Bratislava wasn’t on my travel bucket list until we started planning this trip and saw how close it was to Vienna. From talking to family and friends who questioned our inclusion of Bratislava on the list, I knew I wasn’t alone.
But, at just over 60km (an hour on the bus) from Vienna, it seems almost stupid not to go. So, we added it to the itinerary, booked our Flixbus tickets and were off.
Bratislava is the capital and largest city in Slovakia. It is home to more than 650,000 people, and it is nothing like the Bratislava that was depicted in the movie EuroTrip (let’s just get that out of the way now). Located in southwestern Slovakia, Bratislava lies on the banks of both the River Danube and the River Morava. It also borders both Austria and Hungary, making it the only nation capital to border two independent nations.
It’s a small capital city, but one that packs a big punch, and although we were only there for a few hours we had more than enough to see, do and eat.
Most SNP (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising)
We hadn’t been on the bus for very long when Most SNP popped up on the horizon. This spaceship looking bridge is one of Slovakia’s newest icons and was something I was intrigued by. So, I was more than pleased that this was the very first thing we saw in the city.
Built in the early-1970s, Most SNP is the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge to have one pylon and one cable-styles plane (as per Wikipedia). It spans 303m across the Danube and brought us right to the base of Bratislava Castle.
The bridge is home to a restaurant that offers panoramic views of the city. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to visit UFO (the actual, official name of the restaurant), but should we ever go back, it’ll be my first stop.
After snapping a few shots of the bridge we started our ascent to Bratislava’s most famous and iconic sites, Bratislava Castle.
First built in the 9th century, Bratislava Castle sits high atop an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians, directly above the Danube River in the middle of Bratislava (source).
Winding our way through streets, alleys and gardens, we made our way up to the castle, taking in the spectacular views of the Old Town along the way.
Old Town Bratislava
From the castle, we wound our way down the mountain and went straight to Old Town Bratislava.
The Old Town of Bratislava is the small but preserved medieval city centre of Bratislava, and is home to Bratislava Castle and other important landmarks. The streets of the Old Town date back to the 14th century; they are small and winding and so much fun to explore.
Hlavné námestie is the main square in the Old Town of Bratislava, and one of the city’s most famous. The square is home to historic landmarks, including the Old Town Hall, as well as contemporary establishments like the Japanese Embassy and the Palace of the Hungarian exchange bank.
The Old Town and Hlavné námestie are also home to the famous bronze statues of Bratislava, including Napoleon Soldier and Cumil (the watcher)
Just a short walk from the town square is Michael’s Gate, the only remaining gate from the city’s medieval fortification.
Built in the 1300s, the gate is the oldest building in Bratislava. Today, it is home to a museum and viewpoint, which is located on the sixth floor.
Church of St. Elizabeth
Located on the eastern side of the Old Town is the Church of St. Elizabeth, which is also commonly known as the Blue Church. Built just over 100 years ago, the Church of St. Elizabeth is hardly one of the oldest in the city, but thanks to its stunning blue facade it is one of the most famous.
The church is located a bit off the beaten path, in a residential area. So, unless you are outright looking for it, it can be easy to miss. Thankfully, the AirBnB we were staying in was located right down the street, so taking a trip to the Church was not much of a detour.
What to Eat and Drink
As the sun set, we decided that it was time to move from sightseeing to eating. When researching Bratislava I learned about the traditional dish, bryndzové halušky, consisting of potato dumplings (or gnocchi) with bryndza sheep cheese and bacon.
I was intrigued, but wary. When you broke it down, each ingredient didn’t sound so bad, I just wasn’t sure how the combination of them all would be. Obviously, I was going to have to try it.
We picked a restaurant, I found it on the menu and that was that. My time had come.
Bryndzové halušky is quite similar to a homemade, very hearty mac ‘n’ cheese. The potato dumplings were small and thin, think an oversized orzo, and thanks to the bryndza sheep cheese the dish had a very strong, almost tart flavour, which contrasted nicely with the sweeter bacon.
It wasn’t at all what I expected, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and am so happy that I was able to accomplish my Bratislavian food goal.
Just like in Prague, no trip to Bratislava would be complete without a glass or two (or three) of pilsner. Following dinner, we waddled around the corner to Beer Palace and spent the rest of our evening chatting and laughing over €2 pints of Pilsner Urquell, which is brewed onsite.
Our time in Bratislava was short but rich. We saw the sights, sampled the food and sipped the pilsner, and had the most wonderful pitstop in Slovakia.
Next up, our final Central EuroTrip stop: Budapest!
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