Date updated: 05/19/2023
Levoča is an old town nestled in the Spiš region. It is part of the Prešov region. It is an ideal place to visit and learn more about Slovakia's historical past and to discover the cultural, historical and ethnographic treasures of this distinctive region in the east of the country. You will find dozens of original architectural masterpieces and significant monuments from ancient times. The town is situated under the Levač Mountain, on the south side of the Levačka River. It is rightfully considered one of the most popular and most visited tourist destinations in Slovakia. Today, the town is home to around 14,500 inhabitants. Levoča can be reached very quickly by road from Prešov to Žilina (via Poprad).
Since 2009, the town itself, Spiš Castle and the whole complex of local historical monuments are under UNESCO protection.
They are listed as valuable world heritage sites.
Levoca's historical past
Levoca is one of the oldest towns not only in the country, but in Spisz as well. Its first written mention dates back to 1249. In an ancient document it is referred to as Leucha. It is known that by then the town had already existed for several centuries. It was a period of early prosperity for a small town situated on an important east-west and south-north trade route. At that time it already enjoyed a number of important privileges. The reason for that was the active colonization of the area by German settlers. Levoca was rapidly becoming the centre of this process. The Spiš Saxons chose the town as their administrative centre (1271).
The period of the German settlers' freedom did not last long. Their unification in the region gradually waned. In 1323, Levoca was granted the status of a free royal town. Trade relations with other cities and principalities were boosted. Merchants from the most distant countries could be seen on its market. Active business relations were maintained with Polish territories, Hanseatic settlements, cities of Hungary and Italy. It was this circumstance that served the rapid renaissance process in the Middle Ages. Humanism of the "Hungarian spill" began at the very edge of the Ugrian lands - in Levoche.
The heyday of Levoca was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The town council received many special privileges from the Hungarian rulers. But by the beginning of the nineteenth century the town was gradually losing its commercial attractiveness. One of the serious reasons for that is the railway line built to bypass the town. Levoča and Spišská Sobota lost their former advantages. Their importance began to recover only in the mid-twentieth century.
Historical part of the town
Visit the central local quarters, the main part of the city reserve. This is a large monumental rectangular complex made up of old architectural buildings. Around them are relatively well-preserved defensive stone fortifications. The Levoci Square is a standard medieval layout with a market square in the middle of the central block. A peculiar decoration of the square is the Catholic church of the fourteenth century dedicated to St James. It is a sacred place of worship for most Slovak parishioners, a building that incorporates the best architectural traditions of the local old masters.
The church tower was much later, built in the nineteenth century. It is the most recognizable and characteristic landmark of the historical part of Levoca.
The most valuable treasure in church utensils is considered by experts to be the original religious interior. It is a unique museum rarity, an example of inimitable medieval art. Tourists are attracted by the beauty of the late Gothic wooden altar of St. James. It reaches a height of nineteen metres, a record high among similar structures. The altar is based on beautifully crafted linden wood. The original work by local craftsman Pavol dates from 1507 to 1517. It is believed that his self-portrait is depicted as one of the apostles in the chancel depicting the Last Supper.
The town hall is an important historical and cultural monument. It is located next to the parish church. Its unusual arcades, built in the middle of the fifteenth century after a terrible fire, attract attention. The building belongs to the most important monuments of Renaissance architecture in Slovakia. Part of the building is dedicated to the local museum.
An interesting landmark on the square is the so-called cage of shame. It was a widespread method of punishing criminals in European towns in the sixteenth century.
The central perimeter is a natural frame of five dozen residential houses for local nobles and wealthy commoners. Each of them deserves a separate view and careful historical study. All of the buildings boast interesting stories and legends. They usually bear the name of their ancient owners. For example, the beautiful building, remodeled in the early nineteenth century in the New Renaissance style, bears the name Turzov House. The house belonged to the influential Turzo family. It is the only building on the square where Renaissance Attica has been preserved. The facade is decorated with the coats of arms of the Turzo family, Hilária Csákyho and his wife, the coats of arms of the Spiš County and Levoč. There are also the houses of the architect Paul of Levoca, Krupek and Spillenberg, as well as the original Mariasa house.
