Described in travel literature as the most beautiful in Slovakia, Banska Stiavnica is a completely preserved medieval town, boasting numerous historical treasures. A former mining town with a population of only 10,000, it lies amid the forests of the Štiavnické vrchy mountains and sits in the middle of an immense, collapsed ancient volcano.
There are more than 350 structures listed in the town's monument reserve, and together they represent a unique collection with high cultural and historic value. It was included as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, in 1993. The town’s prosperity had been closely linked to the exploitation of its abundant resources of silver ore and gold.
It progressively became the biggest mining centre in the Habsburg Monarchy in the 18th century and was the third biggest town in the Kingdom of Hungary by the end of the century.
At the heart of the town lies the historic Trinity Square, dominated by a monumental plague column, erected in thanksgiving for the end of an 18th century plague in which half the town’s population was wiped out. It also features affluent burgher houses, restored to feature Renaissance styles.
Dominating the skyline to the west is the Old Castle (Starý Zámok), the oldest part of which is the 13th century former parish church of the Virgin Mary. On the opposite hill the New Castle (Nový zámok) has tood since 1571, providing a beautiful view of the town. Today, both have been transformed into museums.
An open-air museum in the town offers a 1.5km underground route through 17th century mines. Helmets, cloaks and lamps are provided! In the surrounding hills sits an 18th century baroque calvary, built bu the Jesuits, with its complex of churches and chapels.