The Slovak Republic, founded on 1 January 1993 following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, is a landlocked central European country bordered by Austria to the west, the Czech Republic to the northwest, Poland to the north, the Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south. Slovakia covers an area of 49.035 sq km and has a population of 5,5 m people. It has been a member of NATO and the European Union since 2001. The capital city of Slovakia is Bratislava with about 427.000 inhabitants.
The Slovak landscape includes the Western Carpathians, which run through the northern part of the country, the Slovak Ore Mountains in the centre and the Great Hungarian Plain in the south. About one third of the territory, however, is covered by the Western Carpathians; its most important mountain ranges are the Little Carpathians on the Austrian border, the White Carpathians, the Greater and the Lesser Fatra and the Low Tatras and the Tatras (highest peaks are from 2400 m to 2686 m).
Most famous rivers are the River Moravia along the Austrian and the Czech border, the River Danube along the Austrian and Hungarian border and the River Ipel along the Hungarian border.
Situated on both banks of the Danube the City of Bratislava borders Austria as well as Hungary. It is the seat of government and cultural, economic and academic centre of Slovakia. Bratislava Castle overlooks both the city and the Danube and is the best known landmark of the city. Most of the historic buildings can be found in the city centre, such as the Old City Hall dating from the 14th/15th century, the medieval Michael’s Gate, the Gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral, the Franciscan Church or the Art Nouveau style Church of St. Elisabeth, commonly known as “Blue Church”. The city centre, however, is characterised by the late-Baroque style of the Theresian period such as the Grassalkovich Palace - residence of the president, the Summer Archbishop’s Palace – seat of the government, or the Primate’s Palace – seat of the mayor. Among the most significant buildings of the 20th century is Nový Most (New Bridge) with a UFO-shaped restaurant at the top. The bridge was also voted “building of the century” in 2001. Worth visiting are also the headquarters of the Slovak Radio – shaped like an inverted pyramid. Modern buildings like the Apollo Bridge, the New Slovak National Theatre or the River Park on the banks of the Danube have considerably changed the cityscape of Bratislava.
Visitors to the Slovak capital can choose from any hotel category (also 2 five-star hotels) offering a total of 12.000 beds. Most tourists, however, are day-trippers taking busses or ships from Vienna (Twin City Liners) or Budapest.
The Tatras region also attracts many tourists. This alpine landscape offers very well developed winter sports and hiking areas, especially in Poprad and Strbské Pleso. Most of the Slovak mountains are either entirely or partially part of nature reserves. One of the nine national parks is the “Slovak Paradise“. It covers an area of more than 200 sq km and includes numerous gorges, caves (e.g. Dobšinská Ice Cave) and waterfalls. The national park is the ideal place for climbers and skiers (comp. Poprad). Visitors have access to 13 caves in the Slovak Tatra. The biggest caves can be found in the Demänovská Valley - the Demänovská Ice Cave and the Demänovská Cave of Liberty.
The country’s most famous spa is Pieštany located in the western part of Slovakia.
The Slovak Republic is known for its high density of medieval castles and palaces. Europe’s biggest castle complex – Zipser Castle – has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993.