Archaeological Heritage of Slovakia
From the Roman Frontier to the Valleys of Carpathians
This specialized tour has been developed exclusively for Enjoy Slovakia DMC by a leading archaeologist in Slovakia, who lectures during the tour. It includes a side trip to the Austrian and Hungarian sides of the Danube and the itinerary can be altered to match the needs of our guests.
Arrival at Bratislava/Vienna Airport, transfer and check-in at hotel. Afternoon walking tour of Bratislava's Old Town, including Michael’s Gate, the neo-Classical Primate's Palace - where the famous Peace of Pressburg between France and Austria was signed in 1805 - and the charming Main Square, with its craft market. Welcome dinner in a typical local restaurant.
Bratislava Castle Hill: experience the panoramic view from the castle terrace, demonstrating its strategic Danube Gate location. Then visit the Slovak National Museum - Archaeological Museum, located in a late-Renaissance manor house under the Castle Hill, to view its permanent collection. Lunch.
Afternoon: continue to Devin Castle archaeological site. View the spectacular scenery from a cliff above the confluence of the Danube and Morava Rivers, dominated by the ruins of a medieval castle. This strategic location (EBA, MBA and LBA) is home to archaeological evidence from several cultures. This is an important site in the region, with links to the Stillfried (late Urn fields) and Smolenice hill forts (Hallstatt C). It featured an important Celtic settlement of oppidum-like character. The stonework foundations of a watchtower and barracks from the Augustean period represent the earliest Roman architecture. Since these structures, as well as specific finds of military equipment, brooches and a unique collection of Arretinian terra sigillata, strongly suggest the presence of the Roman Army, it is assumed that the site is related to the war waged in the year 6 AD by Tiberius against Marobud, the king of the Marcomanni (as a bridgehead for the base at Carnuntum). Other Roman architecture in Devin dates from the third and late fourth centuries, respectively. As for the exposed Roman buildings, ruins of two structures from the late fourth century are conserved and presented, and ramparts are visible. From among the numerous presentations of medieval structures, the foundations of a three-apse church from the 9th century is the most important evidence of the early medieval monarchies in east-central Europe. The site (as Dowina) is mentioned in Annales Fuldenses (9th century). View a display of artifacts from the Devin Castle mound, which is a protected national cultural monument. From Devin Castle continue to Devinska Nova Ves-Sandberg hill for, a strategic lookout with a hill fort founded in the late La-Téne period, 9th century ramparts. Take in the view over the western area of the so-called Bratislava Gate, an important pass in the Western Carpathians.
After a short presentation on the historical geography of the region, continue to Dubravka. In Dubravka, a residential district of Bratislava, view the remains of a three-apse structure from the third century AD, a listed cultural monument. The building, which was part of a Germanic settlement, strongly resembles Roman circular baths. Although there is known to be a spring close by, which may have been used during ancient times, the structure lacks a hypocaustum and hence seems unlikely to have been a baths. There is evidence of earlier habitation from the Mesolithic, Chalcolithic (Baden Culture), and Early La-Téne periods (note the nearby presence of an Early Celtic Cemetery in Stupava). Post-Roman and post-Germanic finds indicate an early Slavic settlement (6th century) and early medieval farmstead (11th-13th century).
Return to Bratislava and enjoy a free evening, perhaps with a walk around the charming Old Town with its many outdoor cafes and restaurants.
This day is devoted to the Carnuntum Archaeological Park in Austria, with excavations of the capital of Pannonia Superior (municipium and colonia), legionary fortress, canabae legionis, and auxiliary castellum. The legionary fortress was established in around 40 CE and, according to excavations that have unearthed seven building phases, was in use until the Migration Period. The auxiliary castellum for horsemen, used at the same time as the castra legionis, was built between 70 and 60 AD and rebuilt in stone during the reign of Traianus. Amphitheatre I, with a seating capacity of 6,000-8,000, is the only structure of the canabae still visible.
The town of Carnuntum is situated about 2 kilometres to the west of the legionary fort. The exposed foundations of private and public buildings, a road with original pavement and a sewage system are presented in an open-air museum. On the foundations of the temple of Diana-Nemesis, which dates from the beginning of the 4th century, a modern reconstruction of the architecture has been erected. One brand new feature is a partial reconstruction of an urban house and adjacent garden, planted according to excavated plant pits. One of the most important Roman architectural remains north of the Alps is the so-called 'Palastruine' representing the large baths complex (late 2nd to 5th century CE). The independence and prosperity of the town was also reflected in the construction (in the 2nd century CE) of Amphitheatre II with cavaea for 13,000 visitors, also part of the Archaeological Park Carnuntum. The most remarkable monument of Carnuntum is undoubtedly the Tetrapylon erected for Emperor Constantius II, known as 'Heidentor' (354-361 CE). The display collections of the Museum Carnuntinum, which involve around 3300 items ranging from small finds to large sculptural works, are organized into the following sections: Oriental Religions and Cults, Emperor and Provinces, Emperor and Army, and Everyday Life in the Roman Period.
After Carnuntum, continue to nearby Braunsberg hill, strategically located on the Danube and overlooking Devin Castle on the Slovak side. It is the first hill fort from the Late Hallstatt and early La-Téne periods. Reconstruction of a section of palisade and watch tower from the late La-Téne phase hill fort.
The day concludes with a short visit to the pleasant Austrian town of Hainburg, which boasts what is its reported to be the largest medieval entrance gate in Europe (the Wiener Tor).
This day is dedicated to spectacular Sopron (Hungary) and Eisenstadt (Austria). This relaxing trip takes you through the meditative winegrowing landscapes that once inspired Joseph Haydn, who spent much of his life here in the service of local landlord Prince Eszterhazy.
