Kremnica is situated in uneven terrain in the central part of the Kremnica Mountains. Favourable environmental conditions and abundance of ores rich in precious metals, especially gold, have contributed to the concentration and development of settlement. The oldest written documents referring to the existence of the town are dated back to the early 14th century. The settlement developed thanks to privileges granted to ‘guests’ settled in Cremnychbana by King Charles Robert in 1328. These guests – mint masters from Kutná Hora – began to mint Old Hungarian groschen in 1329 and eight years later they began to produce golden florins known as Kremnica ducats.
The centre of the medieval town, a large market place area, was erected on a ssloping terrain. The town area, closely defined by fortifications and without a developed network of streets, is a specific feature of Kremnica. The parish Church of St Catherine overlooking the town is surrounded by the double fortifications of a castle area. It was completed concurrently with the construction of the town. Stone town fortifications built in 1405-1426 consisted of a high wall with bastions and gates in the north east part of the town. The wall was connected with the castle fortifications.
Rapid growth of the town stimulated its wealth and prosperity in the 14th century. Its southern boundary was defined by the single-nave hospital church of St Elisabeth, built in 1382-1393, while the northern boundary was defined by so-called Wetterkreutz, a lighting column dating from the 15th century. Mine entrepreneurs and burghers settled around the square and rebuilt their houses in the period of the Late Middle Ages. The burghers built two types of stone buildings – the first was characterised by two wings with an entry passage and the second consisted of one wing with an entry hall and a cellar accessible directly from the square through a separate entry. Several details on buildings from this period indicate direct contacts between Kremnica and the developed cultural world. The mint building was constructed in 1434 and in the 16th century it formed an independent fortified area. However, a great fire in 1560 destroyed the castle and one third of the town, complicating a deteriorating economic situation brought on by the decline in mining, social riots and the threat of Ottoman invasion. The Town Hall, originally based at the castle, had to move into the town. In 1738 an originally Gothic house standing on the corner was adapted for its needs. Burghers repaired and reinforced the walls during the late 16th century, building a barbican in front of the Upper and Lower Gates.
The period of the Counter Reformation resulted in the construction of the Franciscan church and monastery between 1653 and 1660 in place of partially destroyed burgher houses in the square. Baroque modifications also affected the parish church that originally stood in the south west corner of the square as a separate building. The monumental Baroque plague column of the Most Holy Trinity by sculptor D Stanetti was built in front of the church in the mid 18th century and continues to dominate the area today. Equally imposing is the single-nave Calvary Church built on the hill above the town.
The decay of mining resulted in reduced building activities during the 19th century, and only the Classicist Evangelical Church was built out of the walls during this period. However, the construction of a railway line connecting Pohronie and Turiec awakened the town from depression. Several large public buildings were built in its southern part in connection with the county seat that was moved to Kremnica in 1876. The decline in mining also stimulated the creation of alternative job opportunities in small factories using local resources and raw materials. The biggest changes in town housing were due to natural disasters in the 19th century. In 1880 subsidence led to a decision to demolish the parish church on the square, the town hall in the castle area and a girl’s school below it. The castle Church of St Catherine was then restored in the purist neo-Gothic style. However, a fire at the end of World War II damaged the medieval part of the square. Damaged buildings were replaced in the 1950s by new multifunctional and residential houses.
A typical miner’s house with its distinctive galleries and mining and technical facilities concentrated alongside the mining road leading north west into the mountains above the town serve as a reminder of the mining history of Kremnica. One of the most interesting monuments is the aqueduct which supplied water from the Turiec valley to the stamping mills. Behind the south west town walls the water fell to some depth in order to propel the turbines of the unique underground power plant.
The fortified part of the town was declared a Town Conservation Reservation in 1950 and at the beginning of the 21st century this Reservation was extended to incorporate Dolná ulica street with its craftsmen and burgher houses. The whole area around Kremnica with remnants of mining activity is protected as a monumental zone.