Bratislava: The European Capital You Have Never Heard Of

Brati-what? While most people have probably never heard about this European capital city, the charms the town offers visitors who stumble upon it is a deeply rewarding experience.  With its quaint little old town, its not so old castle, and space age bridge, this quirky little slice of Slovakia should bring happiness to all who visit here.  Continue reading to see why a visit to this not so visited capital city should be on your next travel itinerary.

Christmas Market

Bratislava Christmas Market
Enjoying the festivities of the Christmas Market at an affordable price!

If your in town in the month of December, a highlight of visiting is the Christmas markets found in the center of the old district.  This is your best bet for food as unfortunately, it can be difficult finding a good Slovak meal in restaurants throughout the country, due to the fact that most of the specialties are home foods.  Here you can try traditional Slovak pastries, warm your insides with sweet and sharp local mead, and fill yourself up with meaty grilled delights.

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Meaty and sour soup

Unlike other Christmas markets found throughout Europe, Bratislava’s little market won’t cost you an arm and leg to enjoy the atmosphere.  You can buy drinks, a meal, and some pastries for under $10, while enjoying Christmas songs and performances, bringing you into the Christmas spirit while away from home.

Bratislava Christmas Market
Locals and tourists enjoying the traditional tastes of Slovakia and the Bratislava Christmas Market

Quiet Little Downtown

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A downtown that hasn’t lost its charm due to unrestrained tourism

Bratislava’s old town district is pint sized when compared to more well known European capital cities, but despite its size, it really does transport visitors back in time.  The authenticity feels real as building are restored just enough to bring out the beauty and pride that these buildings projected back in their heyday.  Here you will find touristy shops and restaurants but they have not taken over the place, which helps the area maintain its old charm.  You can easily walk down every street of this area within a day making it a fun place to wander without having to worry about getting lost.

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Enjoying one of the main streets in downtown

Rough Around the Edges

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Bratislava offers an unrestored section of old town that most European cities do not have

Along the edges of old down town, the buildings begin to take on a more crumbling state.  In dire need of restoration, these buildings have shown that time is cruel to the past but gives the city a grittier and more authentic feel than other capitals.  Many of these streets scream to have their photograph taken, with their boarded up windows and crumbling walls.  This area offers a nice contrast to the prettied up downtown area with its shops and busy streets.  Here the streets are mostly empty along with the buildings themselves, allowing you to freely explore this more adventurous side of town.

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The streets on the outskirts of town offer a gritty but authentic vibe to the town

Danube Views

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The Danube at sunrise

Climb your way up towards Bratislava Castle to get your best views of the city for free.  At the top of the hill sits Bratislava Castle, it’s current state being the result of a massive restoration project dating back to the 1950s.  The castle lay in ruins for over a hundred years after a fire destroyed much of the castle which lost its significance long before the fire.  While the interior is not at all impressive, the castle is a great photo opportunity found throughout many points of the city, while the hill it sits on offers commanding views of the Danube and old city center.

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The city slowly becoming alive in early morning

Early birds who manage to get up here before sunrise will be rewarded for their efforts as the sun slowly warms up the sky, casting lovely shades of orange and red onto the Danube and rooftops of the city.  During the day, the park that runs along the ridge is a great place to slow down, pick up a book or relax with friends, as you look down on the city from above.

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The now not so old Bratislava Castle

Just Enough Tourism

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Transportation throughout the city is easy to use and very cheap

As mentioned previously, Bratislava has yet to be overrun by tourism and it seems it will remain that way for some time to come.  This creates the perfect atmosphere for travelers who become annoyed with being pestered by touts and beautiful alleys being overrun with signs and souvenir shops, but are still seeking basic tourist amenities that make your travels easier.   Hostels and hotels are plenty and cheap, along with public transportation and information centers.  Transportation runs as low as $0.50 for short rides within the city center.  Essentially, Bratislava gives you exactly what you need when and if you need it.  You will feel like at times that you have the place to yourself, but don’t have to worry about the logistics usually required to get off the beaten path.

Aliens Built A Bridge Here

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Most SNP at sunrise from Bratislava Castle

Ok, while Aliens most likely did not construct Most SNP, it sure looks like it.  If Men In Black was filmed in Bratislava rather than New York, this most defiantly would have been the cockroach’s getaway vehicle.  The longest cable-stayed bridge using only one pylon looks like a UFO docked on top of the bridge and never left.  The bridge is the cities finest example of architecture under the countries Communist regime during the 1960s.  The observation deck price is extraordinarily high compared to other attractions found within the city.  Skip the deck as Bratislava hill offers similar views for free along with a great viewpoint of the bridge itself.

A Good Starting Point For Slovakia

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Old Town as the sun begins to fall behind the hills that surround the city

Slovakia is so much more than Bratislava, but it is a good starting point for further travels into the country.  The capital offers hints to things that will come as you head east in the country.  It’s graceful mountains that rise along the edges of the city serve as a teaser to the towering High Tatras of the country while the unusual quiet of the city center prepares you for the tiny villages inter spun with folklore that replace towns and cities the further you will travel across the country.  This city, Bratislava, is the appetizer of what this ‘little Big country’ has to offer.

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Enjoying the little and delightful sights that Bratislava has to offer

 

8 thoughts on “Bratislava: The European Capital You Have Never Heard Of

  1. So glad you guys were able to visit my ancestral city as we were back in 2015. We took the hydrofoil boat from Vienna to Bratislava as a day trip and despite the rainy weather, fell in love with the town! Thank you for all your pictures of the places we weren’t able to get to. I look forward to meeting you at a future date to exchange memories!
    Your cousin {something “removed “[your great Uncle Joe Tkach is my Godfather and Uncle and my Mother’s cousin]}
    Kathy

    1. That must have been a wonderful trip down the Danube. It was really special getting to see where the family came from as I’m sure you had the same feelings when you were there! Sounds good! Hope we can make it happen when I’m back in the states.

  2. We actually lived in Bratislava for a year and a half before moving back to Sweden in 2014. So we might be biased when talking about Bratislava and why to visit. We do, however, agree with you that people really should open their eyes and visit Bratislava. It is an amazing city and there are so much more to do than only seeing the Old Town.

    Did you have time to see places such as the Slavín War Memorial and the Devín Castle? Maybe even the WWII bunkers in Petržalka? 🙂

    1. Yes, living in a place is definitely different than visiting one. We didn’t get to those places as we didn’t have much time to spare since our focus was in the Tatras Mountains and Eastern Slovakia. Thanks for checking out our post and hope to hear from you again!

    1. It is definitely one of the more underrated capitals in Europe. A lot of cool natural landscapes just a couple hours away from the city as well.

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