Slovakia: Banska Bystrica
How I Came Here
Most people have never heard about Banska Bystrica, or of Slovakia at all. Slovakia is a small country in the midst of Europe, the country of innumerable natural and cultural beauties. Formerly a part of Czechoslovak Republic, Slovakia represents an undiscovered jewel of Eastern Europe, far from the beaten path. Not a typical crowded place full of tourists, Banska Bystrica still offers a variety of things to see. I am happy to say that I spent five months in this city, as a part of my master studies program. I received a scholarship from Republic of Slovakia, and I did a research for my thesis while I was there. This was one of the most memorable events in my life, since I have never spent time living abroad. I choose Banska Bystrica primarily because of its excellent university, University Mateja Bela, which was my host. I was so excited when I started exploring the information about this city on the Internet. It seemed amazing, and it was the same when I came there.
Where is it?
Banska Bystrica is 208 km from the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, which is nevertheless more famous for tourists. It is surrounded with three mountain chains: Low Tatras, Vel’ka Fatra and Kremnica Mountains. When you arrive there, it looks like you stepped into a time-lapse; the city looks like a small, picturesque middle-age place. If you are a lover of such places, then this is a perfect place for you!
Getting Around the City
Regarding the type of transport you use to come there, the centre of the city may be closer or farther. If you come by train (which I highly recommend, since the trains in Slovakia are great and cheap), you have to catch a bus, a tram, or a cab. The price of a bus and a tram is 0.70 e (and if you have a valid ISIC card then it is just 0.30 e); take number 34 to the station Europa shopping centre or number 35/36 and get off on the station Stadlerovo nabrezie. The price of a cab to the centre is around 3 euros. Cabs have fixed prices for particular routes, and they tell you the price as soon as you get into the car. If you arrive to the bus station, then the centre is about 15 minutes on foot, so I recommend walking, and this is the perfect way for getting acquainted with this charming city. There are two airports that are close to Banska Bystrica: the one in Poprad and the main one, in Bratislava. So, if you are coming by plane, this city is still not far from both airports.
As you got to know the ways to go around the city, now you are supposed to get accommodation somewhere. The cheapest possible way to spend the night(s) in Banska Bystrica is to book a room in Hotel SAD, where the night is 10 euros/per person. The only problem about it is that it is a bit far from the city itself, about 5 km. The best way to reach it is to take a cab to there; the taxi drivers know the way.
If you want to be in the centre and not to lose time while traveling to your hotel, you can book some of the hostels on the main square Namestie SNP. I recommend Penzion Grand, in the centre (22 e/per night, per person) and Penzion Kuria (25 e/per night, per person). They are both at the walking area on the main square, you can easily find them, and the accommodation is great.
What is so Special Here?
Once you accommodated yourself, it’s time to see the city. The benefit of the architecture in Banska Bystrica is the proximity of all important monuments and buildings. The city is structured in such a way that you can walk everywhere. You agree that this is the best way to discover what the city offers. When you come to the city centre, you will see the big fountain and the Clock Tower. It has both the regular and the astrological clock, and it is really beautiful, as it stand over the city. It is built in the 14th century and rebuilt in 17th century. You must visit its gallery which is 20 meters high and enjoy the magnificent view of the city, its streets and nearby hills. The entrance is just 2 euros, and it’s really worth it!
Just next to the Clock Tower is a beautiful catholic church – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is an altar on the side of it, and a cross with Jesus Christ on it. It is admirable and also worth seeing. In the centre you will see the rows of beautiful, colourful buildings, marvelous arches and Baroque architecture. The uniqueness of this city is in its buildings and monuments; most of them are built in 15th century.
Some Places Just for You
For an excellent coffee, I recommend Beniczky Café, also in the centre; you can have an excellent café late for 1,70 euros; if you want to try some of the famous Slovak beers (which are from 1 to 3 euros), go to Bystricka Clubovna on the main square. You can have a perfect meal in Olivo restaurant, next to the Clock Tower. They offer a wide variety of Italian and Slovak cuisine. There are wonderful parks everywhere; just pass Strieborne Namestie, and you will find a beautiful Tajovskeho park. For a good shopping, go to Europa shopping centre, just at the end of the main street- it looks futuristic and there are always some great discounts. As for the nightlife, visit Ministry of Fun – one of the best clubs in Slovakia, which is located in Europa shopping centre.
Banska Bystrica is beautiful; you will fall in love with it when you go there. I always want to go back, and you will feel the same!