Slovakia

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Slovakia or Slovak Republic (Slovak: Slovensko or Slovenská republika, both names are officially recognized), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is surrounded by Austria to the west, Czech Republic to the northwest, Hungary to the south, Poland to the north and Ukraine to the east. Slovakia is a modern democratic country and is a member of the European Union. The main reasons to visit Slovakia are its natural beauty, vivid history and great opportunities for relaxation (and due to the small size of the country, it is quite easy to combine all three). For the same reasons Lonely Planet put it in as number 5 on its Best in Travel 2013 - Top 10 countries list, being best for "culture, adventure and off the beaten track". Slovakia has nine national parks, which cover a relatively big portion of the country and feature the tallest part of the Carpathian Mountain Range, the High Tatras, which offer great opportunities for mountain and winter sports as well as great vistas. Geologically, a sizable part of Slovakia is made out of limestone, which in combination with many springs and rivers has resulted in formation of numerous caves (12 open to the public, several of which are UNESCO listed) and the beautiful rocky formations, canyons and waterfalls of the Slovak Paradise and Slovak Karst. Even outside these areas, there are some beautiful landscapes, and all of Slovakia is covered by thousands of well-marked hiking trails. For history lovers, Slovakia has the highest number of castles and chateaux per capita in the world, ranging from simple ruins to well-preserved habitable castles with furnishings, so if you are a fan of medieval history, look no further. There are also numerous gothic and baroque cities and towns across Slovakia, including the capital. There are also well-preserved examples of wooden folk architecture, including churches made entirely out of wood and the tallest wooden altar in the world. There are numerous mineral and thermal springs in Slovakia, and around some of these world-famous spas have been built that offer great curative therapies or just simple relaxation. You can also chill out, swim and sunbathe at the shores of several local lakes and pools or try AquaCity waterpark if you are feeling more adventurous. In particular, Bratislava boasts a lively nightlife as well and is a popular partying destination. (less...) (more...)

Population: 5,488,339 people
Area: 49,035 km2
Highest point: 2,655 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 76.24 years
GDP per capita: $24,600
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About Slovakia

History

The area that is present-day Slovakia has been settled since early Paleolithic era. Before the inward migration of Slavs and Huns, the most important cultures were the Celts and Romans. To this day, artefacts and evidence of the presence of these cultures can be found.

The Slavic tribes, that invaded the area in the 5th century created a succession of influential kingdoms here. During this era, lasting until the 10th century when the Great Moravian Empire disintegrated, Slavs adopted Christianity and many medieval fort castles have been built, ruins of some of which remain to this day.

Since 10th century, Slovakia became a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, which, after 1867, formed an union with the Austrian Empire and became the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. This Union, lasting until 1918 was a great influence on the shaping of the entire region and was a multinational state with many cultures living together, and forms a common cultural history shared by many Central European nations.

In 1918 the Slovaks joined the closely related Czechs to form the republic of Czechoslovakia. During WWII, Czechoslovakia briefly split, with the Czech Republic being Occupied by the Nazis and Slovaks forming their own war state. Following the chaos of World War II, Czechoslovakia became a communist country within Soviet-ruled Eastern Block. Soviet influence collapsed in 1989 and Czechoslovakia once again became free.

For many years overshadowed by their north-western Czech neighbors, political representatives of Czechs and Slovaks decided to strike out on their own. The Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate peacefully on 1 January 1993 and Slovakia became a country in its own right. This is known as the Velvet Divorce. Both countries remain close culturally and there is a high level of political and economical cooperation.

Historical, political, and geographic factors have caused Slovakia to experience more difficulty in developing a modern market economy than some of its Central European neighbors, but now it boasts one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and has been a member of the European Union and the NATO since 2004. Slovakia is now a member of the Schengen agreement, and the country has adopted the Euro on 1 January 2009.

Climate

Slovakia has a temperate climate with sunny hot summers and cold, cloudy, humid and snowy winters. The climate is continental, with four seasons, and while the overall climate is mild, there is a considerable temperature difference between summer and winter months.

It is generally warmer in southern regions and the lowlands, where summer temperatures can climb above 30°C (86°F) on hotter days, and where rain is more common in winters than snow, which usually melts in a few days.

Northern, and especially mountainous regions have a colder climate, with summer temperatures not exceeding 25°C (77°F). Especially in the mountains, snow is common in winters and it can get quite cold, with temperatures dropping as low as -20°C (-4°F).

