Although Slovakia has a variety of outdoor adventures year-round, winter offers its own special rewards, with world-class ski facilities, relaxing thermal spas, and intense ice hockey matches – not to mention delicious dishes just made for cold weather. Here are our suggestions for enjoying the winter season in Slovakia.
At Jasna or Donovaly, you’ll find full world-class ski resorts which are already serving an in-the-know international clientele. Originally, only Slovaks and tourists from surrounding countries knew about these resorts, but with multi-million dollars of investments recently spent sprucing up the marked runs and adding sophisticated cable cars, Jasna and Donovaly now attract tourists from much further abroad. If you’re looking for an amazing deal (with prices much lower than nearby Austria and Germany), Slovakia’s slopes offer something for all levels; from beginners to advanced skiers.
Alpine skiing is incredibly popular in Slovakia, and you’ll always spot skiiers making their way up the ski slopes as you zoom past them on the way down. But why not give it a try yourself? Most major ski resorts provide the option to rent alpine skis, and you’ll save money on the cost of a lift ticket, all the while burning major calories! Perhaps reward yourself with a meal in the panoramic Rotunda restaurant at the top of Mount Chopok.
Tatra Tea is a signature Slovak tea-based herbal liquor which tastes best when stirred into a cup of piping hot tea after a day of snow sports. Mixtures of white and black teas, fruit extracts, and herbs are combined to create 11 different flavor options with differing levels of alcoholic content. The black bottle boasts 52%, and is a popular beverage to order apres-ski.
Slovakia is blessed with several thermal hot springs which Slovaks channel into thermal spa resorts for the public’s enjoyment. The natural thermal waters include many minerals which help tight muscles to relax after ice skating, sledding, skiing, or snowboarding. The largest thermal park in Slovakia is Tatralandia, but nearby Aqua City Poprad is also worth a visit.
Slovaks love to drink tea in the winter, and you can easily partake in the afternoon ritual of sitting for an hour or so in a comfy tea house and slowly enjoying a warm cup of your favorite blend. Slovakia produces a wide range of herbal teas, and the best tea houses also import phenomenal blends from other countries such as India. You can take your tea inside a castle in Zvolen, or at Bonsai, a lovely location in Nitra.
If you can arrange a holiday to Slovakia during December, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the large Christmas markets in Bratislava and Kosice, and perhaps a few other cities and towns as well! The Bratislava Christmas market is located in a magical setting in the Old Town; check out our guide for how to thoroughly enjoy a visit to this thriving hotspot.
The national dish of Slovakia was just made for cold winter days when the temperature dips below zero. The dish is based on small dumplings, which are then coated with bryndza cheese and sprinkled with bacon bits and slices of sausage. Slovaks also like to eat warm sauerkraut along with this popular dish. Brynda halusky is best enjoyed with a warm tea spiked with Tatra Tea or a refreshing Slovak craft beer.
Ice hockey is an extremely popular sport in Slovakia, so it’s easy to catch a match in whatever city you’re in. You can buy tickets ahead of time to attend a match in Bratislava, or just wander into a local sports hall during a local pick-up game. The sport is wildly fast-paced and entertaining; a fun way to pass a couple of hours with some friends!
Slovaks traditionally begin every meal with a soup, so you won’t need to find a fancy restaurant to partake in this great ritual. If you see kapustnica on the menu, don’t hesitate to order this tasty, filling cabbage soup. The creamy soup features fermented cabbage flavored with small slices of sausage and is full of flavor.
One of the most scenic train rides you’ll ever take whisks you from Bratislava to Kosice in about five hours, passing by the High Tatra mountain range as well as several other gorgeous natural landscapes. In winter, the train trip is especially special, as most of what you see out of your window in the northern part of the country will be covered in sparkling white snow. Plus, you won’t have the stress of driving on icy roads.
Outdoor fire pits are popular at apres-ski bars and huts, so it won’t be difficult to find one if you’re on the slopes! There’s nothing quite like sitting around the fire under a star-studded sky and enjoying the fresh mountain air in Slovakia.