While Slovakia may not be the first location that comes to mind when you think of Europe, it is an often-overlooked destination for ESL teaching. It provides many great teaching opportunities for TESOL/TESL/TEFL certified teachers, combined with beautiful landscapes and ancient tourist attractions and world heritage sites.
I’ve had the pleasure of living in Slovakia as an ESL teacher since November 2012. In the past several years, I traveled to many of the sites in this amazing and beautiful country. Here are my top five places to visit in Slovakia.
My Top 5 Travel Destinations to see while Teaching English in Slovakia
1. Spiš Castle
One of the most formidable and oldest castles in Slovakia, Spiš Castle (Spišský hrad) dates from the 11th century and was the largest fortress complex in central Europe at the time with about 2,000 occupants. Much of the castle burned down in 1780 but it is gradually being restored. It is by far the most impressive sight from a distance.
The entrance gate leads to the lower part of the castle courtyards and is nearly 985 ft.(300 m) long and 380 ft. (115 m) wide. There are walkways through the courtyards to the palace museum and chapel.
I climbed the quite narrow rock stairs that have chain robe as railing handles, to the highest point of the Romanesque upper castle tower built in the 13th century. I do have a bit of Vertigo so this was a challenge, but all worthwhile.
2. Levoča, Historic Town
Levoča, a beautiful, quaint village located in eastern Slovakia between the High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry) and Slovenské Rudohorie mountains should be on any must-see list. The architecture and artistic detail of the structures are like listening to a majestic symphony. I love this little village so much I have visited it over four times in three years.
There are some 60 historic houses around the main square. Most are very well preserved in Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Neo-Classical buildings.
3. Banská Štiavnica, Mining Centre
Banská Štiavnica is located in central Slovakia, what was Europe’s main mining center from the 13th to the 18th centuries and grew into the third-largest town in the Hungarian Kingdom. In the center of town is Holy Trinity Square (Namestie sv. Tropic), decorated with Gothic and Renaissance houses.
The Holy Trinity monument is sandstone Baroque as is much of the architecture in Slovakia. The 15th century Church of St. Catherine (sv. Katerina) is located on the south-side of the square.
When the town was threatened by the Turks, the Old Castle was turned from a church into a fortress and is currently being restored, prizing many amazing artifacts. The New Castle on a hill south of the center was also built to ward off the Turks. The town boasts the magnificent Mining Museum with an open-air area outside the center.
4. Vlkolínec, Typical Timber Village
Vlkolínec is near the large industrial town of Ružomberok, and is a unique example of well-preserved timber houses in a typical village in the Lipton region. The 47 farmhouses are still inhabited and include interesting features such as an old well, which still supplies the village with water, and a 1770 belfry of the Baroque Church of the Virgin Mary.
A unique feature of the settlement is the parcels of land which surround the village and retain the extended shape and characteristic of the medieval land allotment common over most of feudal Europe at the time.
5. Caves of the Solvencý Kras
Running along the Slovak-Hungarian border in the Southeast part of Slovakia, the 4,450 limestone caves are one of the country’s karst (a unique landscape of caves caused by dissolution of bedrock) phenomena. Four caves; Domica, Gombasecká, Ochtinská Aragonitová and Jasovská are partly open to the public. A fifth cave, Dobšiná ice cave, is in the Solvency raj (Slovak Paradise), another karst area about 25 miles (40 km) to the Northwest.
The Best Time to Visit Slovakia
The best time to visit these sites is probably late spring or summer. Be sure to rent a car, as public transportation to some of these sites is non-existent, making it difficult to reach them. The country is fairly small and you could start in central Slovakia at Banská Štiavnica, travel a short distance to Vlkolínec, then go east to Levoča, Spiš Castle and finish with a tour of the Solvenský kras.
Written by Robin McGuire
Robin taught English as a second language in Slovakia for two years and came back to the U.S., but was drawn back to Slovakia. She is returning to teach again in the spa town of Piešťany, while working as a marketing consultant. She has traveled all over Europe. You can read about her adventures at robinsgreatadventure.blogspot.com.