More than once our friends told us that Banská Štiavnica is probably the most beautiful town in Slovakia. This UNESCO World Heritage Town has been able to preserve its medieval history. Located in the center of a large caldera, the town with around 10.000 inhabitants offers an impressive surrounding that is now the mountains of Štiavnické Vrchy.
Banská Štiavnica: A Short History
Banská Štiavnica and its history are well connected with the mining of silver ore in the area. The first known mining settlement dates back to the third century BC. The town was established in the 13th century and is Slovakia’s oldest mining town. The urban center that still stands was formed as early as the 16th century.
Banská Štiavnica was for a long time a leading center for innovation within the mining industry. The first mining school in the Kingdom of Hungary was founded here in the 17th century. It later developed into an Academy of Mining. By the end of the 18th century, Banská Štiavnica had grown to become the third largest town within the borders of the Kingdom of Hungary.
Banská Štiavnica saw an end of its glory days as a mining town during the 19th and 20th centuries. The last mine was finally closed down in 2001.
5 Things to Do In Banská Štiavnica
There are several sights in Banská Štiavnica that visitors should not miss. Or let us quote the local tourism website;
There is one widespread aphorism about Štiavnica: People are divided into two groups: those who love Štiavnica and those who have not been there yet.
What is especially important is to enjoy the town as a whole. It is a remarkable town and the whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we list 5 things to do in Banská Štiavnica.
Starý zámok / Old Castle
The Starý zámok or the Old Castle was initially a church dating back to the 13th century. The church and the cemetery were first only defended by a wall before the fortress was built in the mid 16th century. The fortress was built to guard the people against the invading Turks.
Today the castle is open to the public, for a smaller admission fee. Find out more about the towns history and other ongoing exhibitions here >>
Nový zámok / New Castle
The Nový zámok or the New Castle is probably one of the first things you will see in the town. The castle was built during the second half of the 16th century. Just like the Old Castle, the new one’s main objective was in the defense against the Turkish invaders.
Today the castle is open to the public, for a smaller admission fee. Visitors also have the chance to enjoy a spectacular view over the town.
Find out more here >>
Kalvária / Calvary
Located on a hill just outside of the town is the Kalvária Banská Štiavnica. This is a so-called calvary in late-Baroque style. The construction began in 1744 and a total of 3 churches and 22 chapels were built here. It is one of the most popular places in the region and it offers a great view over the caldera.
Banské múzeum v prírode / Mining Museum
This is an open-air museum with exhibitions underground as well as on the surface. Here visitors can dress in a mining mantel and a helmet, grab a lantern, and explore the Bartolomej shaft. The museum is 1.5 kilometers from the center, towards Levice. The tour takes about 1.5 hours.
Don’t forget the center
Old churches, palaces, romantic street, and fabulous views. It’s a photogenic medieval town so remember to bring your camera as well as comfy shoes for all those hills!
Banská Štiavnica: How to Get There?
Car: as the town is in a caldera there are few major roads connecting the town with the rest of Slovakia. The best connection is to take road 51 that connects with the highway a bit west of Zvolen. There are also a few mountain roads that are a bit more advanced to drive but they do give you a great view.
Bus: There are buses from Zvolen that takes around 45 minutes. From there it is possible to continue to the rest of Slovakia.
Train: Local trains connects in Hronská Dúbrava to other parts of the Slovak rail network. Around 2 changes will be needed from Bratislava.
The driving distance to Banská Štiavnica from 3 major Slovak cities, according to Google Maps:
Bratislava– 173 kilometers (1 h 55 min)
Žilina – 118 kilometers (1 h 50 min)
Košice – 243 kilometers (3 h 16 min)
This post belongs to our series Exploring Slovakia. Click on the link to read about other interesting places in beautiful Slovakia!