Slovakia – a country rich in world, cultural, and natural heritage

Slovakia had three sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993: Spiš Castle and its surroundings, Banská Štiavnica and Vlkolínec. In 2000 these were supplemented by the historic Šaris town of Bardejov, followed by the wooden churches of the Carpathian mountain area (2008), the Spiš town of Levoča (2009), and two Roman-era monuments (2021): Gerulata Roman military camp in Bratislava-Rusovce and Roman military camp Kelemantia in Iža.

The Castle of Spiš is the largest medieval castle compound in central Europe along with the little town of Spišské Podhradie (with typical Renaissance and Baroque burgher houses), the Church town of Spišská Kapitula (including several sacral monuments and above all the impressing two tower cathedral of St Martin) and the Gothic church of the Holy Spirit in Žehra from the 14th century and frescoes in its interior from the 14th and 15th centuries. Well conserved monuments along with the charming natural setting of the travertine territory of the National Nature Reserve Dreveník forms a unique whole.

In June 2009, the historic town of Levoča was included in this group of Spiš monuments. Banská Štiavnica is a town monument reserve which demonstrates the mining tradition in Slovakia, Vlkolínec represents a reserve of traditional folk architecture and Bardejov is considered to be the most Gothic town in Slovakia.

Wooden churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area possess an extraordinary worldwide value, too. The churches include: Roman Catholic churches in Hervartov and Tvrdošín, Evangelical articular churches in Kežmarok, Leštiny and Hronsek, and churches of Eastern rite in Bodružal, Ladomirová and Ruská Bystrá.

In 2021, the archaeological site of the Borders of the Roman Empire - Danube Limes (western part) was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which also includes two national cultural monuments in Slovakia: the Gerulata Roman military camp (fortification) in Bratislava-Rusovce and the Kelemantia Roman military camp (fortification) in Iža. Both are evidence of the approximately 400-year Roman presence in the area of present-day Slovakia. The Gerulata fortification was located in Pannonia on the Carnuntum-Ad Flexum line on the right bank of the Danube, and formed an integral part of the Roman Empire’s border fortifications. The Roman camp in Iža was an outpost on the Danube’s left bank - the only one of its kind on this stretch of the border - and formed the bridgehead of the legionary Brigetio fortress. The Danube Limes is part of the wider Roman Empire Borders, which is the most extensive UNESCO cultural site in Europe - reaching from Antonine's Wall in the British Isles to Iža on the Slovak-Hungarian border.

UNESCO Natural Heritage

Unique natural heritage of Slovakia is represented in the UNESCO World Heritage List by caves and abysses of Slovenský kras karst and by Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa cave. In 2007 the Carpathian primeval beech forests of the Bukovské vrchy and Vihorlatské vrchy Mts. in the east of Slovakia were added to this list.

Slovenský kras situated in the south of Slovakia on the frontier with Hungary is the largest karstic area in the middle Europe. It consists of 1110 caves and abysses. In 1995 the bilateral Slovak-Hungarian project with the title Caves of the Slovak and Aggtelek Karst (Ochtinská aragonitová jaskyňa, Gombasecká jaskyňa, Jaskyňa Domica, Krásnohorská jaskyňa, Jasovská jaskyňa, …) was successful in its endeavour to be included among the most precious world natural phenomena. In 2000 this inscription also included the ice cave of Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa, one of the largest of its kind in Europe.

The primeval beech forests of the Carpathians in the Ukraine and in Slovakia were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in June 2007. Thanks to this fact, the Carpathian primeval beech forests of Stužica, Rožok and Havešová in the Bukovské vrchy Mts. and Vihorlatský prales primeval forest in the Vihorlatské vrchy Mts. in CHKO Vihorlat are of world importance. The first three of them are situated in the area of the Poloniny National Park.

UNESCO Intangible Heritage

Fujara is the most typical Slovak musical instrument. It was included by UNESCO in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The list was founded in 2001.

Fujara is an overtone fipple flute that can be up to 1.8 m long. It is usually made from elder tree and has a characteristic meditation tone.

