If you love visiting off the beaten path places, this town is right up your alley.
Trnava is not touristy and I can´t figure out why.
After all, it is lovely; rich history is peeking out of the picturesque streets, plenty of churches (it used to be the archbishop´s seat) and romantic squares, surrounded by thick fortification walls originating in 13th – 14th century.
It even has the most beautiful cafe I have ever been to (and I have been to many). I have spent a perfect afternoon in Trnava lately and decided to inspire you to venture there as well. Please note that there are no affiliate links in this post.
A day trip to Trnava: things you need to know
How to get to Trnava?
You can get to Trnava easily by train from Bratislava – there are many of them, it takes about a half an hour and you get there for a little more than 2 euros. The distance from Bratislava is around 50km (95 from Vienna).
Actually, the Bratislava – Trnava railway was the first railway line constructed in the former Kingdom of Hungary – it was pulled by horses at the time, of course – steam engines got to use only about 30 years later.
If you travel by car, the D1 highway connects Bratislava to Trnava and then to Žilina as well.
History & stuff
Trnava (feel free to read it as Tarnava if you can´t get your head around it – Slovak people are used to foreigners butchering their (excruciatingly difficult) language and don´t really mind – just be sure to roll a pretty, clear R ;-)) is the 7th biggest city in Slovakia and so it might come as a surprise to you that there are only 65.000 inhabitants living here. It is also one of the oldest towns in the region – the first written reference comes from 1211, but there has been permanent settlements since the Neolithic period. (Don´t ask me when exactly that was, please!)
If you are wondering about the strange name of this town, it comes from the word tŕnie – thornbush, that refers to the river Trnávka banks. When in 1541 the Ottoman Empire conquered what is today Hungary, Trnava (and the region of Slovakia) gained importance. The archbishop from Esztergom moved here and made it his seat, which lasted from 1541 til 1820 when the archbishop´s office moved back.
There used to be a notable Jewish minority living in Trnava until the 2nd World War, but sadly, little is left of it today.
What to see & do in Trnava
Unless a miracle happens and tourists come flooding Trnava, there is a good chance you will have this wonderful little place to yourself. The downtown is very compact (and in a walking distance from the train/bus station) so you can discover it at your own pace very comfortably during a lazy afternoon.
You can´t miss this one. Located at the Trojicne square, you can enter every hour. You can buy the ticket in a little shop visible from the square, but you enter from the side. The lady who was there when we entered was very kind, spoke English and gave us a lot of interesting tips for other trips in the region.
The construction of the city tower itself started in 1574 and the balcony from where you can have a magnificent view on a sunny day, is 29 meters high. You have to go up 143 stairs to get there, but you get to admire a mechanical clock that was installed in the tower in 1729.
Funny fact: When the clock bell rings, you cannot hear it from inside the tower.
An interesting detail is the top of the tower – originally, there has been a crescent moon with a star that has been later replaced by a statue of Virgin Mary that has never turned her back on the town – as a symbol of this protection, her statue has two faces looking in both directions.
The entrance costs 3 euros (1,50 for students and seniors).
Opening hours 2016:
1st may til 30 of september
Monday – Saturday: 10:00 – 18:00
Sunday: 13:00 – 18:00
1st oktober til december
Monday – Saturday: 10:00 – 16:00
Saturday, Sunday: Closed 🙁
Their construction began in 13th century and since the stone was scarce in this region, bricks were used instead. In fact, 4,3 millions of bricks! There were several towers to protect the city and people could enter through four gates.
Basilica of St. Nicolas from 14th century
is the oldest church in Trnava and it is standing on the highest point of the town which used to be the marketplace before. That´s why it is consecrated to St. Nicolas (Mikulásh in Slovak), the patron of merchants. Every year there is a Festival of Organ Music that happens on the verge of August and September. It is also an important pilgrimage site because of a painting of Virgin Mary who was shedding bloody tears according to the believers.
There are many more churches in Trnava which is also the reason why it is nicknamed the Little Rome.
is a place you simply must stop by (and I say that as someone who never follows the must-see recommendations in other guides), if only to have a look.
As it is located in a former synagogue building, its charm can´t be compared to any other café I have ever been to. The synagogue was built in the 19th century and is simple and modest from the outside, but has breathtaking interior. Along with sipping coffee, chocolate or lemonades, you can also come experience a variety of expositions, discussions, book readings and concerts.
Wine cellars in Trnava
Trnava also has a centuries long wine tradition. If you happen to visit in autumn (this year it is 5th of November 2016), check the dates of the Day of the Wine Cellars when it is possible to explore the “city under the city” while tasting the local produce.
Old Sugar Factory: Carl Stummer Zuckerfabrik
Sugar started to be an important commodity among the produce of Trnava in the 19th century. It traveled on the railways to faraway lands like England and India, however the factory doesn´t work anymore and is abandoned since 2004. Parts of it are used as warehouse and the rest is falling apart. This factory started making sugar around 1870 and after reconstructions (it burned down) in 1900 it was one of the biggest sugar factories in Central Europe. You can see photos of the old sugar factory here.
Map with my highlights of Trnava
You can open the map that goes with this article by clicking on this link, or you can also view it here:
Should you visit Trnava?
Trnava is very close to Bratislava which makes it a perfect day trip for every slow traveler on the road around Eastern Europe. I like the old houses and romantic streets that are definitely not so full as those of the capital of Slovakia. If you were searching for that off the beaten path place to visit, this is your bet. No guided groups following a woman with a pink flag to spoil your artsy photos, hurray! Besides, you can visit the cave of Driny and the castles of Smolenice and Dolná Krupá that are nearby if you are staying for longer. So the answer is YES. Get on the train and come explore! Slovakia is not just about Bratislava.
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