Slovakia or the Slovak Republic only became independent in 1993, and its capital Bratislava retains a mixture of eighteenth-century architecture and Soviet-era statues. This modern city on the banks of the Danube also boasts hilly parks criss-crossed by cyclists and hikers, while vineyards dot the foot of the Small Carpathians or Male Karpathy to the north. Its proximity to Austria to the west means that it’s possible to take a Big Bus Tour from Vienna, but you may prefer to base yourself in Bratislava, taking advantage of its lively and varied nightlife! Hlavné nám or Main Square, with its many cafés, activities and festivals, has the buzz that you need to get you started.
Bratislava Castle is a must on your itinerary. More than a century after being destroyed by fire, this fairytale structure was re-built in the 1960s and re-styled as a white Renaissance palace, but the site goes back as far as the ninth century. Climb the Crown Tower for magnificent views, or do the same at the top of the eighty-five metre Gothic tower of St Martin’s Cathedral. It was once a look-out post, and its crown consists of three hundred kg of gold. The interior is plainer, even though it has been the scene of nineteen coronations. The original church was Romanesque and was part of the city walls.
There are plenty of sightseeing tours to choose from. Combine a minibus or coach trip around the old town with a visit to the castle to save money and time – hop-on and hop-off buses will give you flexibility, and multi-lingual audio guides will keep you informed. Buy a Bratislava City Card at the Culture and Information Centre in Primacialne Square, where you can also book excursions. The card includes a free hour-long walking tour and discounts for public transport and attractions. Customised or scheduled boat rides will give you a different perspective and can take you as far as the ruins of Devin Castle, 10 km from the old town, with its breathtaking views of the Danube and Morava rivers. Napoleon destroyed the fortress in 1809 but there are traces of habitation going back to the fifth century BC.
Guided walks in several languages will help you get to know the pedestrianised centre, including medieval Kapitulská Street. Owned by the Catholic church, but neglected in Soviet times, its run-down buildings contain original features and are open to the public twice a year. Pause in peaceful Grassalkovich Garden, a French-style park behind the presidential palace, or if you’re feeling energised by this lively city, make use of the park’s running track. Alternatively, join the locals jogging alongside the Danube for a more pleasant run before eating your lunch in friendly Námestie slobody (Freedom Square), still more commonly known by its old Czech Communist-era name of Gottko. With a variety of tours, you’re sure to find one to suit you.
Booking Tours & Activities in Bratislava
Relaxed holidays – Book interesting tours, activities and sightseeing in Bratislava in the comfort of your own home before your departure: