Even though Bratislava is Slovakia’s largest city (with 650,000 people), it still felt extremely small and quant. From cobblestone paths, to castles, it felt like a much smaller version of Prague. We spent a few days there and saw most of the sights we wanted to see, and gave ourselves plenty of time to sit, people watch, drink beer and eat great food. This was especially nice since we have been extremely busy.
How We Got There and Around
Bratislava is very close to Vienna, only an hour train ride. In fact, we just showed up to the train station, bought our ticket, waited for the next train (which took longer than we thought since the next one was cancelled due to maintenance issues), hopped on and went. The trains leave about every hour. Very simple, and quick.
Once we got to Bratislava, we walked, took trams and even the bus everywhere we went. Buying tickets were similar to Prague, you purchase by the amount of time you need.
Where We Stayed
Of all the apartments, this one might be one of my favorites in terms of comfort. The apartment was spacious, had A/C and a washer. There is nothing more than I enjoy than a comfortable couch to lounge in – and it was perfect. Even at night, we would open the windows and smell the bakers start their shift. Our only complaint was, most of the stuff nearby either closed early, was closed on weekends, or closed permanently. We had to walk quite a bit to get to an open grocery store.
Our Favorite Foods
Slovakian cuisine is similar to Czech and Polish cuisine. We did try the “Slovak” sampler which contained Bryndzové Halušky, bryndzové pirohy & dumpling with cabbage. We enjoyed it very much.
What We Did
Church of St. Elizabeth (the Blue Church) – Although this church isn’t extremely old (built 1913), it stands out because, well, it is blue. Sadly, the church was prepping for a wedding that day, so we didn’t get to go inside, but just viewing it outside was a treat in itself.
Hviezdoslavovo námestie – This square is a popular area for finding food and drinks. The German and American Embassies are nearby as well. The main staple of the square is the old Slovak National Theater building.
The Statues in Bratislava – Bratislava is proud of its unique, sometimes funny, statues. Our favorites include: Hans Christian Andersen (a popular children’s author), Napoleon’s Army Soldier, and Čumil (Man at Work). You can’t go far without seeing a funny statue. Čumil might be the city’s most popular, with varying stories that go along with it – was he a disgruntled communist era worker – or simply looking up lady’s skirt? We loved seeing the many statues around the city.
Maximillian’s Fountain & Main Square (Hlavné námestie) – The Old Town Hall is located in this square, along with the famous Maximillian’s fountain. The fountain dates back to 1572, even though it has been renovated several times. While we were visiting, there was a kids dance show being set up for the weekend, with lots of craft booths geared towards children’s dance clothing.
Michael’s Gate – The gate dates back to the 13th century, but rebuilt again in the 1700s after a fire. The gate was once only one of four entries into the fortified city. Today, it makes a remarkable photo opportunity with 51-meter tower as its main feature.
St. Martin’s Cathedral – The church is well known for being the coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1563 and 1830. The church was built in 1452 and has withstand a lot in its time. It was saved from being demolished when the Nový Most bridge was being, however, their neighboring synagogue was not that lucky, and today a memorial is placed at the former location. St. Martin’s Cathedral also has the remains of Saint John the Merciful. The church is quite stunning.
Bratislava Castle – This was a really interesting endeavor. The castle itself has been around since the 9th century, getting renovated and upgraded through various monarchs. However, in the 1800s to 1953, the castle went into disrepair as it was not being used. The site was used as barracks during the two world wars, and parts were sold off as needed. Today, they are reconstructing the castle to how it looked in its glory days, the efforts are still ongoing. Steve and I bought a ticket for 8 euros to get in, and were a bit disappointed. The museum is only half finished (if that) and the exhibits have nothing really to do with Slovak culture but imports from other European cities. It felt really wacky as we read from prehistoric to 500 AD Slovak histories, and then hit a wall (a literal wall). Turns out I didn’t need to know what happened after, right? That’s what the internet is for. Regardless, we ended up spending a few hours here. We hope they continue to expand the museum and rebuilt the castle.
Devín Castle – We caught Bus # 29 out of the city to visit the ruins of Devín Castle. The castle was originally built in the 800s, for obvious reasons – it was on top of a giant hill and next to the Danube river. Napoleon destroyed the castle in 1809 leaving behind these beautiful ruins. The most notable ruin is the Maiden Tower. The castle as an archaeological museum with findings from the area. We also visited during “Knights Weekend” which had people dressed up displaying sword fights and more. We also enjoyed a walk down by the river, paying our respects to various memorials located there. One was the Iron Curtain Memorial, which remembers the 400 people who were shot and killed trying to escape to Austria during the Cold War.
Grassalkovich Palace – This is the current residence of the President of Slovakia, built in 1760 in Rococo style.
Slovakia was a really cheap place to visit, with great food and beer! We would happily return to visit more of the cities and national parks.