Trnava is situated around 45 km north-east of Bratislava and is one of the oldest towns in Slovakia, boasting a rich medieval history and well preserved baroque city center. It was first town in present-day Slovakia to be granted town charter by King Belo IV in 1238, which saw the town develop as a trade and manunfacturing centre.
The numerous churches, protected by city walls, earned Trnava the title of “little Rome”. The Esztergom Archbishop moved to Trnava in the 16th century, which further enhanced the cultural importance of the area. In the 17th century, a university was established and Trnava became a famous university town in central Europe. Today, the old town and it’s many churches has been well preserved, including the original town walls; however the surrounding area was heavily industrialized during the 20th century.
You’ll likely arrive at either the train or bus station, both of which are located south of the centre on the edge of the old town. There is a pedestrian footbridge that leads from the upper level of the train station to the old town, and it’s around a five minute walk. Travel time is around 30-50 minutes from Bratislava depending on the mode of transport.
The central point in this small city is Trojičné námestie, where you’ll find the Mestská veža (City tower), a common feature of many well preserved central European towns, and the Holy Trinity Column. I recommend climbing the tower (it’s only 3€) for the fantastic views of the old town and city walls, as well as the not so nice communist style architecture surrounding the old town, the Danubian Lowlands, and the Malé Karpaty (Small Carpathian) mountains. The entrance to the tower is located next to the tourist information office.
Bars and Restaurants
The majority of bars, restaurants and cafes are located on Hlavná (main street), and you’ll have no trouble finding a generic restaurant serving pizza or a take-away kebab; however many places close early, especially midweek. On the edge of the old town you’ll find the lively Partizani, a popular hangout with the younger generation, and there are also several options at the city arena shopping centre (see below), both of which are a short walk from Hlavná. For something more upmarket head to Forhaus, where you can get a daily lunch deal for 5€, the slightly more expensive Patriot Pension And Restaurant, or the impressive Synagoga Cafe Bar. The small synagogue (malá synagóga) was renovated in 2015 and opened as a cafe bar holding small scale cultural events. There are individual booths separated from the main room by glass partitioning, and features some impressive artwork on the wall and ceiling. It’s a great place to grab a coffee, glass of wine, or a bite to eat. It’s definitely a must see whilst in Trnava, and perhaps a nice place to have breakfast and a lazy morning.
The two microbreweries in Trnava are Karpat and Sessler, although only the latter is open to the public. There are two venues; the main brewery and restaurant to the north of the city, in addition to a pub (and pizzeria) at Hlavná 13 in the centre. For a decent selection of beers from the smaller Slovakian microbreweries, head to the LOKAL PUB on Hlavná.
Štadión Antona Malatinského
The City Arena – Štadión Antona Malatinského was redeveloped in 2015, is home to FC Spartak Trnava, and also used by the Slovakian national team. FC Spartak Trnava have been one of the most stable clubs in the modern era of Slovakian football, having played every season except one in the top league, although they have never been crowned champions. The stadium is located next to the edge of the old town, a five minute walk from the main street. It’s part of the new City Arena shopping centre, and has a capacity of 18,448. There are numerous places for eating and late night drinking on the ground floor of the shopping centre, including Piváreň Bokovka and the Music Cafe, as well as an Irish Bar on Kollárova, directly opposite Gate C.
In August 2016 I decided on a day trip to Trnava to watch their league match against Žilina. Despite a nice summer evening to watch football, the visitors emerged with a 2-1 victory, leaving the home fans somewhat disappointed (only a few days earlier had Austria Vienna knocked them out the Europa League qualification). The Ultras in north stand did their best to generate an atmosphere, although it’s not easy when the attendance is only around a third of the capacity. It’s an excellent stadium, and I’m looking forward to returning with the Tartan Army on October 11th!
Trnava is probably a better base than Bratislava for exploring the Malé Karpaty (Small Carpathian) mountains. In this area you’ll find various castles including Červený kameň and Smolenice, although the later is owned by the Slovak Academy of Sciences and only open to the public during July and August. The region boasts excellent hiking trails, and is very well known for its wine, with the Small Carpathian Wine Route a popular option for locals. Two recommended wineries near Trnava are Terra parna and Vína z Mlyna. Piešťany,around 30 km north of Trnava, is the biggest Spa town in Slovakia.
A final thought
Trnava is a fairly decent place, and definitely worth spending some time there. However, it is small and probably not worth several nights unless you want to explore the surrounding area. There are enough restaurants and pubs (many of which are quite well hidden), and as it’s a University town, it should be reasonably lively during term time.