The Slovakian capital Bratislava is still unknown and unloved by many. That’s a shame, because the city has a lot to offer. It is a fun city trip and a must-see for those traveling through Slovakia, but without the hordes of tourists from cities such as Prague and Vienna. Picturesque old streets such as Michalska, cozy cafes and restaurants, impressive squares and historic buildings: it’s all there. The old town contains most of the architectural gems. The castle, high on a hill above the Danube, is also worth a visit. In addition, the city has many excellent museums. Which beautiful places and sights should you definitely not miss in Bratislava?
- Bratislava’s sights and beautiful places: what should you see?
- Novy Most
- Bratislava Castle
- Michalska and the Michalska tower
- Slovak National Theater
- St. Martin’s Cathedral
- The Primatial Palace
- Grassalkovich Palace
- Bratislava’s Old Town Hall
- St. Elizabeth’s Church
- The Slavin Hill of Bratislava
Bratislava’s sights and beautiful places: what should you see?
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is located on the Danube, about fifty-five kilometers downstream from Vienna. Does this make you think of a boring, dark city full of Eastern Bloc architecture? Then a surprise awaits you. Bratislava is a pleasant and cheerful place with nice sights.
What to see in Bratislava?
The old town (stare mesto) is a cozy, compact area with beautiful squares such as Hodzovo Namestie and Hlavne Namestie, picturesque streets and historic buildings. You also enjoy street musicians and nice restaurants. The city has a beautiful castle and a number of impressive bridges, of which the ‘Novy Most’ is the most beautiful. There is also no shortage of excellent museums: there is the Slovak National Gallery, the Museum of Jewish Culture and much more. The vibrant city also offers many cultural activities.
Novy Most in the evening / Source: Vikino, Pixabay
Most is Slovak for bridge and Novy Most means new bridge. It connects Bratislava’s old city center with the suburb of Petrzalka across the Danube. The impressive structure from 1971 hangs a hundred meters above the river. Unlike many other buildings from the communist era, this bridge fits very nicely into the surroundings. The Novy Most is one of Bratislava’s most beautiful sights and is also reminiscent of the famous Space Needle in the American city of Seattle.
Be sure to take the elevator to the observation deck. Here you can enjoy spectacular views of Bratislava and the surrounding area.
There is also a popular restaurant for those who want to enjoy a nice meal with a view. The bridge is also beautifully illuminated in the evening and at night.
Bratislava Castle is located on a hill, about a hundred meters above the river, from where you overlook the city. There was a castle here as early as the ninth century. The current form dates from the fifteenth century. The Austrian monarch Maria Theresia had the castle rebuilt in the eighteenth century. A visit is worthwhile, not only for the good museums in the castle, but also for the panoramic views over the city. You can also see Austria and on a clear day even Hungary.
The rooms of the Museum of History and the Slovak National Museum are especially worth seeing. Many impressive works of art and ancient objects can be admired here. Outside the castle but still within the walls you will find the nice Museum of Folk Music (‘hudobne muzeum’). You will find an overwhelming collection of instruments here and there are often live performances.
The castle is open from Tuesday to Sunday. You can reach it from the old town by crossing the busy highway at St. Martin’s Church along the underground pedestrian tunnel. Then you walk up, past the yellow and white colored House of the Good Shepherd, which houses a clock museum. From here you turn onto the street Beblaveho so that you reach the stairs. A little further on you reach the Corvinus Gate (‘Korvinova brana’) and the castle.
The old town of Bratislava / Source: PaulCosmin, Pixabay
Michalska and the Michalska tower
Bratislava’s old town is a pleasant collection of squares and picturesque streets. Michalska and the surrounding area especially stand out. Here you will find several beautiful sights.
Michalska is one of the most beautiful streets in the Slovak capital. Shops and restaurants are plentiful. In the summer you can stroll around here or enjoy a drink on a terrace, while street musicians give their best.
Most of the buildings on Michalska date from the eighteenth century. Fortunately, they were preserved, because the communist regime of the then Czechoslovakia made a sport of demolishing historic buildings and replacing them with bunker-like, grim apartment blocks.
Don’t forget the small St. Catherine’s Chapel (‘kaplinka sv Katariny) on Michalska 8. It dates from 1325 but was completely renovated in the nineteenth century.
From photogenic Michalska you can continue walking along Venturska, an adjacent street with beautiful palaces in Baroque style. In Venturska you will also find buildings where musical prodigies once performed. For example, nine-year-old Franz Liszt gave his first performance in 1820 in the concert pavilion of the library building at Venturska 13. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed as a six-year-old in 1762 in the building at Venturska 10. It is therefore not without reason that it is called the ‘Mozart House’ (‘ Mozartov stupid’).
