Its 90,000 citizens make Nitra the largest city in western Slovakia outside of Bratislava. It offers a little of everything that draws most visitors to Slovakia: a good variety of restaurants, many pubs, and a surprising collection of history and architecture of both religious and more worldly origin.
Recorded history in Nitra includes some of Slovakia’s oldest and grandest, with its early 9th-century Prince Pribina bringing the largest area in the region hitherto under his sway, and dedicating the first church on Slovak territory as well. This Slovak counterpart of England’s Alfred the Great today graces 20-crown bank notes. After his demise, the domain was taken into the Great Moravian Empire and the city never regained ascendancy, but remained a regional hub through the centuries and up to the present.
The city’s most remarkable attractions of course focus on its heyday. The Zobor hill attests to Pribina’s christianising legacy, with ruins of a castle as well as Slovakia’s first monastery. Other similar artefacts include several churches older than most in Slovakia, including the 13th-century St Emeram basilica. This and two adjacent churches from the 14th and 17th centuries together make up most of the so-called “castle” complex atop the sheer hill that towers over the city. Flanking them are the diocese’s Great Seminary, whose oaken library’s neoclassical ceiling draws visitors in its own right, and several buildings of the local nobility. Other local attractions include a puppet theatre and Slovakia’s main agricultural university.
Business also turns mostly around agriculture. The Agrocomplex convention centre drawing some 1.5 million attendees per year to exhibitions both agricultural and otherwise, and the Corgon brewery now managed by Heineken produces one of Slovakia’s best-loved local beers.
How to Get There
By car, Nitra is reachable from Bratislava in about an hour using the E75 and E571 highways. It is reachable by slower rail connections, but usually much faster by express bus.
Nearby, the early Christian heritage continues in Kostolany nad Tribecom, embodied by the country’s oldest surviving church: St Juraj’s (Slovak for St George) was built about Pribina’s time and adorned with fully-restored wall paintings in the following century. The diminutive 12th-century Church of St Stefan on a treeless hill above the village of Drazovce is even closer to town. Elsewhere, a very different and intriguing sight is the cave-dwelling community of Brhlovce – where completely modern people contentedly live in natural ash-rock homes carved from the hill, and generally are proud enough to show them off to visitors.
City of Nitra
Official web site of the municipality and the info center.