Mar 23, 2018
Is Bratislava, Slovakia worth visiting? I had no idea what to expect but within five minutes of arriving I knew this was going to be good. This European capital city really charmed me and it’s well worth visiting. It’s a one hour drive from Vienna, Austria, which makes a perfect day trip. If you can spend a bit more time, even better.
The first thing I saw was the SNP Bridge or, as locals call it, the UFO Bridge which crosses the Danube River. SNP stands for Slovak National Uprising but the nickname comes from the flying saucer shaped restaurant that sits at the top of the bridge pylon. Unfortunately, the construction of the bridge meant that a large portion of the beautiful Old Town was destroyed, including almost the entire Jewish quarter.
St. Martin’s Cathedral, one of the city’s most historically important buildings, narrowly missed the bridge construction. The access ramp for the bridge is extremely close to it and the church is actually sustaining damage due to all the vibrations from the busy traffic. The cathedral was where Hungarian kings (and one queen!) were crowned for hundreds of years. Leaders of the Habsburg Empire, including the one and only Maria Theresa, had their coronations there between 1563 and 1830. There’s a crown at the top of the steeple sitting on a golden pillow which gives a hint of how significant this place is. On the sidewalk below there are little crown symbols that show the coronation procession route taken by royals on their way to St. Martin’s. You can follow them through the town, if you’d like to walk in their footsteps.
The best view of the cathedral is from Bratislava Castle which sits above the city. The hill has been populated since the Stone Age and the first known inhabitants were the Celts. There are a bunch of stairs to reach the castle but it’s well worth it. I love the crisp white colour of the castle with its four towers. I think it’s the best spot to see the sunset because the warm light at dusk is beautiful.
Michael’s Gate is the only surviving gate to the old city. There used to be four city gates and they were the only way in and out during medieval times. Michael’s Gate was built in the 13th century and in the 17th century a moat was added complete with a draw bridge that went up and down.
Nearby Michael’s Gate is Executioner Alley. It’s where the town executioner used to live and, because the city only had one, his house had to be clearly marked for anyone, um, needing him. The residence is now a massage centre which I found pretty funny.
If you’re in need of good luck there are some statues in Bratislava you can touch. One is of a man standing in a gutter at an intersection called ‘The Watcher.’ It’s considered good luck to touch his head. If you still need more luck, head over to the statue of Hans Christian Andersen and rub his finger. He visited Bratislava and it even inspired some of his writing.
One of my favourite spots in Bratislava is the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary or, as it’s better known, the Blue Church. Everything from the façade to the mosaic tiles to the roof is blue. Inside the art nouveau building even the pews are blue. This church is a really popular spot to get married and it takes years to get a booking.
A building that has been given the honour of being one of the ugliest in the world is also found in Bratislava: the Slovak Radio Building. This inverted pyramid is an excellent example of Brutalist architecture from the Communist era in Slovakia. Whether you love it or hate it, I doubt you’ll forget it.
We did a great free walking tour which I can highly recommend. If you’re interested, this is the company: http://www.befreetours.com
Does Bratislava look like a place that you’d like to visit? I’m curious what, if anything, surprised you in the video – leave a comment below.
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