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Banská Štiavnica is a town located in central Slovakia. It was an important center for gold and silver mining from the 15th to 19th centuries. At one point it was the second-largest city in the Kingdom of Hungary. It was inscribed on the world heritage list as The Historic Town of Banská Štiavnica and the Technical Monuments in its Vicinity, in 1993.
Banská Štiavnica is a town located in a volcanic caldera in central Slovakia. Its location in a volcanic caldera made it an excellent place to mine silver and gold. During its heyday, it was the second-largest city in the Kingdom of Hungary after Budapest itself.
The mining culture here had several things about which are unique to mining communities.
First, most of the mine entrances could often be found inside of most of the houses where the miners lived. Going to work would oftentimes mean nothing more than going down in the basement of their home where they could access the mine.
Second, Banská Štiavnica was also the home to the world’s first technical school. The Mining Academy was founded in 1735, and later a school of foresty was added. Both schools were shut down during WWII when the Germans took the school back to Germany.
Finally, the original mines were powered by an innovative system of capturing rainwater in ponds and then using that stored water for energy.
What to do and See
Kalvária – This is a large hill outside of town which is a pilgrimage site in the summer. The path up the hill is designed to take you through the stations of the cross. The view from the summit is one of the best in the area.
Mining Museum – The history of Banská Štiavnica is the history of mining in the region. The museum gives you an idea of how miners lived and how they did what they did.
Holy Trinity Column – This is a large column that commemorates the end of the Black Death.
Banská Štiavnica Geopark – Located right outside of town, the park gives some great views of the city. It also has some of the rainwater holding ponds which were used to power the original gold and silver mines.
City Center – This is the most photogenic part of town and the photogenic nature of the city is why so many people visit.
Mining Academy – Banská Štiavnica has the distinction of being the location of the first technical school in the world. It was created to help management of the mine. It was later expanded into a school of forestry. When walking on the grounds, keep a lookout for several giant sequoia trees that have taken root. One of the few places outside of California where these trees have survived.
The best place to photograph the actual main street of Banská Štiavnica is from the back of the Penzion na Kopci, a hotel. If you walk behind the hotel and follow the fence, you’ll get the best view possible of the town. The image at the top of this page was taken from that location.
Another great spot is Kalvária, which is the pilgrimage hill that can be seen from town with the church at the top. You can drive to an area near the base of the hill and walk up a path to the top. From there you will have a fantastic view of the entire surrounding area.
While walking through the town, the statue of Andrej Kmet is a great spot to get an image of the main street while closer to the ground level.
Finally, seek out the Holy Trinity Column (shown immediately above) which is located off the main street, across from the visitor information center and the mining museum.
Where to stay
Given the roads and the location of Banská Štiavnic, visiting on a day trip from Bratislava or Budapest is possible, but really not recommended.
While the town is heavily reliant on tourism, that doesn’t mean there are a lot of hotels to choose from. Many of the accommodations would be considered pensions, apartments, or bed and breakfasts. Overall, accommodations in Banská Štiavnic are very affordable.
There are a few locations which stand out:
- Penzion na Kopci – As mentioned above, this property has the best views of the old town and city center. If you get the right room, you will have an amazing view from your room window.
- Hotel Grand Matej – This is the largest hotel in town and one of the nicer ones.
- Hotel Salamander – A nice boutique hotel located on the main street of town.
- Vila Magnolia – This is where I stayed. Very affordable with free breakfast. Also, a good place to park off of the main road.
How to get there
While Banská Štiavnica is not difficult to get to, it will require some time and effort to reach. It is located approximately 2 hours by car from both Bratislava and Budapest. The roads are mostly 2-lane, and the roads before you get to town are winding given its location inside a caldera.
Note that parking in the city center can be difficult, especially in the summer during peak tourist season.
There is a bus service to Banská Štiavnica, but most long-distance buses will transfer through the nearby city of Banská Bystrica. So long as your bus connects through Banská Bystrica, you can reach Banská Štiavnica.
There is a train service as well. The town is connected by rail via a line going to the town of Hronská Dúbrava. Check to make sure the train you are on actually stops in Banská Štiavnica. The train station is 3km outside of the city center, so be prepared to walk to take a taxi once you arrive.
The complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Slovakia.