Visit to Sopron (Hungary) - a medieval town built on the Roman municipium of Scarbantia. Visible parts of Roman defensive walls, early medieval ramparts and late medieval city walls. Small but spectacular portion of the Roman forum and part of the road system (Amber Road) presented in situ. Museum collections and Roman lapidary displaying fine examples of norico-pannonian tombstones and freestanding sculpture (e.g. Trias Capitolina from the local temple). The whole town is an accessible example of the continuous architectural development of towns in the Middle Danube region.
In the vicinity are outstandingly preserved early and late Iron Age hill fort (ramparts) with burial mounds (East-Hallstatt and La-Téne cultures).
Then continue to Eisenstadt (Austria), the home of the Eszterhazy family, which features a unique, preserved Jewish neighbourhood. Visit the Burgenland Regional Museum, with its valuable archaeological collection. On the way back to Bratislava, visit a reconstruction of a site from the late Urn period comprising princely burial mounds (Caka culture) in Siegendorf. Dinner in Bratislava.
Depart Bratislava in the morning; to Trencin with its majestic medieval castle, once the base of oligarch Matus Cak, from where he controlled whole Vah River valley. The town features a unique Roman inscription dated winter 179 AD (the final stage of the Marcomanni wars), which is evidence of the vexillum under legatus Valerius Maximianus stationed in Laugaritio, a still-undiscovered military base.
After enjoying some free time, continue along the Vah River valley to Strecno Castle, which guards the main pass through the Fatra mountains. Late afternoon arrival in the High Tatras. Dinner in hotel.
Enjoy the High Tatras National Park with a morning walk to the magical Cold Creek Waterfalls (funicular and forest walk). The highlight of today is a visit to the Ganovce travertine mound. Site of fossils and industry (mousterian) of classical Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, late Palaeolithic stone, bone and antler artifacts, Neolithic (Bukk culture), and a famous Early/Middle Bronze Age ritual well, which has been recently dated by dendrochronology, and the so-called 'Ganovce dagger', reported to be the earliest iron artifact in central Europe (Prahistorische Zeitschrift 2000, 153 ff). The Pleistocene section is rich in plant macroremains and pollen. Excavated artifacts and archaeo-botanical, archaeo-zoological and palaeontological finds are displayed in the Tatra Regional Museum, Poprad.
The afternoon is dedicated to the picturesque Spis region, considered to be one of the art-historical treasures of Slovakia. Visit the UNESCO-listed monuments of Spis Castle including Spisska Kapitula (bishops' residence) and majestic Spis Castle, one of Europe’s largest castle compounds. Then continue to Levoca to see the tallest wooden Gothic altar in the world, created by Master Paul. Enjoy some free time in this medieval town. Dinner in a mountain-style Koliba restaurant with Gypsy music.
After a morning visit to the wooden Lutheran church in Kezmarok, continue to Zamagurie, an isolated region beyond the Magura Mountains on the border with Poland which is inhabited by the Goral people, renowned for their hospitality and folklore. The major attraction in this region is rafting on the Dunajec River that marks border between Slovakia and Poland. Enjoy an outdoor picnic accompanied by Goral music at the Chalet Pieniny.
Afternoon excursion to Velka Lomnica-Burchbrich. Strategic position occupied by a chalcolithic/Aeneolithic hill fort from the Baden culture. Visible ramparts. Chalcolithic copper hoard and clay animal figurines displayed in Poprad (TRM).
Complete the day at the Tatra Region Museum in Poprad, where archaeological finds from Ganovce and Burbrich are displayed. Dinner in hotel.
Morning departure from the hotel to visit the archaeological open-air museum at Liptovska Mara-Havranok, originally a Celtic settlement. Remnants of an original Celtic rampart have been preserved at the site of a hill fort that was the economic and social centre of the Púchov culture. The reconstructed shape of a farmstead from the Upper Iron Age (300-100 BC), a symbolic reconstruction of a dwelling from the times of the extinction of the hill fort.
Around noon, enjoy free time in Banska Bystrica, a former mining town with a splendid square flanked by many outdoor cafes and restaurants. Then continue to Nitra, a cradle of Slovak culture and visit the Romanesque church at Drazovce, which provides an excellent view of the whole area and the town of Nitra, with its castle and bishop's residence. Arrival and check-in at hotel in Bratislava. Dinner.
The last day's excursion follows the Small Carpathian Wine Trail through the small towns that have developed on the southern slopes of this winegrowing region. Visit the major archaeological attraction, Smolenice-Molpir.
Regional administration centre initially inhabited in the late Urn period, flourishing in the Hallstatt C stage; early La-Téne phase remains are also present. Very well preserved ramparts, reconstructed stonework bastions. Documents the type of administrative organization typical of the Middle Danube Region and the importance of fortified centres in the early Iron Age, represented here by the East-Hallstatt culture. The sites of Stillfried, Devin, Molpir and Braunsberg stress the continuity of the hill fort centres in the Middle Danube.
After lunch, visit Cerveny Kamen Castle, a Renaissance anti-Ottoman fortress in the Carpathians that served as a residence of the powerful Palffy noble family. Complete the day with wine tasting of some excellent Small Carpathian wines and a farewell dinner in a typical regional restaurant serving local specialties .
Morning transfer to Bratislava/Vienna Airport for outbound flight.
Note: Note: This is a tailor-made tour. The Archaeological Heritage of Slovakia Tour can be organised for a closed group of 6 or more people on any given date (some date exceptions may apply). To get a full offer please send us your preferences and we will reply with a quote within 2 working days.