If you are planning on visiting the mountains, please note that, as in any mountainous region, the weather can change dramatically in a matter of minutes and it can rain (or snow!) even in summer. Take appropriate equipment and don't underestimate the weather.

Activities

  • Visit the nearest chateau/castle - many are hundreds of years old, some preserved in a habitable state with period furnishings and many guided tours are offered.
  • Go hiking! - the entire Slovakia (except flatlands) is covered with hundreds of miles of extremely well-marked hiking trails, that especially in the national parks lead though gorgeous landscapes. Get the idea here.
  • Visit one of the traditional wooden churches, they're unique to the region. These might not be readily accessible without a car, however.
  • Go spelunking - caves are interspersed around Slovakia and as many are open to general public they are some of the most accessible in the world. Many are UNESCO listed, including Dobsinska Ice Cave (in Slovak Paradise), and Ochrinska Aragonite Cave, Domica, Jasovska Cave and Gombasek Cave (all in Slovak Karst)
  • Visit a local festival - in the early spring 'Fasiangy' (Mardi Gras) is celebrated, especially in the countryside, and in early autumn the end of the harvest period is celebrated in wine-producing regions. The part of the centre of the town will be closed and a traditional market available, mostly with local produce and handicrafts for sale and plenty to eat and drink. In bigger cities, similar Christmas markets open in December/around Christmas.
  • Ski and snowboard in the mountains, especially High Tatras and Low Tatras. Smaller ranges are also very suitable for cross-country skiing
  • Navigate down the rivers Váh or Dunajec on a raft through picturesque gorges. For a more gentle ride, raft down the Small Danube.
  • If you're into railway history or would like to spend a day romantically, Slovakia offers a number of phased-out railway tracks, which were once used for transporting wood, but now transport only tourists in cosy steam trains through forests and valleys. The best-preserved of them all is ČHŽ near the town of Brezno.

Cultural Events

  • International Film Festival Artfilm. Yearly in June/July in Trenčianske Teplice and Trenčín.
  • International Film Festival Cinematik. Yearly in early September in Piešťany. Young and relatively small film festival. Accreditation for the whole festival is less than €7.
  • International Film Festival Bratislava. Forever in December.
  • Comics-Salón - A event dedicated to Japanese Anime & Manga, Fantasy and SciFi and its fans, but not only them! Great atmosphere, friendly folk and lots of fun awaits you there. This events roots stretch back to 2004, when it was held in "Súza" [12] for the first time. Now, once every year early in September Bratislava enjoys the rush of fine individuals from all over Europe to participate in this unique event. For the past 2 years, the location was moved to "Istropolis" exhibition halls due to space constraints.

Music Events

  • Pohoda Music Festival. One of the biggest Slovak music festivals, critically acclaimed and recognised on European scale. Yearly in July in Trenčín. Hosts mostly alternative music.
  • Grape Music Festival. Another great smaller alternative music festival. Yearly in August in Piešťany.
  • Aquabeatz. One of the many local events you should definitely not miss. Yearly twice in February and July in Nové Zámky. Divided to Winter and Summer edition - WE being held within the clubbing complex itself, while SE being held open air at the city's so called "Airport" just ask the locals for directions.

Food

Slovak cuisine focuses mostly on simple and hearty recipes. Historically, what is now considered genuinely Slovak has been the traditional food in the northern villages where people lived off sheep grazing and limited agriculture - in the harsh conditions many crops don't grow, and herbs are more accessible than true spices. Therefore, the staple foods mostly involve (smoked) meat, cheese, potatoes and flour. This does not make the food bland, however, and much of it is quite filling and flavoursome, though can be a bit heavy. As no strong spices or truly exotic ingredients are used, sampling local wares is a safe and rewarding experience.

Some dishes are authentically Slovak, many others are variations on a regional theme. A lot of cheese is typically consumed, out of meats pork and poultry products are the most common, with some beef and game dishes, most common accompaniments being potatoes and various types of dumplings. Since Slovakia is a land-locked country, fish and seafood options are limited (carp is served at Christmas, trout is the most common fish). Soups are quite common both as an appetiser and, as some are quite filling, as a main dish.

