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The Ancient Capital

Positioned on the Danube River, Bratislava has always been a popular place throughout history, first as an important trading route. With the Ottomans occupying parts of the Hungarian Empire, Bratislava became the capital and coronation town for the Empire and from there it flourished. Being surrounded by the Little Carpathian Mountains with lots of forested hiking and cycling trails, the outdoors is a big deal for the locals. Perched up on a hill overlooking the town is the reconstructed Bratislava Castle that provides a brilliant viewpoint and a relaxing place to wander. However, when the sun goes down, the 18th century pedestrian only Old Town comes to life with lively bars, cafes and nightclubs.

 

Did you know?

  • Bratislava is a great place to run out of money. Prices in the Slovakian capital are far lower than in Western Europe.
  • Rarely a fortnight elapses without there being some sort of festival taking place, so do you research!

1. St. Martin's Cathedral

St. Martin's Cathedral has to be the biggest and most significant church in Bratislava, if not in Slovakia. It is here that the Kings and Queens of the Hungarian Empire were coronated during the period of 1563 – 1830 after the Ottoman Empire conquered the city of Székesfehérvár, which formerly served as the coronation city.

2. Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle has gone through may different uses from being a fortress, to a King’s residence and border post to an imperial palace. Nowadays it is Bratislava’s most prominent landmark and has held several important meetings such as the Bush-Putin summit in 2005. It is definitely worth the trip up to the castle courtyard to have a wonder around and get a great view of the city.

3. The New Bridge

The New Bridge ‘Nový Most’, crosses over the Danube River connecting the Old Town with the New Town. The New Bridge is interesting with its UFO looking structure in the middle, which is a restaurant appropriately called ‘The UFO’. On the roof is an observation deck that offers spectacular views of the old town and out to the apartment blocks in Petržalka.

4. The Statues of Bratislava

After the Communist Era, the city of Bratislava had a bit of a greyish glow to it. In an attempt to liven up the city centre, a few quirky statues were installed. The statues have become extremely popular with tourists and have led to even more being installed. A few favourites are:

Cumil, a guy poking his head out of a drainpipe in the Old Town. He has been damaged by car more than once, so the city put up a sign to protect him. The tourist board says “you have to decide whether he is simply resting, looking up women's skirts, just cleaned the sewer...”

Napoleon's Army Soldier is a statue leaning over a bench on Main Square. This guy looks a little like Napoleon himself wearing a typical hat that he used to wear.

Schone Naci is a bit of a Bratislava legend as he was a well-known figure in the 20th century. He was a poor old man that use to walk the streets in his elegant velvet frock and greet passers-by with his top-hat.

5. St Michael's Gate

St Michael’s Gate is the only preserved gate from the medieval city fortifications. When the city held coronations in St Martins Cathedral, the coronation procession lead through the gate and you can see the path where the old Kings and Queens would walk on the ground with gold plates featuring a crown on the cobblestones. Nowadays the gate holds the Museum of Weapons and City Fortifications inside.

Eats

1. Zylinder

Taking on the old style of food that has been served in this town for centuries, Zylinder serves up some great dishes from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire but in a modern way. Try the tafelspitz, szeged beef goulash, pörkölt, oxtail, poppy pierogies or the traditional kaiserchmarrn.

2. Funki Punki Palacinky Creperie

Funki Punki Palacinky Creperie is a pancake café by day, bar by night trying to provide a quirky venue with a modern day menu of crepes including healthy, gluten-free buckwheat versions. They offer both savoury and sweet fillings, along with beer on tap, tea and other drinks.

3. Bratislava Flag Ship Restaurant

The Bratislava Flag Ship Restaurant is the biggest pub in town and located in a former cinema. The chefs use ingredients from their own bio-farm creating Slovak cuisine to die for. Try some of the traditional meals on the menu such as the bryndzove halusky, a type of potato gnocchi with sheep’s cheese and bacon. You can also get a cabbage version called kapustove halusky served with bacon.

4. UFO Watch. Taste. Groove.

The UFO restaurant has been leaving people speechless for years; dining with the whole city lying at your feet whilst eating the tasty Mediterranean and Asian cuisine on offer. Once a month, the restaurant changes from fine dining to a “Grove Party”, with anyone invited (via booking only) if they want to have some fun.

5. Slovak Pub

Voted as the number one pub in town, there’s an interesting concept behind this place that’s worth a look. Slovak Pub is very popular with students in town and there’s a reason behind this. Slovak gives a free soup to students if they get an A on an exam. The décor inside is also quite different presenting the history of the city in individual rooms from the old pagan times up until the revival era of the 19th century.

Drinks

1. Zrbojnos

With live rock music being played a few days of the week and different games you can get involved with as well, Zrbojnos has a great atmosphere for anyone to rock out. The drinks are cheap, music is loud and staff are super friendly – what else could you want?

2. Subclub

Subclub is famous in Europe for its club nights that draw in some of the world’s top DJ’s. But if you haven’t heard of this place before, then Subclub is located in a former nuclear bunker, carved out of a cliff that is beneath the Bratislava Castle. They are known for playing alternative, electronic and techno music but also have different themed nights from drum & bass to alternative rock, punk, metal and reggae club nights. Check out their website!

3. UFO

Bar and restaurant on the New Bridge. Take the lift up to experience incredible views whilst enjoying a meal or sipping on a drink in the lounge bar.

4. Le Šenk

Le Šenk is a pub that offers 8 different types of craft beers and the best thing about it they mix it up and change them every few days. The pub also serves up some mean grub if you want to go and enjoy a meal with your beer.

5. Rock OK

Located near the university on Safarikovo Square, Rock OK is a stylish new underground nightclub and bar very popular with people of all ages. The club has local DJ’s playing during the week so people can dance the night away to some great rock music!

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Recommendations

The scenery here is fantastic!"

Jane, USA