The current site of Banská Bystrica on the banks of the Hron River has been settled continuously since ancient times. The inhabitants of the former Slavic settlement of Bystrica were also active in surface mining of ore. Thanks to this important natural resource, the importance of the settlement grew, ultimately resulting in royal recognition in 1255 by Hungarian King Bela IV and the award of a city charter and related privileges.
The golden period of Banská Bystrica‘s history spanned the 15th and 16th centuries, when the successful Thurzo-Fugger copper company was active. An important chapter in the modern history of the city is the Slovak National Uprising (SNP), which took place in 1944 with Banská Bystrica at the centre of the anti-fascist uprising.
The clock tower from the 16th century stands imposingly over the upper section of the square. The lookout point at a height of 20 m provides a panorama of the hills and ridgeline of the surrounding mountains and excellent views of the square and nearby streets. The tower itself has been dubbed a leaning tower thanks to its tilt of 68 cm from vertical has a total of 101 stairs to reach the top.
The Marian Column, itself standing on a polygonal base and dating to 1719, was constructed to mark the end of the plague. The statue of the Virgin Mary at the top is 245 cm tall. The author responsible for these works is unknown.
The black obelisk dates to 1945 and was built in honour the memory of those Russian and Romanian soldiers who perished during the liberation of Banská Bystrica during World War II.
The unique stone fountain provides refreshment and a musical experience on a daily basis during the summer months.
Barbican – this former entrance into the castle area spanned a man-made moat and was constructed in 1512; the barbican also surrounds the city tower. Currently the space houses a stylish cafe and restaurant.
The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, built in the 13th century, is the oldest structure in the city. It is home to some of the best works of Gothic art including the altar in the Chapel of St. Barbara produced by workshop of Master Paul from Levoča and statues of Jesus on the Mount of Olives on the Church’s southern facade.
Matej’s House from the second half of the 15th century is interesting its integration into the neighbouring Miner’s Bastion as well as for the herald of King Matthias Corvinus on the building’s facade. Currently the house is home to the Central Slovak Museum. www.stredoslovenskemuzeum.sk
The Praetoria building was constructed around the year 1500 and was once home to town administration bodies. Currently it is one of the exhibition sites for the Central Slovak Gallery. www.ssgbb.sk
The Church of St. Francis Xavier dates to the beginning of the 18th century; the more than 200 year-old cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Banská Bystrica. The layout of the cathedral is based on the design of the Jesuit Church of the Gesu in Rome. A complete renovation of the cathedral was completed in 2001.
The town hall building was created in the 15th century by combining two Gothic-style buildings and nearly quarter of a millennium it served as the central office for town officials. Many valuable elements have been preserved including the Neo-Baroque chandelier, the original doors stamped with the year 1698 and many more precious frescos and vaults. Currently the building is also home to for Banská Bystrica’s official Information Centre. www.icbb.sk
Thurzo’s House, at one time the headquarters of the Thurzo- Fugger company, is known for its Renaissance sgrafitto facade and the “Green Room”, with its rare and exquisite frescos. Currently it is one of the exhibition sites for the Central Slovak Museum.
Kammerhof – the former headquarters of the Miner’s Guild, this building allegedly was the residence of King Matthias Corvinus during his stays in Banská Bystrica in the 15th century and for the sons of Maria Theresa during a visit in 1764. In 1913 the building was demolished to make way for the current building, used by the head office of the Slovak National Forest Enterprise.
Benicky’s House is noted for its open arcade covered balcony with six arches on stone columns wrapped by grape vines and was originally built by Tomáš Benický. A later owner of the house – Ladislav Szentiványi – had his herald added above the entrance portal, around which miners in period attire are portrayed.
Bishop’s Palace – this representative Baroque-Classicist residence for the bishop and the central courtyard was renovated after a large fire in 1783 by Franz Berchtold, the first bishop for the Diocese of Banská Bystrica.
Ebner’s House from the beginning of the 17th century is characteristic for its bay windows completed by sculptor Ján Weinhardt from Spišské Vlachy. The figures sculpted in relief as ornamentation for the window sills portray ancient and antique motifs.
The Dominik Skutecky´s House is a villa constructed in a neo-Renaissance style at the turn of the 19th century and serves as exhibition space for the works of Dominik Skutecký, one of the major realist painters in Central Europe at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. www.ssgbb.sk
SNP Memorial – this imposing architectural work with a most unusual appearance was completed in 1969 to house the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising. The outdoor exhibition of heavy military equipment and military aircraft from World War II in the park in front of the museum is also not to be missed. www.muzeumsnp.sk
County house – this imposing building was created from two originally Renaissance-style buildings and a Baroque addition in the second half of the 18th century. The building in the past served as the administrative offices for Zvolen County and is currently home to the State Science Library and the Literary and Musical Museum. www.svkbb.eu
The Church of St. Elisabeth was constructed in 1303 as a part of the city hospital for ill and invalid miners. Several additions were made and the church was expanded in 1877 in a Neo-Gothic style. The altar image portraying St. Elisabeth was completed by Jozef Murgaš (1864-1929), a Roman Catholic priest, inventor and pioneer of radio-telegraphy.
Bethlen’s house is known for the meeting of the Hungarian Council in 1620 held in the house that named Transylvania Prince Gabriel Bethlen as the King of Hungary. Today the building is home of the Central Slovakia Gallery and hosts a wide range of exhibitions, primarily focused on modern and contemporary art. www.ssgbb.sk