Bratislava, the Slovak capital, has countless attractions within its borders and beyond. The city, located next to the Austrian border, is very popular - especially among Hungarian and Austrian tourists. Regardless of the season, in winter and summer, many people visit its museums, squares, and castles in the area, but even the Christmas market is very popular.
Map - Where is Bratislava?
- Distance from Budapest: 2 hours / 200 km
- Distance from Vienna: 1 hour / 70 km
The second longest river in Europe - the water of Europe, the muse of Johann Strauss's famous waltz - the Danube cuts Bratislava in two. The famous composer composed part of his piece here in 1852.
Of course, there is no visible sign of this, but the river is the city's number one attraction, which awaits tourists with its magnificent riverside promenade. You can get across to Vienna by riverboat in the summer.
Among the monuments along the river, a pillar crowned with a heart made of barbed wire is the most impressive - a reminder of the fence that once stood here to separate East from West during communist times.
The huge, four-tower structured castle is hard to miss in Bratislava, as it is located in the middle of the city, on top of a rocky hill.
The towers offer a great view of the city, but you can see as far as Austria and Hungary in clear weather. The oldest of the towers, the 47-meter high crown tower - dates from the 13th century and once housed the crown jewels.
Over the centuries, Bratislava Castle has undergone many renovations, one of the most significant of which is attributed to the Austrian Queen Maria Theresa in 1740. However, in the early 1800s, the castle went through a series of disasters: first, Napoleon fired it with cannons, then it caught fire a few years later, and it was finally abandoned. Only in 1953 did the restoration work begin.
Today, the castle houses a branch of the Slovak National Museum, where documents, photographs and objects show the area's development. The remains of the 11th-century Great Moravian Basilica can also be found on the castle grounds.
#3 The Blue Church (Saint Elizabeth Church)
The locals mostly refer to the Art Nouveau St. Elizabeth Church as the "blue church" due to its colourful exterior.
Built in 1909 as a Hungarian Art Nouveau Catholic church, the tiny one-nave church was initially only a school chapel. Originally it was only painted in pastel colours - with the addition of blue paint, tiles and mosaics, the small building became a popular attraction.
Today, the benches, ceiling and walls are painted blue and covered with majolica and blue-glazed ceramic tiles. The church was dedicated to Elizabeth, the 19th-century Austrian empress and Hungarian queen. Today it is a popular venue for weddings.
The interesting thing about the former coronation church is that until 1830, 11 kings and queens, as well as 8 spouses, were crowned in it.
A 150 kg gold-plated copy of St. Stephen's crown reminds us of this glorious age. The crown is fixed at 85 meters on the top of the cathedral tower.
The three-nave Gothic building was built in the 15th century. Inside, the nave has three aisles divided by massive columns. You also find a group of statues depicting St. Michael as a Hungarian hussar. The cathedral can be found on the western side of the old town, next to the city wall, in the shadow of Bratislava Castle.
The Michael's Gate is the only remaining city gate in Bratislava. It was built in the 1300s with reinforced walls and towers.
At that time, you could only go in and out of Bratislava through one of the four secured gates. The gate has been renovated several times over the years. In the 18th century, the massive statue of St. Michael and the Dragon statue on top of the gate was placed on it.
Today, the tower houses an exhibition of weapons, as well as documents, photographs and models showing the history of the city walls and how they have affected the city over the centuries. Visitors can also go up to the top of the tower, where they can enjoy a view of the old town.
- Address: Michalská ulica 22 806/24, 811 03 Staré Mesto, Slovakia
#6 Primate's Palace and Hall of Mirrors
In the heart of the old town is the 18th-century neoclassical Primate's Palace, which occupies an important place in history.
The Fourth Peace of Pressburg was signed in here in 1805 between Napoleon and the Roman Emperor to end the War of the Third Coalition. Today, the palace is the seat of Bratislava's mayor, although parts of it are still open to the public.
Perhaps the most famous room in the palace is the Hall of Mirrors, a stunning, opulent conference room decorated in red and gold. Special classical concerts and events are held here from time to time. In the inner courtyard of the building, you can also see the statue of Saint George the Dragonslayer.
- Address: Primaciálne námestie 2, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia
- Opening hours: 10:00 - 17:00 (closed on Mondays)
#7 Old Town Hall
You find Bratislava's Old Town Hall on the main square of Hlavné Námestie. Many say it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
The seat of the former city government has been home to the Bratislava City Museum since 1868, the oldest museum in Slovakia. In the 1200s, a building already standing here was bought, and the neighbouring houses were added later. You get an interesting mix of four different houses and palaces, full of little surprises.
The most beautiful part is the Renaissance courtyard, which dates back to 1581, with an arcade and a gallery. You can go up the narrow stairs to the 45-meter-high tower. Your reward will be a beautiful panorama of the Old Town.
- Address: Hlavné námestie 501/1, 811 01 Staré Mesto, Slovakia
- Opening hours: Closed on Mondays (usually 10:00 - 17:00)
#8 Grassalkovich Castle (Presidential Palace)
The Grassalkovich Palace has been the official residence of the President of Slovakia since 1996. The Prezidentský palác is a Rococo and Baroque building with a beautiful French garden.
The history of the building dates back to the 1700s and was originally used for aristocratic social events and musical performances. Even Haydn presented some of his works here.
The palace's gardens are open to the public. Visitors can walk among its trees from dawn to dusk. In the garden, you can also find the statue of Empress Maria Theresa (who originally ordered the construction of the palace), as well as the works of many old and modern Slovak sculptors.
#9 UFO Lookout
On the SNP bridge, you find the flying saucer-shaped observation deck, which passes over the Danube and is one of Bratislava's most famous structures.
The 303-meter-long bridge has two levels: one for four-lane traffic, and the other for cyclists and pedestrians. The UFO, which sits almost 95 meters in the air, also has a restaurant serving traditional Slovak food. You can get to the tower with the elevator located at one leg of the bridge.
At the top of the city's highest hill, you find the cemetery and war memorial commemorating the Soviet troops who fell during the liberation of Bratislava in 1945.
The monument is located in one of the city's upscale neighbourhoods, among mansions and embassies. Atop the base is a statue of a Soviet soldier atop a 39-meter pylon, each clad in marble panels. In front of it are six mass graves containing the remains of 6,845 Soviet soldiers.
- Address: Pažického, 811 04 Staré Mesto, Slovakia
- Opening hours: 00-24
#11 Bratislava Zoo
It is worth including the city zoo in the program if you are with children. In the park, you can see mammals, reptiles and fish. And there is almost always a newborn baby.
Entrance to the zoo ranges from 5 to 7 euros, depending on whether you visit in summer or winter. During the summer opening hours, the park is open until 6, which is shorter in the winter.
#12 Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden of Comenius University is the city's only plant display facility.
For those who like plants and flowers and like to walk among interesting species, this 6.6-hectare area is for them. You can admire about 4,000 plant species. The garden is on the river bank next to the Old Town and the Lafrancon bridge.
- The garden welcomes visitors from the beginning of April to the end of October, every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Address: Botanická 3, 841 04 Bratislava
#13 Parks: Medická záhrada, Sad Janka Kráľa
Bratislava has two major parks. One is the park called Sad Janka Kráľa, which can be found not far from the UFO lookout, while the other is the baroque Medická park in the Old Town.
- Opening hours: 0-24, every day
Sights around Bratislava
- Devin Castle and the MiniZoo
- Železná Studnička park
- Pajštún Castle
- Rusovský park
- Chránená krajinná oblasť Dunajské luhy nature reserve
- Schloss Hof in Austri
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