9 Unmissable Things To Do In Slovakia For Your First Visit , Eastern Europe

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When it comes to European destinations to visit, Slovakia isn’t usually at the top of most people’s bucket list.

I didn’t know anything about Slovakia before going, and had limited expectations. Well, what a pleasant surprise awaited.

Image credit: DepositPhotos.com

It turns out it’s a beautiful country with so much to offer. It’s a land full of castles, thermal baths, caves, jaw-dropping architecture – not to mention ample opportunities for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Needless to say, there are a ton of things to do in Slovakia, which makes it one of the most unique tourist destinations and still a true hidden gem.

If you’re not sure what to do in Slovakia, then here are some of the top attractions you should add to your itinerary on a first time visit.

Things To Do In Slovakia

1. Visit Bratislava

old white building in bratislva
Bratislava Slovakia

Slovakia is in Eastern Europe, a landlocked European Union country of around 5.4 million people. It was once the ‘Slovakia’ in Czechoslovakia, before an amiable independence in 1993.

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, and where almost half a million people live, so it’s definitely the most bustling part of the country and where you’ll find a more lively atmosphere.

For us, we felt Bratislava was very romantic. We floated in a ferry down the famous and beautiful Danube River and took the old-style red tourist tram to get some history and an orientation, which stops at the iconic castle for a beautiful view of the city.

Stroll through the old town and check out the Old Town Hall. Stop off for a bite to eat or drink in the squares and laugh with the buskers. Have a sundowner in the Sky Bar for the most amazing view over the old town while the sun goes down. Try out some of their delicious Slovak cuisine, such as bryndzové halušky (potato dumplings), the national dish of Slovakia, and yummy cocktails too.

One of the great things about Bratislava is that it borders Hungary and Austria. It’s only an hour away from Vienna in Austria and only a 3.5 hour drive to Prague in Czech Republic, which means you can easily take day trips to other countries. It’s position easily makes it one of the best places to visit in Slovakia.

2. Visit The High Tatras

wooden buildings in the High Tatras Slovakia

But as lovely as Bratislava is, it wasn’t what had brought us to Slovakia. We were headed for higher heights. We picked up a hire car and started the scenic 350km drive to Nová Lesná and the High Tatras.

The High Tatras is a national park in an area of amazing natural beauty that spans the Alpine mountain range that divides Slovakia and Poland.

With peaks of over 2500 meters and its glacial lakes it is a paradise for visitors and another of the best places to visit in Slovakia!

Nová Lesná is one of the small towns that services skiers in winter and hikers in summer, and we stayed in an apartment with views across the mountains in the beautiful little town.

The High Tatras has so much to do it makes it easy to keep everyone happy. Our biggest problem each day was trying to choose between all the amazing things on offer.

These are the activities we loved the most in the High Tatras…

Walking and Hiking on the Limitless Trails

mountains in the Strazyska Valley Slovakia

The hiking trails range from 1-hour loops for young kids through to technical multi-day expeditions.

Just remember, you are up high, and the weather can change fast.

We recommend hiking the Strazyska Valley which borders with Zakopane in Poland, as there is a nice waterfall up there and some incredible mountain views.

Always be prepared with plenty of water and snacks and have the right gear. Let someone know where you are going.

Row Boats on Crystal Clear Glacial Lakes

boats in a lake with mountains in the background
Štrbské Pleso

We visited the second largest lake in the area, Štrbské Pleso, and if you do the same.

Surrounded by the Tatra Mountains, the lake offers sweeping valley views and a chance to kick back and unwind.

Despite being one of the most popular places to visit in Slovakia it’s not a busy place, given that the country has a low population and receives only half a million tourists a year, so you can relax in this gorgeous alpine setting with peace and quiet.

Make sure to stop at the restaurant on the lake’s edge for incredible fresh-baked cakes and fresh lemonade!

Explore Dobšinská Ice Cave

A colorful view of the ice cave in the glacier in slovakia underground
So Pretty Deposit Photos

I mentioned before that Slovakia is famous for its caves, and Dobšinská is probably the reason for this. This impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site was discovered in 1870 by miners, and has since captivated anyone who visits it.

It extends for a depth of 960 meters, making it one of the lowest ice caves in the world.

As well as it’s size, what makes Dobsinska ice caves spectacular is the formations of the ice. It’s estimated that the cave is covered in 8,874 square metres of ice, some with a thickness of up to 26.5 meters. You can see ice stalagmites and stalactites, frozen waterfalls and streams, and beautiful ice formations with varying colors of frozen water.

Make sure you dress warmly as it is freezing down there (as you can guess from the name). It also faces North so gets a cold wind from the entrance.

Note that it’s only open to the public from May to September and you must visit on a guided tour only.

Visit Medieval Hilltop Town of Levoca

Levoca Church with grassy field in front

Slovakia is home to many enchanting medieval hilltop towns that are worth exploring.

Levoca has incredible views, gothic architecture, history and welcoming restaurants. It’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy a quiet pace of life.

Despite being a small town with little more than 14,500 residents, it has a lot of charm.

It also has the world’s largest a wooden alter in its Gothic church, which was created by Master Pavol of Levoča.

Visit a Fun Water Adventure Park with Thermal Pools

We loved AquaCity, and no trip to Slovakia would be complete without visiting a thermal pool. Aquacity is a combination of a wellness spa and an aqua park, with 14 thermal and heated pools, slides for the kids to enjoy, and many more attractions. 

The water is mineral rich, with more than 20 different minerals, which are said to have beneficial effects on your health.

That being said, we recommend taking a packed lunch with you, as the food we ate here was about the only bad meal we had in Slovakia.

