Bordering both Austria and Hungary, Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. Due to its proximity to Vienna, Bratislava is also a preferred destination for those traveling to Austria. The fact that it is only 40 kilometers away from Vienna has a great effect on this. Previously known as Pressburg due to the domination of Austria and Germany, the name of the city was changed to Bratislava in 1919.
Bratislava’s history as a capital city is also quite shaky. It was the Hungarian capital for a long time when it was within the borders of Hungary. It was also the capital of a province during the German rule. In 1993, when Czechoslovakia was divided into two different countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it became the capital of Slovakia and still continues to be the capital.
The city’s name comes from Bratislava, which means Slavic Brotherhood. The north side of the Danube River is the old city center of the city. Without crossing the Danube, you can actually visit most of the places to visit in the city in a small area on foot. If your aim is to visit the city and see the sights, 1 day is enough to visit Bratislava.
Should I buy a Bratislava Card?
First of all, city transportation is free with Bratislava Card. You can use public transportation such as trams, trolleybuses, day and night buses and S line trains for free for 24, 48 or 72 hours. With this card you can join the Walking Tour service in Bratislava for free, but the tours start at 14:00. I think it’s quite late. The tours start at the Tourist Information Center at Klobučnícka 2 and you have to book at least two hours in advance.
The City History Museum (€5) and Devin Castle (€5) are free with your Bratislava Card. There are a few other museums that don’t really need to be visited for free, but nothing more. Many museums offer discounts of 10% or 20%, which I think should not be included in a city card. But they must have thought to make up for this deficiency with its cheapness. 1 day Bratislava Card costs 15€, 2 days 17€ and 3 days 19€.
Slavin is a military cemetery. The grave of thousands of Soviet Army soldiers who lost their lives during World War II is located like a monument on a hill near the center of the city. The monument, built on a cemetery, was inaugurated in 1960, on the 15th anniversary of the liberation of the city. The monument on the hill with the graves of about 7,000 soldiers is 39 meters high. There is also an 11-meter soldier monument at the top of the monument, representing the soldiers who lost their lives during the liberation of Bratislava. This monument is to the Soviet people what the Gallipoli Victory Monument is to us. For the Russians and Soviet people who defeated the Nazis, this place has a great spiritual significance. When you go up the hill, you have a panoramic view of Bratislava. On the other side of the Slavin statue you can see the right spot for the view.
Bratislava Castle is a castle that can be seen from many parts of the city. Although it has been under ruins for many years, it will not escape your attention with its shining white color thanks to the restorations made in recent years. It is 2km from Slavin, but very close to Old Town. You can even walk there. You can stroll in the castle garden and watch Bratislava separated by the Danube River from the castle garden.
After the castle, we go to a gateway that provides a transition between periods. St. Michael’s Gate is one of the four gateways during the period when the area was surrounded by walls. The others have not survived to this day, but this St. Michael’s Gate has. From the top of the tower, we have a panoramic view from the old city center of Bratislava to the Bratislava Castle and even to the back of the city. This is one of the best places to see the surroundings in this way.
Bratislava Blue Church
The Church of St. Elizabeth, also known as the Blue Church because its facade is decorated with blue mosaics, is one of the places you can see during your Bratislava trip. In the early 20th century, it was dedicated to St. Elizabeth, who was born in Bratislava, hence the original name. You can see a portrait of Elizabeth above the entrance door of the church.
Bratislava has a long, green street called Hviezdoslavovo Namestie, closed to vehicle traffic. Starting with the historic Slovak National Theater, this street is one of the city’s escape points. Surrounded by trees, cafes and restaurants and decorated with fountains, this street and its surroundings are also home to popular sculptures. In the middle of the street, you can see the statue of Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, one of the most important poets of Slovak literature.
Bratislava is known as the city of sculptures, and you will see many of them as you walk around Bratislava. I must say that these sculptures in parks, street corners and squares add color to the city. One of the sculptures in Bratislava is Cumil, the statue of a worker emerging from a manhole cover (Man at Work). Located in the old city center, Cumil statue was built in 1997. The statue is depicted as a human figure resting after cleaning the sewer. But according to some, it is also said to be a man looking up women’s skirts. The word Cumil means spectator. The most photographed statue in Bratislava is the Cumil statue. It is located at the intersection of Rybarska Brana and Panska streets (48°08’34.38″ N 17°06’32.08″ E). You can see statues like this in many parts of the city. Schone Naci, greeting everyone with his fört hat in his hand, is one of them. The statue of Naci is a statue of a man named Ignac Lamar who lived in Pressburg at the beginning of the 20th century. This is the story of a man who went mad when he couldn’t meet the person he fell in love with.
