Bratislava became the capital of the Slovak Republic after the split from Czechoslovakia in 1993 and, curiously, its name was decided in the early 1900s through a public competition. The former name was the German Preßburg or Pressburg.
Today Bratislava is a young capital, continuously improving. It is a small town with a well-preserved historic center, and you can easily visit it in one day.
Bratislava is easy to reach by plane (it has its own airport) or by train. The train is maybe the best option for a day trip if you are visiting another surrounding capital. There are regularly scheduled trains from Vienna (about 60 km), Budapest (about 200 km), and Prague (about 300 km).
Bratislava in a nutshell
I have marked the monuments and the highlights with blue pins in the following interactive map.
The Castle stands on a hill directly above the Danube river close to Bratislava’s old town. It is the most famous city landmark.
From the Castle, you have an excellent view of the old and of the new town. If the day is the right one, you can also enjoy a gorgeous sunset from here.
Nový Most (New Bridge)
The bridge is formally called “Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising” but is mostly known as New Bridge. It is built in a modern style, and on its top, there is a bar/restaurant accessible by a lift. The restaurant is called “UFO” because of its shape.
The Old Town includes the medieval city center and all the most important city landmarks. It is a pedestrian area and can be comfortably visited on foot. The buildings are sometimes an ensemble of different stiles: baroque, Soviet architecture, art nouveau, etc.
They give a humorous touch to the old town, and you find them here and there by chance. Of one thing you can be sure: if you find one, you’ll start searching for the next one.
Michael’s Gate frames the official entry to the Old Town. It is the only city gate that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications.
St Martin’s Cathedral
Mainly built in Gothic style, the Cathedral is located below Bratislava Castle and unfortunately only a few meters from the bypass road that leads to the Nový Most Bridge. I wrote “unfortunately” because the street hides part of the Church façade.
The Grassalkovich Palace is the residence of the president of Slovakia. It is built in the Rococo/Baroque style with a French garden, which is now a public park.
The Church of St. Elizabeth, commonly known as Blue Church, is an eccentric art nouveau church characterized by its light blue color and dedicated to Princess Elizabeth of Hungary.
The surrounding area is dotted with other buildings made in the same style (the high school and of the vicarage), giving this district an original touch.
Slovak National Theatre
The Slovak National Theatre consists of the old Neo-Renaissance theatre building and of a second modern building located near the Danube and opened in 2007.
Bratislava from above
- UFO Restaurant (Nový Most Bridge).
- Bratislava Castle.
- Slavín Memorial Monument.
If you have extra time
- Slavín Memorial Monument. It consists of a solemn staircase, the graves of the Soviet Army soldiers who fell during World War II, an obelisk, and a solemn hall.
- Petržalka district. This area consists of low-cost buildings (large panel system buildings, also called Khrushchyovka), made in a construction style developed in the Soviet Union during the early 1960s.
- Devín Castle. It is located on the top of a rock about 20 minutes’ drive from Bratislava. It had defensive and strategical functions in the past, now it is an important Slovak historical site.
Things to eat
First of all, a little tip for those who have time: in front of the Old City, there are some restaurant ships worth the visit.
Wherever you are in Bratislava, I strongly suggest ordering the Bryndzové halušky, one of the national dishes in Slovakia. It consists of something similar to the Italian gnocchi, with sheep cheese and bits of smoked bacon. Delicious!
- Baroque, Rococò, and Neo-Renaissance: Old Town.
- Soviet Architecture: Slovak General Attorney, Radio and Television of Slovakia, Slavín Memorial Monument.
- Art Nouveau: Blue Church and some surrounding buildings.
- Khrushchyovka (large panel system buildings): Petržalka district.
- Modern Architecture: Nový Most Bridge, New Slovak National Theater, Eurovea Shopping Center.
All these buildings are marked with a pin in the interactive map above.