Paradoxically enough, I have been living in Austria for 11 years and I have never been to Slovakia until November 2017. Shame! Shame on me! … The fact that you can reach Bratislava by train from Vienna for the ridiculous 40 minutes drive, makes the first sentence even more bizarre. God bless my best friend from Sofia who had the idea to meet us “in the middle” of Europe during a long weekend.
Paradoxically enough – a flight from Sofia to Bratislava costs about 20 € (two-way tickets) and takes 1.5 hours. And a train ticket from Innsbruck to Bratislava costs about 80 € (one-way tickets) and takes 5 hours. Well… You can probably see my point 😀
Anyway – I, my best friend from school and some other friends from Sofia spent a lovely weekend in Partyslava. Pardon – Bratislava! The capital of Slovakia is one of the most chilled cities I have ever been too! A bit sleepy, very easy, clean and safe – a weekend should be quite enough if you want to see its main attractions.
Bratislava is one of those cities where everything is within walking distance. And I loved it! On the map, everything looks bigger and the distances – larger. But in fact, if you think that you’ll be walking 20 minutes from A to B, it will be something like 5 minutes. And each time we got really surprised by how small the city centre actually is.
The only minus of my trip to Bratislava was the Danube wind during the first day – Oh, my Goodness! That wind blew through our bones! The main difference to the wind in Sofia during the winter season (which I hate most!) is the fact that this one was much wetter and nastier! But the good Slovak beer and food cured everything. And we had more than enough during our stay in Bratislava!
Interesting Facts about Slovakia
Bratislava used to be the conjunction of four and even more differing populations: Germans, Austrians, Hungarians and Slovaks.
Slovakia is the Geographical midpoint of Europe.
Its official name is the Slovak Republic.
Its population was estimated to be 5.435.343 (2016).
Its population is smaller than the New York’s.
Its capital Bratislava is the only capital in the world bordering two countries: Austria and Hungary. It also borders Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
The official language is Slovak and the currency – Euro!
There are 9 National Parks and 14 Natural Reserves in Slovakia.
Slovakia is wild! You can find a lot of bears, wolves, wildcats, marmots, otters, lynx, and other wild animals in the High Tatras.
There are more than 6.000 caves, 1300 mineral springs and 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Slovakia.
The ruins of Spiš Castle form one of the largest castle sites in Central Europe.
Old medieval town of Levoča is a home of the highest wooden altar in the world.
The highest point in Slovakia is 2.655 m high – the Gerlachovsky Stit.
Slovakia has the world’s highest number of castles and chateaux per capita – 180 castles and 425 chateaux!
In Slovakia are located some of the most important opal mines in the World.
The most famous American with Slovak parents is probably the pop artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987).
The Košice Peace Marathon (1924) in Slovakia is the oldest marathon in Europe and the second-oldest in the world! The oldest one is in Boston.
Slovakia has the first reservation of folk architecture in the world
Together with Lithuania, Poland and the Check Republic, the Slovak women marry the youngest within the EU.
Slovakia’s birth rate is one of the lowest in the World.
Bridges of Bratislava
There are 5 bridges over the Danube River in Bratislava which connect the old with the new part of the city: New Bridge, Old Bridge, Lafranconi Bridge, Bridge Apollo, and Harbour Bridge.
The oldest bridge in the city is as the name reveals the Old Bridge but it is also known as the Bridge of Emperor Franz Josef, Štefánik’s Bridge or Bridge of the Red Army. The bridge was opened for the first time by Emperor Franz Josef in the year of 1890.
The New Bridge enjoyed a lot of name changes and nowadays it is often called the UFO Bridge. Regardless his name, the New Bridge is the second oldest in Bratislava. An interesting fact is that the New Bridge is the second one in the World to be built without pillars in the river and to be held on steel ropes only.
The Harbour Bridge was built between 1977 and 1985 and serves as road and (the only one in Bratislava!) railway bridge at the same time.
The first bridge made out of concrete in Bratislava is the Lafranconi built between 1985 and 1991. The bridge is an important highway by-pass which connects Austria and the Czech Republic from the southern bank of Danube. With its 800m the Lafranconi bridge is the longest in Bratislava.
The Apollo Bridge was named after the “Apollo” oil refinery which was bombed in the year of 1944 during World War II. However, the bridge was built much later – starting with the project in 1973 and the actual opening in 2003.
UFO Bridge & Tower, Bratislava
My favourite Place of Bratislava is definitely the UFO Observation Deck and Tower! Yes, I know … Always following my fondness for finding the greatest city view like in New York (here), Dubai (here), London (here), Los Angeles (here), Prague (here), and Lisbon (here) – I found the best in Bratislava too! The panoramic view from the UFO-shaped cupola is absolutely spectacular! From here you can see up to 100 km in a distance on a beautiful day! From 95 meters above ground on the west side you’ll see Austria, and on the south side – Hungary! Not that easy to top!
