It is often said “everything in this life is a matter of perspective” but also “well, it depends on the way you look at it”.
Bratislava is a magical city that will surprise and enchant the visitor. It has lovely corners, buildings, squares and statues that will leave you astounded. Touring them in detail is wonderful, but it is even more so doing it from above.
There is an unmissable spot, a must-see for everyone who visits Bratislava: The Castle.
Easily recognisable by its square shape and towers on every corner, it stands majestically on one of the highest hills and dominates everything at its feet. The views from this point are like a journey through time, as the buildings that appear before us, show the different historical periods through which the city has passed.
From the most important viewpoint, where the main entrance to the castle is located, we can see the communist quarter on the other bank of the river. The entire quarter is made up of tall rectangular towers with many windows, this sober architecture was characteristic of the Socialist period. Over time, the towers have been painted in a different colour, mostly pastel shades, to embellish them.
On the right bank of the city we will find the old town, mostly built during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is, undoubtedly, the most beautiful part of the city, full of elegant towers with greenish peaked roofs, pastel-coloured houses and gabled roofs.
Looking out over the horizon we will find, in the distance, the neighboring country of Austria. Its capital, Vienna, is only 60 kilometres from Bratislava.
Definitely, we will have a delightful visit, and if we come here during sunset, the show is guaranteed.
You can get there on foot or by public transport:
Tram: Nový Most stop (lines 4, 10, 12, 17); Bus: Zámocká stop (lines 203, 207, 516), Nový Most stop (lines 28, 29, 30, 37, 70)
Slovakia does not have a "star dish" like tacos in Mexico or paella in Spain. However, Bryndzové halušky, which is made with potato dumplings, sheep´s cheese, sour cream and bacon, can be considered a "national dish". It can be found in almost any restaurant.
It is a centuries-old dish, very typical throughout the year, easy to make and with simple ingredients. Every family knows the recipe and everyone who tries it wants to eat it again. It is not a slow or long preparation process, so it won´t take you long to receive it as soon as you order it in the restaurant of your choice.
On the other hand, if you prefer sweet flavours rather than savoury, there is a second option: Slovenske palacinky, Slovakian pancakes. They are the country´s most popular dessert, pancakes with a choice of fillings. They are an explosion of flavour when served hot with home-made apricot jam. Other typical flavours include hazelnut, strawberry jam, cinnamon or icing sugar fillings.
Slovakia has a truly multicultural gastronomy, it borders several countries and this means that its cuisine is influenced by them. Do not expect seafood, it is a landlocked country, so fish is practically out of its diet.
The terrain and weather conditions are also decisive for their recipes. Because of the cold and long winters, Slovaks use easily storable ingredients such as cooked cabbage, flour, meat, potatoes and dairy products, especially cheese and kéfir, a type of fermented milk.
OBCHODNÁ ULICA AND STARÁ TRZNICA
The translation of Obchodna Ulica is "commercial street". It is a wide street full of shops which probably are not the cheapest in the country. In Obchodna Ulica you will find wonderful handicraft shops such as Dielo Slovakia and ULUV, where you will find a great variety of craft articles from the country, such as the famous Corn Husk Dolls dressed in typical costumes. They are available in different sizes and can be found as bookmarks, in drawings... they are an exclusive and original souvenir from Slovakia.
Other Slovak souvenirs are the Pijacka poharik, shot glasses to be worn around the neck, or the Valaška, which is a decorated shepherd´s axe used in many folk dances. Other beautiful memento would be the traditional embroidered clothing, called Troj. It is a typical Slovak woman´s dress, a nice gift that you can wear back home.
Another place worth visiting is the old market hall in Stará Tržnica. Built in 1910, it was the first market in the city. Here, you can find everything from flowers, tomatoes and peppers to wicker baskets and tablecloths. Moreover, it is the best opportunity to get an insight into the everyday life of the town´s inhabitants. Most of the products on sale here come from different parts of the region. Since its restoration, Stará Tržnica is not just any market, it is a place where special events are held, both inside the market and on the square in front of it. Some of those events are the monthly “Street Food” or the Christmas market.
It is place for assembly and meetings.
Address: 25, Namestie SNP 484 81101 Staré mesto
THE BLUE CHURCH
Although this place was probably not on your list of monuments to visit in Bratislava, we suggest you to visit the amazing Blue Church. Regardless of your beliefs, this will be one of the most original buildings you have ever seen.
Its official name is the Church of St. Elisabeth´s, Modrý Kostolíkin Slovak, (in honour of a Hungarian princess, Elisabeth of Hungary, daughter of Andrew II). Although, everyone knows it as the blue church, because it is painted in different shades of blue and white. This circumstance is very curious given the fact that it is a religious building. It is also worth visiting the interior of the temple, as the benches and many other decorative details are painted in the same shade of blue as the facade. Be mindful, because it is only open during mass hours.
