10 Best Attractions in Bratislava Slovakia That You MUST SEE
Sitting pretty across both banks of the River Danube, and nestled within the foothills of the thickly forested Little Carpathian mountains is the city of Bratislava. Nature has endowed the Slovakian city with scenic beauty at its best. Besides natural beauty in abundance, Bratislava also has a wealth of ancient castles and palaces steeped in history and waiting to be discovered.
Called Presporok in Slovak prior to 1919, Bratislava is the capital and largest city of Slovakia. If we go back in time to read a little about the history of the country, it is interesting to note that Slovakia was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 10th century until the end of the First World War.
Between 1939 and 1944, Slovakia was a German-controlled state. Then, it was conquered by the Soviets to form the new Czechoslovakia, which was a Communist state that lasted as long as the Communist regime lasted. In 1993, differences between the Czechs and Slovaks led to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia into two separate and independent countries: the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic. Since 1960 however, Bratislava has remained the capital, first of Czechoslovakia and then of Slovakia.
Bratislava is basically a walking city which makes it a perfect holiday destination. The town centre is very small and you can easily cover it by foot from one side to the other. There are many tourist attractions in this beautiful city which you cannot afford to miss.
Best Bratislava Attractions
1. Devin Castle
A historical icon of Slovakia and also one of its largest existing castles, Devin Castle is right on top of the ‘must see’ places in Bratislava. A ten minute drive by car or a twenty minute bus ride from the old city of Bratislava along a delightfully wooded river side will get you to Devin Castle.
The Castle is strategically located at the confluence of the Rivers Danube and Moravia, and the view from here is truly breath-taking. Get here as early as you can – in fact at the crack of dawn if possible, the riverfront is one of Slovakia’s most beautiful places to enjoy a sunrise. Thereafter, you can stroll at leisure and soak in the tranquil beauty of your surroundings, starting from the Nun’s Tower on top of the cliff, the area around the well, the maze of indoor alleys leading to the boundaries of the lawns, and then on to the largest chamber which has been converted to a small museum.
A visit to Devin Castle will also give you an opportunity to enjoy an hour-long boat ride to Hainburg in Austria. These boat tours start from the two separate docks near the confluence at regular intervals.
The visiting hours for the Castle are from 10 AM to 5 PM. Though the views of sunrise during an early morning visit are unmatched, evening visits can be a wonderful experience too as sometimes special events are hosted in the evening. These are really worth attending since the ancient castle with its special illumination and lighting effects provides a magnificent background, and creates a spectacular ambience.
2. Bratislava Castle
Standing on a rocky hill just above the River Danube, and overlooking the historic town centre of the capital city, Bratislava Castle is yet another distinct landmark which you simply cannot miss. This ancient Castle has a very interesting history which can be traced back to the first signs of settlement on the Castle Hill by Celtic tribes around the period 400 B.C.
It is also interesting to learn that the name of the Bratislava Castle appears on the ancient coins which were issued by the first Hungarian king during the period 1000 AD. Under the Hungarian Kings, the Gothic style building of the castle was converted into a Renaissance castle, with fortifications surrounding it from all sides.
With the onslaughts of time and the ravages of fire, the Castle was in ruins and its final reconstruction was completed, as we see it today, by the late 1960s. Certain parts of the Castle premises were adapted to display exhibits of the Slovak National Museum while the other areas were converted as offices of the Government of Slovakia. It is in the park area of the Castle that the foundations of the ancient Moravian basilica are displayed.
Bratislava Castle with its massive rectangular building and four corner towers standing atop an isolated hill is a really amazing sight. However, the icing on the cake is the fascinating view it has of the whole city of Bratislava, Austria and in clear weather, parts of Hungary as well.
3. St. Michael’s Gate
You simply cannot walk past the Old Town without stopping to admire the St. Michael’s Gate which stands right at the eastern entrance of the Old Town. This gate once served as an entry into the city of Bratislava, and ranks amongst the oldest town buildings. With a 51-metre high tower, foundations of which it is believed, were laid about 700 years ago, St.Michael’s is the only gate of the medieval city fortification which exists today.
