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marianne Bratislava - A travel report by Marianne
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Bratislava,  Slovakia - flag Slovakia
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marianne's travel reports

Bratislava: A Young Capital

  19 votes
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Bratislava's bustling city centre with beautifully restored buildings, restaurants and cafés is in sharp contrast with the dark-coloured communist-era part of the town.


Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace
Bratislava has been Slovakia's capital since 1993 when the Czechoslovak Federative Republic split up. Its sights are concentrated in the pedestrianised area not larger than 0,5 square km, small enough to be explored on foot. However, if walking is too strenuous for you, hop on one of the red mini-trains that come complete with comments in French, German and English about the sights en route.

One day is more than sufficient to see all Bratislava and visit some of the nine museums. It leaves plenty of time to enjoy a coffee or a meal in one of the many pavement cafés that outnumber Bratislava's sights.

The city is a favourite stop for Danube cruises and also a day-trip and weekend destination for Austrians. Year-round the city centre is full of bus loads trailing behind their tour-guide.

Most of the historic buildings have been restored. Their pale-pink and off-white façades are a pleasure for the (photographer's ) eye. My advice is: look up because most buildings are topped with marble statues and bristle with pinnacles and gables.

The cobbled historic heart of the city is in sharp contrast with parts of modern Bratislava with communist-era squares drab buildings, hectic traffic and overheard wires (a photographer's eyesore).

The train station is one km north of the centre, with international trains to Budapest (3 hrs) and Vienna (1hr 15 mins). Seat reservation is not possible because Bratislava is not connected to the central computer system.

We travelled on to Budapest and had no problem finding seats, as sufficient people got off in Bratislava. You can ignore the seat reservation labels because they apply to the Czech Republic stretch only. Passengers travelling from Prague to Budapest have reserved places but that's easy to spot as they sit in their seats.

The low budget airline skyeurope.com has 22 destinations from Bratislava. A true invitation to visit Bratislava.

Favourite spots:
Communist era park
Communist era park
WALKING TOUR

Start: Hodzovo Namestie (square)

This is a large square, just outside the city centre, with lots of trams, traffic and overhead wires. The trams pass the pavemment cafés with an inch to spare: an ideal spot for tram spotters.

The Church of the Holy Trinity with its baroque exterior is worth a peek for its trompe l'oeil dome painting on the ceiling, which tricks you into believing that the church is higher and grander than it really is.

Turn into Obchodna. I liked this street lined with shops and without tourists. It is an example of everyday life in Bratislava.

Take the fourth street on your left: Jánska. It passes a small park and leads to Nam Slobody, beautiful because of its ugliness. For me it is the prime example of utilitarian Soviet architecture and landscaping.

The centre-piece is a lotus-shaped fountain flanked by umbrella-shaped smaller ones. A grid of pathways lined with seats for the proletariate surrounds the fountains.

What's really great:
The Peeper
The Peeper
The background to the square is a box-like building of glass and steel, clearly soviet-style architecture. It is home to the technical university. (In a way, it reminded me of 'Palast der Republik' in Berlin)

Cross Slobody Nam. turn left into Banskobystrická. At the end, on your right is Grassalkovich Palace, 18th cent summer residence of the Count of Grassalkovich. Today it is the presidential palace

Continue straight on. You are now back on Hodzovo Namestie. From here it is only a few steps to the historical centre

***

Walking Bratislava Old town is a true delight. I especially liked three bronze statues

Cumil, the peeper, is the most photographed one. It is a helmeted man peering from a street manhole. You can find him at the corner of Panska and Rybarka Brana streets

Equally famous is the French soldier, looking like Napoleon, who leans on a bench in Hlavné Namestie, the main square. It's difficult to take photos without tourists sitting next to him

Sights:
Bratislava travelogue picture

A life-size photographer peeping round the corner of a café on Laurinska is the third statue. No special need to look up the street as you will meet him anyway as you are bound to walk the streets several times because the city centre is very compact.

Bratislava Castle sits on a hill top and dominates the city. It is an uninspiring, amber-coloured, turreted building, damaged in a fire early 19th cent, bombed in WW II and rebuilt in the 1950s by the communists and definitely not an architectural gem. It houses the Slovak National Council and the National Museum with a collection of archeological finds.

The view from the castle is better than the castle itself: the Danube river, the spire of St Martin Cathedral, the New Bridge and Austria, 3 km to the southwest.

The New Bridge is an a-symetrical, cable-stayed structure. It has two pillars topped by a flying-saucer-like restaurant. The bridge is very photogenic and I took many photos to add to my bridges collection.

Accommodations:
Quirky Hotel Spirit
Quirky Hotel Spirit
As we stayed in Bratislava for only one day, we wanted a hotel close to the station. That's why we headed for Hotel Spirit. It is slightly difficult to find. When you are at the station don't take the main exit but head for the last platform. Stairs lead to Zabotova street. Turn left and take the underpass, then bear left. You will now see the hotel on your right. It is impossible to miss (see photo). Unfortunately it was fully booked when we arrived.

