Pictures of the floating world

15 things to do in Bratislava

Bratislava is a greatly underestimated tourist destination – make sure you visit it!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Bratislava, the Slovak capital, just an hour away by train from Vienna, is one of the nicest cities I’ve visited in Europe!

It has a thousand-year history behind it (it was known as Pressburg in the past) and lots of sights from its different periods: it was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then Czechoslovakia, and finally Slovakia. It has excellent food, and it is not crowded with tourists.

What else can one wish for?

1. Explore Bratislava Castle 

Bratislava Castle is the main symbol of Slovakia, so there’s no way you can miss it! It’s a real-life fairytale castle standing high over the Danube River on a hill.

The story behind this Castle is incredible! The hill the Castle occupies now has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The first fortification here – Oppidum – was erected by Celts, and the Roman Empire border was around this area, too. The bigger palaces were constructed on this site in the 11th century, with a massive reconstruction around the 17th century.

It served as the main Castle of the Kingdom of Hungary (the Castle used to be known as Pressburg Castle because that’s what Bratislava was called back then). After an extensive rebuild in the 20th century, the Castle is the seat of the Slovak Parliament and is also home to the Slovak National Museum. You can visit the museum exposition and a temporary painting exhibition there too. 

There is also a Baroque garden, the Memorial of Svatopluk, and a fantastic Leopoldova Brana—a decorated gate through which you can enter the Castle. Below the Castle, you can spot St Nicolas church.

2. Walk through the Michael’s Gate 

Michael’s Gate is a mediaeval fortification first built in the 14th century and has remained perfectly preserved until today.

Its current baroque appearance dates back to around 1758. If you wish, you can also see the exhibition inside it.

Under the Gate, you can spot the plague marking Bratislava zero kilometres with the marks showing the distance to other major cities around the world. On the top of the tower is a figure of Michael and the Dragon – observe it from Michalska street!

The road to Michael’s gates includes a nice bridge with statues of St Michael and Jan John of Nepomuk. See the installation of the Laurinc Gate (Saint Lawrence Gate) below. 

3. Have a look inside the St Martin’s Cathedral

St Martin’s Cathedral is the largest and most important church in Bratislava. From 1563 to 1830, it was used for the royal coronations of the kings from the Kingdom of Hungary and contains relics of Saint John the Merciful.

Its spire stands 85 metres tall and has a replica of the Crown of St Stephen on top — there is no way you can miss it when looking over the Bratislava skyline.

4. Learn about the numerous landmarks of the Main Square

The Main Square, or Hlavné námestie, is the heart of the old city of Bratislava. 

The Roland Fountain (also known as the Maximillian Fountain) is one of Bratislava’s most famous fountains because it supplied the whole city with fresh water. It was erected in 1572 after the order of the king of Hungary, Maximilian II.

There are many other sights to explore, too, such as cafes, the Guard’s booth statue, the Japanese Embassy with a matcha cafe, and—probably that’s the main sight—the Town hall (see below).

5. Visit the City museum inside the Town Hall

The Town Hall is one of Bratislava’s most famous landmarks. The oldest part of it—the tower—dates back to the 14th century!

Now, the building houses a museum reflecting on the history of the city once known as Pressburg, an observation point, and temporary exhibitions, too (now it showcases the exhibition in the 60s in Slovakia). 

First of all, climb a few flights of stairs because the views from the top are fantastic: you can see the Main Square, the Castle, and the Franciscan Square.

The town hall inside has the same vibe as the Prague town hall, with beautiful paintings on the walls, stained glass, and historical artefacts showcasing the life of the city until the mid-20th century. 

Behind the Town hall is the Primate’s Square with the Primate’s Palace, a beautiful building erected in the 18th century for Archbishop József Batthyány and now occupied by the Mayor of Bratislava. See the Fountain of St George and the dragon inside its courtyard! 

6. Explore the Franciscan square

Right adjacent to the Main square is Franciscan Square, or Frantiskanske Nameste. You can immediately spot Marian column dating to 1675 and a statue of a woman with a jug (also called Nymph Francisca) on the site of an old well.

It is named after the nearby Franciscan monastery, the oldest operating religious building in the city. It was consecrated in 1297 and rebuilt a few times throughout its history. Pop in to see its amazing interior; moreover, there is a lovely green area just behind it.

It’s not the only religious building on Franciscan Square: the Holy Saviour Church, or the Jesuit Church, built in 1636 – 1638, is famous for its amazing interior and organ emporium. 

