We live in a beach town in Spain and so when steamy August rolls around we are ready for cooler climes.
My husband suggested we visit Slovakia last year and, as work was crazy for me, I just said, “yes sure, book it in!” and left him to arrange it all.
I didn’t know anything about Slovakia and had limited expectations. Well, what a pleasant surprise awaited.
Where is Slovakia?
Slovakia is in Eastern Europe, a landlocked European Union country of around five million people that was the ‘Slovakia’ in Czechoslovakia before an amiable independence, in 1993.
Our arrival in the capital, Bratislava, was very romantic. We floated in a ferry down the famous and beautiful Danube river, a short hour trip from Vienna.
Here are two places to visit in Slovakia as well as things to do in each place.
1. Visit Bratislava
It seems to have taken the best on offer from outside without losing its sense of self.
Our top things to do in Bratislava:
- Take the old-style red tourist tram to get some history and an orientation (E10 for adults and E5 for kids) which stops at the iconic castle for a beautiful view of the city.
- Stroll through the old town, eating and drinking in the squares and laughing 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 Thai food and yummy cocktails too.
Another reason to visit Slovakia – great value for money
One of the joys for travellers is that Slovakia is great value for money.
We took advantage of this and splashed out and used some free nights we had accumulated on Hotels.com and stayed at the historic Marrol’s Boutique Hotel, a five-star gem in the heart of Bratislava’s historic centre.
Even in high season the equivalent cost through Hotels.com was less than the small Airbnb we stayed in the night before in Vienna.
It was amazing, a beautiful room with a luxurious bath, a breakfast buffet that made lunch almost redundant, and staff wonderfully polite and welcoming.
Feeling like a movie star made it this year’s favorite accommodation for all three of us.
This value for money proved true all throughout our trip, with eating, drinking and visiting attractions all cheaper than their equivalents in nearby European countries.
For our first meal we thought the mains were “tapas” plates because they cost three or four Euros each.
Imagine our surprise when we ended up with 2 main courses each and an odd look from the waitress!
2. Visit The High Tatras
But as lovely as Bratislava is, it wasn’t what had brought us to visit 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 booked an Airbnb with views across the mountains in the beautiful little town.
Our Airbnb hostess Katerina and her daughter Klara typified our experience of a Slovakian welcome. They spoke great English, and nothing was too much trouble.
They gave us excellent advice on things to do and where to eat, and popped by occasionally to offer us some of their home-baked bread, cake and Polish-style goulash which we gratefully accepted and wolfed down!
Having a nine-year-old means we must sometimes balance doing the things that Al and I love with those that Sam loves.
The High Tatras makes it easy to keep everyone happy.
Our biggest problem each day was trying to choose between all the amazing things on offer.
8 Things to do in the High Tatras
These are the activities we loved the most in the High Tatras:
1. Walking and Hiking on the Limitless Trails of the National Park.
The walks 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.
Always be prepared, have the right gear and let someone know where you are going.
2. Catching Ski Lifts or Gondolas up the Mountain.
You’ll find many adventure parks packed with fun activities like tubing, zorbing, Lego world, go karting and other family fun.
3. Rowing Boats on Crystal Clear Glacial Lakes.
We visited the second largest in the area, Štrbské Pleso, and if you do the same, make sure to stop at the restaurant on the lake’s edge for incredible fresh-baked cakes and fresh lemonade!
The boat hire was €15 for 40 minutes which was enough for us.
4. Exploring Dobsinska Ice Caves
Make sure you dress warmly for Dobsinska ice caves, it is freezing down there as you can guess from the name. The cost was €8 for an adult and €4 for kids.
5. Visit Medieval Hilltop Towns
Like Levoca, with its incredible views, architecture, history and welcoming restaurants.
6. Visiting a Fun Water Adventure Park with Thermal Pools
We loved AquaCity, but recommend taking a packed lunch as this about the only bad meal we had in Slovakia.
Check online before going as they have group discounts and specials for booking online.
7. Exploring Historic and Beautiful Spis Castle
€5 admission fee for adults, Spis Castle is surrounded by fields and forests and has starred in several Hollywood movies.
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.
Escaping the rain at the very fun Tricklandia, a museum of visual illusions, and a DVD back at our cosy Airbnb (yes, with fresh-baked cake from our hostess!).
Tricklandia was €9 for adults, €6 for kids, and free for littlies under 4 years old.
Our week in the High Tatras went by in a rush.
The clean air, the welcoming people, and the food made from beautiful fresh local ingredients all contributed to a wonderful place to visit.
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!
Planning a Trip to Slovakia
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More Eastern European travel tips
- 5 places not to miss in Estonia
- Things to do in Vilnius, Lithuania
- Things to do in Belgrade, Serbia
- Why you shouldn’t be afraid of Eastern Europe
- 9 Best places to visit in Slovenia
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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.