With more than 120 castles – the biggest number of any country in the world per capita – nine national parks, and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, small but mighty Slovakia is one of the most culturally rich and naturally diverse European countries.

Whether you’re into hiking or history, castles or churches, modern cities or medieval small towns, this is the perfect destination for an adventurous holiday.

Here are 21 of the most beautiful places in Slovakia to visit.

Orava Castle, one of Slovakia's most beautiful locations and a must-visit in Slovakia.
Orava Castle, one of Slovakia’s most beautiful locations and a must-visit.

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Most beautiful cities in Slovakia

1. Banska Bystrica

Dusk falls over the church towers in Banska Bystrica, one of the most beautiful places in Slovakia to visit.

Lying in the Hron River valley in central Slovakia, Banská Bystrica is an ancient mining town of Gothic buildings and Renaissance-style castles flanked by spectacular mountains. It’s also the first of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites to feature on this list.

Host to more than 14 museums, three castles, and 10 churches and cathedrals, Banska Bystrica’s charming city centre is in almost perfect harmony with the landscape of rolling green hills and forests. It’s little wonder why this is considered one of the most beautiful places in Slovakia.

There is no shortage of experiences on offer when visiting Banská Bystrica: In winter, the city is the jumping-off point for a number of ski resorts, while in the warmer months, visitors can enjoy a dozen outdoor activities including cave touring, nature valley sightseeing, and mountain hiking.

  • Get there: Train (3 hrs) or bus/car (2 hrs) from Bratislava.
  • Where to stay: Hotel Kuria.

2. Bratislava

City view of Bratislava and the Danube river from Bratislava Fortress.

Bratislava might not get as many accolades as its sister Danube river cities of Vienna and Budapest, but Slovakia’s capital city is beautiful in its own way.

The biggest city in Slovakia, Bratislava is relatively modest in size, and can quite easily be explored in a day. Highlights include the regal St. Martin’s Cathedral, the pretty Art-Nouveau Blue Church, and the 18th century Primatial Palace. This being the capital, there is no shortage of restaurants serving national Slovak cuisine and trendy coffee shops in between.

In true Slovak style, Bratislava’s crowning jewel is its castle, Bratislavský hrad, which dates back to 907 AD. From the grounds of Bratislava Castle you get a magnificent panorama of the city, Danube, and quirky UFO Tower. On the opposite bank of the river, the maze of colourfully painted apartment blocks in Petrzalka is a playground for urban photographers.

  • Get there: Fly into Bratislava International Airport, or bus/boat from Vienna.
  • Where to stay: LOFT Hotel.

3. Kosice

Kosice, an underrated city in Slovakia.

Located near the Hungarian border on the river Hornád and known as the second-largest city in Slovakia, the first documented mention of Košice – or Cassa Villa as it was called back then – was in 1230. Interestingly, this was the first town in all of Europe to bear its own coat of arms.

Today, Kosice is not only the industrial centre of Slovakia but also eastern Slovakia’s cultural and economic capital. The sightseeing options are endless: from wine and beer tastings to hiking, cultural tours, and watching an opera in the majestic State Theatre.

St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, the biggest Catholic church in Slovakia, dominates the city centre and is surrounded by colourful buildings and a row of leafy parks. Slovakia’s Kosice region is known as Europe’s easternmost boundary of Gothic architecture, and St. Elizabeth’s is a very fine example of a traditional Gothic church.

  • Get there: Train (6.5 hrs) or flight (50 mins) from Bratislava.
  • Where to stay: Vila Terrasse.

4. Trencin

Trencin city and castle, an essential stop on any Slovakia travel itinerary.

Trenčín is a small city in western Slovakia, positioned close to the Czech Republic border on the banks of the river Vah. It has a long history that goes back to Roman times, and today is best known for being home to Slovakia’s third-largest castle, Trenčiansky hrad.

From its rocky roost, Trencin Castle commands some of the most beautiful views in the country. It holds many historical treasures within its walls, including inscriptions from 179 AD.

Trencin’s historic centre, the Mariánsky hrad district and Town Monument Reserve stretch out below the fortress and contain the city’s most beautiful restored buildings and churches. The Nativity of the Virgin Mary church and its 16th-century covered staircase, the Neo-Baroque Piaristic Church of St. Francis Xaverský, and the 1913 Trencin Synagogue are among the highlights.

One of the best places to visit in Slovakia for live music, Trencin comes to life in summer, when the city plays host to a program of classical events. Pohoda, the biggest music festival in Slovakia, is also staged here.

5. Trnava

The main square in Trnava, a beautiful city in Slovakia.

