Despite being the largest and capital city of Slovakia, Bratislava had never made it into my itinerary. However, when the opportunity arose to take a short break, we decided Bratislava would be ideal.
We didn’t have much time to explore but I think a weekend was just long enough to see the highlights of the city. As we started to wander through its streets there were plenty of people about but it did still feel like it was a destination that had yet to reach the height of its popularity. There were no huge crowds or queues and the price for food and drink remained cheap.
Situated on the banks of both the River Danube and the River Morava, Bratislava had a lot of offer: the historic centre of Old Town; the idyllic riverbank promenade, magnificent castles and the unique UFO Bridge and Tower.
For awesome panoramic views of the whole of Bratislava, you can head up to the open air observation deck at the top of the UFO Tower. The UFO shaped structure also houses a fine dining restaurant and bar and is part of the 7th largest hanging bridge in the world. The bridge resembles that of the tripod from ‘War of the Worlds’ and the views are well worth the short trip up the elevator.
Another of the city’s most popular sites is the Church of St. Elisabeth, commonly known as the Blue Church.
The church was built in 1907-1908 and is located in the eastern part of the Old Town.
Standing at 51 meters high, Michael’s Gate is one of the oldest buildings in the Old Town (estimated to have been built in the year 1300). It is one of the city’s finest preservations from the medieval era. In medieval times, entry and exit to the town was only permitted through one of four heavily fortified gates. In the North this was St. Michael’s Gate.
As you meander through St. Michael’s Gate into the centre of the Old Town, you reach the main square. Here you can find, amongst the many shops and cafés, the Roland Fountain. It is considered to be one of the city’s most important landmarks. In 1572 it provided a public water supply and its construction was ordered by Maximilian II, the King of Royal Hungary. Today, a statue of Maximilian in full armour stands on top, to honour the city’s protector.
Bratislava Castle is the main castle of the city. It stands on an isolated hill of the Little Carpathians overlooking the river Danube. Perhaps the most dominate feature of the city, the castle is a large rectangular structure with a tower in each of the four corners.
Its location provides excellent views of Bratislava, Austria and on a clear day, parts of Hungry.
With a direct connection via the river Danube, we also chose to take a day trip to Vienna. The journey took around 75 minutes by catamaran and we arrived in front of Vienna’s Old City. The journey itself was pleasant; passing Bratislava castle and other striking views along the river bank.
Whilst in Vienna we were lucky enough to visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Hofburg Palace and the Vienna Parliament building.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is probably Vienna’s most iconic building. Its current Gothic appearance is thought to have been initiated by Duke Rudolf IV in 1339 – 1365. It is certainly the city’s most impressive and recognizable symbol.
Hofburg Palace is the former imperial palace in the centre of Vienna. Part of the palace forms the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. Nearby the Palace there are dozens of cafés, restaurants and parks to relax in. Here you can take in the historical luxury surrounding you and if you’re lucky, as we were, enjoy street musicians playing a traditional Viennese Waltz.
Close to the Hofburg Palace Vienna is the Parliament building. Similarly to the Budapest Parliament Building, the Vienna Parliament building is a structural work of art. Its splendour is heightened by its eight monumental Corinthian columns and the Pallas Athene statue at its entrance. It is the site of many important ceremonies and something of a ‘must see’ when in Vienna.
Vienna is an accessible city; you can walk easily between its main attractions and the city centre is pedestrianised. I found a lot of its architecture ridiculously pompous but highly impressive none the less. Walking round there are plenty of photo opportunities and no doubt countless more things to do and see than can be done in a day.
Heading back to Bratislava we were looking forward to indulging in some traditional Slovak dishes. Most the dishes revolved around meat, particularly pork. Meat was most often served as a schnitzel or cooked and served in sauce. There were also obvious Hungarian influences with many appetizing stews and goulashes on offer.
Bratislava, like any capital city, was not short of bars. Rock music seemed to be particularly popular with many rock bars lining the streets. This was of course great for someone like myself, with a love of all things Rock but the city also had a vast array of bars to suit everyone’s taste. My favourite bar was a small bar close to St. Michael’s Gate. Unfortunately, I can’t recall its name. It was dimly lit and smoky but the atmosphere was fantastic. The staff were welcoming and there were plenty of different drinks on offer at a great price. They also held live music events. The musicians were lit by candles and we enjoyed a memorable night in that bar alongside the locals.
Although Bratislava was not the most exciting place I have visited, I’m glad I ventured there. As a short pit stop or somewhere to relax for a few days, it offers the perfect hideout. With prices still relatively cheap it’s definitely somewhere to consider on a jaunt through Europe.