Two ethnic groups had lived side by side In Banská Bystrica since the Middle Ages: On the one hand, there were the Slavs, who founded the settlement, and on the other hand, there were German settlers, who came to the city in the mid-thirteenth century. The latter group was responsible for ensuring that the city evolved from being an agricultural settlement into one of the region’s most important mining centers. In 1255, Banská Bystrica received a charter from the Hungarian king and was also granted the right to mine gold, silver, and other metals.
One of these “other metals” was copper, which is how the city acquired its nickname: Alongside the “golden” Kremnica and the “silver” Banská Štiavnica, the “copper” Banská Bystrica became one of the three richest mining cities in Central Slovakia. Following a mining crisis in the 15th century, the Slovakian entrepreneurs Johann Thurzo and Jakob Fugger were able to restore the city’s prosperity by founding the vertical mining trading company in 1495 – which grew to become the biggest European trading company of the day within the shortest space of time. However, dwindling profits from the mine led to the Fuggers withdrawing in the year 1546 and declining to extend the lease on the mines.
The city then went into economic decline, but remained important to Slovakia. In the 17th century, it became one of the hotbeds of uprisings against the ruling Hapsburgs, which resulted in the troops of the Danubian Monarchy burning down the city in 1605. Clearly unfazed by this development, the insurgents elected Gabriel Bethlen King of Hungary in Banská Bystrica in 1620. Another fire in 1761 significantly changed the look of the city; the current baroque façades are the consequence of these fires.
When the last mines closed in 1788, the city reorganized itself, with wood and textile manufacturing becoming the economic backbone of Banská Bystrica. The opening of the railroads to and from Zvolen and Brezno at the end of the 19th century further increased the importance of the city, although unemployment rose considerably following the First World War and the founding of Czechoslovakia. The major importance of Banská Bystrica also became apparent when the city became the center of the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944. Today, “Slovak National Uprising Square” is a memorial to the battle against the German occupying forces.
Most of the city’s places of interest are also concentrated around this square – although they existed for a long time before it was built. One of them is the “Leaning Tower of Banská Bystrica”: The Renaissance clocktower built in 1552 has a spire that leans by 40 centimeters from the center line. Visitors can climb to the top and enjoy an unparalleled view of the city. Also easily recognizable from the bottom is the plague column, which was built on the square in the 18th century after a plague epidemic. Equally remarkable is St Francis Xavier Cathedral, which is a replica of the Church of the Gesù in Rome and has also been the cathedral of the Diocese of Banská Bystica since 1776. There are other monuments, including the Marian Column, an art nouveau fountain from the early 20th century, and a black obelisk, which was erected to commemorate fallen Soviet soldiers.
Besides the city’s rich history, there are four theaters, numerous museums, and – particularly of interest to young guests – Aqualand, a wakeboarding park with a ten-meter-high waterskiing lift. The stretch of water is 200 meters long, allowing users to perform all kinds of tricks. Aqualand also has six pools, including a 50-meter Olympic-standard pool. Lovers of electronic music, meanwhile, will feel at home at the Ministry of Fun: The club is located in a shopping mall and has several stories and dance floors.
As usual, we have carefully put together a list of what else there is to do in the copper city:
Restaurant: Restauracia u Richtara Link
Meat lovers will get their money’s worth at U Richtara: Try the “Mayor’s steak” – either as a sirloin steak with foie gras and quail eggs or as a tenderloin with mushroom stew and egg dumplings. The potato dumplings with sheep’s cheese and bacon or sausage are another specialty of the house. There is also a wide selection of rum and cigars in the cellar.
Restaurant: Hotel Kaskady Link
At the heart of the restaurant in the Hotel Kaskady, typically Slovakian fare and international cuisine peacefully coexist. In addition to the à la carte dishes, the evening buffet in particular features an extensive selection of specialties from all over the world. In the summer, food from the grill completes the menu.
Restaurant: Angels Restaurant Link
This is where the angels dine and the dishes are heavenly – all made by earthly masters of their craft. From fillet of pork Wellington and saddle of venison to risotto and fillet steaks, there is something to suit every taste. For lovers of spirits, there is a wide selection of cognacs, which perfectly complement the culinary experience.
Bar: Leroy Bar & Café Link
Leroy Bar & Café is located in the city center of Banská Bystrica. Besides select coffee specialties, which are brewed in various ways, guests can enjoy a selection of local beers and spirits. The cozy atmosphere makes it the perfect place to spend some time and watch the world go by from one of the sofas.
Bar: Bystricka Klubovna Link
Bystricka Klubovna is also in the city center. On an area covering 290 square meters with an interior that reflects the city’s history, guests can choose between 15 different types of beer and a selection of grilled specialties. Bystricka Klubovna also hosts various bands and stages other events.
Hotel: Hotel Kaskady Link
It is not just the aforementioned restaurant that makes a visit to the four-star Hotel Kaskady worthwhile, but also its location on the edge of the city, making it easily accessible by car. With its own thermal spring and extensive spa area as well as numerous conference rooms, the Kaskady has everything that tourists and business travelers alike could possibly desire.
Hot spot: Banská Bystrica Citadel
The citadel has evolved over the centuries. The parish church was initially built in the 13th century, before a fortification with ramparts and palisades was added in the 15th century. It was extended and reinforced in the 16th century due to the threat posed by the Turks.
Hot spot: Slovak National Uprising Square
As already mentioned, numerous monuments and architecturally imposing buildings can be found around the square, including the Thurzo’s House, now home to a museum. There is also a pedestrianized area that is perfect for taking a stroll.