St. Michael’s Tower (‘Michalska veza’) at the beginning of Michalska is the only preserved watchtower of the medieval city walls. It dates from the fourteenth century, but was subsequently raised and expanded several times. Inside the 51 meter high tower you will find a weapons museum. The views from the balcony of the top floor are equally beautiful. Here you can enjoy spectacular views of Bratislava’s old town.
Slovak National Theater
One of Bratislava’s most impressive sights is the Slovak National Theater on the long Hviezdoslavovo namestie square. It was built in the years 1885-1886 by the two Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer in a neo-Renaissance style. The city theater solemnly opened its doors on September 22, 1886. The first screening was Erkel’s opera Bank Ban. In front of the theater you will see the famous Fountain of Ganymede. Victor Tilgner, a sculptor from Bratislava, designed them in 1888. The Slovak National Theater is the place to be in Bratislava for those who love opera and ballet.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
St. Martin’s Cathedral (‘dom sv Martina’) on the edge of the old town is an imposing building. It was built in the thirteenth century in Romanesque style but replaced by a new Gothic building in the late fourteenth century. The cathedral was the scene of many historical events. No fewer than nineteen Hungarian monarchs (including the famous Maria Theresa) were crowned here.
The cathedral contains many important works of art, such as a statue of Saint Martin cutting a piece of his cloak for a beggar. The famous Austrian sculptor Donner made it in the eighteenth century. Don’t miss St. Stephen’s Crown: a copy of the Hungarian Royal Crown, high on the church tower 85 meters above the city.
The surroundings of the building are also beautiful. From the cathedral you quickly reach Kapitulska, together with Michalska one of the most beautiful and picturesque streets in Bratislava.
The Primatial Palace
This palace is one of the most beautiful sights in Bratislava. It was built in 1778 and is located right in the old town. The pale pink and white exterior is surrounded by several marble statues and a large iron cardinal’s hat. This headdress refers to the archbishop for whom the palace was built and to the many cardinals who have lived here over the centuries.
Important works of art
The palace is packed with large oil portraits of Habsburg princes. There is also a 1742 painting of Maria Theresa at her coronation. Large and rare English carpets from the seventeenth century can also be admired here.
Hall of Mirrors
Don’t miss the Hall of Mirrors. Okay, it may not be comparable to the room of the same name in the Palace of Versailles (France), but that does not make it any less impressive. The hall also has a special historical significance: Napoleon Bonaparte and the Austrian Emperor signed the Treaty of Pressberg (the old name of Bratislava) here in 1805, after the Battle of Austerlitz in which more than fifty thousand Russian, French and Austrian soldiers died.
There is also a beautiful fountain in the courtyard. The small St. Ladislaus chapel is also worth a look.
This palace, also called the Slovak White House, is the residence of the Slovak president. Count Anton Grassalkovich, chairman of the Royal Hungarian Chamber and advisor to Empress Maria Theresa, built it in the 1760s. An honorary soldier parades in front of the castle and guards it twenty-four hours a day. It is set in a large, open park with an impressive garden , accessible to the public. You will find the palace along Hodzovo Namestie Square.
Bratislava’s Old Town Hall
The old Gothic town hall dates from the fourteenth century. After an earthquake in 1599 it was reconstructed in Renaissance style. The tower was rebuilt in the eighteenth century in Baroque style and initially had a defensive role. Below you will find a memorial plaque with February 1850, when the Danube flooded and inundated the city. To the left of a window you see a bricked-in cannon ball, a reference to the attack by Napoleon’s troops in 1809. From the balcony, new laws and Royal decrees were proclaimed and proclaimed in times gone by.
Today the old town hall houses the interesting City Museum (‘mestské muzeum’). You can reach the museum via the picturesque courtyard where concerts often take place in the summer. For those who like things a bit scarier: in the dungeons of the old town hall you will find a large collection of medieval torture devices.
St. Elizabeth’s Church
One of the most beautiful sights and examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Slovakia and perhaps all of Europe is St. Elizabeth’s Church. It is also called the little blue church (modry Kostolik) thanks to its striking blue color. The Hungarian architect Lechner built the church in the years 1907-1913.
The church has a unique view and looks like something taken from a Disney movie. The bright blue tiles and mosaic stones are striking. These are called majolica and produced in the Slovak city of Modra. The roof also contains beautiful blue tiles. You will find the church on Bezrucova Street.
Slave monument / Source: Jorge Láscar, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.0)
The Slavin Hill of Bratislava
The Slavin hill is located a little outside the old city northwest of Slobody namestie. It’s worth taking a look to discover a piece of fascinating Slovak history. Moreover, from here you have a beautiful view of Bratislava. This place is actually mainly a war cemetery of Russian soldiers. They died during the liberation of Bratislava when the city was recaptured from the Nazis. Pay particular attention to the tall column, a haunting war memorial from 1960 in memory of the Russian liberators. It is one of the most special sights of Bratislava.
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