Located in a valley on the River Hron is Banska Bystrica a copper town surrounded by four mountain ranges. It is the natural and administrative center of Central Slovakia. While the mountains provided early settlers with food a great deal of the riches of this town came from copper and silver mining. This wide and vast region provides people with the chance to participate in winter sports. Here you can find several ski resorts for alpine and cross-country skiing. This particular region is also popular for its thermal baths and visitors can take advantage of the beneficial effects of speleotherapy. Due to its cultural richness Banska Bystrica is considered to be the pearl of Central Slovakia.
The centerpiece of this town is an irregularly shaped town square which is quite large. There are attractive burgher houses which have been well preserved. The square is the place for all of the action especially in the summertime when you can enjoy the outdoor cafes. Here you can mingle with the town’s university students and other tourists.
The most prominent feature of the square is the Clock Tower which like the Tower of Pisa in Italy tends to lean. It was built in 1552 in Renaissance style and was rebuilt in the 18th century. Atop of the tower you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the town and the surrounding mountains.
A short distance away in a corner of the square is the Cathedral of Saint Francis Xaverius which has two unusual turrets.
On the same side of the square is The Thurzo House. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the center with a decorative Renaissance façade.
With an interesting portal and a Renaissance loggia on the first floor is The Beniczky House. The house is located on the upper end of the square and even though it no longer has any fortifications the original buildings have been preserved.
One of the loveliest sacred buildings in Slovakia is the so called “German Church” – Church of the Virgin Mary. It is a Romanesque church dating from 1255 and was reconstructed in the 14th century in the Gothic style. After a fire destroyed it in 1761 it was rebuilt in the Baroque style. Surprisingly the late-Gothic altar of St. Barbara from 1509 survived in a side chapel and is dedicated to the patron of miners.
For nature lovers there are various protected natural sites in the areas surrounding Banska Bystrica among them the Low Tatras National Park. This is the largest national park in Slovakia. The highest mountain is Mount Chopok and off of its northern slope is the Demanovska Dolina Valley through which two small rivers flow. The main attractions for visitors are its pine forests and the largest group of caves in Slovakia. The biggest cave being the Freedom Cave.
Ski resorts draw a lot of tourists in the wintertime. One of the biggest ski resorts in Slovakia is the Donovaly Valley just northeast to Banska Bystrica. Here people can participate in downhill and cross-country skiing. During the summertime people enjoy the thermal spring at the well-known summer resort Sliac.