Monday, May 30, 2016

Top 10 Things to See & Do in Slovakia

Undoubtedly, if you've heard anything about Slovakia, the above picture is probably what you think of.  Bland industry does not encapsulate the whole of the country, however, and there are many things to see in do in this beautiful country.  From snow-capped mountains, to personal hilltop castles, Slovakia shows you where Europe has been and where it is going.

1.Eat Halušky
Usually my food choices come a little later in lists, but I have this long-time obsession with Halusky.  It was one of the first foreign foods I ever ate when I moved to the Czech Republic and Slovakia and has become one of the staples that I always eat whenever I go back.  See my top 10 things to see & do in the Czech Republic here.  Halusky is the Slovak national dish and it is basically sheep's cheese and gnocchi with cut bacon pieces.  It is amazing and you would really miss out if you visit Slovakia and don't have it.  Additionally, the Slovaks have pirohy, which are cheese filled ravioli basically with bacon bits on top. (The Ukrainians and Russians have a similar word for different things.  See my top 10 things to see and do in Russia here.)  Don't miss those either.  And finally, make sure to have something with tvaroh, another staple of Eastern Europe, and the Slovak specialty of braided smoked cheese.  The last time I was in Bratislava they even had little cheese vending machines you could use.

2.Hike a Bratislava Castle
I say one of them because there are two amazing castles in Bratislava.  One is the main castle on the hill that is definitely worth the hike, and the other is a short bus ride away.  This second one is called Devin castle, and it is more ruins than an actual castle now, but it also sits right at the edge of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Austria.
The Road to the Castle

3.Visit a castle or ruins
Slovakia is home to some of the largest castles in all of Europe.  Many of these have fallen into disrepair or have never been repaired at all, but they are worth visiting.  Two of the main ones that should be on Slovakia bucket lists are the largest castle ruins in the world at Spišsky Hrad, and the second is a lovely castle in Bojnice.
Spišsky Hrad

4.Eat some ice cream
I have found little difference in the gelato I have eaten in Italy vs that in Slovakia (probably because they are both made by Italians) besides the price.  Gelato is almost a must for any foreigner to Europe, but in Western Europe, it comes with a hefty price tag when added at the end of meals.  In Bratislava, however, I have found what I consider some of the best gelato in the world.  Yes, I said it.  In the world!  And the price is ridiculously reasonable for what you get.  The place is a bit hidden in a back alley off one of the main streets in the city center.  But it is called Koun, and it is totally worth it.
The Line can get long

5.Climb the Tatry
Another of the amazing sites of slovakia are the large Tatry mountains.   Keep in mind that there are both the small and large Tatry.  The large have a hotel that lets you stay right at the top of the mountains.  Additionally, there are pools and massaging hotels nearby where you can relax and enjoy the view.  Also, don't feel like hiking?  You can take a gondola ride up to high up on the range.  The Slovaks really have all their bases covered.

6.Visit Košice
For hundreds of years, Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and even though its name never made the list there were times when Bratislava was even chosen as the capital of the empire.  Few places illustrate this history between the Hungarians and the Slovaks more than Kosice.  The city sits at the far end of the republic, and has some of the strangest architecture you will see in Slovakia.  Much of it is built in the Hungarian style, and there are Hungarian words and symbols everywhere.

Besides its vast history, Kosice is a beautiful place to visit, and far off the beaten track.  It's a great place to breathe in Europe, while taking a break from a busy lifestyle.

7.Take a dip in a lake
Summers can be brutal in Europe.  The Europeans are really just discovering the idea of A/C.  Slovaks, have a great solution to this, however, in that almost anywhere you go in Slovakia, there is a lake nearby where you will get plenty of sun bathers and swimmers alike.  These watering holes are great to cool down and just relax on a hot summers day.  One note of caution, most of these lakes are topless, so be prepared for what you may find.
Lakes like this are all around
This historic town is one of the prettiest tributes to ancient craftsmanship in Slovakia.  The carefully constructed facades of the buildings here denote the beauty of the past and are a great site to see.  This is also prime ski territory in Slovakia and a great place to ski and stay.

Additionally, there are many other cities in Slovakia with similar artwork on the historic wooden houses if they end up being closer to you.
This is Stará L'ubovn'a, but the old houses are similar to Čičmany.

9.Hit a club
This is probably what Bratislava is most famous for for many Europeans, since most Europeans go to Prague to party, but the Prazaks go to Bratislava.  There is good reason for this, a lot of it has to do with the legend of Czech and Slovak women and their per capita head count of models, but if you're in the mood to party, Bratislava does not disappoint.
The view from one club in Bratislava

10.Go up in the space tower
This is a bit of a joke in Slovakia as one of the large bridges that goes across the Danube has what looks like a huge spaceship at the top of the tower.  In reality, this is a gourmet restaurant where food is extremely expensive.  You can go up to the restaurant to eat, or you can take a few more stairs to the rooftop and get a beautiful view of the city.  You pay for the trip to see the view, but not for the restaurant.  Although, I'm pretty sure with how expensive the restaurant is, you pay for the view no matter what.

If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute click here to send me an email.  If you would like to sponsor my trip somewhere to showcase your business or to work with me please send me an email as well.

Additionally, follow me on InstagramFacebook, or check out my photography website at A River Runs Through It Photography.

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