Choose from 18 Fun Things to Do in Slovakia
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The low-slung, white-washed Baroque palace of Grassalkovich sits on Hodžovo námestie on the northern edge of Bratislava’s Starý Mesto (Old Town) and was built in 1760 as the private residence of a wealthy adviser to Empress Marie Therese. Anton Grassalkovich surrounded himself by beauty and music in his elegant residence; composer Joseph Haydn and elite members of the Hungarian nobility were frequent visitors to his salon.
The palace has played a considerable part in Slovakian history, as it was here that Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand met his wife; in 1914 they were assassinated in Sarajevo and their deaths led to the outbreak of World War I. After World War II, the palace became home to Josef Tiso, first President of the new Slovak Republic, but during Soviet times the building was used as a day center for children. It was renovated following the Velvet Revolution in 1989, when it once more became residence of the Slovakian president.
The colorful Changing of the Guard takes place outside at 1 p.m. daily, and although the palace itself is not open to the public, the surrounding formal French gardens are, and they make a perfect picnic spot on summer days among a cluster of madcap modern fountains.
Located at Hodžovo námestie, Grassalkovich Palace is a sight to see from the outside; its interior is not open to the public.
Address: Hodžovo námestie, Bratislava 811 06, Slovakia
Hours: Changing of the guard 1 p.m. daily
From $ 12
Like many Bratislava churches, St Martin’s was built over the remains of an earlier Romanesque basilica on the edge of the Starý Mesto (Old Town). Today’s three-naved Gothic cathedral was consecrated in 1452, and between 1563 and 1830, 11 Hungarian monarchs—including the much-loved Empress Marie Therese—and their spouses were crowned here, a fact celebrated by the placement of a replica coronation crown on the top of the 279-foot (85-meter) Gothic spire.
The church’s interior is awash with Gothic detailing, from the soaring wooden altarpiece found in St Anne’s Chapel, which depicts the Crucifixion, to the vaulted ceilings in the presbytery, while other ornamentation in the cathedral is variously Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque in style. Along with the vivid colors of the 19th-century Viennese stained-glass windows, highlights include the vibrant equine statue dedicated to St Martin, plus the extravagantly Baroque side chapel of St John the Almsgiver. Below, the cathedral, crypts and burial grounds are being excavated; currently only one is open to explore.
While services are free to attend, admission to the cathedral costs €2. The cathedral is open from Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and again from 1 to 4 p.m., as well as on Sunday from 1:30 to 4 p.m. In April through October, it is open an hour later until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Mass is held multiple times a day.
Address: Rudnayovo námestie 4549/1, Bratislava 811 01, Slovakia
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-11:30am & 1pm-4pm; Sunday 1:30pm-4pm
Admission: Admission €2 (attending services - FREE)
From $ 14
The charming but minuscule Old Town lies at the historic heart of Bratislava, the mini-capital city of Slovakia, clustered around the much-restored, landmark Renaissance castle and crammed with fountain-filled piazzas connected by a warren of medieval cobbled alleyways. It is a cosmopolitan district of red-roofed, pastel-colored townhouses brimming with high-end designer stores, souvenir shops, sophisticated restaurants and local bars, with more than its fair share of Baroque churches and Neo-classical palaces.
The area's great Gothic Cathedral of St Martin was the coronation venue of Austro-Hungarian monarchs, and there are also museums aplenty to explore"”with collections encompassing artwork, weapons, music and Jewish history"”and a thriving cultural life thanks to the Slovak National Theatre.
Come Christmas, festive markets fill the streets, while summer sees music festivals and classical concerts. To catch the best views over Bratislava Old Town, head for the UFO Observation Deck high above the Nový Most (New Bridge) across the River Danube.
Old Town is the historic center of the city of Bratislava, and at 3.7 square miles, it is easily walkable.
Address: Bratislava, Slovakia
From $ 14
Perched atop a forested hill on the north bank of the Danube River, overlooking the Old Town (Stary Mesto), Bratislava Castle is the city’s most distinctive landmark. Visible from all over the city, the grand Renaissance palace dates back to the 16th century and now houses the Museum of History, part of the Slovak National Museum.
A Bratislava Castle tour is at the top of many visitor’s itineraries, and even if you don’t explore the interior, it’s worth climbing the castle hill for a stunning panoramic view over the city. If you don’t want to climb the steps up to the castle, opt for a scenic city tour aboard a Presporacik—a traditional open-top trolley bus—instead.
It’s also possible to take in the highlights of Bratislava, including the castle, on a day trip from Budapest, Hungary, or Vienna, Austria.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Plan to spend up to two hours to tour the castle and grounds.
- Entrance to the castle museum is free on the first Sunday of the month.
- Some parts of the castle are wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The castle is located on a hilltop at the western end of Bratislava Old Town. It’s possible to walk to the castle from the city center; it takes around 15 minutes from St. Martin's Cathedral, passing beneath the New Bridge, and then climbing up the steps to the Sigismund Gate. The closest bus stops to the castle are Hrad and Zamocka.
When to Get There
Bratislava Castle is open daily, except Mondays, throughout the year. The busiest time to visit is in peak season (July–August), when it’s best to arrive in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.
History of Bratislava Castle
The castle has been at the center of Bratislava history for centuries and was one of the many palatial residences of Europe’s Habsburg dynasty. In the 1750s, Empress Marie Therese gave the castle’s interior a rococo makeover, but after her death in 1780, it became a garrison, before tragically destroyed by fire in 1811. It was reconstructed in the 1950s, and in 1992 the constitution for the newly independent Slovakia was signed here.
Address: Zámocka, Bratislava 811 01, Slovakia
From $ 12
Bratislava’s finest Neo-classical palace is tucked behind the Old Town Hall on Primaciálne námestie in the Old Town, and even today its majestic façade still glows with shades of pink and honey. It was built by Melchior Hefele as a residence suitable for powerful Hungarian Archbishop József Batthyány in 1781 and is situated around a courtyard filled with classical statues, plus a fountain depicting St George slaying the dragon. Batthyány’s coat of arms appears above the ornate pediment over the palace’s main entrance.
Today parts of the palace are given over to the city’s mayoral office but several sumptuous apartments are open to the public, including a gallery containing a few nondescript paintings plus a truly exceptional selection of fine English tapestries dating from the 1630s, with their mythological subject matter singing out in bright, jewel-like colors. The palace’s most famous room, the Hall of Mirrors, is on the first floor and is where, in 1805, the Treaty of Pressburg was signed with Napoleon after the Battle of Austerlitz, which brought about the end of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Primatial Palace is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission costs €1.30.
Address: Primaciálne námestie 1, Bratislava, Slovakia
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm
From $ 25
Just west of the center of Bratislava, Devín Castle clings to the top of a steep limestone cliff 695 feet (212 m) above the confluence of the Danube and Morava. Due to its position overlooking the rivers, this rocky fragment has had strategic importance for centuries, and the first fort was constructed here in Celtic times. Down the centuries, a Roman fortress and a subsequent Moravian stronghold replaced the Celtic battlements, and the land changed hands many times until the castle was finally blown up in the early 19th-century Napoleonic Wars.
In today’s post-Communist Europe, Devín Castle is separated from Austria only by the waters of the Danube, and its role is significant as a symbol of nationalism for the Slovak people. Closed during the Soviet era, the castle is now a photogenic ruin to explore, with winding passageways and cobbled courtyards all open to the elements. The minuscule Maiden’s Tower squats precariously on a single column of rock overlooking the river, a small museum casts light on some of the artifacts unearthed here and there’s a choice of woodland or riverside walks around the castle, as well as archery lessons on the grounds.
Devín Castle is a 10-minute car journey from the center of Bratislava, or 20 minutes on buses 28 or 29 from Nový Most (New Bridge). Between April and September, cruisers depart Bratislava’s Passenger Port for Devín at 10 p.m. daily, and the journey along the Danube takes 90 minutes. It is open in April and October from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from May through September until 5:30 p.m. Admission costs €3.
Address: Muránská, Bratislava 84110, Slovakia
Hours: April & October 10am-4:30pm; May-September 10am-5:30pm
From $ 75
Now the only remaining fortified gate—of the original four—in Bratislava’s double ring of medieval fortified walls, Michael’s Gate is a Gothic tower that has its beginnings in the 14th century and was commonly used by fishermen bringing their catch into the Starý Mesto (Old Town) from the River Danube. In the 1750s, the gate's Baroque copper cupola and a statue of St Michael slaying a dragon were added, bringing the tower’s height up to 167 feet (51 meters).
It was at Michael’s Gate that newly crowned Habsburg Austro-Hungarian kings would stop to pay their respects to the Archbishop of Bratislava. Today it is a landmark on the skyline, reached via the teeming restaurants, cafés and stores of narrow Michalská, and looming high over the Old Town. A circular viewing terrace on the sixth floor gives panoramic views across the red roofs and cobbled alleyways of central Bratislava. The diminutive Museum of Arms and City Fortifications breaks the journey up the steep steps to the top of the tower.
