Must see attractions in Slovakia

  • Top ChoiceSights in Spišské Podhradie

    Spiš Castle

    Crowning a travertine hill above Spišské Podhradie village, this vast, Unesco-listed fortification is one of Central Europe's biggest castle complexes. Its bulwarks and thick defensive walls date to the 12th century (at the latest), and once guarded Hungarian royals and nobles from flying arrows. Highlights of the four-hectare site, connected by stony pathways and stairs, include views from the 22m-high tower, and a museum of medieval history within the former palace.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Western Slovakia

    Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum

    The windswept location of this world-class art gallery is as invigorating as the works on display. On a promontory jutting into the Danube, the Meulensteen immediately impresses with its outdoor sculpture garden. Inside, the gallery’s floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the water, providing an organic backdrop to mostly contemporary art. Many Slovak and Czech artists are featured, like Viera Kraicová’s bold nudes, end-of-days tableaux by Vincent Hložník, and realist-abstractionist mash-ups by Rudolf Fila. It's 15km south of Bratislava with year-round bus links.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Central Slovakia

    Orava Castle

    The sight of Orava Castle, roosting on a forest-cloaked hilltop, sends a chill down the spine. Vampire aficionados may recognise its stern silhouette from Murnau’s classic 1922 movie Nosferatu, but the castle’s history is easily as interesting as its silver-screen appearances. Famous residents include György Thurzó, who sentenced real-life vampiress Elizabeth Báthory for hundreds of bloodthirsty murders, and Nicolaus Draskovics, rumoured to have skinned servants alive. Check the website for English-language tours (thrice daily in summer).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Slovenský Raj & Around

    Slovenský Raj National Park

    Slovenský Raj's rocky plateaus, primeval forests and interlacing streams form some of Slovakia's most picturesque hiking terrain. Treks often involve scaling metal ladders or balancing on footbridges above waterfalls. For some, the ice-cold slap of river water is reward enough; for the rest of us, it's the views: cliffs giving way to forests and fog-filled valleys, and soft meadows. Trails are challenging but well-marked, and information centres offer multilingual advice. If visiting outside July-to-August high season, read up in advance.

  • Sights in Western Slovakia

    Devín Castle

    Perched between Slovakia and Austria, rugged Devín Castle makes a popular day trip from Bratislava. From the ramparts there are admirable views of rivers and goat-speckled hills beyond. Inside, the museum hosts an archaeological exhibition with neolithic grave finds and bronze-age sculptures. In summer, kid-friendly medieval games and souvenir stalls consume the grounds. From November to March you can enter the grounds but exhibitions close. Bus 29 links Devin with Bratislava's Nový Most (stop 6); get a 30-minute ticket (€0.90).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bratislava

    Hlavné Námestie

    The nucleus for Bratislava's history, festivals and chic cafe culture is Hlavné nám (Main Sq). There's architectural finery in almost every direction, notably the Stará Radnica (Old Town Hall), a complex of attractive 14th- and 15th-century Gothic buildings, and Palugyayov Palác, a neobaroque former palace.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bratislava

    Blue Church

    Dedicated to St Elisabeth of Hungary in 1913, the early-20th-century 'Blue Church' is a vision in sapphire and powder-blue. From its undulating arches and ceramic roof tiles to the tip of its clock tower (36.8m), it's a marvel of art nouveau design.

  • Sights in Eastern Slovakia

    Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art

    Pop-art pioneer and provocateur Andy Warhol (1928–87) would perhaps have wryly approved of Slovakia's peculiar museum in his name. The neon-splashed gallery dominates the otherwise dreary eastern town of Medzilaborce, where Warhol's parents grew up. Photographs and newspaper clippings detail the lives of the Warhols, but the art is much more interesting. Alongside Warhol originals are temporary exhibitions of present-day artists as well as Warhol's contemporaries. The museum's opening in 1991 was controversial; today it makes an entertaining detour.

  • Sights in Central Slovakia

    Bojnice Castle

    Gazing at fairy-tale Bojnice Castle stirs fantasies of knights and maidens in even the world-weariest travellers. Blushing sandstone towers and crenellated turrets make this romantic castle the most visited in Slovakia. Only foundations remain of the original 12th-century fortification, but an early-20th-century reconstruction by the Pálffy family took inspiration from the castles of France’s Loire Valley, lifting Bojnice to the neo-baroque splendour that stands today. Visits are by 75-minute guided tour only and taking photos carries an extra charge (€2).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Martin

    Museum of the Slovak Village

    This picturesque recreated village – Slovakia's largest skanzen (open-air museum) – showcases over 120 faithfully reconstructed 19th-century dwellings in a bucolic location, 2km south of central Martin. Wander between timber buildings (a few have richly dressed interiors) and learn how to discern an Oravian farmhouse from a Turiec-style hut; the ticket desk loans information booklets in various languages. Entry to the wooden church and Museum of Roma Culture is by timed tour (hours are posted around the site, no extra charge).

