Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, is located on the Danube River and close to two other big European capitals. It is approximately 60 km away from Austria’s Vienna and around 200 km from Hungary’s Budapest.
Bratislava lies on the beautiful Danube River, arguably the most important river in central Europe. And no, the river was not named after Johann Strauss waltz. It was the other way round. It is said that Strauss composed the first melodies of his famous waltz in Bratislava in 1852. We drove from Slovenia with a car, passing through Austria and just few minutes from Austrian border with Slovakia, we reached Bratislava. If you’ll drive with a car, you will need Austrian vignette, but to reach Bratislava you won’t need the Slovakian vignette. First of all, the city can be reached not only on a highway and secondly, highway inside Bratislava is free of charge. We’ve spent three days in Bratislava and I can say this “small”, charming capital has left a big impression on me.
Bratislava is an old European city full of character, with a beautifully restored historic quarter. Its medieval Old Town charms with narrow, winding streets, historic churches and buildings and hill-top castle. If you book your hotel outside the Old Town, which I recommend, if you do not want to spent too much, just take a tram, bus or even walk to the inner city. We’ve stayed in Hotel Set, just 15-minute tram ride from the historic center.
The charming, tiny Old Town (starý mesto) is centered on two squares Hlavne namestie (main square) and Hviezdoslavovo namestie (Hviezdoslav square, named after Slovak poet. Just stroll narrow pedestrian streets of pastel-colored 18th century buildings. Cobblestones, winding laneways, historic buildings are just some of the things that will attract your attention while walking through the Old Town. The area is full of pubs, restaurants, hostels, hotels and cozy cafés. Have a coffee, tea or enjoy a cake in Urban Bistro or Urban House. I’ve stopped there plenty of times.
While you’re walking through the narrow streets, you’ll notice many different quirky statues. These bronze monuments were added in an attempt to add some humor and life to the communist-era architecture. You can find different interesting characters as a Napoleon, photographer, a man coming out of a sewer. Great place to start your walk is at St Michaels Gate. This are the only remaining gate from the city’s medieval fortification. The gate is the oldest building in Bratislava and is today a museum and viewpoint.
Though the walk around the historic Old Town will amaze you, it is the white walls of Bratislava Castle that will absolutely draw the eye. Bratislavsky Hrad was built sometime around the 9th century and has remained a centerpiece till today. A trip to Bratislava is not complete without making the climb up to the iconic white building. It will take you around 10-15 minutes to walk up the hill to the Castle entrance and there are three different entrance gates (Sigmund, Vienna and Nicholas Gate). If you do not enter the Castle, enjoy the impressive views from the hilltop. You will see the medieval roofs of the Old Town below and the Danube river that winds through the city.
So next walk along the Europe’s second longest river that flows peacefully along the downtown Bratislava. There is a walking path on both sides of the Danube river. The best way to see the river and the city is to cross the Most SNP (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising) or UFO Bridge. At the top of the bridge in the UFO part is a restaurant and a viewing deck which provides an incredible view of the Bratislava, including the Castle and Petržalka (the largest borough of Bratislava).