7. Learn about the history of Holocaust memorial

Suppose you walk past St Martin’s Cathedral. In that case, there is no way you will miss the Holocaust memorial, showing an empty house and honouring the 105,000 victims of the Holocaust from Slovakia.

The monument was built in 1996. On this site once stood a magnificent Neolog Synagogue, which was demolished in 1969 by communists to clear how to construct Nový Most, a new bridge leading to the city centre.

You can also spot different plaques with the stories of prominent Jews of Bratislava around the city too.

8. See panorama from the city walls

The only surviving part of the original city wall is along Staromestská Street: look out for mighty thick walls and two towers, Bird Tower and Northwestern Tower! Also, have a look at the green area called Kapituluski Dvory.

This stretch of the city walls is up to 85 metres high and was restored in the late 20th century.

9. Imagine seeing the Laurence gate 

Laurence Gate (or Laurinc Gate) was one of the gates of mediaeval fortifications around the old city dating to the 13th century. It was named after a church dedicated to St Lawrence, but the church is no longer there.\

The city walls and gates were largely demolished in 1778; however, today, you can still see a floating installation on the exact site where the date once stood, with a memorial plaque on the pavement. 

10. Search for cool sculptures around the city

Bratislava is full of many creative statues reflecting different areas of Bratislava life, so make sure you spot as many as you can! The Statue of Schöner Náci, just off the Main Square, for instance, represents a real person Ignác Lamár nicknamed Handsome Nazi and who was a famous citizen of Bratislava. Few metres away you can spot a sculpture of Čumil, the watcher, also known as A man at work. It features a man looking out of a manhole.

Another nice monuments are the he Skater girls’ mailbox (Prvá poštová schránka), which is located where the Obchodná area – the first post office was here – is crossed by Poštová ulica; and and Kamen Korzo, a large grant stone on the Michalská street.

Also there are also a few on the main square I’ve already mentioned.

11. Walk past the Grassalkovich Palace

Grassalkovich Palace was initially built in the 18th century for a nobleman from Hungary, who was an advisor to Empress Maria Theresa and was named after him. Franz Joseph Haydn is known to perform some of his new pieces here.

Since 1996, it’s been the official residence of the Slovak President. You can pass it by and admire the architectural features, see the fountain in front of it and see a historical park behind it! Usually, the interior is closer to the public.

12. Try local cafes 

Slovakia is an excellent place if you have a sweet tooth! There are many cafes serving desserts in historical surroundings, and you might like to visit one or two of them. 

In the centre of the old town, you can find, for instance, Konditorei Kormuth (they don’t allow photography inside and don’t accommodate people with prams), Cafe Mayer, and Maximillian cafe with a small kids’ corner. 

13. Pop into an old pharmacy 

We spotted a few old pharmacies in Bratislava, and you should visit them too! Head to the Panskà street, and you’ll see a traditional Slovak Lekáreň St. Martin Pharmacia, or the St Martin Pharmacy, with an impressive interior.

Just a couple of doors away, there is one of the oldest pharmacies in the city – Pharmacy Salvator, with baroque details. It was constructed in 1904 by Rudolf Adler, and its history extends back to the 18th century. However, just recently, the pharmacy was bought by PharmDr. Erik Kovács relocated the pharmacy with all the historic furniture to another location. They opened it to the public, so the pharmacy on Panskà Street is now empty. 

14. Spot UFO Tower

Suppose you arrive in Bratislava by car or observe the panorama from Bratislava castle. In that case, you won’t miss an unusual bridge over the Danube River, as if a UFO had landed on top of it!

It’s Most SNP – Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising (Most Slovenského národného povstania, that’s what SNP stands for), also known as the New Bridge Nový most or UFO Tower, constructed in 1967-1972.  Inside the “saucer” is an observation deck and a restaurant- perhaps you’ll decide to visit!\

15. See more churches around the city

As you probably noticed, many churches around Bratislava (I’ve mentioned St Martin’s Cathedral, Franciscan monastery, St Nicolas church and the Holy Saviour Church). However, you can explore! For instance, see St. Stephen of Hungary Capuchin Church and Monastery, or Kostol sv. Štefana, on your way from the Castle to the old city centre: this monastery dates to the early 18th century.

Besides that, the Church of Saint John of Matha and Saint Felix of Valois (Farsky kostel sv Jana and Matthew, or the Trinity church) not far from it dates to more or less the same period and was built on the site of an old Church of St. Michael. And of course, you can visit the Church of St. Elizabeth or the famous Blue church!

You might like to read more about Europe:

Hope you liked my blog,
Yours, Anna

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts