Interrail in Slovakia: the ultimate country guide
Table of contents 🇸🇰
Situated between Poland, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic and Romania, Slovakia is often forgotten when it comes to European holiday destinations. But it’s such an extraordinary country that everyone should visit if they get the chance. Home to 5.5 million people, there is beautiful scenery, rich folk culture and an abundance of historical landmarks throughout the country. Once part of Czechoslovakia, the country gained its independence in 1993.
Giving tourists an off-the-beaten-track experience, you’ll be in awe as you take in the sights of the impressive mountain peaks, enchanting castles and quaint cobbled streets. It’s also easy to travel around due to their convenient train system. The fastest and most comfortable way to get around, there are several routes throughout the country; including one between Bratislava and Kosice. Taking 5-6 hours, this journey goes through the picturesque Žilina and Poprad.
Another great way to spend your time in Slovakia is to put on your walking shoes and head out on a hike. As mentioned above, the country has dozens of mountain peaks. And with that comes wonderful hiking trains that are suitable for all levels. For example, there is the High Tatras trail that gives fantastic views of the Carpathian mountain chain. During your hike, you could even see some of its wildlife that includes lynx, bears, marmots and chamois.
Or you could head to the Little Carpathian mountain range, which has a nearby wine trail that leads through Bratislava, Svaty Hur, Modra and Pezinok. Known for its white and blue varieties of wine, it gives you a chance to see the natural beauty of Slovakia and have a delicious tipple at the same time! Alongside wine, Slovakia is also known for its high-quality cheeses. Something they are incredibly proud of, one of the most popular varieties is goat’s cheese.
So what are the best places to visit in Slovakia when interrailing? We’ve rounded up a list of the top four, starting with the capital – Bratislava.
The top 4 cities to visit in Slovakia
Set on the Danube River, Bratislava is surrounded by the Little Carpathian mountains, cycling trails and colourful architecture. The town itself is also pedestrian-only, making it a very pleasant place to walk around. From its 18th-century old town that has a handful of vibrant cafes and bars to the magnificent Bratislava Castle that overlooks it, there won’t be a dull moment throughout your stay here.
Another popular attraction in the town is the Hlavne Namestie. A colourful market square with stunning architecture (some of which dates back to the 14th century) and a chic cafe culture, it offers the perfect combination of old and new. As well as restaurants and bars, the main square also has the Stara Radnica (Old Town Hall), which is one of the oldest stone buildings in the town (built in 1370) and Roland’s Fountain (built in 1572).
There are several restaurants that are worth a visit when in Bratislava, but two in particular that stand out are Restaurant Divny Janko and the Possonium. Restaurant Divny Janko is ideal if you’re looking for Slovakian fare that’s budget-friendly. Dishes on the menu include the likes of dumplings, goulash and schnitzel. The Possonium on the other hand offers street food, beer, coffee and other fabulous delights. Some of the street food there includes tasty burgers, cakes and pastries.
Next on the list is Kosice. Even though it’s the second biggest town in the country, it only has a population of just under 240,000 – giving it a tranquil and relaxed feel. Dating back to 1230, it’s had several names throughout the years from the Hungarian Kassa to German Kaschau and Latin Cassovia to name a few. It was also named the European Capital of Culture in 2013; and since then, the cultural scene has boomed. With several unique bars, eateries and attractions opening up.
Even though Kosice is arguably more metropolitan than other towns on this list, it’s still very picturesque. For example, it has a beautiful old town that’s packed with galleries, museums and pastel townhouses. Within the main square, there’s also the remarkable Singing Fountain, Gothic St. Elisabeth’s Cathedral and the State Theatre, which often hosts ballets and operas throughout the year.
For something a little different, there is the Rodosto & Miklus Prison. During a prison tour not only will you learn the etiquette of executioners, but see the cannonballs, coats of arms and other medieval weapons.
Whilst in Kosice, you might also decide to use it as a base to explore nearby attractions. Well if this is the case you’re in luck as it’s a convenient starting point for several day trips, including to the Slovak Karst National Park and to Tokaj wine country.
