One of the places I kept hearing I must visit while in Slovakia is the old silver and gold mining-turned tourist town of Banska Stiavnica in central Slovakia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located only a two hour road trip from Bratislava. The final leg of the journey takes you through the lush Stiavnicke Mountains and once you’re in the clear the strikingly beautiful small medieval town comes into view.
Once arriving the first thing to do is find a place to park. We found a public pay by the hour parking lot on top of a hill next to a large graveyard with a walking path leading down into old town, but with a little luck you may be able to find street parking elsewhere. The second thing you may need to do is find a public bathroom – it has been a long car ride after all…! Be prepared to pay a few cents for this luxury – something Americans like myself might scratch their heads over. Finally, it’s time to roam the town’s charming cobblestone streets lined with beautifully preserved buildings, peeping in and out of boutique shops and cafes while dreaming of days of yore.
Given it was wintertime and just a quick day trip for us, we were only able to explore the town for a few quick hours. Therefore I’m not able to provide a complete list of what to see and do – I suggest you visit TripAdvisor’s Things to Do in Banska Stiavnica for that – but I will share a few of the things we did below. The town was definitely worth even a short and rushed visit although my hopes are to go back during a more pleasant season and stay overnight, taking part in the multiple tours that are offered to really get a feel for the place.
Old Town: this is the historical center where most of the action takes place. Here you will find restaurants, cafes, boutique shops, galleries, museums, courtyards, churches and monuments. It’s beautiful!
The Love Bank: an interactive tour and museum in Old Town inspired by a true Slovak love story. This well-known Slovak love poem was one of the first gifts my Slovak partner gave to me, so the tour was a very special and memorable experience for us. Adult tickets cost 12 euros each and a new tour starts every hour lasting 45 minutes. The tour is in Slovak, but they provide headphones in multiple languages. There is a small gift shop where you can purchase the poem in book form and other cute items as well.
The Old Castle: its origins reach back to the 13th century where it was originally a Catholic church turned fortification during the period of Turkish invasion. The views from its tower of the town below are excellent. There is usually a small charge to get in, but I suppose since it was in the dead of winter and not too many tourists around we were able to roam around the grounds for free. Or else we just didn’t get caught?!
The New Castle: sits on top of a hill across from The Old Castle and used to be part of the fornication system and one of the most important watchtowers. It was late and therefore closed when we arrived, so we simply walked the grounds and snapped a few photos.