If you are interested in art, you can also visit the Slovak National Gallery (Slovenská Národná Galéria) building on the south side of this street by the river, or the Natural History Museum (SNM-Prírodovedné Múzeum) on the same line. Towards the end of the street, in the square with St. Martin’s Cathedral, there is a statue called Pamataj, which means Remember. The monument also commemorates the Holocaust, the massacre of Jews and Slavs on the borders occupied by Nazi Germany. The Holocaust Memorial, built in 1996 with traces of the nearby Neolog Synagogue, which was demolished in 1969, tries to remember the 105,000 Slovak Jews who were lost.
UFO Observation Tower
There is an observation deck over the Danube River, also called the UFO Observation Deck because it looks like a UFO, which allows you to watch the city from a little higher up. The UFO Observation Deck built on the newly constructed bridge Novy Most (Most SNP) is one of the unusual structures of the city. We didn’t go there, but you may enjoy watching the castle and the old city center from that angle. There is also Slovenský Rozhlas, the inverted pyramid-like building of Slovak radio, which is a different architectural style.
One of the oldest squares of the city, Hlavne Námestie, is the last stop of our Bratislava Old Town tour. There is also a statue of a Napoleon soldier in this historic square. The story of this Napoleon soldier, leaning on a bench and watching the passers-by from behind his hat, is as follows. When Napoleon and his soldiers came to this region for the siege, one of them fell in love with a local girl and made a life for himself here. He worked as a sparkling wine producer and is said to be the founder of the Hubert brand, the most popular sparkling wine producer in Slovakia.
Devin Castle is located very close to the border line between Bratislava and Vienna. This historical building on the border with Bratislava dates back to the Neolithic Age. One of the oldest castles in Slovakia, the most interesting part of this half-ruined, half-standing structure is the observation tower called the Maiden’s Tower with its delicacy and elegance. It is said that many people were imprisoned here in history. If you come by car, there is a free parking lot in front of it. If you want to enter the castle, the entrance fee is 2€.
If you go to the part of the castle where the Danube and Morava rivers meet, you will see a monument. Erected in 2005 as a symbol of freedom, the monument commemorates those who lost their lives on the borders of Czechoslovakia with Austria and Germany between 1945 and 1989. The rusty steel bars between the blocks of the monument that resemble prison windows and the holes in the blocks that look like bullet and shrapnel fragments add to the meaning of the monument. The names of 400 people who lost their lives at the border are engraved on the inside of the gate.
Where is Bratislava and how to get there?
Although we traveled to Bratislava by car, it is possible to reach the historical sites especially in the Old Town area on foot. If you want to reach more distant places, you can use public transportation with the ease of Bratislava’s urban transportation. You can easily visit Bratislava in one day. You don’t need to think that you want to visit Bratislava in particular. You can visit Bratislava by adding +1 more day to your trip to Austria, Poland, Czechia or Hungary.
It is not possible to reach Bratislava directly from Istanbul. The fastest way to get to Bratislava is to fly to Vienna and then take a bus or train from Vienna. So, is it because there is no airport in Bratislava? No, there is Bratislava Airport 9km from the city center, but there are no flights from Turkey. You can find connecting flights here. If you go to the airport, you can use line 61 or 93 to get to the city center, and you can buy tickets from the bus drivers for around 1€.
You can get to Bratislava from Vienna by bus or you can take the boats departing from Swedenplatz. Although the timetable of these boats is much reduced during the winter season, there are many departures in summer. These boats, which provide transportation over the Danube River, cost around 30 – 35€ one way and take 75 minutes. Click here for boat information. Bus transportation takes one hour and costs around 20€ round trip.
If you are coming to Bratislava with your private car, you need to buy a vignette to use the highways at gas stations or at the border shops. The minimum vignette is 10 days and costs 10€. If you buy a monthly vignette you have to pay 14€ and if you buy a yearly vignette you have to pay 50€.
What to eat in Bratislava?
One of the foods I highly recommend when traveling to Bratislava is garlic soup. Garlic soup is the most famous dish in Bratislava. But this Bratislava dish is not served on a normal plate, but in a hollowed out round bread. And a delicious clotted cream on top. Try it at least once.
Where to stay in Bratislava?
For tent and caravan accommodation, there is a campground called Camping Zlate Piesky 8km northeast of the city. You can stay here very cheaply. It is one of the cheapest places I have seen in Europe. This campground is located next to the touristic lake called Wakelake.
What are the places to visit in Bratislava?
In addition to all these, Transport Museum Bratislava (Stm Muzeum Dopravy), which is similar to Istanbul’s Rahmi Koç Museum but does not have such a large collection, is a special museum for those interested. Here you can see old cars, motorcycles, old technological equipment, locomotives and war equipment. For watch enthusiasts, there is also the Bratislava Watch Museum in a building called House at the Good Shephard. Located in the east of the castle, very close to the castle, the clock museum exhibits a variety of clocks from historical clocks to historical clocks.
Bratislava is not a city you want to visit directly. Even though it is not a very bright city, it should be kept in mind that every place in the world should be seen at least once, and that it is one of the places like Vienna, which you can get out of the way as soon as you reach one of the places around it.