If you are a vegetarian, the variety of food in the cities should be decent. However, when venturing out into the countryside, the offer may be limited as vegetables are mostly considered a side and/or eaten mostly raw or in salads. Also, be aware that even though some dishes will be in the vegetarian section of the menu, this merely means that they're not predominanty meat-based and still might be prepared using animal fats or even contain small pieces of meat, so make your requirements clear. Fried cheese with ham or Cesar salad(!) are good examples. Still, almost every restaurant in the country will serve at least the staple choice of fried cheese (the normal, non-ham variety) with fries, which is a universally popular. There should be a good selection of sweet dishes as well, with pancakes, dumplings filled with fruits, jams or chocolate and sweet noodles with nuts/poppy seeds/sweet cottage cheese most common. Seeking out the nearest pizzeria is also a good and accessible option mostly everywhere.

The main meal of the day is traditionally lunch, though this is changing especially in cities due to work schedules, and dinner is increasing becoming the main meal there.

In establishments where you sit in (cafes and restaurants), it is common to tip around 10% or at least round the amount up to the nearest euro or note (depending on amount). Tips are not included in the bill, if there is a percentage shown on your bill, this is usually the VAT. Tip is added to the bill and should be handed to the waiter while you pay, before you leave the table. Tipping is not compulsory, so if you are not satisfied with the service, don't feel obliged to tip! You will not be hassled if you don't. Tipping is not common in over-the-counter establishments, bars or for other services.

It should be noted that in all but the most exclusive restaurants it is not customary to be shown to your table by the staff. So when you enter, do not hang out by the door, but simply pick a table of your choice and enjoy. Once you are comfortably seated, waiting staff will be over shortly to give you the menu and let you order drinks.

Again with the possible exception of the most exclusive establishments, there is mostly no dress code enforced in restaurants and informal clothing is fine. Hauling yourself into a restaurant for well-deserved meal after a day of hiking/skiing in your sporty clothes might attract a few frowns, but you certainly won't be turned away. Generally, anything you would wear for a stroll in town is perfectly fine. You don't need a jacket or closed shoes and in summer shorts are also acceptable.

Slovak food

Bryndzové halušky is a Slovak national dish made out of potato dumplings and special kind of unpasteurized fermented sheep cheese called 'bryndza'. This meal is unique to Slovakia and quite appetising (and surprisingly filling), and you should not leave Slovakia without trying it. Please note that while this dish will usually be listed in the vegetarian section of the menu, it is served with pieces of fried meaty bacon on top, so if you are a vegetarian make sure to ask for halušky without the bacon. Halušky can be found in many restaurants, however, the quality varies as it is not an easy dish to prepare. If you at all can, seek out an ethnic Slovak restaurant (this can be harder than it sounds), or at least ask locals for the best place in the vicinity. In the northern regions you will find also authentic restaurants called 'Salaš' (this word means sheep farm in Slovak and many take produce directly from these), which serve the most delicious and fresh variety. Sometimes, a variety with smoked cheese added on the top is available. A separate dish called strapačky might also be available where sauerkraut is served instead of bryndza, but it is not as typical (this will also come with bacon on top).

A salaš will usually serve also other typical Slovak dishes, and many will offer several varieties of sheep cheese to buy as well. They are all locally produced, delivious, and well worth buying if you are a cheese fan. Verieties include bryndza (primarily used to make 'Bryndzové halušky', but it is a soft spreadable cheese which is very healthy and often used as a spread), blocks of sheep cheese (soft and malleable, delicious on its own or with salt), parenica (cheese curled in layers into a small peelable roll, sold smoked or unsmoked) and korbáčiky (this word means hair braids in Slovak, and korbáčiky are threads of cheese woven into a pattern resembling a basic braid). Some of these cheeses are available to buy in supermarkets as well but these are mass produced and not as good.

Most other dishes are regional, and their varieties can be found elsewhere in Central Europe. These include kapustnica, a sauerkraut soup typically eaten at Christmas but served all year round in restaurants. It is flavoursome and can be mildly spicy based on what sausage is used. Depending on the recipe it may also include smoked meat and/or dried mushrooms.

Various large dumplings called pirohy can be found and depending on the filling can be salty or sweet. Fillings include sauerkraut, various types of cheese or meat or simply fruits or jam. They closely resemble Polish pirogi.

Goulash is a regional dish made with cuts of beef, onions, vegetables and squashed potatoes with spices, which is very hearty and filling. Depending on the thickness it can be served as a soup (with bread) or as a stew (served with dumplings). Goulash can be sometimes found outdoors during BBQs or at festival markets, where it is prepared in a big cauldron, sometimes with game instead of beef - this is the most authentic. A variety called Segedin goulash also exists, which is quite distinct and prepared with sauerkraut. Goulash can be quite spicy.

Apart from kapustnica and goulash, which are more of a main dish, other soups are quite popular as an appetiser. Mushroom soup is a typical Christmas dish in many parts, and there are several soups made out of beans or bean sprouts. In restaurants, the most common soups are normal chicken and (sometimes) beef broth, and tomato soup and garlic broth (served with croutons, very tasty, but don't go kissing people after) are also very common. Some restaurants offer certain soups to be served in a small loaf of bread ('v bochniku'), which can be an interesting and tasty experience.

Other typical streetfood includes lokše, potato pancakes (crepes) served with various fillings (popular varieties include duck fat and/or duck liver pate, poppy seeds or jam) and langoš, which is a big deep fried flat bread most commonly served with garlic, cheese and ketchup/sour cream on top. A local version of a burger is also common, called cigánska pečienka (or simply cigánska). This is not made out of beef, however, but instead pork or chicken is used and is served in a bun with mustard/ketchup and (sometimes) onions, chilies and/or diced cabbage. If you are looking for something sweet, in spa cities such as Piešťany, you will find stands selling spa wafers, which are usually two plate-sized thin wafers with various fillings. Try chocolate or hazelnut.

Especially in the western parts, lokše can be found in a restaurant as well, where they are served as side for a roasted goose/duck (husacina), which is a local delicacy.

Other foods worth trying are chicken in paprika sauce with dumplings ('paprikas'), Schnitzel ('Rezeň' in Slovak, very common dish. 'Čiernohorsky rezeň' is a variety that is made with potato dumpling coating used instead of batter and is very good) and Svieckova (sirloin beef with special vegetable sauce, served with dumplings). From the desert section of the menu, try plum dumplings (sometimes other fruit is used, but plums are traditional); this is a good and quite filling dish on its own as well.

In some parts of the countryside, there is a tradition called zabíjačka, where a pig is killed and its various meat and parts are consumed in a BBQ-like event. This is a lot more historic celebration than you are likely to find in mostly modern Slovakia, but if you have an opportunity to attend, it may be an interesting experience, and the meat and sausages are home-made, delicious and full of flavour. If you can find home-made hurka (pork meat and liver sausage with rice) or krvavnicky (similar to hurka, but with pork blood) on offer elsewhere, they are both very good. There is also tlačenka (cold meat pressed together with some vegetables, served similar to ham), which is served cold with vinegar and onion on top, and can be bought in supermarkets as well.Various other type of sausages and smoked meats are available commercially.

A thick fried slice of cheese served with French fries and a salad is also a common Slovak dish. It is served in most restaurants, and worth trying out, especially the local variety made from smoked cheese ('udeny syr'/'ostiepok') or 'hermelin' (local cheese similar to Camembert). This is not considered a substitute for meat.

There is a good variety of bakery products, including various sweet pastries- try the local fillings of poppy seeds and/or (sweet) cottage cheese (tvaroh). Strudel (štrúdla) is also popular, try the traditional apple and raisins filling or fancier sweet poppy seeds and sour cherries version. For something savoury, try pagáč, which is a puff pastry with little pork cracklings. Local bread is excellent, but please note that some of the several varieties are sprinkled with caraway seeds. You may or may not like this! Baguettes and baguette shops/stands are very common and you will be able to choose from a variety of fillings.

For dessert, visit the local cukráreň. These establishments, though slowly merging into cafes, exclusively specialise in appeasing your sweet tooth and serve a variety of cakes, as well as hot and cold drinks and (sometimes) ice-cream. The cakes resemble similar fare in the Czech Republic or their Viennese cousins. The selection is diverse and on display, so just pick one you like the look of, perhaps a 'krémeš' (a bit of pastry at the bottom, thick filling of vanilla custard, topped with a layer of cream or just chocolate) or 'veterník' (think huge profiterole coated in caramel), selection of tortas etc.

When you are shopping in the supermarket, remember to pick up Tatranky and/or Horalky, two brands of similar wafers with hazelnut filling and lightly coated in chocolate that the locals swear by.

International Cuisine

Italian restaurants and pizzerias are extremely popular in Slovakia, and have become ubiquitous. Even if you don't go to an ethnic Italian restaurant, there will be a pizza or pasta dish on almost every restaurant menu. Italian (and generally Mediterranean)ice cream is also very popular.

Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine is also becoming more common everywhere, and kebab/gyros (a bun with sliced bits of meat) stands are very common.

In bigger cities, you will find selection of ethnic restaurants including Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, French and many others. Moreover, as mentioned above, many Austrian, Czech, Hungarian and Polish dishes with Slovakian twist are commonplace.

Fast food establishments can be found in Slovakia as anywhere else in the world, McDonalds can be found in many bigger and smaller cities. However, due to the other food being relatively cheap in comparison to the Western prices in fast foods, this is not usually considered the truly budget option. A food in a cheaper restaurant will cost 1-1.5x the price of a meal combo (sometimes even less) and might prove a better value. Still, these establishments are reasonably popular, especially with the younger generation.

Drinks

Non-alcoholic drinks

For non-alcoholic drinks try Vinea, a soft drink made from grapes, in both red and white and also non-carbonated. Kofola, a Coke-type soft drink, is also very popular among locals and is available both on tap and bottled. Slovakia is one of three countries in the world where Coca-cola is not the number one in the market.

Mineral waters are some of the best in the World, come in numerous varieties and each has unique positive health effects (e.g. getting rid of heartburn, improving digestion etc.) depending on the type of minerals naturally found in the water. There are many types available from shops and supermarkets, for example Budiš, Mitická, Slatina, Rajec, Dobrá Voda, Zlatá studňa, Fatra etc. Others are only available directly from the many natural mineral springs common all across the country. As these are true 'mineral' waters, they will invariably contain minerals, and the taste will differ according to the brand/spring. If you don't like one, try a different brand! You may also try mineral waters with various flavourings, ranging from raspberry to 'mojito'.

In contrast to what you might be used to, sparking water is the default option, so if you prefer still you might have to look for this specifically. The level of carbonation is marked by the label. Dark blue or Red label usually indicates carbonated ones ("perlivá"), a green label indicates mildly carbonated ones ("mierne perlivá") and white, pink or baby blue indicates those without carbon dioxide ("neperlivá"). Due to the excellent local choice and quality of the water, international brands are not as common.

In restaurants, serving of a free glass of water is not a part of the culture, so remember that if you ask for one it is quite likely that you will be brought (most likely sparkling) mineral water instead (and charged for it).

Out of hot drinks coffee is available everywhere, mostly in three varieties (cafes in cities will offer more) - espresso, 'normal' coffee which is served medium-sized, small and black and Viennese coffee which is 'normal' coffee with a dollop of cream on top. Cappuccinos are quite common as well. Coffee is served with sugar and cream/milk on the side. Hot chocolate is popular as well. Tea rooms are quite popular as a place to chill out in major cities. These usually have a laid-back, vaguely oriental ambiance, and offer a great variety of black, green, white and fruit teas. Schisha might be on offer as well. A part of this culture spread to the other catering establishments, most of which will now offer a choice at least between fruit and black tea. Note that black tea is served with sugar and lemon in Slovakia, serving of milk or cream is not common. Some places may offer a beverage called 'hot apple', which tastes a bit like softer hot apple juice.

Alcoholic Beverages

Drinking is very much a part of the Slovak culture and some form of alcohol will be served at most social occasions. However, the locals mostly hold their liquor well and BEING visibly drunk is frowned upon, so be aware of your limits. Note that some locally brewed spirits may be stronger than what you are used to, and that the standard shot glass in Slovakia is 50ml, which may be more than you are used to if arriving from Western Europe. If you order double vodka, you will get 1dl of it! Alcohol in general is cheap compared to Western Europe or the US. There are no special shops, and alcoholic beverages can be purchased in practically any local supermarket or food store. You can legally drink and purchase alcohol if you are 18 years or older, but this is not very strictly enforced. You still might be IDed in some city clubs if you look very young, however.

For beers, there are a great variety of excellent local brews that are similar in style and quality to Czech beers (which are also widely available), and beer is mostly the local drink of choice. Try out the Zlatý Bažant, Smädný Mních, Topvar and Šariš. Šariš is also available in a dark version that is thicker and heavier on your stomach. If the local tastes do not satisfy, "Western" beers are sold in the bigger restaurants and pubs.

