Many people who are thinking of going for a holiday to Slovakia, visiting friends here or just moved here from abroad often ask me what to do in Slovakia. Slovakia is a fairly unknown country to most and therefore it is often hard to imagine what kind of Slovak experience you can get out of it.
So, I decided to create a list of things to do in Slovakia while you are here.
It goes without saying that this list is far from finished. Many people will have something to add to it from personal experience, but I believe the below things are must-do’s in Slovakia.
Any suggestions on must-do’s are highly appreciated! Leave a comment!
- Taste the Slovak cuisine – “Halušky” is one of the most traditional dishes you can find in Slovakia. Honestly, it is one of these typical ´you love it or you hate it´ dishes, most likely due to how it looks and the sour sheep cheese (Bryndza) that goes in it. Nevertheless, I can proudly say that I belong to the ´I love it´ group.
- Make my own “Bryndzové halušky” (and organize a party with it) – It is very likely that the answer to the first to-do point will be: grandmother´s home-made halušky is the best. However, as this will require some practice, I tend to give it a shot myself (and see how my Slovak friends like it).
- Reach the highest point of Vysoké Tatry – The highest point of the High Tatras is “Gerlachovský štít”, 2,655 meters above sea level – lucky for me, there are lifts going up.
- Hike through Slovenský Raj – arguably the most beautiful area in Slovakia
- Take a castle tour around the country – including at least:
- Spišský Hrad – one of the largest castles in Europe, covering an area of ca. 4.1 hectares – yes…it is impressive
- Čachtický Hrad – as a ruin itself it may not be very attractive or even interesting. It´s legend, on the other hand! Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory herself presumably bathed here in liters of virgin blood to stay young forever.
- Oravský Hrad – my personal favourite. It is not only one of the most beautiful castles in the country, it also was the location for many scenes of the 1922 Nosferatu movie.
- Bojnický zámok – considered to be Slovakia´s own Disney castle
- Bratislavský Hrad – honestly, not a particularly impressive castle (compared to others in this list), but it´s history is an important one for Slovakia (plus, there are amazing escavations going on right now)
- Devinský Hrad – a gorgeous ruin close to Bratislava, with an important part to play in Slovakia´s history of defence
- Trenčianský Hrad – simply beautiful
- Strecniansky Hrad – an impressive ruin with an amazing view
- Visit the geographical middle point of Europe – There are various locations in Europe that claim to be the geographical middle point of Europe. Slovakia has one of their own in the village of Kremnické Bane
- Visit all caves in Slovakia listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List – for example, one of the three only Aragonite caves in the world
- Visit the Gothic cathedral in Košice – The cathedral of Košice is the farthest, most Eastern point the Gothic architectural movement got in Europe
- Travel the “Goticka Cesta” – a historical route through the Spiš and Gemer region (south-south-east of Slovakia), along various castles, squares, churches, bridges, etc. showing the Gothic architectural influences.
- Take the Small Carpathian Wine Route – Slovaks are proud of their wine heritage. Taking this Wine Route will take you along some of the most important wine regions in the country
- Visit traditional villages (Vlkolinec, Čičmany, Pribylina) – specifically famous for their traditional designs of the houses
- Visit Banská Štiavnica – an absolutely beautiful (UNESCO) old mining village with a great taste for beer!
- Learn how to play the ´Fujara´ – for someone who has a passion for playing music, learning how to play this traditional Slovak flute doesn´t need much reconsideration
- Visit the largest wooden church altar in the world in Levoča – another UNESCO heritage site, showing off a massive ca. 18 meters high wooden altar
- Visit the Bridge of Fame in Trenčianske Teplice – forget Cannes! Forget the Walk of Fame in Hollywood! Slovakia has its own film festival with its own Bridge of Fame, boasting visits from some of the greatest actors and actresses in the world. Charlie Chaplin…anyone? – click here to read my thoughts about Trenčianske Teplice
- Go mushroom picking – a favourite pastime of many Slovaks
- Find the best coffee in Bratislava – as a coffee lover, I love living in Bratislava. It is honestly difficult to find a horrible cup of coffee! Even though that is a good thing, where then can I find the best cup of coffee?
- Explore the growing food culture in Bratislava – as part of the rise of the hipster culture in Bratislava, many amazing small food places sprang up and are still offering a great range of food to the Bratislava public. Time to visit them all!
- Attend a “zabijačka” event – perhaps a bit controversial among the vegetarians among us, but every winter many Slovak villages will host their own “pig-killing” event, with the purpose of stocking up on meat, meat products and fat supplies for the rest of the year, usually shared with the rest of the village.
- Collect traditional Slovak recipes and cook them – I love cooking and I love the Slovak kitchen. I need to try it all!
- Celebrate Easter the Slovak way (and learn the rhyme) – Given that this article is written one week before Easter, this would be the first point to cross probably. It is a fascinating tradition, including rhymes, water, perfume, money, alcohol and…a whip.
- Take a “Plt'” raft along the Dunajec river in Pieniny – the Dunajec is one of the natural borders between Slovakia and Poland. Also, it is a beautiful area, best explored on a traditional wooden log raft, called “Plt´”
- Go to the opera in Bratislava – Bratislava, being influenced by Vienna, has a great Opera scene of the highest quality. The National Opera House in the centre of Bratislava may not have been made for a guy with legs like I have, but it is all worth it once the curtains go up.
- Go to a New Year’s ball – Each year in January, the ball season is kicked off in the National Opera House in Bratislava, after which every self-respecting city and village organizes there own. Suit up!
- Go hunting – Ok, not typical Slovak, but, bound by strict laws, hunting remains an important sport in Slovakia.
- Visit a wooden church – mostly found in the north-eastern area of the country, these beautiful traditional wooden churches are worth the detour into a tiny village, down that small forest road
- Walk the Coronation Road through Bratislava – for centuries, Bratislava has played an important part in the history of the eastern part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. In fact, from the late 16-th century until 1830, the Hungarian kings were crowned in this very city. It is still possible to follow the ceremonial route taken by the kings-to-be towards their coronation site in the Saint Martin´s Cathedral.
- Visit the Nestville Whiskey distillery – not many Slovaks actually know this, but Slovakia is home to a true whiskey distillery. Ok, it may not stand up against the big Scottish single malts, but it is worth investigating how the Nestville Whiskey distillery in Hniezdne holds its own.
- Attend the annual duck festival – September and October are traditionally the months where every self-respecting restaurant (at least those with a Slovak cuisine) will serve duck (or goose), with red cabbage and “lokše”. Specifically, towns like Chorvatský Chrob, outside Bratislava, are famous for their ducks.
- Visit the Tokaj wine region – if you want to try Slovak wines, you have to try Tokaj wine. Although its region is largely located in Hungary (only ca. 175 hectares out of 900 is Slovak territory), the tradition of making Tokaj wine is just as much a Slovak heritage
- Go to a traditional folklore festival – it seems that folklore has become more and more important in the past years, as many traditional folklore festivals have sprung up all over the country. Usually showcasing the traditional hand-crafting professions and selling their end-products, these festivals are always very lively and homely events, with food, music and dance.
- Hand-make something traditional – as a result going of going to a traditional folklore festival, why not try to make something myself? A decorated egg, perhaps?
The image in this post is used by courtesy of Mapsof.net.