Though Slovakia’s largest city, Bratislava is one of the smallest capitals in Europe. It’s not one of those cities where you would spend days, hopping from one famous sight to the other. But visiting its pretty little old town and discovering its quirky street art will fit into an enjoyable (and busy) 24 hours.
And then you can continue with exploring the rest of Slovakia, because it has far more beautiful things than just its capital. But now let’s see how to fill that 24 hours with some fun.
Bratislava Old Town
Of course, Bratislava comes with an Old Town. We are in Europe, after all. The heart of this Old Town is Main Square (Hlavné námestie). It’s surrounded by pretty walking streets like Radnica or Panská. St Michael’s Street is probably the most famous walking street with St Michael’s Gate at its beginning. This iconic tower with its Baroque bell-shaped roof served as the official entry to the Old Town.
Featuring Gothic and Renaissance elements, St. Martin’s Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Bratislava. Like any churches we happened to stumble upon in the city, it’s free to enter.
The Trinity Church is another large one. We didn’t find it that special from the outside, but it’s very richly decorated in the inside.
We liked the Old Town’s mix of architecture styles, especially the old, richly decorated facades and enclosed balconies. The Primate’s Palace or the Old Town Hall are iconic examples, but every narrow street has its own pretty secrets.
Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall dates back to the 14th century. Originally built in Gothic style, but getting a Baroque restyling after a fire in the 18th century, it’s a nice fusion of styles today. It also has a courtyard that’s home to a tiny Christmas market in December.
Panská is the Aristocracy Street, literally. It used to be the most elegant street in town, and even today it impresses with some old palaces – like Keglevich Palace, Csáky Palace or Esterhazy Palace. But our favorite building there was the former Salvator’s apothecary, the oldest pharmacy in Bratislava. Sadly, it’s closed nowadays, so we could only marvel at its majestic facade.
Standing guard over the city, Bratislava Castle is both an iconic sight and an iconic viewpoint. We liked its night views the best, especially the view of the bridge of Slovak National Uprising. Naturally, this bridge is rather called the UFO Bridge (just look at it), and its flying saucer hosts a restaurant.
Bratislava Castle is a mixture of a fortress and a palace, and it has been used as both in different periods of time. Inside the castle there are exhibitions of the Slovak National Museum. Sadly no original furniture remained, and nothing made us feel like we are inside a castle – except a beautifully renovated staircase at the entrance. We knew this in advance, still we felt a bit disappointed, because the museum itself was not very interesting either.
Little Blue Church
Hey, are we suddenly in Barcelona? Our favorite piece of architecture in Bratislava made us think of some of the Gaudí buildings we’ve seen in Barcelona. The Little Blue Church, or properly called the Church of St. Elisabeth, is an ornately decorated Art Nouveau building. It looks like a dollhouse, a very cute one both from the outside and the inside (sorry for this, guys, in case you’re actually educated in architecture).
The Blue Church is a bit outside of the Old Town, so lesser people know about it. As it was hard for us to find information about its exact location and opening hours, I’m sharing that with you here:
|Little Blue Church info|
Grassalkovich Palace is sometimes referred as Slovakia’s White House. This wonderful Rococo palace is the residency of the Slovak President, so you won’t have a chance to see it from the inside. But its beautiful French garden is open to the public, and it’s the most elegant park in the city.
The modern face of Bratislava
We enjoyed the pretty facades of the Old Town, but there’s another face of Bratislava that we fell in love with. No, I don’t mean the ugly pieces of Socialist architecture. Though I know there are some fans of that, too. And Bratislava rewards those fans. But we are not one of them.
The modern Bratislava that impressed us looks like the shopping and residence quarter of Eurovea, or the River Park that connects Eurovea with the Old Town. Eurovea was opened in 2010, and the building itself is a gem of modern architecture in our opinion. It plays with shapes, reflections and colors. It’s also a place that creates a community. The fun statues in and around the shopping center, the busy square, the lovely walking paths of River Park along the Danube, and all the cosy cafés and restaurants with panoramic views make it a place where it’s simply fun to hang out.
Cool street art
Artistic graffiti can breathe life into a grey urban jungle. First and foremost we are looking at you, grey blocks of Socialist architecture. Thanks for being a canvas for creative art.
But one of our favorite activities in Bratislava was hunting statues. (Okay, photographing them, too.) The city center has a lot of statues, and we especially loved the modern ones: the man at work, the clowns or Hans Christian Andersen. They are cool and creative, just look at them. 🙂 Magnificent buildings like the Old Town Hall or Grassalkovich Palace may amaze you, bit it’s statues like these that help you connecting to a place on a different and more personal level.
We marked all the statues we found in this map for you:
Take a walk on Old Bridge
Bratislava’s Old Bridge is also part of the modern Bratislava that surprised us. I feel the contradiction, so let me explain.
This bridge was the first one in Bratislava, and it has had many names throughout its life. After about 45 years of service, it was blown up by the retreating German army in 1945. It has been reconstructed several times after that, and the largest reconstruction happened from 2008 to 2016.
As a result, it became much more than just a bridge. It’s a community space, too. It has benches and viewing platforms, and such a brave, distinctive green color. It also has the best views of Bratislava Castle and the Danube. Having a tram line as well as serving pedestrians and cyclists but no cars, Old Bridge shows the way to liveable cities of the future, focusing on people.
Slovakia beyond Bratislava
Okay, all these things might or might not fit in 24 hours. It depends on the average distance you walk in a city per day (it’s somewhere between 20 and 30 kilometres for us). But the country of Slovakia deserves your time, anyway.
We think it’s one of the most underrated European countries. And though we love Bratislava, if you name any other place in Slovakia, there’s high chance that we love it even more. Like the charming town of Košice. The romantic castle ruins standing on lonely hills. The lovely glens and waterfalls of Slovak Paradise National Park. Astonishing Tatras and Fatras. UNESCO listed karst caves. Slovakia offers seriously beautiful landscapes and countless hiking trails. And we’ve already written tons of long, detailed posts about them – feel free to browse here.
Do you like street art? In which cities have you seen really good ones?
This post was updated in 2019 December, after another visit to Bratislava.