Slovakia has also some great local wines, many similar to Germanic Riesling styles. There is a number of wine-growing regions in the south with centuries worth of tradition, including the area just outside Bratislava. If you can, try to visit one of the local producer's wine cellars, as many are historical and it is a cultural experience as of itself. You might also be offered home-made wine if you are visiting these areas, as many locals ferment their own wines. The quality obviously varies. Every year at the end of May and beginning of November, an event called Small Carpathian Wine Road takes place in Small Carpathian Wine Region (between Bratislava and Trnava), where all the local producers open their cellars to the public. Buy a ticket in the nearest cellar and you will receive a wine glass and admission into any cellar in the region, where you can sample the best produce from the previous year.

There are also sweeter wines grown in South-Eastern border regions called Tokaj. Tokaj is fermented out of the special Tokaj grape variety endemic to the region (part of which is in Hungary and part in Slovakia) and it is a sweet dessert wine. Tokaj is considered a premium brand with a world-wide reputation and is arguably some of the best Central Europe has to offer. Other Slovak wines might not be widely known outside the region but they are certainly worth a try. The best recent wine years in Slovakia were 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006. Around the harvest time in the autumn, in the wine-producing regions, young wine called burčiak is often sold and popular among the locals. As burčiak strengthens with fermentation (as it becomes actual wine), its alcohol content can vary quite wildly.

Slovakia produces good spirits. Excellent is the plum brandy (Slivovica), pear brandy (Hruškovica) or herb liquor Demänovka. But the most typical alcohol is Borovička, a type of gin. Czech Fernet, a type of aromatic bitter spirit is also very popular. In some shops you may try a 25 or 50 ml shot for very little money, so as to avoid buying a big bottle of something of unknown flavour, then decide whether to buy or not to buy. International brands are also available, but at a price premium (still cheaper than in most Western countries, however).

If you are a more adventurous type, you can try some home-made fruit brandys that the locals sometimes offer to foreigners. Slivovica is the most common, but also pear brandy, apricot brandy, or raspberry brandy can be found. Drinking is a part of the tradition, especially in the countryside. If you are visiting locals, don't be surprised if you are offered home-made spirit as a welcome drink nor that the host may be quite proud of this private stock. The home-made liquors are very strong (up to 60% alcohol), so be careful. If Slivovica is matured for 12 or more years, it can become a pleasant digestive drink.

In winter months, mulled wine is available at all winter markets and mulled mead is also common. A mixed hot drink called grog, which consists of black tea and a shot of local 'rum' is very popular, especially in the skiing resorts, and really warms you up.

Shopping

Slovakia uses the euro (€, EUR) as its money. It is one of 24 European countries that use this common European currency: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (which are all eurozone countries of the European Union or EU) together with the six non-EU members Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican that also solely use euros but have no say in eurozone affairs. These 24 countries together have a population of more than 330 million.

One euro is divided into 100 cents. Except for Kosovo and Montenegro, all issue their own coins with a distinctive, national face. However, all the coins' obverse looks the same, as do all bills or banknotes and all are legal tender in all 24 countries.

Until January 1, 2009, the official currency was the koruna ("crown", sk) which can still be found and accepted by the central bank until 2017 at a rate of 30.126sk to €1.

Automatic teller machines (ATM, "bankomat" in Slovak, pl. "bankomaty") are widely available in Slovakia except in smaller villages, and obtaining money there should not present a problem. In most of small villages you can gain money at local postal offices (cashback). Credit cards and debit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron, Cirrus Maestro are widely accepted both in shops and restaurants in bigger cities.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Slovakia on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Slovakia

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Bratislava or Pozsony in Hungarian and Pressburg in German, is the capital and largest city in Slovakia. It has a population of almost 415,000 and is the administrative, cultural and economic centre of the country. Before 1919, it was known as Prešporok in Slovak.

Interesting places:

  • St. Martin\'s Cathedral
  • Palffy Palace
  • New Bridge (Novy Most)
  • Jewish Museum
  • Primate\'s Palace
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Košice (pronounced Ko-shi-tse) is the second largest city in Slovakia, with a population of over 250,000. It has been selected the European Capital of Culture for the year of 2013 .

Interesting places:

  • St. Elisabeth Cathedral
  • Hlavna Ulica
  • Miklus Prison Museum
  • Peace Marathon Square
  • Steel Arena
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Piešťany is a city in the Trnava region of Slovakia.