We retraced our steps and went to Prazska Street, Hotel Matysak, west of the station. It is a very comfortable 3* hotel, but fairly standard.

We would have preferred Hotel Spirit as it is certainly different from what standard hotels offer, both inside and outside.

See 'tips' for detailed info.

Nightlife:
Art Nouveau buildings on Hlavné Namestie
Art Nouveau buildings on Hlavné Namestie


The heart of the old town is Hlavné Namestie. The city's main square where tourists gather round a splendid fountain or enjoy a drink or a meal in one of the many pavement cafés or restaurants.

The square is lined with burghers' houses. I especially liked the Art Nouveau buildings on the northwest side of the square. I was there in the afternoon and the light was not perfect for a photo, I came back in the morning and found out that the façades are never entirely in the sun.

I found these houses more interesting than the old Town Hall, a cream-coloured complex with a mixture of styles. It started as a burgher's house in the 14th cent and was extended and rebuilt over the next centuries. The green-roofed annexe is the Municipal Museum with an exhibition of the city's history and torture chambers in the basement.


Hangouts:
Primate's Palace
Primate's Palace


Next door to the Municipal Museum on Primacialne Namestie is the Primate's Palace, an all pink edifice, richly decorated with marble statues (at least I think it was marble). The palace is topped with a flying saucer which, in fact, is a cast-iron bishop's hat. The major attraction of the palace is a visit to the Hall of Mirrors, the place where Napoleon and Franz I signed the treaty of Pressburg (Bratislava's former name). We didn't go because there were too many tour groups waiting their turn.

Hviezdoslovo Namestie is a shady tree-lined square that leads to the Danube. On the landside it is dominated by the Slovak national Theatre. I took my time to study the façade including a chariot complete with a team of horses.

Another architectural beauty is neo-baroque Reduta on Mostova, built as a dance hall but now the Slovak Philharmonic.


Restaurants:
Michael's Gate
Michael's Gate
Michaels's Gate is the only medieval city fortification that's left. Its copper-green onion-domed spire is an 18th century addition. It stands squashed between ochre-coloured houses at the end of Michalska. Its continuation is Venturska. Both streets are lined with cafés and restaurants, interspersed by souvenir shops.

At Venturska 3 is Bank and Coffee: a coffeebar and a bank at the same time. It is funny to see how banking matters are done, under supervision of coffee sipping tourists.

As expected of a bank, inside there is an ATM.


Other recommendations:
New Bridge
New Bridge
If you are interested in clocks the Museum of Clocks has an interesting display of time pieces. If this is not your great hobby, the museum is still a good place to visit.

Firstly because of the building itself: wedge-shaped rococo house with a façade-statue of a shepherd. (on Zidovska, next to the New Bridge)



Secondly because of the view. From this point you have a good view of the New Bridge, not all that new as it was built between 1967 and 1972. It is a good place to watch the traffic crossing the bridge, see the boats on the Danube. I was disappointed with the Danube as I had imagined it to be more beautiful. Taking photos is a bit difficult because of all the overhead wires.

Published on Saturday October 14th, 2006


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Thu, Apr 17 2008 - 04:29 AM rating by louis

Perfect report about the place where i want to go. And pictures are really lovely 5*

Thu, Nov 02 2006 - 11:45 AM rating by magsalex

Great example of how a report should be. Very interesting.

Thu, Oct 19 2006 - 11:13 AM rating by frenchfrog

Great report marianne, well done! I love the Peeper!

Sun, Oct 15 2006 - 12:13 PM rating by mistybleu

Marianne,

I always enjoy reading your report. This is really great and so interesting. I've put Bratislava on my list of must do's for next year.

All the best
Amanda

Sat, Oct 14 2006 - 11:04 PM rating by gloriajames

Great report Marianne! Loved the pics of the statue of the life-size photographer! Well done. 5*

Sat, Oct 14 2006 - 12:46 PM rating by mrscanada

Nice report.

Sat, Oct 14 2006 - 11:46 AM rating by rangutan

Wonderful ..... small capital - BIG report! I recently read it is geographically the most skew capital being only a few miles from the borders of TWO other countries, Austria and Hungary. Just a 6-8 hour drive from Munich, I must one day see this city too!

Sat, Oct 14 2006 - 08:53 AM rating by eirekay

Marianne, this is a beautiful report! You write so well that you take us with you every time!

Sat, Oct 14 2006 - 08:02 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Another 5 stars report. You are establishing a system to write first class reports.

Sat, Oct 14 2006 - 06:42 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii mari ,nice to read such a wonderful report ,and great pictures too.

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