive of them, looking like a Harry Potter movie!
And then there are Tatra Electric Trains that connect Poprad with the High Tatras, offering some amazing views along the way. From the station in Štrbské Pleso, you can continue your journey down to Štrba on the unique rack railway.
Try Slovak wine
It might be a surprise to many by Slovakia has a long wine tradition, dating back to medieval times. The local wine isn’t widely recognized internationally (yet) but it has a strong position within Slovakia and neighboring countries.
You can find six wine regions in the country, all of them located in the southern part of Slovakia.
The most popular one, easily reachable from Bratislava, is the Little Carpathians Wine Region where, besides numerous family-owned wine cellars, you can also visit old royal towns, such as Svätý Jur, Pezinok, or Modra. The best time to visit the region is during Wine Cellars Open Day, happening twice a year, in May and November.
On the other side of the country, not far from Kosice, you will find the Tokaj region (usually associated with Hungary since its larger part lies there).
Enjoy Slovak food
Even if Slovak cuisine is rather heavy, it surely is delicious and worth trying. There are some really tasty local dishes that you won’t find everywhere else and you should definitely eat them when visiting Slovakia.
Some of the most popular and best Slovak food include bryndzové halušky (potato dumplings with sheep’s-milk cheese), bryndzové pirohy (pierogi with sheep’s-milk cheese), kapustnica (a cabbage soup), vyprážaný syr (fried cheese served with french fries and tartar sauce, the best comfort food ever), goulash soup or pork with dumplings and cabbage.
And to drink don’t miss Kofola – the local version of Coca-Cola, traditional in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, known for its herbal taste. The best one is served from the tap.
Being a vegetarian in Slovakia might be slightly challenging but not impossible. Even without eating meat, you can enjoy some of the best Slovak dishes. Just be sure to ask for the version without the pieces of smoked bacon on top as that seems like the most popular way to serve bryndzové halušky and bryndzové pirohy.
See the Golden Treasure in Kosice
Kosice, the second-largest city in Slovakia, is a wonderful destination to visit and one of my favorite places in Central Europe where I always like to return. One of the most unique attractions of Kosice is the Golden Treasure, kept in the East Slovak Museum, one of the oldest museums in the country.
During the renovations of Hlavna street in 1935, the pouch was founded – one of the biggest gold coins finds in the world. Inside there were 2920 gold coins, three medals, and over 2 m long Renaissance chain.
You can admire each item from that discovery in the East Slovak Museum. The coins are divided into the countries they come from, the newest ones are from the late 17th century. It is one of the most impressive and glittering collections you will ever see!
See the easternmost Gothic cathedral
St. Elisabeth Cathedral in Kosice is a real masterpiece of Gothic architecture, impressing every tourist visiting the city. The works started in 1380 but over the centuries it was rebuilt and renovated numerous times. However, it is considered to be the easternmost Gothic cathedral in Europe. This is also the largest worship place in Slovakia (around 5.000 people can enter the cathedral).
What makes the building special is the huge amount of sculptures and ornaments on the facade, including the ugly wife of the sculptor, who turned into one of the gargoyles.
The interior is just as amazing and worth seeing as the exterior. Be sure to take a closer look at the impressive altar with high stained glass windows as well as the gothic double spiral staircase – there are only five of this kind in Europe!
Visit folk villages
Of all the best places to visit in Slovakia, there are two unique folk villages worth your attention since they are among the very few villages of that kind in Central Europe.
The first one, Čičmany, is located some 170 km north of Bratislava and is known for the original log houses with the typical white ornamentation. The painting started in the 19th century but the beautiful decor you can see today was added after the 1921 fire. There were added to the buildings not only for decorative reasons but mostly to protect the logs from the sun’s rays. Today, all 136 historical houses in Čičmany are now protected monuments.
The second village, Vlkolinec, is located near Ružomberok in the northern part of Slovakia. This is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, added to the list for the traditional features of a Central European village. It was first mentioned in 1376 and slowly developed over the centuries until part of the village was burnt down by Nazis during World War 2. What remained is a perfect example of the typical Slovak secluded mountainous settlement.
Today the folk village consists of 43 houses (you can visit two of them inside) as well as a church and a school. Most of the buildings date back to the 19th century.
If you plan to visit Slovakia (which I highly recommend), you might want to read some of the articles I wrote about this amazing country:
- 35 Amazing Places to Visit in Slovakia
- The ultimate list of things to do in Bratislava, Slovakia
- 17 Great Day Trips from Bratislava, Slovakia
- 30 Great Things to do in Kosice, Slovakia
- A Complete Guide to Visiting Spis Castle, Slovakia
- Bardejov – the most enjoyable town in Slovakia
- Trencin, Slovakia – More than the Impressive Castle
- Banska Bystrica, Slovakia – the Former Royal Town
- Beautiful Trnava, Slovakia – a Perfect Day Trip from Bratislava
- Banska Stiavnica – one of the most beautiful towns in Europe
- and more!
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