Admission to the site costs €4.30 for adults and €2.50 for seniors, students and children under 14. It is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from October through April, with altered hours from May through September of Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Address: Michalská, Bratislava 811 03, Slovakia
Hours: Oct.-April: Tues.-Sat 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. May-Sept.: Mon-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Admission: Adults €4.30; students, seniors, children under 14 €2.50
From $ 14
Set in the Stiavnicke Vrchy Mountains near the town of Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia’s Open Air Mining Museum is one of a kind and not for the faint of heart. Mining in the area dates back to the 3rd century B.C. and the area boasted one of the richest silver deposits in the Middle Ages. Gunpowder was used here for the first time ever in 1627 and over the two centuries that followed, the region was home to most of the major developments in mining and metallurgy, as well as forestry and chemistry.
Visitors have the opportunity to descend into an underground mining pit that stretches for 1300 meters underground, with the deepest section laying 45 meters below the surface. During the 90 minute tour, visitors learn about the history of mining in the Stiavnicke Vrchy Mountains and see exhibits showing both current and obsolete mining techniques and technologies, including drilling technology and methods for transporting ore. Above ground, exhibits include original mining buildings and an exposition about the geological development of the country.
Banska Stiavnica and the Open Air Mining Museum are located about two and a half hours from Bratislava. Visitors can get to Banska Stiavnica by taking the bus or train to Zarnovica and continuing by taxi to the town, or by joining an organized tour. The mining museum itself is 1.5 kilometers from the town center on the Jozefa Karola Hella Road.
Address: Jozefa Karola Hella 12, Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia
Hours: Hours vary throughout the year. In the low season, visits are by tour only, usually three times each day. Check with the tourist information.
Admission: 5 Euro, photos an additional 2 Euro
From $ 123
The futuristic Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising (also known as the Nový Most or New Bridge) is 1,420 feet (432 m) in length and was opened in 1972 to commemorate Slovak resistance to German invasion in 1944. The road bridge crosses the Danube in a single steel span supported by one pylon standing 312 feet (95 m) above the south bank of the river and is an unusually successful, stylish and popular piece of Soviet architecture.
Atop its single pylon is the circular UFO Observation Deck, which is endlessly crowded with tourists enjoying peerless views of the Starý Mesto (Old Town). An elevator whisks up to the deck in 45 seconds for panoramic views across the city and out to the brightly colored Communist-built apartment blocks in the suburb of Petržalka, where some 120,000 Bratislavans have their homes. If you’re not sure what you’re looking at, there are informative graphics and telescopes all the way around the deck.
Also found on the UFO Deck is Taste, Bratislava’s highest restaurant and one of its best, with spectacular cooking (and prices!) to match the views.
The Observation Deck is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Elevator tickets cost €6.50 for adults; €3.25 for children under 15 and are free for seniors. Reservations are required for Taste, while a meal here includes free admission to the observation deck.
Address: Novy Most 1, Bratislava, Slovakia
Hours: Daily 10am-11pm
Admission: Elevator: Adults €6.50, children under 15 €3.25, seniors free
From $ 75
Located in the north of the Slovak Ore Mountains in the eastern part of Slovakia, the Slovak Paradise National Park is one of nine national parks in the country. The park includes more than 300 kilometers of hiking trails, many of which feature ladders, chains and bridges. The paths are marked by red, blue, yellow and green colors. More than 350 caves can be found within the park, but only the Dobsinska Ice Cave is open to the public. One of the largest ice caves in Europe, Dobsinska has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
While the park is 90 percent forest, it also contains several famous gorges, as well as a large water reservoir that is popular for water sports, swimming and fishing. At nearly 12 kilometers, Prielom Hornadu is the longest canyon in the park while Zavojovy vodopad is the highest waterfall at 70 meters tall. The park is also rich with flora and fauna, with 2,100 species of butterflies, 930 species of plants and 40 species of mammals, including bears, foxes, wolves, wildcats and deer. Overall, 95 endangered species call the park home.
Slovak Paradise National Park can be accessed from the administrative center in the village of Spisska Nova Ves or from the tourist centers of Cingov or Podlesok in the north or Dedinky in the south. You can reach Spisska Nova Ves by train from Kosice or Poprad and from there, either catch a bus or walk an hour further to Cingov. For the southern part of the park, take the train to Dedinky, Dobsinska or Stratena. The closest airport to the park is at Poprad, which there are larger airports not far away at Bratislava, Krakow and Budapest.