From here you’ll spot the most important buildings in Bratislava too – the Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Old Town, Kamzik Tower and the blue church too. On the upper floor, 85 m above the ground level, you will find the UFO restaurant and café. After major reconstruction, the restaurant reopened in 2003 with the new concept “UFO WATCH.TASTE.GROOVE”.
The Paparazzi in UFO restaurant is actually the bronze statue that used to be on Radničná and Laurinská Streets where a restaurant called “Paparazzi” operated during the years. But as it often happens to restaurants, “Paparazzi” was closed and its owners took the statue with them. Nowadays, the city of Bratislava is negotiating to get it back the Paparazzi, because it is still a popular tourist attraction.
Main Square in Bratislava, Hlavné Námestie
In the heart of Bratislava’s Old Town, you will find the main square and the most visited place in Bratislava – Hlavné námestie. All buildings of the historical centre are worth your attention, but there is no doubt that the Old Town Hall is the main square’s landmark. Parts of the Old Town Hall date back to 15th century and the popular tunnel that enables the entry from the square was fully used even during the 14th century. Back in the history, Hlavné námestie was the main marketplace as well as a place for important ceremonies and happenings. Another famous thing to see on the Main Square is the 10.5 m high Maximillian Fountain and also the Jesuit Church, called “Kostol Najsvätejšieho Spasiteľa”.
Some of the most photographed places in Bratislava are the famous bronze (+ one silver) statues: Cumil, Schone Naci, and Napoleon Soldier.
The Schone Naci was actually a real existing person called Ignac Lamar. Ignac was living in Bratislava (back in the days the city was called Pressburg) at the end of the 19th and the beginning of 20th century. But who is Ignac Lamar and why is he that important for the city of Bratislava? The rumours say that Ignac was a crazy old man who fell in love with a woman. Unfortunately, this woman did not have the same feelings for him. And why crazy? Ignat was very disappointed by the loved one so he started giving flowers to random women which he met on the streets of Bratislava. Today Schone Naci is greeting all people on Sedlárska Street.
The most famous and loved bronze statue in Bratislava located on Panska Street is Čumil or – “the watcher”. As you can easily recognize, only his upper body is visible to the public. The local joke says that Čumil is skipping his unpleasant job of cleaning the streets of Bratislava. And instead – he is seeking after women’s (under) skirts. The bronze statue of Čumil is the most damaged of all – his head has been injured several times by careless motorists and twice by speeding cars. Nowadays there is a road sign above his head warning the drivers saying: “watch out for creeps underfoot”.
In 1805 Napoleon and his army were going through Bratislava. One of the soldiers called Hubert fell in love with a local beauty. His love for her was so deep and evocative that he decided to stay in the city and become a wine producer. Today “Huber” is one of the most famous brands for sparkling wine in Slovakia. You can find the bronze soldier at the Main Square right next to the Old Town Hall.
Michael’s Gate and Tower
Michael’s Gate is the last standing gate in Bratislava and probably the most prominent landmark of the city. St. Michael’s Gate was named after St. Michael’s Church. Nowadays, Michael’s Gate is one of the main entrances to the Old Town of Bratislava. Michael’s Gate was built during the 14th century and was rebuilt in the 18th century. Since then, the building with the green copper roof is one of the best known and oldest in Bratislava.
The tower is 51m high and has seven floors. At the top of the tower is a statue of the archangel Michael. From the upper balcony, you can enjoy the great view of the old town.
The Coronation Route, Bratislava
There is no chance to miss the little crowns located around Bratislava! When Bratislava was the capital of Hungarian Kingdom, a total of 19 kings and queens were crowned in the St. Martin’s Cathedral.
All little-gilded crowns in the pavement of the Old Town in Bratislava follow the coronation trail and footsteps of the crowned Kings and Queens. If you follow the crowns in Bratislava you’ll visit the Castle of Bratislava, St Martin Minster, Hlavné Námestie Square, Námestie Ľ. Štúra square on the embankment of the Danube River, the small Franciscan Church and Martin’s Gate.
Why the Kings choose Bratislava? Because the city was considered to be secured during the Ottoman Empire. Slovakia had successfully repelled the Turk invaders during the heavy history of Europe thanks to the double fortification wall around the Old Town. So the city of Bratislava was considered “to be safe” for all Kings and Queens of the Hungarian and Austrian Empire.
The first Hungarian King to be crowned in Bratislava was Maximilian in the 15th century. But there is no doubt, the most important coronation in the history of Bratislava was that of Maria Theresa in 1740! During the 18th century, Austrian Empire rebuilt the Castle of Bratislava into a showplace of glory and opulence.
In the next blog post, I’ll share with you all the places we visited on the second day of our weekend city trip, including the Bratislava Castle and the Blue Church.
Have you been to Bratislava? Which is your favourite place in the city?
Enjoy the day!