Banská Štiavnica region
Once the most important town of medieval Europe, Banská Štiavnica is now a picturesque little town abundant in historical architecture and with a rich cultural life. Pompous burghers’ houses and quaint miners’ dwellings, narrow romantic streets and hundreds of stairs will enchant you by their magical atmosphere. Banská Štiavnica is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and many believe it to be the most photogenic spot in Slovakia.
Banská Štiavnica downtown
Banská Štiavnica is a colourful and picturesque place. A narrow valley is crowded with churches, rich miners’ palaces and burghers’ houses, with small miners’ dwellings squatting all over the hills and underneath. All these places are connected by romantic streets and footpaths with hundreds of stairs. You should not leave out the town’s promenade (known as korzo) – an elevated footpath called Trotuár or Ružová street. A beautiful view is worth climbing up a few more steps.
It would be a pity to visit Banská Štiavnica without seeing a mine. Armed with a cloak, helmet and a mining lamp, you will go down the shaft and experience mining at first hand. Choose one of the four options depending on time, place and difficulty.
The tajchs of Štiavnica are loved by both the locals and visitors. Miners once built an unbelievable system of waterworks. A network of sixty interconnected water reservoirs, artificial lakes called tajchs, supplied energy to a prosperous and thriving mining industry. Twenty-four of them have been preserved and harmonically blended in with the surrounding nature. They are excellent for bathing, rowing and fishing, or you can go skating or take romantic walks around them in the winter. When standing on the St. Trinity Square (Námestie Sv. Trojice), you are only a fifteen minutes’ walk away from the tajch called Veľká vodárenská with its turquoise water.
Botanic garden and Mining Academy
Everything is either up or down in Banská Štiavnica. When you get tired of walking up and down all those hills, you may want to take a rest in an old botanic garden in the shade of mighty sequoias and Japanese cedars. The garden surrounds the building of the famous Mining Academy, the world’s first university of its kind.
Nový zámok (New Castle)
Along with the famous Kalvária (Calvary), Nový zámok is a visual icon of Banská Štiavnica, unique in Europe with its rocket-like silhouette. At the time of Turkish raids into Slovakia, Nový zámok served both as a stronghold and a watchtower in the defence system of central Slovak mining towns. Today it is home to an exposition of battles with Turks, including a weapons and arms exhibition, and offers a splendid view of the wide surroundings. A Jewish cemetery is located nearby.
Starý zámok (Old Castle)
The heart of the town and a picture of its history in brief. The town’s first church whose impressive nave could hold more than 1,000 people. Due to its strategic position, it was first fortified and later completely transformed into a fortress. Today you can find a pipe-making shop here, blacksmith’s exposition, an old torture chamber in the Himmelreich tower, and an exhibition of original statues from Kalvária. Make sure you find a time for a visit!
Kammerhof was created in the mid-16th century by connecting several burghers’ houses together. Gradual reconstructions gave rise to a building, impressive at that time, featuring elements of all architectural styles. It was the seat of the authority in charge of mines, iron and steelworks, and mints in central Slovakia. Current expositions in Kammerhof display information about the history of mining in Slovakia and the famous Mining Academy, and feature models of mining machinery and laboratory equipment. Terrific workshops for children are regularly held here.
The calvary of Banská Štiavnica is one of the most beautiful baroque calvaries in Europe. Situated on the Scharfenberg hill and visible from all sides, the calvary offers a great vista of the entire caldera of Štiavnica. Following its reconstruction, it soon became one of the most visited sites in the region.
St. Catherine’s church
The late Gothic church of St. Catherine is one of the most beautiful churches in Banská Štiavnica. Its original altar was produced by an unknown local master. Paintings from the altar are scattered all over the world. The only painting from the valuable collection, the painting of the birth of Lord Jesus, can be found in Slovakia in a church in Svätý Anton, two statues from the old altar are displayed in the Jozef Kollár Gallery at the St. Trinity Square (Námestie Svätej Trojice).
Manor house and museum in Svätý Anton
One of the most interesting museums in Slovakia. Former Bulgarian tsar Coburg lived in Svätý Anton until 1944, therefore, the manor house has been preserved in its original condition. Thousands of hunting trophies in the corridors, original wallpapers, and paintings by famous authors are crowned by a marvellous collection of historic furniture. The Golden Saloon was a wedding gift by Maria Theresa to her daughter Marie Antoinette. The entire ground floor is dedicated to a hunting exposition. The manor house is surrounded by a park.
Počúvadlo lake and Sitno
An old legend says that deep beneath the Sitno hill, a company of spellbound knights is sleeping who will wake up and come to the rescue when the worst befalls the Slovaks. The hill is crossed by hiking trails marked by one of Europe’s first hiking clubs whose members also built a lookout platform on Sitno. The rocks atop Sitno offer a unique vista of the entire surroundings. The site has become legendary also thanks to the Počúvadlo lake (Počúvadlianske jazero), one of the most beautiful in the region. The lake offers a number of bathing and boating options, children can also visit a nearby mini zoo. The ascent to the top of Sitno takes approximately 1.5 hr, so go ahead and plan your half day trip.