Keen to experience Europe’s top-notch cafe culture, foodie delights, awe-inspiring architecture and history, but not so keen on the crowds? Bratislava, or ‘Blava’ as the locals refer to it, might just be the place for you!
The often overlooked capital of Slovakia is the perfect destination for a classic European jaunt, minus the crowds – perfection! Here is our list of the top 10 sites to see in beautiful Blava.
St Martin’s Cathedral
One of the oldest churches in Bratislava, St Martin’s Cathedral was built in the 15th century and was the the church in which Queen Maria Theresa was crowned. At 85m tall, the spire is an iconic part of the city skyline. It doesn’t end there though – make sure you visit the underground crypt with catacombs too.
Also known as the Presidential Palace, Grassalkovich Palace was used as a venue for aristocratic social events and concerts in the 18th century. However, since 1996, the palace which has been nicknamed ‘Slovakia’s White House’, serves as the seat of the President of the Slovak Republic.
Archiepiscopal Summer Palace
Built in 1614 by Archbishop Forgach, this beautiful Baroque palace served as a summer residence of archbishops for many years. Over the years, the palace and its gardens have been rebuilt and converted. Today, the palace is the seat of the Prime Minister.
The unusual shape of the UFO Tower has bought it plenty of worldwide fame. The bridge is 431 metres long, and 95m high. The restaurant and rooftop cafe offer views of up to 100km and make for the perfect location to watch the sunset.
While the original Iron Curtain has disappeared, a trip to the Iron Curtain border fortifications relics show just how close Bratislava was to the West. The area was used during the Cold War, when Bratislava was part of the CSSR. The Iron Curtain was built as a line to separate the border between Austria (the West) and Bratislava.
If you want to experience the famous European Christmas Markets without the crowds, then a trip to Bratislava during the holiday period is a must! The historic, tree-lined squares of the Old Town are filled with stalls, offering handmade wooden toys, embroidered waistcoats and handblown glassware. To nip the chill, treat yourself to some local snacks, including sausages, cabbage soup and doughnuts and wash it down with a local beverage, such as Demanovka or Hriato.
Old Town Hall
Located in the heart of the city centre, Old Town Hall is the oldest city hall in Slovakia and is also one of the oldest stone buildings still standing. Originally, the Romanesque building was the house of the mayor of the medieval town. Since 1868, the building has housed what is now the oldest museum in the country, the City Museum.
Located on top of the hill above the Old Town, Bratislava Castle is the landmark of the city. With a history that dates back to the Stone Age, the Castle features in the first written reference to the city on the Annals of Salzburg 907. It’s first known inhabitants were the Celts, who founded a fortified settlement called ‘Oppidum’. Today, the castle houses the Museum of History and offers magical views of the city and neighbouring countries from its grounds.
While it’s officially known as the Church of St. Elizabeth, this church is better known as the Blue Church. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, this fairytale building was originally part of the neighbouring high school and served as the school chapel. If you enjoy the candy-blue facade, wait until you walk inside – everything, including the interior is blue!
Bratislava’s streets are populated with statues, which provide a good backdrop for photo ops. Some favourites include:
Schone Naci, who was a local eccentric who lived in Bratislava in the early 20th century. Inspired by the happiness he saw his grandfather (who was a famous clown) give to the people of Bratislava, Naci would walk around the streets of Old Town in a top hat and tail, greeting women with the words ‘I kiss your hand’.
One of the most photographed sculptures in the city, Cumil is a bronze statue of a man coming out of a manhole.
A bronze statue of a Napoleonic soldier is a favourite for passersby to stop and strike a pose with. This sculpture commemorates the siege of Bratislava by Napo in 1805 and 1809.
Keen to see beautiful Bratislava for yourself? Check out our Globus Imperial Splendors tour!