Located only half an hour by train from Bratislava, Trnava is one of the most underrated and overlooked places to visit in Slovakia. Even if the city is among the best (and easiest) day trips from Bratislava, it is worth visiting Trnava for more than just a few hours as the city really has a lot to offer.
I had Trnava on my bucket list for ages and when I finally made it there I was instantly charmed with the vibe of the place and impressed with the numerous Trnava monuments. I was even a bit angry at myself for postponing my trip to Trnava for such a long time (after all I’m a frequent visitor to Slovakia) but better late than never!
If you think of visiting Bratislava (or Slovakia in general) be sure to set some time for Trnava too. In this Trnava guide, you will find out why you should visit the city, what to see in Trnava, and more.
Table of contents
Trnava, the 7th-largest city in Slovakia (with a population of around 70.000) is located only 50 km northeast of Bratislava, the capital of the country. Kosice, the second-largest city in Slovakia, is some 360km east of Trnava.
As soon as I randomly saw on Facebook the picture of the cafe located in the beautiful former synagogue I knew I have to visit Trnava. I have a soft spot for old synagogues, I always enjoy good cafes so the combination of these two sounded more than perfect and was a good enough reason for me to travel to Trnava.
But, as I started doing a bit of research on Trnava attractions, it quickly turned out the city has so much more to offer and is one of the most underrated destinations to visit in Central Europe.
Trnava is one of the oldest cities in Slovakia and the first royal town in the area that is today’s Slovakia (it was granted this title in 1238). When wandering around the Old Town you will find numerous monuments and remnants that testify to the city’s long and rich history.
Trnava is also often called “Little Rome” as the city has been the religious and cultural center of the Hungarian Kingdom for almost 300 years, between the 16th and 19th centuries). Even today you can see many old, beautiful churches in a relatively small area, which still gives the city its nickname.
But most of all, Trnava is a pleasant and vibrant city where it’s nice to slow down and spend some quality time, either wandering around the Old Town or relaxing in one of the numerous cafes.
Trnava is very well-connected with Bratislava, with numerous trains between the cities throughout the day. Usually, there are at least a few connections per hour and the journey time is between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the train. You can check the schedule and buy tickets here, at the Slovak Railways website.
The train station in Trnava is located only a few minutes walking away from the Old Town. Once you get there you can get everywhere on foot.
You can also go to Trnava with the tour – click here for details and to book the place.
If you decide to stay overnight in Trnava (which I definitely recommend), there are some fine accommodation options to choose from.
Here are the recommended places to stay in Trnava:
- Pension & Restaurant Patriot Trnava (9.3/10)
- Saint Michael (9.0/10)
- LONDON Boutique hotel & Restaurant (8.5/10)
- and more!
My main reason to visit Trnava was to see the unique Synagogue Café and that’s where I started my trip to Trnava. This place didn’t disappoint!
From the outside, the building of the former Orthodox synagogue (dating back to the year 1891) doesn’t look very special but once you step inside it’s like you are transferred into a different world. The rich decorations were kept from the original building but the interior is very inviting, filled with tables and bookshelves.
In 2010 the Orthodox synagogue in Trnava was awarded as the best restored sacral building in Slovakia and this is one of those places that you don’t really want to leave. I enjoyed it so much that I had to force myself to go and continue with Trnava sightseeing (and then I’ve been back twice in the Synagogue Café during my stay in Trnava).
Before World War 2 Trnava had a large Jewish community, hence the Orthodox synagogue wasn’t the only one in the city. Not far from it you can find another synagogue, Status Quo Ante Synagogue. It dates back to the end of the 19th century and was built in the Moorish-Byzantine style, popular in the region at that time.
Today the synagogue is a popular cultural center and home to a contemporary art gallery.
The Old Town of Trnava is still partly surrounded by medieval city walls from the 13th-16th century. Originally the city wall was around 3 km long and up to 10 meters high, with 4 city gates and 35 towers.
Even if only a tiny part of the walls survived until today, what you can see can still give you a glimpse into old medieval times. These are actually the best-preserved city walls in Slovakia. At some parts, you can even walk up on the walls (like behind the Basilica of St. Nicolas).
The heart of the city is Trinity Square, with the beautiful 17th-century Holy Trinity column right in the middle. It’s the oldest sculpture in the city and was erected as thanks for saving the city from the plague.
Besides the column, there are numerous interesting and eye-catching buildings surrounding the square. My personal favorite was brutalist House of Culture from the 1970s but even I can admit it doesn’t really fit into the surrounding.
One of the biggest attractions in Trnava is the Renaissance Town Tower from the late 16th century.
It is possible to go to the top (and I definitely recommend it) as from there you can admire the panorama of central Trnava and beyond and you can clearly see the shape of the medieval Old Town. There are 143 stairs leading to the top but it’s definitely worth the effort.
When looking at the Town Tower from below it seems like the building is smiling – that’s why the only sundial in the city is located on the side of the building.
Trnava is known for its numerous religious institutions: churches, seminaries, and more and you can indeed see numerous towers when looking at the city from above.
The most important sacral place is St. John the Baptist Cathedral, the first early-baroque building in Slovakia. It is beautiful both from the outside and inside and is known especially for its original all-wood High Altar from 1640.
The most characteristic church is St. Nicholas Basilica with its distinctive towers. It is the oldest church in Trnava, built at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries in the place where the Roman church was located. Both churches are free to visit so it’s definitely worth stepping inside to admire some spectacular sacral works of art.
These are only two of Trnava churches, though, but every single one you can find in the center is important to the city’s history.
Once you are done visiting Trnava monuments, you should just wander around the Old Town to feel the atmosphere of the city and enjoy numerous picturesque corners and winding lanes. Trnava is full of charming spots and wandering around is a really pleasant experience.
The main pedestrian street, Hlavna, is where you will find the most impressive buildings in Trnava, including the Town Hall and the City’s Theater but the backstreets aren’t that bad either.
In the summertime, Hlavna street is a lively place with numerous events taking place – when I visited Trnava I could enjoy an outdoor theater but it was only one of many cultural attractions in Trnava. There are also plenty of nice cafes and restaurants around the Old Town and even if Synagogue Cafe stole my heart I enjoyed other places as well!
One of those cool, enjoyable spots is Nadvorie, hidden at the gate behind the Town Tower. The contemporary space surrounded by a historic center is where you can find numerous cultural events as well as even more cafes ad restaurants. The place is often referred to as “Little Berlin” which is a good indication of the cool vibe the place has.
I really regret I didn’t visit Trnava earlier. The city is really interesting, full of monuments and with a great vibe that makes your stay there really pleasant. Due to its location on the main railway line, visiting Trnava is really easy as all the trains from Bratislava further north stop in the city.
If you plan your trip to Trnava I recommend staying there overnight to fully enjoy the place. While you can do the sightseeing in the daytime, in the late afternoon and evening the city is vibrant with numerous people hanging around in the center and that’s when Trnava is really cool and special.
The atmosphere was one of the reasons why I enjoyed the city so much and now I really hope to return there soon again, even if only to sit down in one of the cafes and observe the world around.
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