Zvolen (Hungarian: Zólyom, German: Altsohl) is a town in Central Slovakia, at the confluence of Hron and Slatina rivers, close to Banská Bystrica. The town has an ancient castle, and a historical center, which represents the seat of an okres (Zvolen District).
Zvolen has been inhabited since the Paleolithic. In the 9th century, a Slavic settlement (today the Môťová neighborhood) became a regional center of what is now central Slovakia. Zvolen remained the capital of Zólyom county until the 1760s. In the 11th and 12th centuries, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, Pustý hrad, was constructed. The town, which was built under the castle, lay on an important trade route (Via Magna) from Buda to Kraków. Zvolen was granted town privileges by King Béla IV in the 1230s - as one of the first towns in the Kingdom of Hungary. The privileges were confirmed on December 28, 1243, after the original document was destroyed in war. Later, King Louis I the Great built a new castle, which became a popular hunting resort of the Hungarian kings. The future queen regnant Mary of Hungary and emperor Sigismund celebrated their wedding there in 1385.
In 1848-49, Ľudovít Štúr was a member of the Diet, with Zvolen as his constituency. In 1871-1872, two new railways were built and Zvolen became an important railway hub and important industrial center. Zvolen played an important role during the Slovak National Uprising. Two of its armored trains, which were made in the local railway manufactory, Hurban and Štefánik can be seen near the Zvolen castle.
Zvolen is an important railway, an important road hub and has a large timber factory Bučina, Continental, and a technical university. The town square was modernized in 2002 and local businesses are popular with tourists. In wintertime an ice rink is constructed in the center and festive celebrations run throughout December.
- from Bratislava takes approx 2-3 hours (€7.8)
- from Vienna (AT) takes approx 3-4 hours. You must change bus in Bratislava (about €14)
- from Prague (CZ) takes approx 7-8 hours (about €20)
There are three stations in Zvolen, with Zvolen osobná being the main station. Only regional trains stop at the other two.
- 1 Zvolen osobná railway station. Main railway station.
- 2 Zvolen nákladná railway station (Zvolen nákladná stanica).
- 3 Zvolen mesto railway station.
Within 4 hours drive, there are more than 6 international airports.
- 4 Airport Sliač (SLD IATA) (ca. 6 km from city centre). There are no scheduled flights, just charter flights from Hurghada, Antalya and Burgas (operated by Travel Service).
- In capital of Slovakia is Bratislava Airport (BTS IATA) 190 km away. It is mostly being used by lowcost airline Ryanair with scheduled flights to London, Barcelona, Dublin, and Liverpool, andby Norwegian airlines. There are also daily flights to Moscow Vnukovo Airport.
- About 205 km away there is Kosice International Airport (KSC IATA) It is international airport with good connections with the rest of Europe.
- Vienna International Airport (VIE IATA) 250 km - long-haul flights: e.g., New York City, Toronto, Tokyo.
- Brno Airport (BRQ IATA) 320 km
Zvolen is the junction of the roads in Central Slovakia. You can get there from Vienna (Austria), Bratislava, Trnava or Nitra (west) for less than 2 hours by highway R1/E58 (toll road - min. 10 days label - €10 (3.5t)) which continues to Banska Bystrica. From Budapest (south) you can also reach city centren in less than 2 hours by regional roads and for about 3-4 hours from Krakow (north).
By public transport
Bus is the only option in public transport in Zvolen and it is operated by SAD Zvolen a.s..
- Standard fare for an adult is about €0.60 (sold in bus by driver - one ride).
- Have coins prepared — paying with banknotes in nominal value of more than 4 times the ticket price, driver is not required to give change (no coins, no ride).
To get from railway station/central bus station to the city center, also train from station Zvolen osobná stanica to Zvolen mesto can be used (in direction to Banská Bystrica, Žilina (via Banská Bystrica) or Vrútky). Walking to city center from station Zvolen osobná stanica takes only about 8 minutes (train takes about 2-3 minutes).
Taxi standpoints can be found at railway or main bus station, also at the airport, main square (Námestie SNP) next to Hotel Poľana (in front of Zvolen Castle) and on parking lot next to the shopping centers.
Rates for 1 km are about €1.5.
- 1 The Zvolen Castle (Zvolenský zámok). National cultural monument. Standing on a low hill, the castle has a rectangular shape with four wings surrounding the central courtyard. Constructed in 1370-1382 as a Gothic hunting chateau of the Italian type of a municipal palace, the castle was built for the Hungarian King Louis I (the Great) from the Anjou family. To prevent Turkish attacks, fortifications were built later. These were inspired by quattrocento architecture. The castle was rebuilt many times, but the ground floor has preserved its original character up to now. In the 1960s, the castle was renovated after the project of the architect K. Chudomelka. Preserved fragments of medieval panels and parts of fine architecture create an impressive environment for the Slovak National Gallery collections displayed at the castle.
- 2 Pustý hrad (Old Zvolen Castle / Old Zvolen)). A castle whose ruins are located on a forested hill in the southern part of Zvolen in central Slovakia. With an area of 76,000 m² it is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. The original name was Zvolen Castle or Old Zvolen; Pustý hrad (meaning "deserted castle") is a much later name used to distinguish the ruin from the present-day Zvolen Castle. Pustý hrad consists of two parts, the Upper Castle and the Lower Castle.
By public transfer you can get in less than 10 minutes to 2 spa-towns called Sliač or Kováčová.
Sliač is also the main place in Slovakia for treating cardiovascular diseases. There are lots of mineral medicinal springs — this is also drinking water and you are free to take this water with you in bottles. There is also salt cave for relax and pools with thermal water.
During your winter stay in town, you can visit Zvolen ice hockey stadium. Ice-hockey club of the city of Zvolen (HKM Zvolen) is a part of main Slovak ice hockey extraleague competition.
Down the river Hron
The river Hron is one of the most used river for boats and rafting in Slovakia. Zvolen is somewhere in the "middle" of all river roads.
There is a multiplex cinema in Shopping Center Europa in the north part of Námestie SNP (main square). In this complex you can find the only 4D Cinema in Slovakia. Movies in cinema are mostly in English with Slovak/Czech subtitles so this cinema is "tourist friendly". To see the list of movies showing, check the Europac cinemas website. Prices: 2D - €5, 3D - €7, 2D + 4D - €9.90, 3D + 4D - €12.90. On Mondays and Tuesdays there may be discounts.
- Europa Shopping Center Zvolen, Namestie SNP. Here you can find Tesco Supermarket, Gate, Cropp Town, Exisport, John Garfield.
- Retail Park Zvolen (next to city part Zvolen Západ West). Here you can find Tesco Extra, Euronics, Mercury Market, Metro Cash & Carry, Forstinger.
- Asian Fast Food
- Ryba (Fish)
- McDonald's Zvolen (Retail Park)
- 1 Hotel Poľana, Námestie SNP 64/2. single room from €55.
- 2 Penzion Franko, Ľudovíta Štúra 520/11. single room from €39.
- Banská Bystrica is nearby.
- Banska Stiavnica, 35 km away, is a world heritage listed town with roots in the middle ages.