The Little Big City, Pressburg, Istropolis—Bratislava is charming under any one of its many names. Slovakia's capital is within easy reach from Vienna: a road transfer takes just under an hour. With historical and modern architectural monuments, as well as countless natural reserves, Bratislava holds many surprises for the visitor.
Bratislava is Europe in Miniature
The pluralism and wealth of tradition that we associate with Europe are highly concentrated in and around Bratislava. This is the world's only capital bordering on two countries: Austria and Hungary. Bratislava in fact used to be the capital of Hungary! Visitors to the Old Town will feast their eyes on a wealth of medieval and Baroque palaces and manor houses, most of them impeccably restored and now housing various museums and public offices. The Windsor-style Rusovce Mansion with its English park is an absolute fairy tale, as is Smolenice Castle, located somewhat out of town.
One way to go about exploring Bratislava is to walk the Old Town with no particular plan. The street art! The food! The fountains! The colorful buildings! Turn your head one way and you see Bratislava’s quaint daily routine. Turn the other way, and some masterpiece of architecture comes into view. The comparably unassuming House of the Good Shepherd is perhaps the finest example of Rococo in Central Europe. The Art Nouveau Blue Church is certainly the most unique among Bratislava's many impressive churches, and probably the one most worth your visit.
Welcome to the Beauty on the Danube
The modern era has been good to Bratislava, with a wave of foreign investment fueling a construction boom. While 'prosperous' usually translates to 'expensive,' rest assured: prices are still considerably below Vienna's. With Slovakia having joined the Schengen Area in 2007, there are no checks on the Austrian and Hungarian borders. The modern unmissables of Bratislava include the upside-down pyramid of the Radio Building and the (just as boldly designed) Kamzík TV Tower. Finally, no visit to Bratislava is complete without crossing the New Bridge, nicknamed the UFO Bridge thanks to its defining feature, a flying saucer-shaped observation deck with restaurants and bars. The TV tower also offers such facilities for visitors.
Bratislava, or Blava to young locals, never gets truly crowded. A feel-good city with a friendly face, picturesque and welcoming, the Beauty on the Danube will seduce you no matter when you decide to visit. While cultural and entertainment events go on throughout the summer, the big names in classical music gather here for the annual Bratislava Music Festival, in September and October. This year's 54th edition opens on September 15 and closes on Halloween, October 31. Nestled within it are the much more low-key but still highly enjoyable Bratislava Jazz Days, October 19-21.
Have a favorite memory of Bratislava? Sure there is something we missed? Comment below and let us know!