Interesting places:

  • Kolonadovy Most
  • Spa Museum (Balneologicke Muzeum)
  • House of Arts
  • Eva Swimming Pool
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Vysoké Tatry is a National Park in Slovakia[1], mostly consisting of the High Tatras mountain range. As the mountains form a natural border between Slovakia and Poland, a smaller part of the mountain range is located in Poland where it is Tatra National Park[2].

Interesting places:

  • Tatrabob Rollercoaster
  • TANAP Museum
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Žilina is a town in Central Slovakia with population of over 80,000.

Interesting places:

  • Marianske Namestie
  • Budatin Castle
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Interesting places:

  • Black Stork Golf Resort
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Interesting places:

  • Senec Synagogue
  • Church of Saint Nicolas
  • Pillar of Shame
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Rajecké Teplice is a city in the north-west part of Slovakia.

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Trenčín is an old town in Western Slovakia. It is a beautiful old historic city, with a population of over 50,000.

Interesting places:

  • Trencin Castle
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Nitra is in Slovakia. It is a beautiful old historic city, with a population of over 100,000.

Interesting places:

  • Pribinovo Namestie
  • Nitra Castle
  • Nitra Synagogue
  • Slovak Agricultural Open-Air Museum
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Bojnice is a small town (of population only about 5000) in central Slovakia, adjacent to the city of Prievidza. This town is a favourite tourist destination for many Slovaks.

Interesting places:

  • Bojnice Castle
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Interesting places:

  • Tatra National Park Slovakia
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Interesting places:

  • Demanovska Jaskyna Slobody
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Trnava is a town in western Slovakia with a population of over 70,000.

Interesting places:

  • Univerzitny Kostol
  • Trnava Synagogue
  • Trnava St. John the Baptist Cathedral
  • Stadium of Anton Malatinsy
  • Zapadoslovenske Museum
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Spišská Nová Ves is a city in Eastern Slovakia.

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Interesting places:

  • Galante Park
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Interesting places:

  • Kremnica Castle
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Banská Štiavnica is a preserved medieval city in Slovakia and an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Interesting places:

  • Trinity Square
  • Holy Church of St. Catherine
  • New Castle
  • Slovak Mining Museum - Jozef Kollar Gallery
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Bardejov is a town in North-Eastern Slovakia. It is situated in the Šariš region and has about 33,000 inhabitants. The spa town, mentioned for the first time in 1241, exhibits numerous cultural monuments in its completely intact medieval town centre. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Interesting places:

  • Church of St. Aegidius
  • Saris Museum
  • Bardejov Square
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Vysoké Tatry is a National Park in Slovakia[1], mostly consisting of the High Tatras mountain range. As the mountains form a natural border between Slovakia and Poland, a smaller part of the mountain range is located in Poland where it is Tatra National Park[2].

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Interesting places:

  • Bernolakov Park
  • Trinity Statue
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Liptovsky Hradok is a town in the Liptov region of Central Slovakia.

Interesting places:

  • Hradok Arboretum
  • Monument to the Fallen of World War II
  • Ethnographic Museum
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Ždiar is a village and municipality in the Prešov Region of Eastern Slovakia. The village lies at an elevation of 896 metres and has a population of about 1,340 people.

Interesting places:

  • Belianska Cave
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Prešov is a city in Eastern Slovakia.

Interesting places:

  • St. Nicholas Cathedral
  • Orthodox Cathedral of St. Prince A. Nevsky
  • Wine Museum
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Liptovský Mikuláš is a city in Central Slovakia.

Interesting places:

  • Strbske Pleso
  • Namestie Osloboditelov
  • Galeria P.M. Bohuna
  • Museum of Nature Protection and Speleology
  • Liptovsky Mara
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Ružomberok is a town in Central Slovakia, in the historical Liptov region. It has a population of around 30 thousand.

Interesting places:

  • Freedom Square
  • Museum of Nature Protection and Speleology
  • Catholic University of Ruzomberok
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Interesting places:

  • Golf and Country Club Hron
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Banská Bystrica[1] is a city in Central Slovakia.

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Interesting places:

  • Oravsky Castle
  • Kukucinov Park
  • Saint Catherine Church
  • Hviezdoslavovo Square
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Vysoké Tatry is a National Park in Slovakia[1], mostly consisting of the High Tatras mountain range. As the mountains form a natural border between Slovakia and Poland, a smaller part of the mountain range is located in Poland where it is Tatra National Park[2].