  • Sights in Trenčín

    Trenčín Castle

    Trenčín's fearsome castle has surveyed the surrounding hills for centuries. Its oldest walls date to the 11th century, when it was constructed to watch over the merchant routes extending from the Baltics to the Mediterranean via the Váh Valley. Highlights of the main self-guided visitor route, 'Tour A', are the Starving Tower (a 9m-deep prison) and Matthias Tower, a Gothic edifice with armour and weaponry on display. A longer, semi-guided route ('Tour B') is offered for an extra euro.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Malá Fatra National Park

    Vrátna Valley

    Limestone pinnacles and thick forest conspire to make Vrátna Valley one of Slovakia's most majestic areas to hike or ski. A scenic road winds south from Terchová up through craggy Tiesňavy Gorge, past picnic sites and roadside lookouts, to Vratna Výt'ah cable-car station. It hauls you to Snilovské saddle (1524m) below two peaks, Chleb (1647m) and Velký Kriváň (1709m). Both peaks are popular hikes, each taking 1½ to two hours (return).

  • Sights in Malá Fatra National Park

    Strečno Castle

    Folded into a bend in the Strečno River, this medieval castle offers stupendous views over the surrounding valleys. Written mentions of Strečno Castle date back to 1384, though historians believe it may be hundreds of years older. The complex expanded from a square tower and moat into the lofty complex here today. Visits are by hour-long Slovak-language guided tour only (half-hourly in peak season) but information booklets are offered in several languages. Last entry is an hour before closing time.

  • Sights in Banská Štiavnica

    Kalvária

    The apex of baroque art in Slovakia is on a volcanic hill, 2km northeast of Banská Štiavnica's old town. Ornate chapels guard artwork showing scenes from the final days of Jesus' earthly life. The pathway snaking between them leads to a crimson hilltop church with magical views of the surrounding hills. The complex, completed in 1751, was designed to promote the Jesuit faith and provide a religious focal point for the town; today Christian pilgrims file prayerfully up the hill.

  • Sights in Slovenský Raj & Around

    Dobšinská Ice Cave

    More than 110,000 cubic metres of ice are packed into the gleaming walls of this Unesco-listed ice cave, near the southern edge of Slovenský Raj National Park. The atmosphere is otherworldly: icy stalagmites, resembling polished marble, bulge from the ground and chambers sparkle with dangling tendrils of frost. In places, the cave ice is 25m thick. The departure point is a half-hour walk from the car park, so arrive in good time ahead of guided tours (on the hour).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Košice

    Cathedral of St Elizabeth

    This 14th-century cathedral dominates Košice's main square, its gables bristling above tall, stained-glass windows while colourful roof tiles evoke a resplendent scaled dragon. One of Europe's easternmost Gothic cathedrals, 60m-long St Elizabeth is the largest in the country. Ascend 160 stone steps up the narrow stairwell of 59.7m-tall Sigisimund Tower to peep out across the city.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bratislava

    Museum of City History

    Rove through Bratislava's past in the former town hall. First, scale the tower for a lookout over Bratislava. Then tour the exhibition rooms; loveliest of all, despite the dreary name, is the Hall of the Extended Municipal Council and the Court House, with brightly coloured ceilings, Gothic flourishes and stained glass dating to the 17th century. Spare some time at the end for the Viticulture Museum beneath, where you can sample regional wines with a lively explanation (from €5).

  • Sights in Poprad

    Spišská Sobota

    Formerly a distinct town, Poprad's Spišská Sobota neighbourhood is lined with attractive burgher houses. Settled by German colonists around the 13th century, it grew into a centre for crafts at the heart of a major Slavonic trade route. A Gothic church and baroque column are planted in the heart of its triangular main plaza, which is lined by Renaissance houses with sharply corniced roofs. It's 2km northeast of Poprad's modern centre, Sv Egídia nám.

  • Sights in Levoča

    Church of Mariánska Hora

    Glowing beatifically from a hill 2km north of Levoča, the Church of Mariánska Hora is Slovakia's most famous Catholic pilgrimage site. It's thought that a chapel has stood here since the 13th century, though the present neo-Gothic sanctuary is early-20th-century. Just as heavenly as the church, with its uplifting lemon-yellow facade, resplendent rose windows and medieval icon of the Virgin Mary, are the views of Levoča nestled among the meadowlands below. Drive or hike from town (up to an hour).

  • Sights in Banská Štiavnica

    Old Castle

    Marching around this noble stronghold is a riveting history lesson. Visitors scale stairs and stride across rampart walkways, peering into the 13th-century chapel and former cells. The prison was ironically nicknamed 'Himmelreich', the kingdom of heaven (to where its unfortunate prisoners would soon be dispatched). Find also time-smoothed gravestones and baroque statues though a few pieces (like the iconostasis) aren't originals. It's worth navigating the creaking stairs of the Flamboyant Gothic clock tower (reconstructed in 1777).