This post gives suggestions on 10 things to see in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In addition it provides 4 ideas on what to do in the city.
When you are visiting a city like Vienna, your mind is bombarded with a lot of choices. How should I use my time in one of the most beautiful cities in the entire world? Should I stay put and absorb all the glorious beauty or should I go out and embrace a different place?
In the end, I think we achieved a decent balance between our two lines of thought. We spent two days seeing the main sights, used another day to cruise the Wachau Valley and the last day, we decided to venture out to Bratislava.
Bratislava is the capital and largest city of Slovakia. The city is one of the four European capitals cut by the legendary Danube River. In addition, the city occupies the left bank of the Morava River.
The city has been affiliated to the Kingdom of Hungary, the Austrian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia and other entities. Slovakia became an independent country in 1993.
Since the city was under Habsburg rule for centuries, the architecture is similar to other cities you will find in Central and Eastern Europe. However, there is a certain quirkiness and uniqueness that distinguishes Bratislava. I found the city regal and fun at the same time.
Let’s take look at what can seen and done around the city.
Things to See in Bratislava
Most of the sights in this guide are within the realm of the Old City. This area can be reached from the train station by bus. The visitor’s center assistants will tell you to get down from the bus at the third stop. I recommend you get out at the second stop (Staromestska and Kozia).
A short walk will take you to the beautiful Trinitarian Church.
Now, remember I told you to get down the bus at the second stop? I recommend this since you want to enter the Old Town in the best way possible.
You are going to get that “wow” feeling when you pass throughout Michael’s Gate. This is the only preserved gate of the city’s original fortification system, dating back to the 14th century. The upper terrace of its 51 meters high tower provides an enchanting view of Old Town (and its terracotta roofs). The tower houses the Museum of Arms.
Keep walking down the street and get prepared to enjoy Bratislava’s charms. By the way, you are walking part of the coronation route.
Old Town Hall and Main Plaza
Turn right on Biela Street and you are going to hit a big plaza with a fountain. This is where the former seat of the city government stands (yellow building). Today, it serves as the Bratislava City Museum, the oldest museum in Slovakia.
The plaza is full of cafes and restaurants. It is a nice place to sit down and people watch. Red booths selling all sorts of crafts and souvenirs are located in one side of the plaza. Check them out if you are interested taking home something unique.
Streets of Old Town
The stately architecture of the city deserves its own mention. Walk the streets and admire your surroundings. The area within the old walls is compact and be can easily seen in a couple of hours. Pay attention to the little details that give the city its inimitable character.
Behind the Old Town Hall, this Classicist palace was built in the 18th century. This is where the Peace of Pressburg was signed after Napoleaon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz between representatives of French and Austrian emperors.
The Palace houses a gallery containing a unique collection of six English tapestries from the 17th century and also serves as the seat of the mayor of Bratislava.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
This three nave Gothic church is considered one of the most important in the country because it was the coronation church. A gilded replica of the coronation crown fixed on the top of the cathedral tower reminds residents and visitors of the glorious past of the country.
The open spaces surrounding the cathedral are colorful and full of life. Take your time to sit around and relax.
Slovak National Theater
Actually, this is the historic building of the National Theater. A new building was finished in 2007 (it took 21 years to be completed).
The original building was constructed during the Austro-Hungarian rule by Viennese architects. It used to consist of three ensembles: opera, ballet and drama.
The theater is located in Hviezdoslav Square which is famous for its history, hotel, embassies, restaurants and cafes.
This church is within walking distance of Old Town. It is a little bit out there but I urge you to stop by. The church’s official name is St Elizabeth and it was built in an Art Nouveau style. You will love this little building!
I saved the best for last. After an entire day of walking, I took a depth breath and climbed the stairs to the Bratislava Castle, the former seat of the rulers and the symbol of the city.
The castle building includes four towers (one on each corner) and a courtyard with an 80 m (260 ft) deep water well. The largest and tallest tower is the Crown Tower on the southwest corner. The 47 m (154 ft) tower dates from the 13th century and for approximately 200 years beginning in the mid-1500s housed the crown jewels of Hungary. The massive rectangular building sits at the top an isolated rocky hill above the Danube River.
Views from the Castle
The castle is made of very simple lines and therefore, not everybody will be a fan of it. But, irregardless of how you feel about the castle, you should make the journey up because the views from up there are astonishing (for real!)
To one side, you are going to see the UFO Bridge and the Danube. On the other side, you get a full view of Old Town. Austrian and Hungarian lands are can be seen from there too.
End your sightseeing tour by re-entering the Old Town by crossing one of the reconstructed walls. You will recognize the coronation church and will be able to trace your steps back to the main plaza.
Things to Do in Bratislava
Buy local / artisan products
The city is full of products made by local artisans and crafters. Since residents are very proud of what they produce, they will let you sample their goods. Look for honey, mead, candles, soap and other personal care products. Artists thrive in here too. Look for paintings, mosaics, tiles and wood sculptures.
Have some hearty food
It is very easy to have some delicious food in Bratislava. We ate at a traditional restaurant and ordered garlic soup (served in a bread bowl), dumplings stuffed with pork and beef goulash with bread dumplings.
Find the city’s characteristic statues
These statues are among the most photograph attractions in the city. They include a guy peeking from a manhole, a soldier of Napoleon’s army, a fancy character with a cane and top hat and a statue of Hans Christian Andersen.
Embrace the city’s quirkiness
While walking the streets of Bratislava, you are going to see some things that seem out of place. You are going to think, “What is that doing there?” But don’t get puzzled that seem to come out of nowhere. Embrace the craziness around you because somebody wants to have fun and paint a smile on your face.
Do you have any suggestions on things to see in Bratislava?
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