Pretty Trnava is a paradise for history buffs, art lovers and wine connoisseurs. Just a short bus ride from Bratislava, it offers a different kind of city experience plus an opportunity to sip your way through one of Slovakia’s many wine regions.

There are multiple vineyards on the city fringe, including the popular Mrva & Stanko, which offers wine degustations inside its underground brick cellars. Every September, Trnava hosts the Open Wine Cellars Day, when you can hop between underground pivnica and learn about local winemaking traditions.

Visit at any time of year to take in Trnava’s impressive architecture. Hlavná Street is straight from a picture book, with its pretty Rococo and Baroque buildings. This high concentration of churches gives this city the nickname ‘Slovak Rome’, so you definitely don’t want to miss the ecclesiastical architecture either. The 14th century St. Nicholas Basilica is one of the city’s most preeminent churches, with a fabulous Gothic style interior.

6. Zilina

Architecture in the city of Zilina.

North-western Slovakia’s Zilina region hugs the Polish and Czech borders. It’s known throughout the country for its industry, yet its location in the Western Carpathians makes it a popular destination for tourists as well.

The region’s biggest city and cultural hub, also called Žilina, is something of a hidden gem. Mariánske námestie is one of the prettiest town squares in the country, lined with flagstone and ringed with rows of charming pastel houses.

Over the river, Zilina’s 13th century castle, Budatínsky hrad, is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. It has a tower for wonderful city views, and a sprawling park where you’ll find walking and biking trails that hug the banks of the Vah.

Beautiful places in Slovakia: Small towns & villages

7. Cicmany

A traditional painted house in Cicmany village, Slovakia.

Containing the world’s first folk architecture reserve founded in 1977, Čičmany is a small village in Zilina region. It’s widely known as ‘the painted village of Cicmany’ because of its many houses built of dark timber, each decorated with intricate traditional patterns using white lime paint.

The name of the town is derived from the Slovak word čičman, meaning a lumberjack who sings while he works. The tradition of building wooden cottages dates back to at least 1272.

In the winter seasons, the village serves as a popular ski resort called Javorinka. The rest of the year is filled with costumed folk dance performances, local folk music, and art. In addition to preserving the village’s vernacular architecture, Cicmany’s Považie Museum also arranges the traditional festivals held here throughout the warmer months.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Zilina (45 mins) or car/guided tour from Bratislava (2 hrs).
  • Where to stay: Kaštiel Čičmany.

8. Banska Stiavnica

Banska Stiavnica, a historic town in Slovakia.

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, the historic town of Banská Štiavnica in central Slovakia enjoys one of the most impressive locations in the entire country. Nestled in a caldera formed by an ancient volcano and enveloped by beautiful nature, it’s a fairytale come true.

Banska Stiavnica has a long history and rich history tied to the silver mining industry. More than 60 water reservoirs called tajchy were built around the town between the 15th and 18th centuries to power the mines. Today, they serve a new purpose as man-made lakes for swimming and kayaking.

Learn about the history of mining at the Open-air Museum, where you can join an immersive guided tour of a 1.5-kilometre-long tunnel. Like many Slovak towns of the same ilk, Banska Stiavnica boasts pastel-coloured buildings and darling churches. In fact, its preserved medieval town centre is considered to be one of the most important in all of Slovakia.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Banska Bystrica (40 mins) or car/guided tour from Bratislava (2.25 hrs).
  • Where to stay: Penzión Kachelman.

9. Spania Dolina, one of the most beautiful places in Slovakia

Spania Dolina, the most beautiful town in Slovakia, surrounded by autumnal foliage.

Špania Dolina is a picturesque village of not more than 200 residents in central Slovakia. Surrounded by the Staré Hory and Veľká Fatra mountains, this former mining village is now the Monument Reserve of Popular Architecture, with all the houses made from stone and wood.

Considered one of the most beautiful villages in Slovakia, it’s characterised by unique miners’ houses plastered with mud and painted with lime. Learn more about their legacy at the Museum of Copper.

Once mined for their copper and silver, the hills around Spania Dolina are now the perfect setting for day hikes. Discover amazing views of the town and wooden churches and chapels, such as Kaplnka. Another popular trek is to Harmanecká Cave, formed from 220 million-year-old Middle Triassic Gutenstein limestone.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Banska Bystrica (15 mins).
  • Where to stay: Pension Klopačka.

10. Levoca

An impressive church in Levoca, a small town in Slovakia.

Located in the eastern Prešov Region, the historic town of Levoča is famous for housing the highest wooden altar in the world. Fashioned in 1517 by woodsmiths from the Master Paul of Levoča workshop, it stands at 18.6 metres tall – a scale befitting Slovakia’s second-largest church, the Basilica of St. James.

