The city of Poprad is a modern dynamically growing center and the largest city in the Spis region of Slovakia. Located at the foot of the High Tatras as well as close proximity to other Slovakian National Parks Poprad is an attractive base for many adventurers who want to explore the surrounding nature and the mountains in the High Tatras.
Poprad is the main “entrance gate” and launching pad into the mountain activities of the High Tatras. Right in the middle of a fast developing area, Poprad (population 52K+) lies south-east of the Popradská kotlina basin on both sides of the river of the same name. Annually thousands of local tourists and overseas pour in through the local airport, railways and roads then continue to Starý Smokovec or other Tatra communities for alpine activities.
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A Good Place as a Base
To be honest, I had not planned to explore Poprad. I only chose the city because it had cheaper accommodations than the more expensive chalets and hotels in other parts of the High Tatras – which was the main purpose of my being in the area. Poprad is centralized enough and has an efficient train system where you can get to any of the Tatras destinations easily.
I arrived late in the afternoon straight from Kosice coming in from Budapest, Hungary. I went straight to the chalet I booked and called it a day so I can start a trek early in the morning. But, to my dismay, it rained for a whole day in the region the next day. It was not ideal to trek in the mountains with the limited gear I had on hand.
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Bored and without other options, I decided to explore the town of Poprad.
One thing that strikes me with the place is the lack of western tourist. Yet. The High Tatras is a hidden gem but I think it will not be long before it is overrun by tourist. The nature in the surrounding area is simply stunning. It will not be long before Poprad will be teeming with Trekkers and climbers from the west.
The St. Edgidius Square
Five independent towns in the past make up Poprad – Poprad, Spisska Sobota, Velka, Starze pod Tatrami, and Matejovce all of which integrated after WWII into the now Greater Poprad. Most of the things to see in Poprad is concentrated in the town center of mostly Baroque-era buildings as well as 18th-19th-century houses. The most recognizable structure is the Gothic St. Edgidius Church, which dates back to the middle ages. At the edge of the square is the Podtatranske museum and next to that is a big shopping mall, the Forum.
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A local cinema Kino Tatran keeps things interesting and an unassuming building next to it is the Information Center. Here you can get information about all your Tatras adventures in English. Near the train station and before the river is the Tatranska Galeria (gallery). I first saw it on the way to my hostel. I did not know what to make of the structure. It had a very thin and narrow tall brick chimney. I guess it was used as for producing electricity by using steam- it is now converted into a permanent gallery for an exhibition of prominent Slovak artists.
Just on the outskirts of town is a geothermal complex called AquaCity and next to it is Aqualand – my hostel. There is also the Kventica recreation center that provides hiking paths that displays Slovakia’s forest vegetation.
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Food. What about the food?
Aqualand (my hostel) – Štefánikova 893, is actually a restaurant with spare rooms for guests. They are some of the friendliest sincerest people this side of Europe. The food is great too. I really loved their version of the Goulash, which is creamy and cooked with cabbage, unlike the original Hungarian version. I’ll be frank, I know Goulash is a Hungarian dish, but I much prefer the Slovak version. I’ve tried plenty of Goulash in Budapest and not one came close to the Slovakian version.
Another restaurant, on the outskirts of the town square, a traditional Slovakian Restaurant, Marko – Mnoheľova 836/18. I tried their traditional Slovak dish, Beef cheeks in red wine with ginger and mashed potatoes, it was delicious! I considered ordering the Bull glands sautéed in onions served with home fries. However, I could not discern which “glands” were being cooked so I scratched the idea.
To and From
Polish Tatras – You can get to or from the Polish side of the High Tatras by taking a bus to or from Zakopane via bus company Strama. If it’s not on schedule or not running, you can take the bus to Lysa Polana and transfer to a bus that will take you to Zakopane.
Bratislava – There are regular trains to Bratislava to and from Poprad. From there you can get just about any other cities in Slovakia.
Budapest – I came from Budapest and took the train to Kosice. Coming from or going to, you have to stop at Kosice. You can purchase a one-way ticket without having to buy two separate tickets.
On a Rainy Day or a Sunny Day
If an inclement weather happens on you that prevents you from exploring the High Tatras – or perhaps you want to do other actives besides hiking, Poprad is a great alternative. Even if it’s sunny and yo you just want to take a break from the mountains, the little city is worth the visit – it’s small enough that you won’t be walking around all day. Poprad is accessible by train and there is enough to do with the many shops, restaurants, and galleries in the city.
• There are trains from Kosice, Prague, Zilina, and Bratislava. If you are coming from Prague, you can take the RegioJet, which is a cheap alternative. Prices are around 10 to 14 Euros.
• If you are coming in from Poland, you can take buses to the Slovakian side of the High Tatras. Just check Rome2Rio.
• If you are staying in one of the Tatras hotels there are trains that run every 30 minutes connecting Poprad, Strbske Pleso, and Stari Smokovec. A one-way ticket is 2 Euros.
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A Day in Breakdown
• Train from Kosice to Poprad – 5 Euros
• Bed in room in Aqualand Hostel – 16 Euros
• All you can eat Breakfast at Hostel – 5 Euros
• Lunch-Dinner at a local Restaurant (Marko) – 8 Euros
• 2 .5 liter beer – 3 Euros
• TOTAL: 37 Euros