If you have seen either of the movies “Euro Trip” or “Hostel” you will most definitely have the wrong impression of Bratislava. I can assure you that it is totally safe and nothing at all like it is portrayed. Bratislava is laid back and the town oozes old world charm. It really should be included in your Eastern European travel plans and my Bratislava Travel Guide can help you plan a memorable trip. I can promise that you won’t regret your visit.
I was in Budapest and found that Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital city, is about 200 km away. It is also only 60 km from Vienna so it is easy to catch a bus to the Slovakian capital. It is a short trip of around about 2 and half hours from Budapest and about an hour from Vienna and you could easily do this as a day trip. I decided however that I wanted to spend more time exploring, so I stayed a couple of nights to make the most of this charming town.
I didn’t venture much beyond the city boundaries and spent most of my time in the Old Town and surrounds, but there is more than enough to do to keep you busy. Slovakia is gaining popularity on the tourist trail, but when I was there is was tranquil and not in the least crowded. It was a pleasure to wander somewhat aimlessly to discover the sights that are listed in no particular order in my Bratislava Travel Guide.
My Bratislava Travel Guide
The best way to enter the town is through Michael’s gate. This is the only gate that still exists from the original fortifications which dates from the 14th century. The tower houses the Museum of Arms and also offers a fabulous view of the Old Town. At the top of the tower is a statue of the archangel Michael, slaying a dragon.
There is also a really quaint area in the moat below the tower . While you relax with a book you can enjoy the scenery.
The Old Town
The number one drawcard for me is the Old Town. The buildings are a mixture of Gothic and Baroque styles and the cobbled streets are like a picture postcard. There are restaurants and cafes all over so choose one, have a drink and watch the world go by. The main area of the Old Town has been pedestrianized and it is a pleasure not to have to worry about traffic.
Walking down the main street you will in fact be walking along the coronation route. Keep your eyes open for the gold crowns dotted along the road. This is the route of the coronation processions of kings and queens between 1563 and 1830. It is an easy to follow route if you want to walk in the footsteps of the monarchs of a bygone era.
Meandering through the streets keep your eyes open, in case you miss the quirky statues that are dotted all over the town.
Old Town Hall and Main Plaza
At the heart of the Old Town is the Town Hall and tower and it is the oldest city hall in Slovakia. It is the home of the Bratislava City Museum documenting the city’s history. It also has a rather lovely roof.
St Martin’s Cathedral
St Martin’s Cathedral is where 19 royal coronations have taken place over the years. There is a gold crown on the top of the spire that signifies the royal connection. The 85 m high tower was built during the 13th and 14th centuries and originally formed part of the fortification of the town walls. The interior is beautiful and is worth a visit if you can spare the time. You will have to dress accordingly when you visit, so ladies, take a wrap or a scarf with you as a cover up.
The castle (Hrad) perches on top of the hill overlooking the old town and the Danube River. It was built in the 9th century and if you climb the hill you will enjoy an amazing view from the gardens. On a clear day you can see both Austria and Hungary.
Old Opera Building
There are 2 opera houses in Bratislava. The Old Opera Building is a gem and is located on Hviezdoslavovo Square near the Danube River. The first performance took place in 1920 two years after it was built. It is still in use today even though there is a newer modern opera house.
Cross the SNP Bridge
The Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising was built in 1967-1972. It looks a bit like a spaceship to me. There is also a restaurant at the top of it where you will have great views over the Danube and the city.
The Blue Church
Although it is officially known as the Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary it is commonly called ‘the Blue Church’ . The church is art nouveau in style, which is also know as Hungarian Secession. It reminded me of a beautifully iced cake. I instantly fell in love with this building. The pastel shades are really pretty. Both the interior and exterior are beautiful shades of blue. Even the roof is glazed with blue ceramic tiles.
The Slovak Pub was an excellent choice for local food. It is an old building with a maze of rooms all themed in styles reflecting the history of Slovakia. The food is delicious and the beer is chilled to perfection. If you try nothing else I recommend the dumplings followed by the strudel. Total heaven!
Bratislava is a treasure waiting to be discovered and until now is not too touristy. It has all you need and more for a city break and especially a romantic weekend away. You will step back in time to a slower pace of life and leave feeling rejuvenated.
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