Many say that it looks like the church of those famous cartoons brought to life by the Belgian cartoonist Peyo: the Smurfs. And it is true that seeing it from the front, you will be transported directly to those comic stories.
The creator of the building was the Hungarian architect Odon Lechner. You don´t have to be an erudite builder, painter or artist to admire it. It was built in the early 1900s and is a magnificent example of the Art Nouveau.
As a curiosity, it is the element representing Slovakia in the famous Mini Europa theme park in Brussels.
From there you´ll have a 10-minute walk to the main square of the city, Hlavné Námestie. Go straight ahead along Laurinská Street, where the statue of the Cumil is located, continue straight along Dunajská Street and turn right as soon as you see a passageway in the form of arcades. You should cross to the other side. Once outside again, turn left into Grösslingová Street and take the first street on your right, Bezrucova.
STATUES AND WITCHCRAFT
Bratislava is a city full of little details. One of the most curious and original attractions are the bronze statues that appear in large numbers in its streets, mainly in the historic centre. The surprise effect of finding them on any walk makes the visitor even more amazed by this capital city.
The idea for the statues was born in the 1990s and they were placed as a symbol of the Soviet withdrawal, to bring joy to the city and to discard the sober character of the it. Created with a lot of imagination, we will find various characters, which will amaze the visitors from the first moment .
Many statues decorate the city. The most famous and most photographed is that of the Cumil, a worker who cheerfully greets everyone who passes by from a manhole cover. It has happened in the past that this poor man´s head disappeared because of a stumble by an absent-minded pedestrian, so now there is a road sign to warn you where he is.
Another much-photographed character is the paparazzi taking pictures from a street corner. It is also well known the statue of Napoleon´s soldier or the picturesque gentleman waving his top hat, honouring an old Bratislava custom: walking through the streets in elegant suits and galleys, bowing to women and giving them flowers or singing to them.
But there is one that you might have trouble finding: "Sculpture of The Witch" on Hurbanovo Square. The statue is said to be the memory of the first witch who was burned in Bratislava. The witch was a young woman who was accused of witchcraft by a jealous "friend". Tired of torture and gossip, she accepted all the accusations and was condemned to burn at the stake. There was a lot of controversy in the creation of the memorial plaque and statue, as these are parts of the history that are not fully accepted or acknowledged. In fact, in order to not forget this lurid part of the past, every year, the inhabitants of Bratisllava dress up as witches and organise a procession.
Curious, isn´t it?
BLA, BLA, BLA
Travellers know that it is not always easy to communicate when you do not know the language. Slovak is the official and most widely spoken language in Bratislava. Czech, German and English are also relatively common. It is said that 80% of the country´s population speaks at least two of these languages, depending on the area. We should remember that Slovakia borders Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Ukraine. There are simple languages, there are complicated languages and there are impossible languages.
Depending on who you speak to, Slovak is either one of the first or rather one of the last. Learning Slovak is certainly not easy and takes more than a day, but you´ll laugh trying to babble a few words. Besides, locals will always be grateful if you made the effort and try (even if it´s in vain). It never hurts to get to know the place we are visiting without focusing on the merely touristic. Culture, history, tradition, gastronomy and, of course, language are also an important part of our travels.
If Slovak is not your thing, there is always English or the universal language of smiles and gestures. In any case, here are four very useful expressions for any traveller visiting Bratislava. Dare to use them! ·
Ahoj – hello·
zbohom – goodbye·
vdaka – thank you·
kolko to je? – how much does it cost?
HLAVNÉ NAMESTIE SQUARE
Hlavné Namestie Square is Bratislava´s main square. Located in the middle of the old town, it is the heart of the city, one of those busy places with voices in the background, bustle, cafes and movement. The ideal spot to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.
There, you will find one of the famous bronze figures, the statue of a guard. It represents the market guard since, many years ago, this was the site of the market and the place where important celebrations and executions took place. Today, open-air concerts, shows, craft markets and a large number of other events are held here. At Christmas time, the Christmas tree is put up and the square is filled with stalls selling decorative figurines, handicrafts, typical sweets and toys.
In the centre of the square is the Maximilian Fountain, in honour of the first emperor to be crowned in Bratislava and built as a water reserve for possible fires. And here comes the first curiosity: if you look at the fountain, you will see four children with fishes in their hands. They were not always there. Have you heard about the Manneken Pis? It is the famous statue of the peeing boy in the centre of Brussels. Did you know that in the centre of Bratislava there are 4 statues of peeing boys?