From $ 434
Stara Radnica is the Old Town Hall in the center of Bratislava, Slovakia. It is in the city's Old Town, and aside from serving as the town hall from the 15th through the 19th centuries, it was also used as a prison, a mint, an arsenal depository, a municipal archive, and it was a place of trade and celebrations. It is the country's oldest town hall building and one of the oldest stone buildings still standing in Bratislava. The building has gone through several renovations giving it characteristics of Renaissance, Baroque, and Neo-Renaissance styles. Today it serves as the Bratislava City Museum.
Visitors can see displays in the museum that tell of the city's history starting with the Middle Ages and the feudal justice system. Items include torture instruments, dungeons, antique weapons, armor, paintings, and much more. You can also climb the tower to reach the viewing platform at the top where you'll be rewarded with great views of the main square and city.
Old Town Hall is located on Hlavne Namestie, the main square, a little over a mile south of the main train station. The closest transport stop is Namestie SNP and can be reached using bus X13 from the main train station. Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm and Saturday to Sunday 11am to 6pm. Admission is 1 euro to climb the tower and 5 euros to visit the museum.
Address: Hlavne Namestie, Bratislava, Bratislava, Slovakia 81101, Slovakia
Hours: Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-6pm
Admission: 1 euro to climb the tower, 5 euros to visit the museum
From $ 25
Once called “Grandpa” by locals, Lomnicky Peak is one of the highest and most visited peaks in Slovakia’s Tatras Mountains. With a summit of more than 2,600 meters high, visitors can see as far as the Polish lowlands and more than one-fifth of the area of Slovakia on a clear day. The peak is best reached by a cable car that was the most modern in Europe at the time it opened in 1940. Visitors take one car up to Skalnate pleso, followed by another car up to the peak, rising 1,700 meters. Mountaineers can hire a mountain guide to take them up to the peak as well, but it is prohibited to try to climb the peak without a guide. While visitors previously simply took the cable car up and back down again right away, they now have the option to spend the night on the mountain, at the highest situated apartment in Central Europe.
The cable car is open daily in June from 8:50 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; in July and August from 8:50 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; in September from 8:50 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.; and in October from 8:50 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It is closed the rest of the year. Roundtrip tickets cost 24 Euro and can be purchased up to seven days in advance.
Address: Tatra National Park, Slovakia
Hours: Vary by season
Admission: Cable Car: 24 Euro roundtrip
From $ 1,147
Hlavne Namestie is the main square in Bratislava, Slovakia. It is located in the center of the city in the Old Town. Throughout the year, vendors sell crafts and other souvenirs in the square, and during the Christmas season, this is the place to come for the city's Christmas markets. Other festivals, concerts, and outdoor events are also held in the main square. One of the most significant buildings on the square is the Old Town Hall. Though refurbished, it has been in use since 1434, and you can still see the preserved underpass that was built in 1442 to allow people to enter the building from the square.
Visitors can also see a line on the Town Hall building marking the water level of the Danube River during terrible flooding in February 1850. The Bratislava City Museum has an exhibition of the history of the city inside the Old Town Hall building. The main square charms visitors with its Renaissance-style fountain and many outdoor cafes.
Hlavne Namestie is located a little over a mile south of the main train station. The closest transport stop is Namestie SNP and can be reached using bus X13 from the main train station.
Address: Hlavne Namestie, Bratislava 81101, Slovakia
From $ 14
Banksa Stiavnica is a UNESCO World Heritage site in central Slovakia. Once a leading center of innovation in the mining industry, today it is known more as a destination for tourism and recreation. The site was settled as early as the Neolithic period and later by the Celts, Slavs and Germans. During the Middle Ages, it was the main producer of silver and gold in the Kingdom of Hungary, but the town began to decline in the 15th century.
The heart of Banska Stiavnica is the historic Holy Trinity Square, which is dominated by the Holy Trinity column. Many sightseeing tours start from this square. To gain an understanding of the region’s mining history, visitors shouldn’t miss the open air mining museum, which features a mile-long excursion in a 17th century mine. The town is also surrounded by dozens of artificial mining water reservoirs built in the 15th through 18th centuries and connected by an extensive system of channels. Nearby, Mount Sitno is the highest peak in the region and provides good hiking opportunities.
Banska Stiavnica is also notable for its Renaissance era Old Castle and its New Castle, which is visible throughout town.
Banska Stiavnica can be difficult to reach directly by public transport. Coming from Bratislava, you can change for a bus at Levice, Zarnovica, Ziar nad Hronom or Zvolen. Traveling by train also general requires a connection. The train station is three kilometers outside of the center of town and is a 10 minute walk to the small central bus station on Krizovatka Street.
