Date updated: 02/04/2023
Nitra is an old town in the western part of Slovakia. It is the centre of a separate region. The river along its borders bears the same name. The city should be roughly divided into the historic part and the new housing estates. Today it is a thriving district with a booming industrial, commercial and cultural life. The area is nestled between fertile hills with numerous vineyards. The place is home to the University of Agricultural Development and every year there is also the Agricultural Fair, renowned all over the country and the neighbouring countries. A strong impetus for the revitalisation of the region's economy was given back in 1993. Nitra attracts visitors with its colourful trade fairs, art festivals, symposia and exhibitions. Each year Nitra welcomes around 1.5 million tourists.
The people of Nitra take pride in the fact that their town is the oldest settlement in Slovakia. Visitors who come into its original streets cannot only marvel at the beauty, but can actually plunge into its ancient past and discover the spiritual roots of the country. Nitra is an outpost of the nation's spiritual fortress and cultural revival. The town is protected from the winds by the mountain spurs of the Tribeche Mountain. Nitra is only 90 kilometers away from Bratislava. The direction of the city is northeast. The population of the administrative centre is growing steadily, and today it exceeds 82 thousand people.
One of the asteroids, 9543 Nitra, is named after the town.
The first documented record of the settlement dates back to 828. This was a time when Celtic tribes dominated the area. They were displaced by a younger ethnos, the Slavs, in the fifth century. The region was at first part of the early feudal formation of Samo. But Europe was gradually changing its way of life and worldview. Traditional paganism was replaced by Christianity. This cult was established on the territory of the region by Prince Pribina. He also founded (together with the Archbishop of Salzburg) the first church.
Since 883 Nitra was part of the Moravian state. The Byzantine envoys Cyril and Methodius actively developed Christian ideas there. The first was engaged in translating sacred writings into "street" Latin. The latter served as archbishop of Moravia, beginning in 870. And this is not an abstract excursion. The history of the formation of a new religion and culture was made right in the streets of Nitra. Climb the steep Zobor hill in the centre of the city and see the ruins of the medieval castle. Experience the atmosphere of the first church services in the cathedral complex. Imagine the fervent asceticism of the Benedictine monks. This is the beginning of the influence of the eastern Slavs on all European civilisation. When Great Moravia could not withstand the competition with the neighbouring principalities, the region by the Nitra River came under the dominion of the Hungarian kings. Because of its favourable geographical position, the town was chosen as the new administrative centre of the district.
In 1248 the town was granted free royal town privileges.
In the Middle Ages Nitra was regarded as the richest and most promising town in the Hungarian kingdom. But it had to constantly defend itself against the Ottomans. All this time it did not lose its special status. Its old town quarters are actually younger than 1708, since the town was completely burned down in that year and was later rebuilt in the then fashionable Baroque style. The chateau has undergone serious alterations. It lost its original appearance, although it acquired a new unique beauty.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century the population grew to eleven thousand. As a part of Czechoslovakia, it became the new administrative centre of the region. Industrialization changed much of the look and feel of Nitra. The first stage took place at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. The second was during the reign of Masaryk. The third was the industrial breakthrough of communist Czechoslovakia. Nowadays Nitra is a thriving small and medium-sized enterprise, producing excellent wines, plastic packaging, high-quality electronics and car parts. The outskirts of the city are built up with block and panel buildings, but the inner city blocks have retained their historical value.
Modern Nitra is a very beautiful and well-maintained, dynamically developing region of western Slovakia in terms of industry, commerce and culture.
What is interesting about the city?
It is the sixth largest city in the republic. Tourists are struck by the abundance of ancient places of worship and ancient buildings. Old quarters consist of buildings - monuments of architecture of XVIII century. In the New Town you can see buildings from the late 19th, 20th and 21st century. The main composition part of the town is the castle on the mountain with fragments of the slightly preserved ancient church of the eleventh century. The complex was rebuilt several times by various rulers and today it is dominated by Baroque style. The town has a complex relief organization. It is used with the utmost precision. All important visual points can be easily seen from any location.
The castle rises above the locality and above the Nitra River. The slopes of the mountain have been transformed into the streets of the ancient city. The quarters in the low-lying part are new constructions. This part of the town begins at the Štefánikova Přídra and ends at Štúrova Street in the south.
If you want to enjoy a panoramic view of the centre, ascend to Kalvarília or Zobor. The chateau offers a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside.
The castle can be visited from 6:00 to 19:00. Cost - entrance to the castle grounds €0.50. There is no charge in winter. According to legend, the castle was first built in the ninth century. The castle acquired its present appearance as a result of alterations at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries following the Turkish wars.
The complex consists of a cathedral, a bishop's palace and the Tower of Vasil, a remnant of an older fortification. A functioning four-hundred-year-old gate, some of the fortifications and part of the defensive walls have also survived from those times. On the way to the castle, you can view the bridge and the sculptures on it.
Find the bishop's garden for an overview of the town. Afterwards, you can sit and relax in the castle café.
