Bratislava is the capital and the largest city in Slovakia. It offers a pleasant medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets, a hilltop castle overlooking the Danube, and many historic churches and buildings.
Slovakia is used to be part of Hungary after the fall of the Great Moravian Empire until the end of the First World War when the Treaty of Trianon created Czechoslovakia.
During World War II, the Germans controlled Slovakia. The Soviets conquered it later, thus recreating Czechoslovakia in pro-Soviet and Communist slant.
The Communist ended during the Velvet Revolution in 1989. In 1993 Czechoslovakia dissolved into two separate and independent nations – the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Bratislava was the capital (1536-1784), the coronation city (1563-1830) and the seat of the diet (1536-1848) of the Kingdom of Hungary for many years. Since 1993 Bratislava has been the capital of independent Slovakia.
Driving towards the city and finally crossing a UFO-looking cable road bridge over the Danube, a pearly white towering castle sitting on the hilltop welcomed us. Every visitor in Bratislava will definitely notice this pronounced silhouette, standing firmly eight-five meters above the water of the Danube river.
An important fortified settlement in the 9th century, the castle was significantly reconstructed in 1423 that resulted in a Gothic castle referred to as Sigismund of Luxemburg’s castle. Later on, it got reconstructed again during Renaissance and referred to it as Pallfy’s castle.
The last huge alteration of the castle occurred during Maria Theresa’s regime. This latest Rococo palace served as the seat of the Governor, Prince Albert, who acquired the office after he married Archduchess Maria Christina, daughter of Queen Maria Theresa.
A devastating fire ruined the castle massively in 1811 and over the next hundred years, nothing was done after the ruin. Not only in 1968, the castle got fully reconstructed.
Bratislava Castle is nowadays the seat of the Museum of History that showcases a collection of historical items. The museum also presents the rich history of the castle from the Upper Paleolithic Age to its presumed future after the completion of its reconstruction.
Short-term exhibitions, theater performances, Shakespeare festivals, and concerts are also organized at the castle courtyard.
Bratislava Old Town
The Old Town in Bratislava is worth the visit. It includes the historic center and adjoining neighborhoods that used to be the center’s immediate outskirts during the Middle Ages.
Here are the highlighted places that shouldn’t be missed while visiting the Old Town.
St. Michael’s Tower
One of the essential symbols of Bratislava, St. Michael’s Tower is the only gate that has been preserved out for four gateways for entering the fortified medieval city. The tower currently exhibits weaponry and the city fortifications. You’ll also find a ‘zero kilometer,’ which counts the distance of selected cities in the world from Bratislava.
Also known as House No. 11 located at the corner of Ventúrska and Prepoštská Streets, this elegant, strictly Classicist-style palace was built at the behest of Count Francis Zichy in 1775. It now hosts several ceremonies and celebrations.
Right beside Zichy’s palace is House no. 10, a Baroque-style Pállfy’s Palace was rebuilt from an old house in 1747. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed a concert in this palace.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
It is the largest, oldest and most remarkable church in Bratislava from the 14th century. The cathedral was a coronation church between 1563 and 1830.
One of the Old Town’s liveliest places can be found at the crossroads of the Fisherman’s Gate and Panská and Laurinská Streets. You can watch street musicians or take a picture with the quirky statues of Čumil or Schöner Náci.
Built in almost square dimensions, Main Square has always been the main market place throughout Bratislava’s history. It is an area for public gatherings, welcoming ceremonies to sovereigns and renowned personalities.
The Old Town Hall is the Main Square’s landmark that was carefully rebuilt in 1434. An underpass was built that serves as an entrance to the town hall from the square. This remarkable architectural element has been preserved in all its beauty to this day. An expo on the history of the city and its feudal justice is on show in the Old Town Hall.
Unlike the Main Square, the Franciscan Square offers a substantially quieter, more private refuge with ancient historical buildings all around. The square is named after one of the oldest churches in Bratislava – the Franciscan Church from the 13th century.
At the upper part of Franciscan Square, an architectural landmark, Mirbach’s Palace, alongside with Primatial Palace, is considered the most beautiful sight in the historical center. Built in Roccoco style in the 18th century, the owner, Count Emil Mirbach, donated this palace to the city on the condition that a gallery would be installed in the palace.
The palace houses the Bratislava City Gallery to this day.
Located at the north-eastern part of Bratislava’s historic center, Primatial Square has become the city’s new center and is considered one of the beautiful squares in Bratislava.
Built between 1778 and 1781 on the site of an old Archbishop palace, the Primatial Palace features a strictly Classicist-style facade. In the palace, you can find a unique collection of six Bratislava tapestries from the 17th century, which depicts a legend of a tragic love story.
The main landmark in Hodza’s Square is the Presidential Palace. It was built after 1760 as Anton Grassalkovich’s garden palace.
Touted as one of the most beautiful and liveliest squares built in 1886, the Slovak National Theatre is the main highlight in Hviezdoslav’s Square.
My Travel Notes
Is Bratislava interesting for you to visit? Have you been to Bratislava? What are the other places in Bratislava you can recommend?