Food-wise there is a wonderful selection of mouth-watering places to eat, including Le Colonial that not only has a scrumptious menu (including pumpkin risotto and confit duck breast), but also a cosy atmosphere. Or if you’re looking for a break from traditional Slovakian dishes, then you could head to La Hacienda – a Mexican restaurant with the usual, tasty delights of burritos, nachos and tacos.
Situated in central Slovakia, Bojnice is a historical town on the Nitra river. With a small population of 5,000, it has the oldest zoo in Slovakia and the striking Bojnice Castle to name but a few of the wonderful attractions on offer. Only 2 hours from Bratislava, it’s a hidden gem in the country that has a beautiful atmosphere.
The aforementioned Bojnice Castle should be one of the first stops on your trip to the town. Something out of a fairytale, this romantic castle is one of the most visited attractions in the country – and it’s not hard to see why.
Built in the 12th century, it has been owned by numerous aristocratic families throughout the years, including the Palffy family that gave it a neo-baroque appearance to Matthew II Csak. It also has a gorgeous park, falconry, spa and cycling paths surrounding it. The national zoo that’s located within the castle’s grounds is also worth a visit, as it covers 41 hectares and animal enclosures that give you the opportunity to get up close with the animals.
For those daredevils, there is the observation deck that’s within walking distance of Bojnice’s town centre. Known as the Seagull in the Clouds, you can walk through the nearby woods following a marked trail to reach it. The structure itself is 30 metres tall and offers impressive panoramic views out towards Prievidza and three of Slovakia’s breathtaking mountains – Zdiar, Vtacnik and Kremnicke.
In terms of food, like other towns on this list, Bojnice does not disappoint. For example, you have the mouth-watering Muzika Restaurant which has good prices and even better food. Expect the likes of pasta, warming soups and satisfying desserts. Alternatively, you have the extraordinary Bojnicky Dvor, which offers fuss-free, hearty dining.
The last town on our list is Levoca. Situated in the Presov Region in eastern Slovakia, it was founded in the 13th century and has the second smallest population out of the four towns of just over 14,000 residents. Beloved due to its historic centre, Renaissance church and captivating surrounding scenery, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009.
Every year in July, Levoca also becomes the meeting point for the largest pilgrimage in the country. Tens of thousands of people gather high above the town on the Marianska Hora mountain. During the pilgrimage, people queue to pay their respect to the Virgin Mary at The Basilica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary church. Alongside this church, there is also Saint James Church – perhaps the most renowned attraction in Levoca that dates back to the 13th century and has the largest wooden Gothic altar in the world.
But if you’re looking for an attraction that’s a bit more unique, then the Cage of Shame is bound to tick that box. Located next to the town hall, the Cage of Shame is the last of its kind in Slovakia. Dating back to the 16th century, it was once used for public condemnation.
Levoca has lots of different types of restaurants, cafes and bars to enjoy throughout your interrail trip there. So it’s quite difficult to narrow down which ones should be at the top of your list. But there are two in particular that are worth a visit – Restaurant Arkada and Planeta Levoca. The former offers a good atmosphere in the centre of the town and flavourful food including great vegetarian dishes. Whereas the latter offers more hearty Slovakian dishes like dumplings with a tranquil vibe.
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Czech Republic 🇨🇿
Which Interrail pass do I need to travel around Slovakia?
Interrail Global Pass
Interrail Slovakia Pass
Do I need to make train seat reservations in Slovakia?
Seat reservation is compulsory on the InterCity, SuperCity and domestic night trains as well for 1st class on all journeys. For journeys to the Czech Republic seat reservation is compulsory on the EuroNight and Pendolino trains, to Poland on the trains EC 130/131 Bathory. These trains are marked in the train timetable with the symbol of letter R in a frame G.
InterCity trains (IC): Reservation fees €3 – €13 when purchased locally in Slovakia.
Eurocity (EC): Reservation fees €1 when purchased locally in Slovakia. Reservations are optional.
Night trains: Fees depend on destination and type of seat/bed booked.
Where to stay in Slovakia
Hostel Folks - Bratislava
Happy Bull - Kosice
Hotel Bojnický Vínny Dom - Bojnice
Events in Slovakia
Salón Piva - Bratislava
Pohoda Festival - Trenčín
Košice Gourmet Fest - Košice
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