One of my favorite things about traveling around Europe is the proximity of the countries and major cities to each other, and the ease of getting from one to the other. It makes it so easy to take a side trip and visit multiple places on one trip.
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One such example of an easy day trip is Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia (not to be confused with Slovenia), Bratislava sits on both banks of the Danube and on the border of 3 countries: Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria. It is an easy day trip from both Vienna (less than 90 minutes by train) and Budapest (3-hour train ride). In fact, I bought a €25 RT train ticket from Budapest and enjoyed a pleasant day in Bratislava.
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Pretty and small, not only is Bratislava an easy day trip, it’s also easy on the wallet as noted on the UK Post Office website who named it among the 10 most affordable cities in Europe, and definintely worth a visit! Here are some of the best things to do when there.
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8 THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN BRATISLAVA
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- Michael’s Gate – Enter Bratislava Old Town through Michael’s Gate. Bratislava was once a fortified city with 4 gates used to enter, and Michael’s Gate is the oldest of the 4 and the only one that remains. Standing seven stories high, Michael’s Gate has a museum and observation tower inside, and provides great views of Old Town. Stand at golden circle, the zero kilometer point, which indicates the distance from Bratislava to 29 other capital cities.
- Old Town Hall – Bratislava’s Old Town Hall dates back to the 13th century and is located in the city’s main square. In addition to being used as the town hall, the building has also served as a prison, a mint, and as the city’s arsenal depository. Today, Old Town Hall houses the municipal museum and city archives, which document the city’s history from the medieval ages.
- Bratislava Castle – Bratislava Castle sits high above the city and over the centuries has gone from a fortress to castle to military garrison. This was an important property for the Austro-Hungarian royal family, and the castle, once the main residence for this royal family, still houses the royal jewels. It’s location, high on top of a hill, offers stellar views of the Danube. Again, it’s on a hill, so be prepared if you’re walking. Otherwise there’s a tour bus you can take up and back.
- St. Martin’s Cathedral – The largest and arguably, the most impressive church in Bratislava, St. Martin’s Cathedral, is also one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. The church served as the coronation site for many members of the Kingdom of Hungary, including Maria Theresa. One of its most distinctive features is its 279-foot (85-meters) spire, on top of which sits a 660-pound (300-kg) replica of Hungarian crown. Inside the church is impressive Gothic artwork and a crypt with catacombs. Other notable churches in Bratislava include the Franciscan Church. Consecrated in 1297, the Franciscan Church is the oldest existing religious building in Bratislava. Trinity Church, also known as the Church of Saint John of Matha and Saint Felix of Valois, is a beautiful salmon-colored Baroque church noted for the three towers joined in a half-arch over the entrance of the church. In my opinion, Trinity Church was the prettiest of the churches found in Old Town.
- Statues – Keep your eyes open for the fun statutes around Bratislava. They make for great photo ops. There’s Schone Naci, who was a real person who lived in Bratislava until 1960s. This eccentric old man was poor, but would dress up in a black suit and top hat, and go strolling through the city, offering gifts to the women he admired. Then there’s Čumil, a sewer worker resting in a manhole, is probably the most photographed statue in Bratislava. Čumil, literally translates to “the watcher”, though I think “peeping Tom” would be a more accurate translation, since, word on the street is that Čumil is grinning as he’s looking up women’s dresses. Be sure to touch the top of Čumil’s hat for good luck, and the tip of his nose for fertility. The Napoleon soldier statue is another favorite. The statue, which can be found in the Main Square near Old Town Hall, commemorates the year 1805 when Napoleon and his soldiers came to Bratislava.
- Primate’s Palace– The baroque pink palace located on Primate’s Square is where Napoleon signed “The Peace of Pressburg” treaty in 1805. I mentioned earlier that I didn’t find Bratislava as grand as its sister cities Vienna, Budapest and Prague. That, however, was before I saw Primate’s Palace where the opulence of the Hapsburg Dynasty that the Austro-Hungarian capitals are known for is on full display. The interior of the palace boasts crystal chandeliers, exquisite tapestries, beautiful oil paintings and the impressive “Hall of Mirrors”. The palace courtyard offers free WIFI and is popular place to congregate.
- UFO Bridge and Tower – This bridge is out of this world (you saw that coming, didn’t you?). The UFO Bridge, also called Nový Most (New Bridge) or the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising (SNP) is the 7th largest hanging bridge in the world. Go to the observation deck (approximately €7, or for free if you go to the restaurant) for 65-mile (100-kilometer) visibility of Bratislava. The bridge is a short walk from Old Town, and if you have time, the adjacent riverbank, with benches and paths for cycling or walking and jogging, is lovely to visit.
- Devin Castle – The castle, which was blown up by Napoleon’s army, is a national monument of Slovakia. The well-preserved ruin, located at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, is a few miles outside of Old Town, is worth spending more time than I had, but is on the top of my list for the next time I’m in the area.
Have you ever been to Bratislava? What would you add to the list?