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Fantastic Slovakia

We have just returned from traveling five days in Slovakia. I wanted to write about it here because there is so little travel information available for such a fantastic destination. Slovakia was beautiful, full of culture and things to see, delicious food, exceptionally friendly people, and modern infrastructure. To read about it you'd think it was still 1970 there. We did not find that to be the case, at all. I highly recommend going there before everyone else finds out about it.
Our itinerary:

KOSICE

We flew into Budapest and after 3 days took the train direct to Kosice (3 hours, early morning train, no dining car...) Walked to our hotel, Penzion Villa Regia. We loved our hotel—centrally located, friendly, welcoming, staff who spoke English, outstanding breakfast and great rooms. The restaurant is also excellent.

Kosice has culture, St. Elizabeth's Cathedral, great restaurants, shops, etc. We had great food at Republika Východu, right on the square—delicious food with vegetarian or gluten-free options (!), fabulous staff, desserts, beverages, etc. We went twice.

We did a day trip to the Spis Castle which was impressive and Levoca which we loved.

Driving in Slovakia was very easy. The roads were excellent, the drivers were sane, everything is well marked and it's easy to get around. We plan on coming back just to road trip around. The scenery is beautiful and we drove through some amazing forests, valleys, and mountains on winding roads that were stunningly picturesque.

GOTHIC ROUTE

We traveled a bit of this without even knowing it. Next time this will be our itinerary. The Gothic Route of Slovakia is a circular route of towns with amazing gothic and renaissance towns and churches to see. I wish I had known more about it before I left. I'd have changed our plans. At any rate, if you like seeing 15th-century art in situ, this is for you.

BANSKA BYSTRICA

Stayed at Hotel Kuria, right off the main square. Great rooms, easy parking, good breakfast buffet. We really liked Banska Bystrica but it was a national holiday, so many things were closed.

BANSKA STIAVNICA

We day tripped here and it was an interesting town with lots of shops, restaurants, and energy.

I really didn't know what to expect when I recommended to my friends that we travel to Slovakia. Compared to other European countries, there isn't all that much travel information available from the big name sources (Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, etc.) Even this forum has taken to ironically pointing out why to travel here. I was in search of some family history, which inspired the trip. In the end, there was so much to see and do, I wish I had planned for twice the time here. Beauty, culture, cuisine, scenery, affordability(!), friendly people, safe—Slovakia had it all. I am shocked Rick Steves doesn't do more than Bratislava. It truly is Europe through the back door!! We loved it here.

Just go!

Posted by
11152 posts

Thanks for this report! While I love all trip reports, I'm especially grateful for the ones on places, like Slovakia, where there's much less other information and trip reports available.

Just a question - since I don't drive, do you have any sense of how much a person could see by train or bus? Or is Slovakia one of those places where a car really enhances the experience?

Posted by
5 posts

I'm not the person to comment about getting around via public transportation, but my sense is that once you get into the cities/towns that get highlighted as places to go, there is plenty to see. For instance, Kosice, Banska Bystrica, Banska Stiavnika, Levoca, Bratislava, Poprad, etc. all had plenty to see and do. And we didn't get to the Tatras, which I believe have lots of options for tourists.

We flew into Budapest which was close to Kosice and took the train there, which was really easy. However, Kosice also has a small airport which might be even easier??

I did use Lucy Mallows, Slovakia as a guide. It's dated and not consistent but it was helpful to learn what was where. It was good to get a sense of what was where. I also bought an old Blue Guide to the Czech Republic and Slovakia to get the hyper-nerd version of history, art, architecture, etc. And the section on Slovakia was 1/8 that of the Czech Republic, but good for mapping out what I wanted to see — art, architecture, history, etc.

Good luck and let us know what you find!

Posted by
4637 posts

Four years ago I wrote this:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/slovakia/is-this-country-the-most-underrated-on-this-travel-forum
People who visit Slovakia are pleasantly surprised. Easy for independent traveler, on Euro, cheap, English widely spoken - at least in touristy destinations. Country is of manageable size, you can get almost anywhere by public transport. Very beautiful scenery all over the country. To answer Harold's question: if you have time and can pace yourself you don't need a car. Obviously devoting the same time you can see more with the car.