Bratislava is full of little quirks and secrets. It’s a place that requires time to discover and understand, but it’s always a good place to enjoy a fresh beer on a terrace.
Note: Prices given are price for a beer as of the year 2014-2015
Pubs and places that are worth seeing:
- 1The Flagship
This immense pub is hard to find in winter when the terrace is not out. Situated in the centre (Namestie SNP,8) the pub was built and decorated as a theatre. The beautiful entrance used to be three noble houses and the upstairs used to have several functions. The food -Slovak- is really not great but it’s a nice place to enjoy a few drinks (1,70 euro).2Le Senk
The pub is located in front of St Martin Church and has a view on the Danube. The beer is excellent and some selections are cheaper than anywhere else in the old town. Good, although a bit pricey, food and the interior is decorated in a modern-industrial taste. Definitely a place to try! Nice waiters (1,50 euro).3Bistro Saint Germain
This cosy place makes you feel at home. Drinks and food are much more expensive than in the rest of the area but are worth their price. French food with a delicious Slovak twist, excellent beer and wine and great service. What else do we need? (3 euros)
- 4La Putika
Nice bar on the inside and good cakes are offered. Several branches can be found in the old town even though the place is often full. Selection of Czeck and foreign beers. They even offer a banana beer! (1,70 euros)5Restauracia Prazdro
Beautiful and huge place serving Czech beer. Massive food menu offering Slovak, Czech but also “international” food and not too pricey. The interior is well worth it! The main room is all wood: massive wooden chairs, ceiling and tables but the other rooms are very different… (1.70 euro)
Bratislava’s main bus station is called Mlyske Nivy and is a 15 minute walk to the old town.
The train station Hlavna Stanica is a bit further, but is well connected to the centre with the tram nº1 and many buses (refer to the timetable right outside the station). The 93 will take you to the presidential palace.
Bratislava has a second train station in Petrzalka easy of access with the 93 bus (from or to Zochova or the presidential palace).
Getting in and out:
*From the airport, buses to Bratislava run every hour either to Bratislava’s main bus station Mlynske Nivy or directly the airport. The ride takes 90 minutes with Slovaklines or 60 minutes with Blaguss. Price ranges from 6,50 to 7,70 euros. Please double-check the current timetables at Slovak Lines and Blaguss official page
**From centre to centre:
The train is the easiest way. Departures every hour to or from Vienna’s Sudbahnhof or Westbahnhof. Price is less than 10 euros depending on company and train station. More info on http://www.slovakrail.sk/en.html
Slovak lines, Blaguss and Eurolines also offer the trip but are less convenient in terms of travel time.
*Student agency is the cheapest and most convenient bus ride. It takes approx. 4 hours and price ranges between 10 and 14 euros. Eurolines also does the trip.
**By train: Slovakrail (approx.18 euros return, 2.30 hours depending on the train)
Getting around Bratislava is quite cheap and easy. A single bus/tram ticket costs 0,70 (for a ride up to 15min) or 0,90 euros (for a longer ride). Tickets have to be bought to the yellow machines that you can find in every bus/tram stop. They cannot be bought on the bus or the tram. Single, day, three days and weekly tickets are available at the machine.
Buses and trams stop right outside the old town. The nearest stops for both trams and buses are Namestie SNP, Kamene namestie and Most SNP.
Bratislava bus is an excellent reference for bus rides.
If you’re only spending one day in Bratislava I don’t recommend you buying day tickets, as they are more expensive than what you would pay in single fares.
A city that blends modernity and tradition, a place where Slovak folklore coexists with Austrian, Hungarian and Polish cultures: you are in Bratislava.
Bratislava became the capital city of Slovakia after the velvet divorce in 1989, although it was present throughout the centuries . From the Stone Age till today, she has been called Prešporok ( in Slovak) ; Pressburg in German ( rings a bell? ) Posonium and Pozsony in Latin and Hungarian. Over the centuries , Bratislava was the center, and even the theater, of war, peace treaties and coronations . ( see history section for more details ) .