Address: Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia
From $ 520
The architectural focus of the eastern flank of Hviezdoslavovo namestie (one of the two Baroque main squares gracing Bratislava’s Old Town), the Slovak National Theatre is a splendid Neo-Renaissance building that was created by Viennese theater designers Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner. It was completed in 1886 in a time when the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire was thriving and its elaborate pillared, colonnaded façade is encrusted with busts of playwrights such as Shakespeare and Goethe.
Seating for just over 600 in the plush, red velvet and gilded auditorium is in banks of boxes, and the season runs from September to July. The repertoire features a full program of opera, ballet and drama, including such old favorites such as Mozart’s Magic Flute, as well as contemporary performances by the Dragon Kungfu Dance Company.
An innovative new adjunct to the Slovak National Theatre opened in 2007 on the banks of the Danube; the seven-story SND New Building is of gleaming glass and marble, seating 1,677 in its three auditoriums.
The theater's box office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and from 12:30 to 7 p.m., as well as on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and for one hour before any performances. It is open on Sunday for one hour before performances as well. The SND New Building Box Office is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and has the same weekend hours as the box office of the Slovak National Theatre. Ticket prices vary between €5 and €30.
Address: Pribinova 17, Bratislava 811 09, Slovakia
Hours: Box office: Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-noon & one hour before performances; Sun. one hour before performances
Admission: Tickets €5-€30
From $ 12
The ruins of Slovakia’s Spis Castle form one of the largest castle sites in central Europe. Built in the 12th century on the site of an earlier castle, the Spis Castle once stood tall above the town of Spisske Podhradie and the village of Zehra. It was completely rebuilt in the 15th century, but burned down in 1780. In the second half of the 20th century, the castle was partially reconstructed and visitors can now explore the castle’s kitchen, bedroom, washroom, armory, chapel and torture room. Also on display are archaeological findings from the Stone Age through Middle Ages, including some Roman coins. The castle’s tower is well worth a climb for the panoramic view and photo opportunities.
If you are visiting during the summer months, be sure to check out the castle’s schedule of activities as it sometimes hosts medieval festivals or night tours in the summer.
Spis Castle is about one kilometer east of Spisske Podhradie, an hour-long walk given the uphill nature of the hike. It can also be reached by car from the E50 highway on the east (Presov) side and a parking lot is located not far from the entrance. The town of Spisske Podhradie is accessible by bus from Levoca, Kosice and Presov. The castle is closed during the winter months, but is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 pm April through September. Admission for adults is 5 Euro. An audio tour is also available that delves into the stories and legends related to the castle.
Address: Žehra, Slovakia
Hours: 9 a.m. - 6 pm April through September
Admission: Adults: 5 Euro
From $ 1,668
Dotted by shady plane trees and lined with pastel-colored Baroque townhouses, Franciscan Square is one of the main meeting paces in Bratislava’s Old Town and is dominated by the oldest church in the city. The Franciscan Church has a Baroque façade dating back to the 18th century, but it was originally 13th-century Gothic in form.
Consecrated in 1297, the church has a wealth of Renaissance and Baroque detailing inside, including statuary and gilded artworks, but its chief feature is the Gothic Chapel of Saint John the Evangelist, where Hungarian aristocrats were once ennobled as knights of the realm. The Marian Column in the middle of Franciscan Square gives thanks for the victory of Hungarian King Leopold I over a Protestant rebellion in 1657. Classical concerts are held in the church in the evening.
The square's church is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.
Address: Frantiskanske námestie, Bratislava, Slovakia
From $ 36
Set on a hill above the Orava River in northern Slovakia, the Orava Castle is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Slovakia. Built in the 13th century while the area was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, the castle stands on the site of an old wooden fortification that was built to protect from Mongol invasions. While it was originally designed in the Romanesque and Gothic styles, it was later rebuilt as Renaissance and neo-Gothic.
Today, the castle is home to the Orava Museum, one of the oldest in Slovakia. The museum features multiple exhibitions, including an ethnographic exhibition focused on Orava regional folk culture that is located in the Dubovsky Palace within the castle. The natural history exhibition displays photographs of the natural history of the region, rock and mineral specimens and paleontological findings. An archaeological exhibition features findings from excavations at the castle itself and the historical exhibition documents the castle’s transformation over time. Also worth seeing are the castle’s chapel, the Knights’ Room, the Painting Gallery and the Weapon Room.
The opening hours of Orava Castle vary throughout the year, depending on the season. It can be entered only with a guide and tours last about two hours. Admission is 5 or 6 Euro, again depending on the season. To get to the castle from Kralovany, take the train to the Oravsky Podzamok station or drive from Dolny Kubin on the road toward Poland.
Address: Oravský Podzámok, Slovakia
Hours: Vary by season
Admission: Varies by season
From $ 1,668