Slovakia has come into its own since Czechoslovakia dissipated over 20 years ago. Its size makes it very manageable to explore on a short visit, and one day you could be hiking in the craggy mountains while the very next you could be uncovering the charm of the capital, Bratislava. Proud of its heritage, the people of Slovakia cling steadfastly to their vibrant folk culture, which resonates throughout the tiny medieval towns.
What to Do
Bratislava is a great place to start when on a trip to Slovakia. This tiny quirky city, which is full to the brim of funky museums and bustling cafes, epitomises the laid back atmosphere you will come across time and again in this welcoming country. Close to the city’s old town is Bratislava Castle, destroyed in a fire in 1811 but rebuilt in the 1950s. You’ll enjoy the views from the ramparts as well as the little museum.
Another well-known castle is Devin Castle – once the military base of Prince Ratislav, a 9th century warlord. If you love a good castle, this is one not to be missed. Full of history, it is a fascinating place to visit.
Folk art is very much part of the culture in Slovakia and the main shopping outlet, Úľuv, is the place to head to if you fancy investing. Bursting with artists’ studios, this place is a national cooperative. If you only buy one thing, make sure it is a šupolienky. These are figures made from husks of corn.
For such a small country, there is huge natural diversity and great opportunities for hiking. Before you leave, be sure to make a stop in the medieval towns of Levoča or Bardejov.
Slovakian cuisine is by no means an institution but there are some dishes that you will definitely see more often in this country than in any other. The food you will encounter on Slovakian menus is hearty and typically ‘poor man’s’ food. Meat is relied on hugely in the dishes, as well as potatoes, dumplings and sauces. Cabbage is the most popular vegetable, which you will almost certainly have served as sauerkraut or as a soup.
Some dishes you really have to try are halušky, a kind of gnocchi, best served as bryndzové halušky, which is made with a sheep’s cheese and served with bacon and chives or dill. Fish is usually eaten fried and although salad lovers will be a little disappointed with the offerings here, there is a famous potato salad that is great as an accompaniment to the fish.
Žemľovka is a favourite dessert. Made with apples, bread and sweetened milk, it is a simple but delicious pudding.
The continental climate prevails in Slovakia, which means that the summers are hot but short, with temperatures in the high 20s (°C), and winters are cold and bring snow. Spring is a lovely time to visit as the weather is pleasant and settled and the fruit tree blossoms are out. Autumn offers mild weather in long spells and is another good time for sightseeing.
How to Get to Slovakia from the UK
Bratislava is home to the main airport in Slovakia and this busy hub sees flights arriving daily from several European cities. Ryanair is the budget airline of choice, leaving from Stansted in the UK. Other airlines include easyJet, who fly from London Gatwick.
Košice and Poprad-Tatry are smaller airports but have good connections with the UK. You can fly from London Luton to both of these airports with Wizz Air. Shuttle Direct organise private and shared transfers from all major airports in Slovakia.
Train travel to Slovakia is efficient and you can arrive into Bratislava from Prague, Berlin, and Vienna among other cities. Buses can also be used to travel to Slovakia. There are good services from Vienna, Prague, Warszawa, Rzeszow and Budapest to Bratislava and Košice. Shuttle Direct offer their transfer services from major bus and train stations too.
Travelling to Slovakia? Don’t Miss…
Košice is the second biggest city in the country and dates back to the 13th century. Full of history and intrigue, the city is home to the greatest number of monuments in Slovakia, including St Elisabeth Cathedral.
Levoča, a beautiful town with a historic centre, is a definite must see. A great place to wander, the streets are small, colourful and full of charm. Visit the Old Town Hall, the Evangelican Lutheran Church and St James Church.
Štrbské Pleso, the High Tatra town located at the end of a rail line, is famous for the stunning lake that it envelops. A perfect location for an afternoon stroll. The lake is sometimes frozen until May.
About Shuttle Direct:
Shuttle Direct offers low cost transfers to and from airports, cruise ports and train stations all across Slovakia, and throughout Europe and North Africa. Pre-book an airport transfer via our secure online booking system, and all your onward travel arrangements can be in place before you leave home.