This section focuses on a concentrate of attractions for those who are visiting Bratislava in one day. If you wish a more extense/ detailed guide contact me! And remember that Bratislava has a lot more to offer to those who have time…
- 1Michalska Brana
Start the tour by the begining! Michel Gate ( Michalska brana ) , so small, so charming and colorful , struggling to distinguish itself from the modern side of the city center. This is the only gate that has survived the changes of the city made by the Empress Maria Theresa. Since its construction in the 14th century, the tower has undergone several changes and its current appearance dates back in 1758 when it was rebuilt in a baroque style (hence its magnificent bell tower ) *2Hlavne Namestie
At the heart of Bratislava for 600 years, the place presents several architectural styles like the stunning Old Town Hall (Stara radnica). The tower of the City Hall was redesigned in a baroque style in 1733 but the building mixes Baroque, neo-Renaissance and neo-Gothic styles. It was built in the 14th century by the mayor and Austrian, German, Hungarian and Italian architects changed it thoughout the years. **3Primatial Palace
Go through the Renaissance courtyard to get to the Primatial Palace.
Sumptuous palace built in a classic French style (although we can recognize a Viennese signature) by Batthyanyi cardinal in 1776, the palace served as a residence for archbishops and later kings of Hungary when the castle burnt down. Inside you will find exhibitions of paintings and Gobelins tapestries, the hall of mirrors where was signed the Treaty of Pressburg and the private chapel of the prelate.
Turn right on Lauriska, and you will find one of the most famous statues of Bratislava: Cumil (follow these statues steps here). A series of statues were built to amuse the visitor while the city was being reconstructed.5Hviezdoslavovo namestie6National Gallery
Redutac Palac : National Gallery (free exhibitions) and the Danube. Built in the 19th century, the Palace Reduta is now the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra but it was also the first cinema in town. The National Gallery was built on foundations dating back to the Middle Ages.
- 7the Blue Chruch
Walk along the banks of the Danube and then branch off to find the startling blue church (St. Elizabeth Church) . Built between 1907 and 1913 in a Hungarian Art Nouveau style, it is one of the finest buildings (at least the most original) in Bratislava. Don’t miss it out!8St Martin’s Cathedral
Wander back to the enchanting paved streets of the Old Town towards St Martin’s Cathedral). The cathedral has seen the coronation of Hungarian kings for nearly 300 years. If the outside is nothing spectacular, the interior is more extensive by stained glass, carved wooden altar and tables. At the back of the cathedral a charming narrow street lined with green spaces and small cafes going the old center. ***9City Walls
Legacy of the Middle Ages, these ramparts mark the entrance to the town, and were almost completely destroyed in 1775 by Maria Theresa with the other three gates of the city. Only this section remains today and is open a few days a week in the summer for the medieval market. Unfortunately the city does not have enough funds to maintain the walls, which is why they are not opened every day.
Primatial Palace: Entrance 3 euros, reduced price for students. Open Tue-Sun from 10-17.
Muzeum Hodin: Open Tuesday to Friday 10 -17, 11-18 Saturday Sunday (May to September) 9.30-16.30 Tuesday to Sunday (October to April)
Up to the castle: several lanes go up there. Since Beblaveho we pass by the magnificent St. Sigismund gate (15th century) or from Palisady street that takes us from under the door of Vienna. By bus, the 203 and 207 go up there and stop at the main entrance (stop at “hrad”). If the view and the walk to the summit are worth seeing, the museum located in the castle has no greater interest. There you will find archaeological treasures, the palace where Marie Theresa hosted her 16 children and the historical museum displaying pieces of art and society from the Middle Ages till today.
*Go through the gate and follow the route marked by musicians lining up the street. Right next to Michalska Bana you will see Bratislava’s narrowest house, of only 130 cm width! The house was built in the late 18th century when Maria Theresa ordered the demolition of the medieval city walls to enlarge the city. In the space left between Michel Tower and the next building, someone decided to slip a house …
The Tower: This is the only gate that has survived the changes of the city made by the Empress Maria Theresa. Since its construction in the 14th century, the tower has undergone several changes and its current appearance dates back in 1758 when it was rebuilt in a baroque style (hence its magnificent bell tower ) .