Here they are not as proud of them as the Brussels people are of their Manneken Pis. In the XVIII century, the deputies of Bratislava ordered the removal of the statues, which were in the fountain, and replaced them with the mentioned statues of the 4 children with fishes. Today, the pee-pee statues are half hidden in one of the courtyards of the archbishop´s palace, not far from Hlavné Square, there, they can pee in peace and quiet. Here, France left a part of its history. Near Hlavné Square is the Primate´s Palacewhere in 1805 Napoleon and Franz II of Austria signed what is known as the Peace of Pressburg after the Battle of Austerlitz.
Returning to the square, it is the site of the French, Japanese and Greek embassies. In front of the French embassy there is a statue of a soldier from Napoleon´s army. The reason for this sculpture is our second curiosity: if you look closely, you will see a cannonball from Napoleon´s army embedded in the clock tower.
The Slovaks like to say that he who laughs last laughs best, because even though Napoleon attacked Bratislava for three days and filled its buildings with bullets, the city has endured over time, something that neither Napoleon nor his empire have managed to do. To laugh even more, they placed the aforementioned statue of Napoleon´s soldier.
GOING THROUGH HISTORY
Who wants to take a royal tour? Bratislava was named the capital of Hungary in 1536 during the wars against the Ottomans and remained the capital until 1783 when it was moved back to Budapest. Between 1563 and 1830, 18 kings and queens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were invested as kings in St. Martin´s Cathedral in Bratislava.
The route taken by the royal procession is marked by small crowns embedded in the cobblestones of the streets leading to the Cathedral. Europamundo offers you the opportunity to follow part of this route.
Historically, the coronation procession started at the cathedral, but today´s coronation celebrations start at the castle.
As the entire route is too long, it takes more than four hours, we will choose a section of it.
We start our route at the famous Michael´s Gate, the only surviving gate of the medieval fortifications that surrounded the city in the XIV century, one of the oldest buildings in the city. Beneath it, lies Slovakia´s kilometre zero, and it carries a cursed legend: whoever speaks while crossing it will die a year and a day later. So, just in case, walk in silence.
St. Michael´s Street or Michalska Street is one of the main shopping lanes of the city, it is a very pleasant pedestrian walk. Halfway down the street, on our left, we should take Sedlárska Street which leads to the main square or Hlavné. If we pass under the arch of the Town Hall, we will reach another square. Always keep an eye on the ground to find the waymarks. They will not be there for the whole route, as we have added a few more stops, but we will follow them for a large part of our course.
If you wish, we can go down Ursulinska Street and turn right into Laurinská Street. Here we will find the famous statue of the paparazzi, one of the most photographed spots in Bratislava. On the next corner we will find another figure: the sculpture of Cumil, the helmeted worker emerging from a manhole.
Nearby is the Slovak National Theatre, an elegant building whose square is accompanied by a majestic fountain. This is a very exclusive area.
Further on, we will come across the statue of the Danish writer Christian Andersen, author of tales such as "The Little Mermaid" and "The Ugly Duckling". If we reach the end of the street we will find a square and a monument decorated with statues of saints. Behind them, there is a huge motorway that crosses the Danube and connects the two banks of the river by an immense bridge, locally nicknamed the UFO Bridge.
On the right is St. Martin´s Cathedralor Katedrála svätého Martina, built in a very sober Gothic style. This is the end of the route we propose and the place where the kings were crowned. Every year, in September, they hold a coronation ceremony representing the investiture of one of the Hungarian kings.
It is a massive event and the city is very proud of it.
GARDENS AND CAFES
Every good tourist appreciates the moments of calm between excursions. It is a good idea to take a break and feel consciously the atmosphere of the site around us.
What better place to take a break than the gardenssurrounding Bratislava Castle. We recommend to sit on one of the benches or on the lawn and enjoy the moment before returning to the historic centre in the lower part of the city.
The gardens were built in a baroque style characteristic of the times of Maria Theresa, only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions. The admission is free of charge. It´s a peaceful and relaxing place to visit, as long as it´s not too cold! But, if you come in winter time and don´t feel like being outdoors...
You can choose to rest in a coffee shop and relax a little. The city´s main square, Hlavné Námestie, is home of Bratislava´s most famous cafes:
Kaffe Mayer. It is an impeccable establishment with the same style as the best cafes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is decorated with portraits of Emperor Franz Joseph and the famous Sisi.We recommend trying some of their exquisite cakes, one of its tastiest little luxuries.
Shokocafe Maximilian. A renovated old café, a dream for those with a sweet tooth. It has a very pleasant wooden interior, with tables that are perfect for those who like to observe the life of the main square.
Antik Cafe. This exclusive cafe is also located very close to the Main Square, on Sedlarska Street. Its decoration is remarkable, with a large number of mirrors. Both tourists and businessmen from the city enjoy its terrace in summer and winter, as it has large gas heaters for the coldest days.
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