You'll find many interesting monuments in the centre and a lovely park area behind it. This part of the city has been a historical and cultural reserve since 1950. At the local theatre, built in the nineteenth century, you can see how the city's theatre art has developed. And a tour of the defensive structures provides an insight into the troubled daily life of the townspeople during the age of the hundred-year wars.
(guide to the left Spillenberg House (orange), Krupek House, Mariaassi House)
Spillenberg House is a unique two-storey Gothic and Renaissance building. It belonged to a family of doctors and apothecaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. The house boasts a rich Renaissance decoration of the front facade with the family coat of arms above the entrance portal.
House number 44, Krupekov dom, which is an illusory Renaissance architecture with rich cladding, dates from the second half of the 16th century. Above the portal is his family coat of arms.
Máriássyho dom - the portal of the house reminds of the oriental style adding an exotic touch to the Renaissance architecture. This Renaissance house with an arcaded courtyard is typical of Levoca architecture. It stands out among the other buildings in the town and adds to its unique architectural heritage.
Janka Francisciho Gymnasium
The Art Nouveau Gymnasium was built in 1911-1912 according to the design of the famous architect Alfréda Hajósa. A special feature of the gymnasium is the so-called meteorological tower, which was designed to monitor weather conditions.
Visit one of the country's most magnificent castles on a volcanic mountain. It is an ancient outpost of the Austrian rulers, spread over four hectares. The complex once burned down and was only partially rebuilt after the Second World War. There is a small museum here. To get there you have to head towards Presov. The castle dominates just above the motorway. The distance from Levocha to it is about sixteen kilometres. It is worth visiting this place just for the fantastically beautiful panoramic view. You can get excellent pictures of the ruins and the surrounding area spread out below, which resembles a fairy tale.
Itinerary for pilgrims
Mariánské Lázně is a natural and very beautiful landmark. It reaches a height of almost eight hundred metres. In the middle of every summer, in July, it becomes a sacred place for pilgrims. They climb the looming mountain for a solemn mass in the centennial neo-Gothic church. The Church of the Apparition of the Virgin Mary is the destination of a long religious service for all Catholics in the country and visitors to the town. The interior of the church attracts a remarkably beautiful sculpture of the Virgin Mary, a symbol of heavenly purity and protection for all pilgrims to Levoca.
The most significant year for the religious life of the town was 1995. It marked the arrival of Pope John Paul II.
The Basilica on the Mount of Mariana was visited by almost 700 thousand Catholics.
The church, built between 1825 and 1837, has a domed roof in the shape of a Greek cross. Inside there are many treasures, including an altarpiece depicting Christ walking on water, the work of local artist Jozefa Czauczika. The rich musical history of Levoca is also evidenced by a rare baroque organ from 1697, unique historical liturgical objects, and especially the priceless historical library of music history, consisting of rare books and handwritten notes of the oldest baroque music.
Church of the Holy Spirit
The Church of the Holy Spirit (Kostol Svätého Ducha) is a Baroque building. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1748. The facade of the church is decorated with paintings depicting symbols of faith, love and hope.
Cultural life of the town
The new and old parts of Levoca are strictly delineated. From the modern quarters one moves quickly into the old medieval town through a magnificent gate with a tower. A variety of cultural events take place there every year. The most important ones are the St. Paul's Days and the Ladies' Summer in Leovača. The town also attracts many visually impaired visitors. The town is home to a national library and an information centre for the visually impaired.
The mysterious Levoca
This is a complex of cultural, music and ethnographic events, a theatre festival, folk art exhibitions, gastronomic specialties and a range of exhibitions. The city's social and religious life is revitalised. You'll find lots of interesting handicrafts to buy at the local market, and you can listen to music and watch people dance along the makeshift stages. There are also workshops and events for children.
It goes straight through Levocha. It is the first cultural and educational Slovak trail linking Spiš and Gemer. The Levoče Vrhy is home to 170 kilometres of hiking trails and 390 kilometres of cycling trails.
Geography, climate, landscapes
This is an area of amazing natural beauty, deciduous and mixed forests, sunny valleys and deep caves. It is a paradise for cyclists, kayakers, skiers and anglers. The Spiš region is the favourite holiday destination of thousands of Slovaks and visitors. The lovely, temperate climate is contributing to this. The local restaurants offer good wine and good local food. Levoča amazes the tourists with its tidiness, cleanliness, order and hospitality. It's always interesting and fun - in the market, the square or the streets.