Date updated: 06/09/2023
Žilina is a large city in the northwest of the country, the center of the Žilina region. It is located in a picturesque valley, in the place where the rivers Rajcanka and Kysuca flow into the full-flowing river Váh. It is a town of contrasts, of inexpressible atmosphere and history, in which different facts, periods and phases intertwined. Nowadays Žilina has 81 thousand inhabitants, an important university, a factory producing famous brand cars, a soccer club with the same name that won the National Championship seven times. This puzzle is completed by the color of ancient buildings, the age of which is counted in centuries.
The Slavs began to inhabit the region around the 5th century. The first settlement in the vicinity of present-day Žilina dates back to the 9th century. The first annalistic mention is found in 1208, where there is information about Terra de Selian, i. e. the land of Žilina. In the 13th century, life formed around the local castle, which, according to historians, existed until the mid-15th century. It is not known exactly where it was located, excavations and research on this subject have not yet yielded results.
Status of the city, as well as its own coat of arms was given to Zhilina in 1290 by King Andrew III. Soon after this significant event the settlement burns and ruins are left of it. The restoration is undertaken by Saxon Germans who settled in the area and breathed new life into the ashes. Their influence can still be clearly seen in the architecture. For a century the German diaspora had been playing a major role in the life of the town, which was much disliked by the Slovaks. In order to somehow resolve the conflict in 1381 the king of Hungary issued the so called Privilegium pro Slavis, when the Germans and the Slovaks had to take turns in ruling the city.
In the 15th century Žilina is surrounded by high fortress walls. The central Marian square acquires modern features. Trade routes intersect in the town and the wool produced here is in demand far beyond the country's borders. Žilina becomes a major trade and craft center. In the 16th and 17th centuries, ideas of the Reformation and then the Counter-Reformation were in the air, when first Protestants persecuted Catholics and then vice versa. The religious wars did not affect the life of the city in the best way.
Žilina received a new stage of development in the second half of the 19th century, becoming an important industrial center. A textile factory was built here, banks and stores were opened, and railroad lines were laid. If in 1850 the population was 2 thousand people, by 1910 - 10 thousand. Now the population - 81 thousand people, and it is constantly growing due to those who come every day to work from the surrounding communities, students and, of course, tourists.
The heart of Žilina is Mariánské Square (formerly known as Market Square, Round Square, Franz Josef Square, Freedom Square), now locals often refer to it as Štvortsova Square. It is square in shape, 100 by 100 meters in size and framed by small houses in the German style with numerous arcades. (Arcade is a series of arches of the same size and shape). The first mention of the square is found in the 14th century, there was a market place surrounded by wooden buildings. A century later, they burned down, and in their place built stone, as if glued to each other houses with pointed German-style roofs. Many buildings, by the way, have preserved the surviving ancient cellars, which were not damaged in the fire.
Marian Square is now a pedestrian area, from which as if the rays of the sun depart from the nine main streets. One of the jewels of the square is the column with the statue of the Virgin Mary Immaculate on top. It appeared in 1738 in connection with the return of the city to Catholicism. In Marienplatz it is also worth paying attention to:
The Baroque Church of the Transfiguration of St. Paul the Apostle
The Baroque Church of the Transfiguration of St. Paul the Apostle (Kostol svätého Pavla apoštola) with two 32-meter bell towers occupying the western side. The building was built in 1754 on the site of the old burgher houses and is famous for its original 18th century altar with images of saints. Under the side altars are crypts where noble citizens and members of the Jesuit order are buried. The church has been rebuilt several times, its last acquisition being the statue of St. Paul on the facade, which dates back to 1988. The church now belongs to the Capuchin order, and they have leased the structure for 25 years.
The Jesuit monastery from the 18th century is attached to the church and for a long time it belonged to the Jesuit order, then it was given to the city, for a time there was an orphanage here, now there is an art gallery.
The old town hall is on the corner of the square and is numbered one. It dates back to the 16th century, but since then it has undergone many changes, preserving practically nothing of the Gothic and Renaissance architectural elements. The modern appearance was acquired in 1890, on the facade there is a clock that plays a lyrical melody every 60 minutes.
Despite numerous reconstructions, changes and cataclysms, and Marian Square has survived a single fire, there is even a devastating earthquake in its biography. This place has managed to preserve its historical appearance, which in a moment takes you somewhere in the Middle Ages. At weekends, farmers sell their produce on the square as if to remind you that there used to be a market here, and in the evenings there are ethnic performers that set a certain musical mood.
Church (Cathedral) of the Holy Trinity
It was built around 1400 on the site of the castle and is located near Marian Square. This building is a symbol of Žilina - it is one of the most majestic in the city. The original style is Gothic and the original name was given to it in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The building burned several times and was rebuilt in the spirit of the Renaissance. It was used as a fortress for a while before it was handed over to the Catholics and now consecrated in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Two side towers were added in 1888 after another great fire.
The nearby Burian Tower was built in 1530 as a citadel. Originally it was called the New Tower, but another name, Burian's Tower, after the mayor Burian Svetlovský who built it, was popularly used. It was rebuilt several times and is now considered one of the oldest Renaissance bell towers in Slovakia. There is an observation deck at the top, which offers a stunning view.
Church of St. Stephen King
The Church of St. Stephen King (Kostol sv. Štefana kráľa) is located in Dolné Rudiny and is the oldest architectural monument in the region. The religious building in late Romanesque style dates back to about 1260. On the walls inside there are original frescoes from the same period. A stone wall with an entrance gate and a round defense tower from the 16th century are also preserved. During excavations near the church numerous graves from the 17th and 18th centuries were discovered, as well as coins, knight's armor and a bronze ring were found in the ground.
Žilina is a town with a unique face. It has something to show, to captivate and to capture one's soul. It is quite easy to get here, the way from Bratislava by car takes 2.5 hours. There are also trains from Kosice, Prague, Trencin. There is even an airport Dolny Gricov, which is located 10 kilometers to the west of the city, the most popular flight here is "Žilina-Prague" and back. So the city has 3 points, which are the key to success and attract thousands of tourists: it's color, soulfulness and well-thought transport infrastructure.