Its tower offers magnificent views of the Old Town and the surrounding area. This gate is a marvel to behold with the statue of St. Michael and the Dragon perched on top of the tower. It also features the Museum of Weapons and City Fortification. Another interesting feature is the distance map engraved in metal on the ground beneath the gate which shows the distance in kilometers from that point to various cities of the world.
4. The Church of St. Elisabeth
Popularly known as the Blue Church, the Church of St. Elisabeth is a Catholic church located in the eastern part of the Old Town in Bratislava. It was built in the memory of Elisabeth of Hungary, and is referred to as “The Little Blue Church” because of the blue colour of its exterior, the blue painted mosaics, and the blue glazed roof.
With its oval shaped floor and tower in the front, glazed rooftop and pillars located near the windows, the architecture of this church is quite unique. Upon stepping inside the church, you will be mesmerized by the beautifully decorated altar.
A memorial monument and cemetery in the centre of Bratislava, Slavín is a tribute to, and the resting place of all the Soviet and Slavic soldiers who were killed in action during the Second World War II, while defending the city from the attacks of the German troops.
The memorial site consists of a staircase and a cemetery with graves of several thousands of soldiers who lost their lives during the war. Inside the central hall you can see different statues, inscriptions and a tall stone pillar topped with a statue of a Soviet soldier as a mark of commemoration. In the area around the Slavín memorial you can also find some statues of famous Slovak artists.
6. Primate’s Palace
Considered as one the most beautiful buildings in Bratislava with its pink and white colour, Primate’s Palace is situated in the city centre at the Primate Square. It is now the seat of the Mayor of Bratislava. Built in the 18th century, the palace has beautiful ornate crystal chandeliers and English tapestries belonging to the 17th century, which are now part of its chief attraction. When you walk into the palace, through a pillared hallway and into a small courtyard, you will see a fountain and a statue of St. George, beheading a dragon.
Primate’s Palace is also of great historical significance as it contains the Hall of Mirrors, where Napoleon signed the famous Peace Treaty of Pressburg (Bratislava) with the reigning Austrian Emperor.
7. Grassalkovich Palace
Built in 1760 as a summer residing palace for Count Grassalkovič, the Grassalkovich became the official residence of the Slovak President in 1996. The Presidential Palace and its garden are near the city centre and easily accessible by walking. The palace itself is not open to the public, and is guarded by the President’s Guard of Honour.
In front of the palace building, you will see a beautiful fountain built in the shape of the Earth, which is supposed to symbolize freedom. The palace opens into a huge garden designed in a typical French style with a fountain called ‘Youth’ adorning it. Another interesting point to note about this garden is that many famous politicians have planted trees here to commemorate their friendship with Slovakia.
This well structured and beautifully laid garden of the Presidential Palace is open to the public during the opening hours and you will love it as it is a visual treat. It is also a really lovely place for taking a leisurely stroll.
8. The Roland Fountain
Flickr/Pablo Nicolás Taibi Cicare
Sometimes also referred to as Maximilian Fountain, the Roland Fountain located in the main square of the Old Town, is the most famous fountain in Bratislava. It is a popular meeting place both with the locals as well as visitors to the city.
This fountain was built in 1572 by King Maximilian II of Hungary, for the purpose of providing a water supply system for the people. On top of the fountain, you will see a statue of Maximillian, King of Royal Hungary.
9. The Slovak National Museum
Any visit to a new country is incomplete till you have visited its national museum, because then only can you understand and appreciate all the monuments and attractions of the country. You must definitely visit the Slovak National Museum as it has the largest and best collections and exhibits that one can hope to find in any good museum of a country.
10. St. Martin’s Cathedral
This church is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bratislava. It is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava, and has a history of being used for all coronation ceremonies for the Kingdom of Hungary for almost four centuries, right from the 16th to the 19th century. The cathedral also houses the sacred remains of Saint John the Merciful.
Situated in the city centre just below the Bratislava Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral with its austere Gothic lines and 85 metre high spire is a predominant feature in the Old Town’s skyline. On top of the tower is a glittering golden replica of the Hungarian Crown. On stepping inside the cathedral, you will see a statue of St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar as a protection from the cold.
Also, take a look at some interesting facts about Slovakia that may just blow your socks off.