The building of Župný dům is situated on the south-western slope of the hill on which the oldest part of the town, Nitra Castle and the Upper Town, is located. In the basement of the western wing of Župný dům, the remains of structures that are believed to be fragments of the medieval fortifications and gates of the Upper Town were discovered during archaeological research in the 1990s. On the present site, the building of Župný dům was constructed in the 17th century and was replaced by a magnificent late-baroque palace building at the end of the 18th century. During the 19th century, the building underwent several alterations. The main reconstruction in neo-baroque style took place around 1874 according to the plans of the architect E. Dummerling. The Župný dům acquired its final appearance between 1905 and 1908 as a result of considerable reconstruction, stylistically combining the declining neo-Gothic style and the emerging Art Nouveau style. Architect V. Ziegler, taking into consideration the size of the building, marked out the main façade facing Župná Square and the west façade facing Jesenska Street. He placed the representative rooms mainly in the northern wing, in the decoration of which he used geometric art nouveau. The most valuable rooms in the building are rooms on the first and second floors of the northern wing, as well as the lobbies and the main three-staircase with the fountain in the mirror. The renovation of the north wing of Župný dům was completed between 2007 and 2011. Currently, it houses the offices of the city administration and the Nitra Gallery.
The Nitra Gallery was founded on 1 January 1965 and started its activities in the large seminary building that at that time housed the Nitra Provincial Museum. In the same year, it bought premises in the former house of Župný dům, where it has remained to this day.
Basilica of St. Emeráma
The structure of the cathedral reflects the city's medieval history. Its oldest part is the eleventh-century rotunda. The main (upper) part was added in 1355. It is not visible up close either. It is enclosed by the Lower Church with a tower. Inside the structure, behind the altar, one can see the image of the Virgin Mary (Assumption and Coronation). The wooden cross above the altar is a later work of craftsmen (30s of the last century).
Testifies to the terrible tragedy of 1710 and 1739. There is also a monument to Cyril and Methodius nearby.
The monastery and church dedicated to Peter and Paul were built at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The complex was later rebuilt. The church has many wooden sculptures and panels depicting the life of Francis of Assisi that are not typical of this area.
This quaintly angled square is only filled with people during festive and entertaining events. Here you'll see a monument to the legendary Prince Pribin, the founder of the town and builder of the first Christian church. All of the buildings in the quarter are architectural masterpieces. Visit the seventeenth century seminary with interesting gable sculptures.
New Town attractions
The church of St. Ladislaus is a must-see, especially in the evening, with special lighting. The mid-eighteenth-century Church of the Virgin Mary, built into the city block, is also interesting. Tourists like to take pictures of the chapel. It commemorates the deliverance from the 1739 plague. Visitors are also shown the tiny St. Stephen's Church (presumably from the tenth century with fragments from the eighteenth century).
St. Ladislaus Church
The Piarist Order, known for its schools for the pious, arrived in Nitra in 1698 with the intention of educating poor children. Three years later, the foundations of the convent were laid, which was built in stages at the same time as the construction of the Baroque church of St Ladislaus. The arched ceiling is decorated with late Baroque paintings by artists of the Piarist Order, which were later complemented by frescoes depicting the history of Nitra, created by local artist Edmund Massani. The pictures show the Pribina church, the arrival of St Cyril and Methodius in Great Moravia and the consecration of the first three Slovak bishops in Nitra in 1921.
Visiting on some days only from 13:00 to 18:00. The architecture of the building surprises with its chaotic mix of styles. The synagogue houses a Holocaust museum and an exhibition of paintings by the artist Shraga Veil.
The New Town Square with its museum inside the former town hall is a popular recreational area for locals. You can visit the Andrej Bagar Theatre and take a stroll along the pedestrian street. It is very interesting to view a jumble of architectural styles from different eras, ranging from modern to functionalist.
Pay attention to the northern part of Nitra's outskirts. This beautiful valley with the river is the site of many small towns and villages. Each of them has something special and interesting about it - an old church or unusual buildings. Take a fascinating excursion by train to Převidza. There you can explore Bojnice Castle. Or get off at Partizánske, an industrial town with a late thirties shoe factory, to walk around and admire a practical example of functionalism. Stop by the Modernist style church as well.
Be sure to visit the Calvary. This is the original symbol of Calvary on the hill, a row of chapels and missionary houses from the early 20th century. Nearby is a block of substandard residential buildings from the same period.
In the Horné Krškany neighbourhood there is a beautiful church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the park you can admire the Turkish Gate. This is all that has survived since the Ottoman invasion.
Explore also the laconic ancient Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Dražovce, built on a rock. Or the quaint military camp built for Austro-Hungarian soldiers and officers. And don't forget to pay a visit to the oldest monastery in the region - Zoborský kláštor. It was built by Benedictine monks at the end of the 10th century. It was here in the twelfth century that the oldest texts in Slovakia were created - the monastery inventory list and the tax litigation document. They can be seen in the local castle.
The history of the monastery is one of change from one hand to another. It even managed to be a refuge for the Camaldulans. The old building is practically ruined. The nineteenth-century buildings with the hospital and the shapeless ruins in the middle of its grounds remain. A few interesting vantage points for panoramic views and paths to climb to the top can be found nearby.
The trail to the site is easy to find. It begins at the end of the bus route (number 25), at the pension. The tower is clearly visible from all parts of the town.
What else is there to see in Nitra?
The annual classical guitar music festival takes place here. On Saturdays, Stefanikova Street turns into a market. Look for the trendiest shops, restaurants, cafés and bistros on Mostna and Štúra Streets. Be sure to try the local wine. Visit agricultural and local museums. Enjoy picturesque paintings in the local gallery. The gallery is housed in a stately home that was built in 1876 as the administrative building for the Nitra region. It is a perfect embodiment of the New Baroque architectural style. Go to the treasury of the diocese.