Slovakia — Shopping and Leisure
Bratislava is the Slovak Republic’s main shopping hub, boasting several modern shopping malls and designer boutiques which give their counterparts in larger European capitals plenty of run for their money. Sunday is the only day of the week when the shops are closed. Bratislava’s biggest shopping malls are Soravia Shopping Palace, Aupark, Avion, Tatracentrum, Danubiana Shopping Center, and Polus City Center. Several Bratislava shopping malls contain banks, photo services, restaurants, sporting facilities, movie theaters, and numerous other non-shopping activities.
Visitors seeking more traditional Slovak souvenirs can find them most easily at the Slovak Republic’s six special shops operated by the ULUV, the country’s official folk art production center. Elaborately embroidered folk costumes and pillowcases, corn husk and wire crafts, carved wooden figures, and ceramic goods are the most popular handicrafts sold at these shops. Wooden sheep milk pitchers called črpák, decorated shepherd’s hatchets known as valaška, and long wooden shepherd’s pipes called fujara are also sold in the Slovak Republic’s rural sheep farming villages. Bratislava, Banská Bystrici, Bardejov, Košice, Prešov, and Trnava all contain ULUV shops.
Another Slovak Republic shop network called Dielo operates arts and crafts shops in Bratislava, Žilina, Košice, Trenčín, and Banská Bystrica. Most other large Slovak Republic communities also have their own antique shops selling handicrafts by talented local artisans. Borovička juniper berry brandy, Slivovica plum brandy, and wine from at least five different Slovak Republic regions are the country’s most popular alcohol offerings. The local Figaro chocolate satisfies any sweet tooth, while korbáčik cheese strings, parenica steamed cheese curls, oštiepok smoked sheep cheese, and bryndza processed sheep cheese are sold in all Slovak Republic supermarkets.
The Slovak Republic’s several natural spas and mineral springs have ranked high on the list of the country’s most popular attractions ever since 1281, the year of the first written documentation about the territory’s healing thermal springs. Today, there are no fewer than 94 destination spas and 1,300 mineral sources in the Slovak Republic.
Most Slovak Republic spas fall into three categories. Balneologic spas treat people with circulatory, digestive, or respiratory diseases, while the climatic spas situated in the mountains mainly treat people with allergies and respiratory issues who benefit from the crisp mountain air. Mixed spas, as their name suggests, are a combination of both. Most spa visitors in the past were wealthy tycoons and royalty. However, today’s annual 276,000 spa visitors come from all walks of life, and over 35 percent of them arrive from other countries. Nudity in same-sex bathing facilities is the norm.
In the Slovak Republic, spas are considered a legitimate and affordable form of medical treatment rather than just an expensive privilege for the wealthy. However, that wasn’t the case when the 19th century buildings at the country’s biggest and best known spa, Piestany, first opened. This scenic retreat just an hour’s drive north of Bratislava welcomes over 40,000 patients at its 2,000 beds each year. Piestany’s hot mineral springs pack large amounts of mineral substances within their nearly 155°F waters. Piestany even has its own social center offering a plethora of invigorating sporting activities and interesting art exhibits.