It is known nowhere else in the world but Slovakia. This country is considered to be the place of origin of this instrument, especially the region of Poľana and North Gemer. It used to be the typical instrument of shepherds. Fujaras were decorated by ornaments or figural decorations.

The longest instrument is the Fujara Trombita, up to 6 m long that was used for signalling and for communication among shepherds on their pastures because of its magnificent and strong tone. It is made from pine wood.

Second on the UNESCO intangible heritage list is the Music of Terchová – the “heavenly“ archaic folk music characteristic of Terchová and neighbouring villages, typified by multi-voice singing. The Music of Terchova is closely connected with dancing, hence its temperamental music style. We don’t know the exact origins of this folklore, because naturally it has passed from one generation to the next only in spoken form. It was included in the UNESCO list in 2013. 

Bagpipe Culture is another successful project inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List (2015). The bagpipe tradition has a place throughout Slovakia with regional differences. At the onset of the twentieth century, hundreds of places had bagpipers, yet today just over 100 bagpipers play and compose in Slovakia. The unforgettable sound of this musical instrument – made of metal, wood and animal skin – can be heard at folklore festivals (from June to September) across Slovakia.

In 2016, Puppetry in Slovakia and the Czech Republic – which is still an integral part of the domestic theatrical and literary tradition – became another UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Puppeteers date back to the 17th and 18th centuries in Slovakia, while the original puppet repertoire – based on the European model – very soon adopted folklore traditions in this country. It was enriched with specific domestic linguistic and thematic features, as well as a distinctive typology of characters and artistic conception of puppets.

In 2017, Multipart Singing of Horehronie was also listed. This is characterized by far-reaching intense guttural sounds and multivocal consonants. This singing tradition is connected to the former Wallachian-Pastoral lifestyle, which was introduced to the region by according to Wallachian law (14th – 17th centuries). One of the most famous such songs is Na kráľovej holi (On the King's Hill).

Nearly 300 years ago, Indigo Prints adorned garments from plush palaces so simple villages, and its place in perpetuity was assured by its inscription on UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage (2018). In addition to Slovakia, this textile printing tradition is also pursued in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, and Austria. Indigo printing is now being creatively developed by a new generation of crafters.

Slovakia’s seventh entry in the list of intangible heritage is held by Wire Craft (2019). Through emigration, Slovak wire craft spread across almost all continents. Exhibits are attractively presented at Považské Museum (Budatín Castle in Žilina) through historical wire and sheet metal artefacts, as well as fascination documentation, photographs and artwork.

Slovakia is a world leader in Falconry, which dates to the fifth century. We’re one of the few European countries to educate and train breeders at places such as Banská Štiavnica secondary school, Zvolen University, and Štiavnické Bane primary school. Falconers also protect wild birds of prey – with nests high on rocky hillsides and treetops, as well as breeding, thanks to which they have managed to return several rare species to the wild. In 2021 Slovakia joined the 24 countries that share the common inscription of falconry on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List.

In 2022, Slovakia received its ninth inscription on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Together with seven other countries, it succeeded with a joint nomination "Traditions Associated with the Breeding of Lipizzaner Horses" – one of the  oldest cultural breeds in the world. In Slovakia, the National Stud in Topoľčianky logs Lipizzaner breeding date back to the 18th century, while in wider Europe it goes back over 440 years.

Properties designed to be inscribed on the UNESCO list

  • Gemer and Abov churches with the medieval wall paintings
  • Komárno - The Fortress against Turks
  • The Memorial of Chatam Sófer
  • Tokaj Wine Region
  • The concept of the lenticular historical town core of Košice City
  • Natural Reserves of Tatras Mountain (assumed common proposal with Poland)
  • Karst Valleys of Slovakia (based on the selection of various types of karst valleys, enlargement and finalisation of the nomination project Yardangs of Slovak Paradise, submitted on 26.6.1997)
  • Natural and Cultural Landscape of Danube Region (assumed common proposal with Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary)
  • Fungal Flora of Bukovské Hills
  • Geyser in Herľany
  • Monuments of Great Moravia - a joint Czech-Slovak nomination (the church of st. Margita of Antiochia in Kopčany and Ducové, part Kostolec)