**Curiosities of Stara Radnica tower: Note the water level which flooded the city in February 1850 and the trace of a cannonball next to the Gothic window commemorating Napoleon’s attacks in 1809.
***Note: Kapitulská street, in front of the Cathedral, has a unique and peaceful atmosphere. Make sure you walk through it!
The history of Bratislava (and Slovakia) is quite difficult to sum up due to its complexity and age. Imagine that remains dating back to the Paleolithic time were found in Devin! If you want more detailed facts of an era I strongly recommend this well documented wikipedia article.
So, remains of the Prehistoric era, the Iron, Stone and Bronze age have been found in the Devin area. During the late Iron Age, Celt tribes settled down and founded a town (today Bratislava), built a castle up the hill and started to exploit the river Danube. With the German invasion the Celts moved to Devin where it was easier to take refuge and fight back together with the Romans, who also came to invade the town.
Between the 1st and the 4th century the Romans included Bratislava and its surroundings in their empire until the Slavs came along during the migration period. Germans (Bavaria) invaded again in the 9th century but lost a battle against Hungary (Magyar) in 907 and Bratislava becomes part of medieval Hungary. Note: During this battle, the Slav tribes were separated into two groups (north and south) but they remained in the territory and became the ancestors of the Slovak people today.
Thanks to the Danube, Bratislava grows little by little and becomes a market settlement in the 13th century, still part of the Magyar kingdom. The river Danube was also the physical border of the kingdom, so Hungarians fortified the Castle to protect themselves from recurrent attacks, until the castle became one of the best fortifications of the kingdom.
After years of battles and wars between the German, Hungarian and Mongols, Bratislava eventually becomes part of the Austrian empire in 1301 because the king’s widow simply gives it to the Habsburgs. Bratislava is then named Pressburg and keeps changing sides: in 1322 the town is given back to Hungary, then taken again, until it becomes part of the Hungarian kingdom in 1338.
Between 1440 and 1443 there was a fight between the castle of Bratislava, supporting king Ladislaus III of Poland, and the actual town of Bratislava below the castle hill, supporting (and owned by) queen Elizabeth. In 1442 Ladislaus settles at the castle and temporarily conquers the town, but is defeated by the Austrian emperor Frederick III supporting Elisabeth.
In 1502 the Ottoman Empire tries to take over the town but fails to do so. The Turks install their camp outside the city walls but these are quickly destroyed by the inhabitants of Bratislava. However, the Turks take Buda (the city that was later united to Pest) so the Hungarians make Pressburg the capital city of the kingdom in 1536.
Maria Theresa of Austria is crowned Queen Regnant of Hungary at St. Martin’s Cathedral on 25 June 1741 and undertakes major changes in the town. In 1782, the number of inhabitants reaches 33,000 (out of which 29,223 are in the part of the town below the castle) thus making Bratislava the biggest town in Hungary. The number of inhabitants decreases and the economic situation of the town deteriorates until 1811. From now on Bratislava is only the coronation town and the seat of the Hungarian diet. In 1775 the crowning hill was built by Maria Theresa from soil of Hungary’s 64 counties. The new monarch had to ride to the crowning hill and swish their blade towards the four cardinal points.
In 1918, Czechoslovakia was founded as a way to get out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bratislava (Pozsony at the time) was chosen seat of the Slovak political organs. At the end of WW1 in 1918, Czechoslovakia began occupying the area in accordance with the preliminary peace settlements. However, Slovakia was occupied by the Red Guard from the Hungarian Soviet Republic and the Ukrainian SSR who set up the Slovak Soviet Republic as a puppet regime.
Following a brief war between Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania, Slovakia was fully restored into Czechoslovakia and the Hungarian Soviet Republic was wholly occupied by Romania.
In 1989, as Marxist-Leninist governments were ending all over Europe, Czechoslovaks peacefully deposed their government in the Velvet Revolution and socialist price controls were removed after a period of preparation. A few years afterwards, in 1993, the country was separated into two sovereign states, again peacefully…
And Slovakia was born.