Levoca, Slovakia is one of the most overlooked gems of Central Europe. Not many international tourists venture to this little town in the north of the country but that’s actually where you can find a real medieval masterpiece, among many other Levoca attractions.
It might seem that this is just another picturesque town in the region but in fact, Levoca is one of the UNESCO sights in Slovakia, and that already should put the place on your radar.
I’ve been to Levoca probably some five times by now. Every time when I’m in the area and I have some extra time to spare I decide to visit Levoca and soak up its beauty and lazy vibe. If you are visiting Slovakia (especially its northern part, around the Tatra Mountains or Kosice) be sure to include Levoca in your itinerary – you will not be disappointed.
Where is Levoca, Slovakia
Levoca, a small town of around 15 thousand inhabitants, is located in the northern part of Slovakia, in the Spis region, not far from the border with Poland. Kosice, the second largest city in Slovakia, is 90km away from Levoca and the magnificent Tatra Mountains are only 40 km away. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia is on the opposite side of the country, 360km away.
How to get to Levoca
If you are traveling by car, visiting Levoca is super easy as the town is located right on one of the main highways in Slovakia, D1, connecting Bratislava with Kosice and further the border with Ukraine.
But even if you are using public transport it’s still doable to visit Levoca (that’s how I always get there). There are frequent direct buses to Levoca from Poprad, Spisska Nova Ves, or Presov (via Spisske Podhradie). You can check current timetables to plan your trip here.
The bus station in Levoca is around 20 minutes walk away from Main Square.
What to see in Levoca
Even if today Levoca is a small, sleepy town, there are actually plenty of attractions and historical sights that make Levoca one of the most interesting places to visit in Slovakia. Fortunately, most of them are located in the center but nevertheless, you need a few hours to see them all. After all, in 2009 the historical center of Levoca was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The center of Levoca is Námestie Majstra Pavla – the main square in the historical part of the town. It’s fairly large for a town of that size, surrounded by beautiful, renovated townhouses mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries, built in different styles.
You will find some of the most impressive ones at numbers 7, 20, 44, 59, and 60. You can judge already by the look of them what an important place Levoca used to be back in medieval times.
In one of the townhouses, at no 20, you can visit Master Paul’s House, the museum dedicated to the most known inhabitant of Levoca. This medieval carver and sculptor is kind of a mysterious figure as all the documents about him were destroyed in the 1550 fire. His style was similar to Veit Stoss, the author of the impressive altar in the St. Mary’s church in Krakow, Poland.
All that is known about Master Paul is that as an established artist he settled in Levoca around 1500 and spent the rest of his life there. That’s when he created his most impressive works: an Altar of St. Barbara in Banská Bystrica, an Altar of St. George in Spišská Sobota, and his most famous work – an altar in the Basilica of St. James in Levoča.
Master Paul actually became a well-known figure only in the 19th century, when the search for the author of the altar from the nearby church began. Today in the museum you can find all available information about Master Paul as well as an overview of his works from all over Slovakia.
The Basilica of St. James is where you should head next. The Gothic church with the high tower, seen from afar, is in fact the second-largest church in Slovakia, after the St. Elisabeth Cathedral in Kosice. It dates back to 1370 and survived in more or less intact look and shape until this day, only the tower was added to the building in the 19th century.
But while the church can impress from the outside, it’s the interior that is worth the whole trip to Levoca. That’s where you will find the most famous work of Master Paul and a real masterpiece – the tallest wooden altar in the world, with a height of 18,62 m. It was created in 1508-1510 and seven years later it was gilded. The whole structure was made from linden wood, with no nails, and each of the sculptures was made from one piece of wood. This is a true masterpiece and no words can describe its beauty and value of it.
Besides the main altar, there are numerous other important items in the church, making it an unofficial museum of medieval sacral art. You will find there 14th-15th century frescoes, numerous impressive sculptures (some of them even from the 14th century), Gothic liturgical items, and organs from the 17th century. Since pictures inside are not allowed you simply need to come here and see all this greatness on your own.
Next to the Basilica of St. James, you will find another impressive and important landmark in Levoca – the town hall. Originally the Renaissance building dates back to 1615 but it looks like a peculiar mix of styles so it’s worth seeing it from every angle. Together with the basilica, these two buildings are the symbols of Levoca that you can find on almost every picture and postcard from the town.
It is possible to visit the town hall inside where you can learn more about Levoca and its history as well as see some artifacts from the town’s past.
One of the artifacts from the museum is actually located just outside the town hall – the medieval cage of shame. It’s the original piece, from around 1600, and was used to “give a lesson” to those who didn’t obey (like young women who were outside in the evenings without male company).
Guilty people were placed inside for 24 hours, to teach them a lesson and to use them as a warning to others. The cage of shame is actually a perfect place to have your picture from Levoca taken.
While these are the most important monuments in Levoca, the whole historical center is worth exploring, as every building bears value here. Other landmarks worth checking are the town theater from the 18th century (the oldest building in Slovakia that has served as a theatre without any interruptions), the Baroque Church of the Holy Spirit, the Gothic Cloister, and the Neo-Classical Lutheran Church.
The historical center of Levoca is surrounded by impressive fortifications from the 13th and 14th centuries (extended and improved in later years) that still today stand in their original place. From the original 2,5 km around 80% survived until this day. In fact, this is the best-preserved fortification system in Slovakia. There are two gates that lead into the historical center – Kosice gate and Polish gate.
Once you are done visiting the main attractions in Levoca you can simply wander around the picturesque, winding lanes to get to know the town a bit better and to get a feel of its sleepy vibe. Or you can sit in one of the cafes or restaurants on the main square and enjoy all the beauty around you.
If you want to try Slovak cuisine I can recommend Reštaurácia U Leva, for cake and coffee go to Leutschau Cafe.
There is one more landmark of Levoca that I still haven’t visited, despite my five visits to the town – Marianska hora with the Basilica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located just outside of the town (you can clearly see it from the center).
While it’s an important religious site, it also offers a spectacular panorama of the surrounding area (and this part of Slovakia is definitely picturesque!). If you have a chance – visit this place too for the views.
Where to go next
Just a short ride away from Levoca you can visit Spis Castle – one of the largest and most significant medieval castles in Central Europe and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. From here you can continue your journey to Kosice (my favorite city in Slovakia) or Bardejov which is yet another UNESCO place and a really charming town.
Or you can go to Hight Tatras to enjoy some spectacular views and great hikes. For a bit of the adventure head south to Slovak Paradise National Park, the area is known for its gorges, waterfalls, and sometimes extreme paths to get around (with ladders and such).
You can also hop across the border and visit Poland.
I published many articles about Slovakia that you might find useful when planning your trip there. Here are some of them:
- 35 Amazing Places to Visit in Slovakia
- 13 Best Things to Do in Slovakia
- 30 Great Things to do in Kosice, Slovakia
- The ultimate list of things to do in Bratislava, Slovakia
- 17 Great Day Trips from Bratislava, Slovakia
- and more!
If you are looking for articles about a specific destination – check out the map with all the articles I’ve published (and their locations).
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