Bratislava is located on the Danube River, a major European waterway, and on the foothills of the Little Carpathian Mountains. It is the only city in the world that has proximity to two capital cities – 50 miles from Vienna and 128 miles from Budapest.
Often lost in the shadow of Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, makes up for its lack of publicity with its authenticity and friendliness. That’s good news for travelers. So, if you’re looking for under the radar destinations, here are 5 reasons why you should consider Bratislava:
1. No crowds and less hurried
No one goes for a vacation so that they could sit in traffic, wait in long lines or push through a crowd to see a historical or artistic treasure. But that’s what is happening in the famous vacation cities in Europe. If you crave a quiet and gorgeous city escape, Bratislava would be the city.
Wander the old town at your own pace on foot, and you’ll never have to worry about traffic. Enjoy the laid-back, quiet atmosphere, stop by one of the coffee shops or restaurants with outdoor seats and soak in the summer sun. If you’re looking for night entertainment, take an evening stroll and join in the fun at one of the local bars or Irish/English pubs.
2. Friendly locals and quirky statues
Where else could you find a quirky statue of a man popping his head up from a manhole? Bratislava, and to be precise, Cumil, The Watcher is at the junction of Laurinska and Panska Streets. You’ll also find a paparazzi, a Napoleonic soldier, two girls leaning on a post box on Obchodna Street and the silver statue in honor of Schone Naci. Schone Naci was the nicest mentally ill man who wore a top hat and a frock on the streets of Bratislava giving flowers randomly to women in the early 20th century.
You won’t find the likes of Schone Naci, but you may encounter friendly wait staff and locals who are more than willing to point you in the right direction when you ask for directions.
3. Fascinating history and sites
Throughout history, Bratislava played a significant role in the economic, political and cultural advancement of Central Europe. It was the capital city of Hungary in 1536 and remained a coronation city of Hungary from 1563 to 1830. 11 Hungarian kings and queens were crowned in Bratislava’s St. Martin’s Cathedral.
Bratislava’s historic castles, churches, and palaces reflect the influence brought by the Hungarians and the Austrians. Some attractions to visit include:
- Hviezdoslavovo Square
- Michael’s Gate
- Main Square and City Hall
- Old Town’s cobbled streets and alleys
- The Cathedral of St. Martin
- St. Elizabeth Church (The Blue Church)
The communist era in Slovakia also left its mark on the architecture of Bratislava, where you’ll see the iconic UFO bridge and the large apartment blocks known as Petrzalka.
Another attraction not to be missed is Devin Castle, a 15-minute drive from the Old Town located on a cliff at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers. Here you’ll learn about the life of the Neolithic, Celts, and Romans, and how Napoleon’s troops blew up the Castle in 1809.
4. Good food and beer
Meat lovers will love the Slovak cuisine featuring pork, poultry, beef, and fish. Potatoes, dumplings, and noodles are the usual sides along with steamed cabbage, onions, and sauerkraut. For dessert try a strudel with poppy seeds and walnuts.
Just like Prague, Bratislava takes its beer very seriously. There are many micro-breweries in the city. You can find one at Fabrika, The Beer Pub, located at The Loft Hotel. Here you can drink the beer brew on-site and have a complimentary and unlimited number of peanuts.
5. Gateway to Slovakia’s hiking trails and the High Tatras
Take a day trip to Borinka a small town just north of Bratislava and take a challenging 45-minute hike up to the ruins of Pajstun Castle, a 13th-century medieval castle. It offers views of the Little Carpathians, the Zahorska lowlands and on a clear day the Austrian Alps.
Outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and skiers would love the High Tatras, located in northern Slovakia. Poprad, a town located 209 miles from Bratislava is the gateway to the High Tatras.
Those who enjoy nature, history, and architecture will love the popular two-day tour from Bratislava to the mountains of the High Tatras include visiting villages like Cicmany (painted houses) and Vikolinec (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), castles and a cave.