Population: 56,157

Poprad is a town of many guises. For some it is the main entrance route to the High Tatras mountains; for others it is a stop on Slovakia's "Gothic Route" tourist trail; and for still others it is an industrial producer of washing machines and railroad rolling stock.

The first thing that strikes a visitor to the city is the proximity of the Tatras, Slovakia's "miniature Alps". Only 20 minutes away by car, they are visible from almost every point of the town, and the contrast between the sharp mountain ridges in the distance and Poprad's concrete tenements in the foreground is startling for those not used to it.

The focal point of life in Poprad is the town's main square, Námestie Sv. Egídia, which is fronted by Baroque burgher houses from the 18th and the 19th centuries, mixed in with modern buildings. It's the place to go for restaurants and nightlife, with many establishments catering to the tourists who arrive through the local airport, railway and roads. The square also boasts two churches, of which St Egídius is the more famous.

A renaissance bell tower called Zvonica offering a view of the square and the city stands next to the old church. It is perhaps the most interesting building on the square, housing a souvenir shop on the ground floor, a wine store and art exhibit on the second floor, and an open-air observatory up a narrow staircase at the top of the building.

To experience a descent from the sublime to the mundane, try visiting Elektráreň TG, the town's former power station. This all-brick building from the 19th century with its tall smokestack was turned into an exhibition and cultural center once it stopped serving local energy needs.

You might also seek out the Aquacity water park, which represents an investment of several billion crowns by Czech-born British investor Jan Telensky. Apart from its slides, hot water pools and health equipment, Aquacity offers a hotel and superb restaurant, and promises a 1,000-capacity conference center within a few years