Just south of the Czech Republic and only slightly southwest of Poland in Slovakia is the city Žilina. Those traveling throughout Slovakia will discover that there are not major bustling cities like Paris, London, Prague, or Vienna in Slovakia, but instead there are smaller cities, towns, and little villages. Major cities are, of course, a part of the European experience, but they also are crowded with tourists and attractions that don’t often reflect the day to day life of a large portion of the European dwellers. Europe is full of small towns and hamlets that perhaps don’t have as many activities, but are idyllic with their charm, history, historic architecture, and a chance to visit the countryside. Žilina provides visitors a chance to experience both the city life and quaint European life.
Žilina, like most European cities, has a city center that provides locals with an outdoor space to gather and shop or visit cafes. The city center often has community events, such as outdoor movies or music artists, and the center is filled with city dwellers and vendors, making it an ideal spot to experience daily life in Slovakia. Surrounding the center is a plethora of cafes that allow you to experience traditional Slovak cuisine and at a fantastically cheap price.
Žilina’s city center is home to a beautiful church that overlooks the square, and the front of the church has a statue of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, who brought Christianity to the Slavic region. Cyril and Methodius were brothers who made an ideal team-Cyril was the academic, creating the Cyrillic alphabet, and Methodius was the evangelist. The two missionaries helped in shaping the Slavic regions, and their impact is remembered still today as they are currently on one of Slovakia’s euro coins.
Opening up onto the square is a large city mall that is unlike malls typically found in the United States as it contains a grocery store, bowling alley, repair shops, and, of course, typical shops and restaurants (including McDonalds). The mall is at the center of the city, making it like the square, a central part of the city.
Directly off the main square is another pedestrian road filled with shops and cafes all the way to the train station. Simply perusing and walking throughout the square and pedestrian roads provides you with the ultimate European and specifically Slovak experience. Žilina is one of the largest cities in Slovakia, making it a great place to stop for a more off-the-beaten-path experience, but also has a heavy flow of trains coming through that provides visitors with a wide range of options to springboard from and explore more of Europe.
Side Note: Just outside the city are beautiful castles and incredible hiking trails among the mountains.