There’s a host of top Historic Sites in Slovakia to visit and among the very best are Spis Castle, the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising and Devin Castle. Other popular sites tend to include Fil’akovo Castle, Trencin Castle and Orava Castle.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Slovakian cultural places, locations and monuments, with our top places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Slovakia, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Slovakia?
Occupying a hill site inhabited since before 5000BC, Spis Castle is said to be Slovakia’s most famous castle ruin and is now among the largest castle complexes on the continent, covering over 4 hectares.
It was in the early 13th century that the Spis Castle we see today has its roots, built in anticipation of Tatar incursions. the castle is endowed with a wealth of architectural influences, including Romanesque and Gothic as well as structures from a variety of time periods.
Eventually abandoned and much of it destroyed by a fire in 1780, the remains of Spis Castle were declared a National Cultural Monument in 1961 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.
The Museum of the Slovak National Uprising is dedicated to the history of Slovakia’s resistance against the Nazi government.
The museum gives a comprehensive view of the conflict, including the political climate in Czechoslovakia and Slovakia at the beginning of the war, the different factions who opposed Nazi rule, and the stories of individual members of the rebel forces. It uses audiovisual displays as well as artifacts, and is presented fully in English as well as Slovak. utside the museum is a display of tanks, guns, and an airplane.
Devin Castle occupies a strategically important spot in Slovakia. It is located on a cliff above the point where the Morava River empties into the Danube, making it close to Bratislava and Hainburg, Austria.
The castle became a National Heritage Site in 1961. The Maiden Tower, Devin Castle’s most famous sight, was depicted on the Slovak 50 halier coin before the adoption of the euro in 2009. Besides the Upper Castle and remains of the palaces, the grounds also feature the castle’s well, into which visitors can pour a bucket of water to hear its depth, and the ruins of a 4th-century church.
Devin Castle is now part of the Bratislava City Museum. There is an archaeological exhibit featuring artifacts found in the castle area and the history of excavation of the site.
Built on volcanic rock, Fil’akovo Castle and the town beneath it are located near the border between Slovakia and Hungary.
The main tower, known as Bebek’s Tower, now houses a permanent exhibit on the castle’s history. It includes objects from the Ottoman and Hungarian periods. The top floor has temporary exhibits (in October 2010, the exhibit was on African dolls and masks). Tours of Bebek’s Tower are given in Slovak or Hungarian. After the tour, visitors are free to wander about the ruins.
Trencin Castle is a dramatic cliff-top castle above the Vah River, not far from the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, which held royal status from the 11th century. It was also at this time that the main current castle was built.
The long tour takes visitors through three of the palaces of Trencin Castle and includes galleries of art collected by the castle’s owners and portraits of the family members, arms and armour, and ruins of the oldest tower on the site and skeletons found there. Visitors must join a tour to see the castle, and English-speaking guides are available.
During the summer months, there may be activities on the castle grounds, such as archery and commemorative coin striking. Trencin Castle also hosts evening visits for special occasions.
Above the Orava River is a high spit of land, and atop the cliff is Orava Castle (Oravsky hrad). The site of fortresses over the years, the first stone building dates from 1241. The buildings are arranged in three levels; the lower, central, and upper castles, and originally were in the Romanesque and Gothic styles.
Several rooms in Orava Castle are furnished as they would have been in various periods of the castle’s history. There is also an exhibit on the natural history of the Orava region, and an archaeological exhibit showing the phases of construction on the castle site. Classic horror fans may recognize the castle from the film “Nosferatu.” The castle was used as a location for filming. You might find a vampire (mannequin – probably) lurking in a dark doorway, waiting for you.
Visitors must enter with a tour. Some guides speak English, and some texts are in English. The tour lasts about an hour and 45 minutes and involves climbing many steps as the tour works its way to the citadel.
St Martin’s Cathedral is said to be Bratislava’s biggest and oldest church, famed as the former coronation site of the Hungarian monarchy.
It was in 1291, when Bratislava was given town rights, that the church reconstruction began, becoming integrated into the city walls with its tower even playing a defensive role. Consecrated in 1452, the new Gothic design, now dedicated to St Martin, included architectural ideas from Vienna and Prague.
In the late 16th century, St Martin’s Cathedral served an important role as the coronation church for Hungarian monarchs. Indeed, this is even evident today when looking at its spire, which is topped by a crown for this reason. Every September there is a recreation of a coronation procession through the Old Town.
St Elisabeth Cathedral is said to be the largest church in Slovakia, bigger even than St Martin’s in Bratislava. A vast Gothic creation, it also holds the distinction of being the easternmost cathedral in Europe to be built in this style.
Many of the interior decorations show the influence of German and Dutch artists. Francis II Rakoczi, a Hungarian nobleman who fought against the Hapsburgs, is buried in the crypt.
St Elisabeth Cathedral is found on Hlavná ulica, or Main Street, a pedestrian street lined with buildings from many periods, including several beautiful Art Nouveau examples. Just behind it is the smaller St Michael’s Chapel. Visitors must purchase tickets inside the cathedral to enter the chapel.
Bojnice Castle is seen by many as Slovakia’s most romantic castle, with a history dating to the 12th century. The castle has undergone many changes over the centuries. In its present form it is more similar to a French chateaux or Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein than to other Slovak fortresses.
The interiors include furniture from the early modern period through to the late 19th century. The chapel features a 14th century Florentine altar, and Count Jan Palfi is buried in a chapel in the rock below the castle.
Beneath the courtyard is a cave that contains the castle’s water source. The grounds around Bojnice Castle include a moat with swans and a 600-year-old tree. Besides the standard daytime tour, the castle also offers night tours. In late April and early May the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits is held there.
The relatively isolated, picturesque ruins of the Tematin Castle are all that remains of this 13th century stronghold.
It is thought that Tematin was overhauled in the early 16th century and continued to play an important defensive role. However, during a rebellion calling for greater Hungarian independence, a devastating attack by the forces of the Habsburg rulers left the castle in ruins and it remains in this state to this day.
Today the site of Tematin contains the pretty ruins of the castle as well as offering excellent views of the area. A volunteer student group are active at the site working to shore up and restore this medieval ruin.