Although around 15,000 people call Lovoca home, it’s still known as a quiet, even sleepy town – unless of course there is a festival happening. The biggest annual celebration is the Indian Summer in Levoča Festival, an international music festival that pays tribute to Spis county’s position at the European crossroads of art and culture.

Levoca itself has featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2009. Small enough to tour by foot, the historical centre has a pretty town square, old town hall, and several museums. A short drive east of town, the 12th century Spiš Castle is one of the biggest fortresses in Central Europe.

11. Bardejov

Cute houses in the Slovakian town of Bardejov.

In the Šariš region of north-eastern Slovakia, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies the spa town Bardejov. The town was first mentioned in the year 1247, and to date, its town centre remains fully intact. Standing on the cobbled square, you can almost see exactly what life looked like during early Renaissance Europe.

Although the sights are incredible, Bardejov’s real beauty lies in the fact that it hasn’t been spoiled by droves of tourists. Whether you’re looking to relax in the mineral water springs, take a walk through the open-air folk architecture museum, or witness Slovakia’s best-preserved medieval fortifications, Bardejov is definitely one of the best places in the country to visit.

Beautiful castles in Slovakia

12. Bojnice Castle

Bojnice Castle, one of the best places to visit in Slovakia.

Indisputably the most iconic fortification in Slovakia, Bojnice Castle or the ‘Castle of Spirits’ has served as the backdrop for many fairytale films. You’ll no doubt recognise its picture-perfect turrets from pop culture. Romanesque with a touch of Gothic and Renaissance, it was erected in the 12th century and originally made from wood.

Visit the wonderful castle museum, and take a stroll through the expansive castle grounds among the 700-year-old Linden trees.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Banska Bystrica (1.5 hrs).

13. Devin Castle

Devin Castle, an easy day trip from Bratislava.

An easy day trip from the capital, Devin Castle might not be the most conventionally beautiful castle in Slovakia, but it is one of the most historically significant. You only need to look at its strategic location to see why: Perched high over the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, it was the perfect lookout spot for spotting encroaching enemies.

The 200-metre-high rock offers panoramic views all the way out to neighbouring Austria and is particularly beautiful at sunset. Tour the grounds of the 9th century fortress – one of the oldest in Slovakia – and visit the cave museum, where a number of artefacts from the period are on display.

  • Get there: Bus/taxi from Bratislava (20 mins).

14. Orava Castle

Orava Castle on the river, viewed from above.

Considered by many to be the most beautiful castle in Slovakia, Orava was built in the 13th century when Slovakia was still part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Like Devin, it enjoys an elevated position above a river – this time a lime spur more than 100 metres high nestled in a tight bend of the river Orava, which flows into the Vah.

Hauntingly beautiful from the outside, the castle’s interior chambers are a treasure chest. The Orava Museum is one of the oldest in Slovakia and exhibits period furnishings, weaponry and archaeological finds.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Zilina (1 hr).

15. Budatin Castle

Budatin, one of the best castles in Slovakia.

Located in the north-western part of Slovakia where the rivers Kysuka and Vah become one, the medieval Castello di Budatín or Budatin Castle was built on the spot where a much older fortification stood to guard an important trading route to Silesia. Today it falls within the boundaries of the beautiful Slovakian city of Zilina, making it easy to visit when exploring the city.

The castle’s four-story tower is its oldest part, built during the 13th century.

  • Get there: By foot from Zilina (30 mins).

16. Smolenice Castle

Smolenice, one of the most beautiful castles in Slovakia.

Nestled on the eastern slopes of the Little Carpathian Mountains near Smolenice, Smolenický zámok (the Smolenice Castle) was originally built in the 15th century and destroyed shortly thereafter during the Napoleanic wars. Since then, it has seen yet more destruction as a result of World War II. Now owned by the Slovak Academy of Sciences, it has been completely restored.

The castle is now used as a convention centre and hosts science exhibitions, conferences and seminars. Because of its fairytale-like appearance, Smolenice Castle now also serves as a popular wedding venue. Guided tours are available during the summer months between June and August.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Bratislava (1 hr).

17. Sklabina Castle

The ruins of Sklabina Fortress in Slovakia.

At 626 metres above sea level on a hill beyond Sklabinský Podzámok village lies the ruins of a once-majestic fortified castle known as Sklabiňa. The first documented mention of this castle was in 1242, when it was noted to have been built on the site of an older settlement.

Eerily beautiful, Hrad Sklabiňa is one example of a partially destroyed Slovakian castle that still bears the scars of war. After burning down in 1436 and enduring multiple modifications and additions, the last habitable area of the castle, known as the manor house, was destroyed for the last time by enemy troops in 1944.