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Levoča is a town in the Prešov Region of eastern Slovakia with a population of 14,600. The town has a historic centre with a well preserved town wall, a Renaissance church with the tallest wooden altar in the world, carved by Master Paul of Levoča, and many other Renaissance buildings. The town is known in ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Levoca Old Town Hall
  • St. James Church
  • Slovak National Museum
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Poprad is a major tourist and economic centre in the Prešov region of Eastern Slovakia.

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Interesting places:

  • Donovaly Snow Park
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Zvolen is a town in Central Slovakia.

Interesting places:

  • Borova Hora Arboretum
  • Ludovita Stura Park
  • Zvolen Church
  • Forestry and Timber Museum
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Points of Interest in Slovakia

Slovakia combines all the typical features of a grand European history with highly attractive nature and a traveller-friendly modern atmosphere. Its fairly small capital Bratislava may not have the majestic sights you'll find in some other Eastern European capitals, but it has an energetic vibe to it, a lovely Old Town and endless options to have a great time. The city as a whole is a quaint mix of 18th-century rococo and concrete Communist building blocks. An afternoon coffee in one of the countless street cafés along the famous Danube river is an absolute must and a good chance to people-watch and absorb the ambience. For a touch of grandeur, take a river tour down to Devin Castle, an excellent example of Slovakia's record-high number of castles and chateaux. Some of them are little more than a pile of stones hidden in a deep forest, others are luxurious baroque mansions or citadels in the middle of towns. Other worthwhile examples are Spiš Castle (one of the largest castle sites in all of Europe) and the 19th century Bojnice Castle, a favourite tourism destination for the Slovaks. Almost equally popular is the beautiful Orava Castle near Tvrdošín, high up on a rock overlooking the Orava river. Other good picks for large historic city centres include the old towns of Košice, Trnava and Levoča. Banská Štiavnica is a fabulously preserved medieval mining town and one of the country's World Heritage Sites. Where Banská Štiavnica mined for silver ore, the smaller but equally well-preserved medieval town of Kremnica was built above gold mines and boasts the oldest still-working mint in the world.

If you love nature, Slovakia will be great for you. Large parts of the country are covered with dense forests and the abundance of wildlife includes brown bears, wolves, and lynxes. The Tatra Mountains, more specifically the High Tatras, are a prime attraction and offer impressive mountainous panoramas as well as great opportunities for skiing and other outdoor sports. In the large karst areas throughout the country there's an impressive number of caves. A dozen or so are accessible for tourists. The Ochtinská Aragonite Cave near Rožňava stands out, as it is one of the only three aragyonite caves in the world. Together with other caves of the Slovak Karst, it is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. If you enjoy hiking, try the Slovak Paradise National Park, famous for its beautiful canyons and ravines with many waterfalls and rocky formations. For a more relaxing encounter with Slovakia's natural environments, head to one of the many mineral springs and spas. Piešťany is one of the best-known ones, but your options are countless.


If you get the chance, travel a bit through Slovakia's countryside. It's dotted with historical villages, sometimes seemingly untouched by time, and often a good way to catch a glimpse of the country's folk traditions. The hamlet of Vlkolínec is considered a prime example of folk countryside architecture, but Čičmany and Brhlovce are lovely villages too. Historic churches are impossible to miss, as you'll find them in every village, town and city. Especially well-known are the many wooden churches in the northern and north-eastern parts of the country.

St. Martin\'s Cathedral - Bratislava

St. Elisabeth Cathedral - Kosice

Bojnice Castle - Bojnice

Strbske Pleso - Liptovsky Mikulas

Spissky Castle - Spisske Podhradie

Maria Valeria Bridge - Sturovo

Trinity Square - Banska Stiavnica

Pribinovo Namestie - Nitra

Oravsky Castle - Dolny Kubin

Kolonadovy Most - Piestany

Trencin Castle - Trencin

Cerveny Klastor Monastery - Cerveny Klastor

Kremnica Castle - Kremnica

Lubovniansky Castle - Stara Lubovna

Marianske Namestie - Zilina

Freedom Square - Ruzomberok

Betliar Chateau - Betliar

Filakovsky Castle - Filakovo

Univerzitny Kostol - Trnava

Tatrabob Rollercoaster - Tatranska Lomnica

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