Bratislava is Slovakia’s largest city and is separated, both historically and geographically by the bridge over the Danube, which separates the Old City from the New City. Just like in any other European city, the old side is the cluster of all the history and culture and the new side is filled with shopping centers, malls, supermarkets, hotels etc. Both sides seem to be completely different worlds.
Bratislava is a slice of living history, a rather small town where you can still feel the atmosphere of ancient elegance, with ladies dressed in ample gowns, townsmen and knights. It almost feels like you’re about to see these characters filling the area, coming with their elegant carriages pulled by horses. This kind of beauty is hardly found in any city, nowadays.
From the touristic point of view, the locals of Bratislava have been attempting for a while to get rid of the veil of anonymity which shrouded this beautiful and little known city, due to all its architecture which is predominant and common for the former socialist regimes of this area of the continent. The Old City is very well highlighted by the Baroque style buildings that emerge from the midst of the communist blocks “jungle”.
Bratislava is betting more on entertainment tourism rather than cultural or historical. But even so, there are many other monuments and beautiful buildings to see and admire.
Hlavné námestie (Central Market) is considered the epicenter of Bratislava. The buildings that surround it are beautifully restored and exude historical significance.
Roland Fountain central square is the epicenter and one of the main meeting points in the city. Built in 1572 by Maximilian II, King of Hungary, the well was an important water supply for city residents of those times.
Stara radnica (Old Town Hall) was inaugurated in the 15th century and consists of a complex of old stone buildings (sec. 14) and is now the headquarters of Bratislava City Museum.
Cumyl (Man at Work) is the name of one of the most famous statues of the city. The statue is a Modern contemporary piece of street art, and there are many theories about its meaning. One of them states that suggests the first breath of freedom after coming out of the “communist sewage”.
Another trademark statue is Napoleon resting on a bench in the Central Square, reminding Slovaks of his visit in 1805 and the ravages he caused to the Devin Castle located on the hills near Bratislava.
Other eye-catching statues and objectives cameras are dotted around the city: that of Paparazzo, Hans Christian Andersen, Schöner Náci who was left right in front of the altar, by the woman who was supposed to be his wife; and many other statues that look so realizing and invite you to have a chat with them and take pictures, but you’ll have to discover them yourselves.
Michalská Brána (Michael’s Gate) is the name of one of the four city gates, one that, amazingly, is still standing since it was built around 1300. Now, this building hosts an exhibition of weapons and the view from tower from 51 meters high is stunning and breathtaking. A modern addition is just below the gate, where you can check the distances from Bratislava to a few other cities in the world marked on a disk.
As soon as you get on the other side of Michalská Brána, you might not even realize that you’ve just passed right by the narrowest building in Bratislava, built on an area of 1.3 meters wide, which was used as access for the sentries. Pat attention as the building is cramped between the tower and the building next to it is a separate house and you might not even see it.
Martina Svätého Cathedral (Cathedral of St. Martin) is one of the symbolic buildings of Bratislava and one of the oldest churches of great importance to … the Hungarian kingdom. After the battle of Mohacs in 1526, when Suleiman the Magnificent defeated Luis II of Hungary; it culminated with the occupation of the Hungarian Kingdom by the Ottomans and after that, the Hungarian kings had to be crowned here, in exile, far away from their homeland.
Grassalkovich Palace, the Presidential Palace or the White House residence of President of Slovakia is a central building, situated amid the bustle of city, adorned in Rococo style and has a beautiful French garden.
Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad) is placed on a hill above town. The building is massive and has towers in all four corners with the Danube flowing quietly at her feet. It lies close to the heart of Bratislava, and you will notice it from about anywhere. It seems that the hill where now stands the castle was inhabited by Celts since the Stone Age. The castle was first mention in the chronicles of Salzburg, in the year 907 b.C. Before reaching its current form, history records a few changes: initially, the hill was built as a fortress for the Slavic nations who settled here. Afterwards, it was modified into a stone palace in the 11th century. Then, in the 15th century, under the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg, it was transformed into a Gothic castle with seven meters thick fortifications. Afterwards, in the 16th century King Ferdinand restored the castle in the Renaissance style of the epoch. Then, in the 17th century, the castle was rebuilt as the Baroque residence of the political leader of that period.
In recent times, the palace housed the art collections of Queen Maria Theresa’s groom, Albert, who were later moved to Vienna, to the Albertina Museum. Since the declaration of independence, the castle has been a part of the Slovak Parliament buildings and houses collections of the Slovak National Museum. Bratislavský hrad is colored in white and the red towers offer a beautiful contrast.
There are many other interesting touristic attractions in Bratislava waiting for you to discover.