However, neither the castle nor its enthusiasts have given up hope yet – festivals and events are organised in support of raising the funds needed to restore the beautiful Sklabina Castle to her former glory.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Zilina (30 mins) or Banska Bystrica (1 hr).

Beautiful mountains, lakes & national parks in Slovakia

18. The High Tatra Mountains

High mountains and wildflowers in Slovakia's High Tatras.

Part of the Carpathian mountains, the High Tatras are shared between Slovakia and Poland, forming a natural land border between the two nations. If you’re searching for pristine nature and stunning views, your nose will no doubt lead you to this northern frontier, where there are no fewer than 29 peaks towering higher than 2,500 metres.

Tatras National Park, the first cross-border national park in Europe, was established in the 1940s/50s to protect the area’s endemic flora and fauna. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in Slovakia for hiking, mountain biking and water sports. Towns including Tatranská Lomnica – with their cute cottages – add to the scenery and provide a convenient base for experiencing the landscape.

Slovakia might be a landlocked country, but the lakes and rivers within the Tatras make up for the absence of beaches. Zelene Pleso AKA ‘Green Lake’ is one such natural phenomenon. A popular hiking trail leads from the end of the cable car to the lake, taking around five hours in total. Some of the park’s most beautiful scenery lies on Štrbské Pleso, a glacial lake nicknamed ‘the puddle’.

For a more challenging hike, summit the highest peak on the Slovak side, Gerlachovský štít (2,655 metres).

  • Get there: Car/bus from Kosice (~3 hrs).
  • Where to stay: Hotel Lomnica in Tatranská Lomnica.

19. The Tokaj Wine Region

Tokaj wine region, a beautiful landscape of vineyards in Slovakia.

Swathes of Slovakia’s south-eastern corner are devoted to rolling vineyards. The Tokaj Wine Region (which continues over the border into north-eastern Hungary) is one of the most underrated in Eastern Europe. The countryside transforms from verdant green to shades of ochre and amber in the cooler months, offering stunning scenery year-round.

Travel through the 900-plus hectares of vineyards by car, hopping between cellars that celebrate the region’s Roman-era vine-growing traditions. The climate and soils in Tokaj are perfect for raising particular varieties of grapes that make naturally sweet wines – be sure to sample Tokajský výber, the region’s world-famous dessert wine, while you’re there.

20. Slovak Paradise National Park

A river bridge in Slovak National Paradise, one of the most beautiful nature spots in Slovakia.

Situated in Eastern Slovakia and protecting the Slovak Paradise mountain range since 1890, Slovak Paradise National Park is another of Slovakia’s nine national parks. To give you an idea of the park’s size, there are a further 11 natural nature reserves and eight nature reserves situated within its borders, taking in an estimated 300km of hiking trails and 350 caves. Unfortunately, only one of these caves, known as the Dobšiná Ice Cave, is open to the public

With 40 mammal species, 4,000 species of invertebrates, and 65 endangered species, Slovak Paradise National Park is one of Slovakia’s most important landscapes. If you find beauty in the great outdoors, it’s an experience not to be missed.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Kosice (~1.5 hrs).
  • Where to stay: Penzion u Šimona in Hrbok.

21. Poloniny National Park & Dark Sky Park

Sunset in Poloniny National Park in Slovakia.

At the Polish and Ukrainian borders in northeastern Slovakia, belonging to the eastern Carpathian Mountains, Poloniny National Park was created in 1997. Almost 80% of the park is covered with thick forest where the ridge line above the trees is populated with alpine meadows. In local language this translates to ‘poloniny’, and is how the national park got its name.

The park is also home to four churches originally built between the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as the last traditional wooden house in the whole region to retain an original thatch roof. Also within the reserve, Poloniny Dark Sky Park is the first of its kind in Slovakia. One of the last places in the country that’s free from light pollution, it’s a top destination for stargazing – the Milky Way can be seen from here without the aid of a telescope.

  • Get there: Car/bus from Kosice (~2.5 hrs).
  • Where to stay: Bilovoddya Hotel in Sil village.

Slovakia trip essentials

  • Use Discover Cars to find the best price on a rental car in Slovakia.
  • Find the best hotel deals in Slovakia on Booking.com.
  • Search for the best city tours and day excursions in Slovakia on Viator.

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One Comment

  1. Prešov is one of the most beautiful cities in Slovakia, I know the country really well and always prefer to spend a night in Prešov, when I am in this region. My other favourites are Košice, Banská Bystrica and Banská Štiavnica. Bratislava is not the most interesting choice.

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