The chief regional city in northwestern Slovakia has a remarkable arcaded square of unique architecture in its centre. Its 87,000 inhabitants are increasingly employed by a number of foreign investments growing around its perimeter.
The proudest of Slovak nationalists have been associated with Zilina for centuries, a legacy of the oppression the peasant Slovak nation felt while under the Hungarian empire. The most violent expressions of this came in the reformation wars that shook much of Europe in the 16th century, when the rebellious locals threw in their lot with the Protestants against the imperial Roman Catholics. The sentiments, however, continue to colour regional politics into the last century and even up to the present.
The architecture in the beautifully-restored town square, Marianske namestie, bespeaks the 16th-century Protestant influence, and includes a prominent tower. Craft stores, as well as a chateau with a museum and permanent live exhibition, feature the fascinating regional handicraft of wire tinkering – originally a practical trade, shaping wire for household uses, which bloomed into a stunning folk art form.
Zilina is set to become a significant auto producer, with a major Kia factory set to become functional in the coming year. Supplementary plants are expected to follow in and around the city.
How to Get There
Every hour or two all day there are direct trains to or from Prague, Bratislava, Kosice and other towns. Buses connect to smaller regional destinations. Drivers look forward to the near future, when factories around Zilina have been promised express highway connections to Bratislava and other points; at present only simpler roads link the city in all directions.
The rich folk culture heritage of the Slovak nation abounds in the hills around Zilina, particularly to the south. Cicmany is a real live village of some 300 wooden cottages painted in gingerbread-house style; the designs grew from the embroidery on folk costumes. The little church in Rajecka Lesna houses a spectacular carved word nativity displayed year-round, with folk art sculptures of traditional Slovaks surrounding the Bethlehem scene. Other area attractions include the stunning spa town of Rajecka Teplica, and extensive hiking and skiing in the low mountains all around.
Official web site of the municipality and the information center.