Check online before going as they have group discounts and specials for booking online.

Explore Historic and Beautiful Spiš Castle

giant hay stack with Spis Castle Slovakia on the hill behind
Spis Castle Slovakia

Spis Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Slovakia and is surrounded by fields and forests. It has starred in several Hollywood movies, such as Dragonheart, Kull the Conqueror, and The Last Legion.

Spis is the sixth largest castle in the country and was built in the 12th century (although it’s said that it was built on top of another castle that stood there before).

It was once the residence of the former Kings and Queens of the Kingdom of Hungary before it split, so you can imagine how grand and opulent it once was (though today it’s a well-preserved ruin).

It has been a UNESCO list of World Heritage Site since 1993.

If you like castles, you’ll love driving through Slovakia as scattered through the beautiful countryside are the highest number of castles and chateaux per capita in the world.

Spis Castle is only open from May to September.

Be Amazed at Tricklandia

snowglobe with person inside
Tricklandia Slovakia

If you’re looking for things to do in Slovakia to escape the rain, then Tricklandia is a fun museum of visual illusions.

It’s not by any means the most exciting attraction in Slovakia but it does offer a couple of hours of fun, and a chance to capture some unique photos if you’ve never been to a museum like this.

3. Visit Košice

Water stream in the Hlavna street in Košice Slovakia

Košice is the second-largest city in Slovakia and a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

This vibrant city offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and modernity. Nestled in the beautiful old town, it’s adorned with captivating monuments such as the central Lower Gate archaeological complex, Hlavné námestie (the main square), and the gothic St. Elisabeth Cathedral.

Košice invites you to wander through its picturesque medievil streets and soak in its rich heritage.

4. Admire Castle of Spirits (Bojnice Castle)

Bojnice Castle on the hill with town in valley below and orange sunset

Bojnice Castle is a testament to the long history and architectural splendor of Slovakia. It’s the oldest castle in the country, with records dating it back to the 12th century.

This “fairy-tale” castle feels like stepping into the pages of a storybook, where Roman, Gothic and Renaissance elements seamlessly blend.

The castle is also the setting for some intriguing legends known only to the locals.

The most famous of which is the The Legend of the Black Lady, a ghost story about a former resident who was asked to prove her virtue to her husband by jumping off the highest tower into the moat below, but was saved by the spirits of her ancestors.

If the architecture doesn’t blow you away, the stunning panoramic views from its travertine hill will.

5. Marvel at Domica Cave

Close up of big dropstones. Inside cave scene
Stunning caves | Deposit Photos

Situated in the Slovak Karst National Park is another impressive cave system in Slovakia. The Domica Cave is the longest cave in the park and one of the most well known in the country.

As you venture through its passages and chambers, you’ll be awestruck by the stunning formations shaped over thousands of years.

It’s also said that the cave was once home to human settlers from the Paleolithic age, and it’s also home to a diverse population of bats.

The interplay of red and brown hues of the rock creates a visual spectacle that is truly unique and worth seeing.

6. Visit Špania Dolina

small village in the lush hills of slovakia
Špania Dolina | Deposit Photos

Špania Dolina is a former mining village and one of Slovakia’s most popular spa towns, known for its captivating beauty.

Due to its rich history of copper and silver ore mining, Špania Dolina was a wealthy town with lots of beautiful buildings to marvel at.

It’s also surrounded by nature, so if its hiking trails and picturesque gardens you’re looking for, you’ll find that here.

Be sure to check out the water pipeline and it’s fascinating astronomical clock!

7. Check Out Orava Castle

Orava Castle high on a hill with lush valley surrounding it

Perched majestically on a high rock overlooking the Orava River, Orava Castle is an open-air museum that should not be skipped.

This medieval fortress, considered one of the most beautiful and largest castles in Slovakia, offers a journey back in time.

Wander through the well-preserved halls and courtyards, and take in the panoramic views from the castle windows.

8. Learn About Mining History at Banská Štiavnica

Street with historical houses in Banska Stiavnica old town, Slovakia

Banská Štiavnica is another picturesque town with a mining history. Explore the Slovak Mining Museum, where you can delve into the region’s mining heritage, or marvel at the Old Castle and New Castle, both offering stunning panoramic views.

Don’t miss the Kammerhof and the Love Bank, unique attractions that add to the town’s charm, or immerse yourself in nature at the Botanical Gardens and the serene Tajch Veľká Vodárenská.

With its untouched beauty and tranquil atmosphere, Banská Štiavnica is a great place to visit if you want to get off the beaten path.

9. See Slovak Paradise National Park

river running through lush Slovak Paradise National Park

There are nine national parks in Slovakia, but one that should not be skipped is Slovak Paradise National Park.

This is the youngest national park in Slovakia and boasts magnificent valleys, roaring waterfalls, gorges and canyons, and challenging hikes that will leave you breathless.

Whether you want to go mountain biking or simply relax in the pristine nature, where refreshing streams and fierce rivers carve their path through the landscape, there is much to discover in this nationl park.

Be sure to check out the Prielom Hornadu gorge, Kysel, and Sucha Bela gorge.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t have huge expectations of our ten-day Slovakian holiday but every part of it blew us away and we left refreshed and invigorated.

It is a great feeling discovering a hidden gem and for us Slovakia is it.

We’ll be back, not least because so many of the locals we met recommended another part of Slovakia as their number one ‘must see’ of the country they are rightly so proud of!

Slovakia Tours

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Do you have any tips on what to do in Slovakia? What are your top tips for things to do in Slovakia? Share in the comments.

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