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Authored by Peter Korchnak

Slovakia’s tiny capital Bratislava gets so few tourists compared to the nearby Vienna, Budapest, or Prague, that there is hardly a beaten path at all.

Still, it seems most travelers hike up to the Castle, roam around the Old Town, stroll on the Danube promenade, take the elevator up the UFO Bridge and call it a pleasant day, or, in many cases, a few enjoyable hours. Yet when it comes to visiting Bratislava, size isn’t everything.

 

Explore Socialist Architecture

 

Bratislava may be Slovakia’s capitalist hub nowadays, but socialist architecture continues to shape the city. Like many former Eastern Bloc cities, Bratislava features swaths of boxy apartment buildings thrown together in gray, featureless developments. In fact, it boasts what’s said to be the most densely populated residential district in Central Europe—Petržalka.

Watch from the Castle as the development stretches to the Pannonian Plain horizon or see if from one of the many buses that traverse it.

UFO Bridge.

A view of UFO Bridge over the city.

The UFO Bridge, with Petržalka's apartment blocks in the background, captures artistic imagination.

The UFO Bridge, with Petržalka’s apartment blocks in the background, captures artistic imagination. Photo CC Where is Your Toothbrush?

Continue your tour of socialist architecture at the UFO Bridge viewing platform, from which you can see how in the 1970’s the highway from Petržalka stabbed the Old Town and decimated the Jewish Quarter into a few buildings below the Castle.

Proceed along the left-bank Danube promenade to the Slovak National Gallery extension and follow the tram tracks to Kamenné Squareand TESCO/Hotel Kiev tandem of commercial edifices. Finish your tour at the bizarre inverted pyramid of the Slovak Radio building.

Sample Microbrews

A little known fact: Bratislava boasts a number of excellent microbreweries, and three are within walking distance on the edges of Old Town.

Richtár Jakub (Reeve Jacob) is tucked in a side street near a major police station. Try the lighter Anna or the stronger Jakub lagers.

Walk through the beautiful Medical Garden park and stroll down the nearby Dunajská (Danube) Street to enjoy the outdoor patio or the stylish black-and-white interior of the Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar (Bratislava Burgher Brewery). Their specialty is the lager (you are in Central Europe after all), which goes well with pretty much anything on the extensive meat-based menu.

The brewery’s second location, behind the Crown Plaza Hotel, is on the way to the final stop of the craft-beer tour: Zámocký Pivovar (Castle Brewery). Their lagers will fuel you for the ascent to the Castle itself. Please say hi to the chimps for me!

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Say hi to the chimps at the Castle Brewery! Photo CC Where is Your Toothbrush?

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A summer evening is better with a delicious lager on the Bratislava Burgher Brewery’s outdoor patio. Photo CC Where is Your Toothbrush?

 

Get Outta Town

 

Bratislava’s surroundings are just as worth visiting as the city itself. Take the bus #29 from under the UFO Bridge to the terminus and visit Castle Devín (what’s left of it anyway). Perched on a cliff, it towers over the confluence of Morava and Danube rivers and boast thousands of years of history as well as one of the most photographed spots in the country, the Maiden Tower.

Stroll around the area below the Castle where the Gate of Freedom commemorates all those who perished while attempting to flee communist Czechoslovakia. And afterward hike to the Devínska Kobyla Mountain natural reserve to find a fantastic diversity of wild plants, eccentric sandstone formations, and, if you’re lucky, leftover fossils.

Devin_Petrasko

Devin Castle from below with the Maiden Tower on the right. Photo CC: Some Rights Reserved by Miroslav.Petrasko

The Danube River is one of Bratislava’s defining natural features. To experience it in full, take a boat trip downriver to the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum and the Čunovo Dam. The boat leaves on weekends at 2 pm from the main port on Fajnorovo nábrežie (you can also take the  #90 or #91 buses and hike a bit, but that’s like cheating).

Shaped like a ship and plonked on a little peninsula jutting out from the dam into the middle of Europe’s grandest river, Danubiana is a truly unique modern art gallery.

The point is: When you travel to Bratislava, venture beyond the obvious. I lived there from 1995 to 2000 as a university student, I stay in the city whenever I visit Slovakia, and I still see something new there every time. May our paths cross there some time—I’d be happy to show you around.

Peter Korchnak co-writes the travel blog Where Is Your Toothbrush?

Home isn’t just where you were born, where you pay your mortgage, or where you store your possessions. Home can be anywhere you create it; home is where your toothbrush is. It’s what Peter and Lindsay believe and what Where Is Your Toothbrush? documents. 

    20 Comments

  1. So nice to see Bratislava featured in English speaking blog 🙂 Thanks Peter for promoting our country, there is indeed a lot to see and explore 😉

    • I was only in Bratislava for a day driving through, but absolutely loved it. So I jumped at the opportunity when Peter proposed promoting it! Such an underrated city!

  2. So nice to see Bratislava and the lively post. Just could not stop remembering the movie Euro Trip. Thanks for sharing the pictureful memories…

    • Lol yes, our Contiki tour spent a day in Bratislava in 2007, and the only thing anyone could talk about on the way there was the Euro Trip version of the city. Thankfully it turned out to be the complete opposite :D!

    • Never, ever take your knowledge about the world from Hollywood 🙂 Bratislava has a long way to go before it becomes a stereotype of itself, like Prague or San Francisco have, especially since all the stereotypes are so wrong. Thanks for nothing, Euro Trip!

  3. I really don’t know much about Bratislava, so it’s nice to learn a bit about it and what there is to do there. I would love to go – I am intrigued about that UFO bridge!

  4. Thanks, Emily. Nice to see you here, too 🙂 Yes, Bratislava has a lot more to offer than meets the eye. I kept my all-time favorite spots for another post about the off-the-beaten path of the off-the-beaten path. The secret Bratislava, if you would.

  5. Peter, I have to admit that I was one of the one-day visitors to Bratislava. It was definitely a nice place to stroll around, but after a few hours, it really seemed that I had wandered every street and seen what there was to see. Now that I am reading your post, I am realizing that I not only missed the microbreweries, but I also didn’t get out of town to explore the Danube or the castle. At least now I know that it’s worth stopping by Bratislava again if I should be in the area again… 🙂

    • Thanks, Dennis. Mission accomplished! Not that you realized what you missed but that you might be returning. Let me know if I can be of any help, otherwise I look forward to hearing about your experience.

  6. I was massively impressed by Bratislava. The first time I visited, I was present at a horrendous riot as FC Slovan Bratislava hosted Ferencvaros from Hungary. The authorities (masked) rolled over the fence into the Ferencvaros end and gave their fans a pasting.

    • I was really impressed by Bratislava also – such a charming and well put together town. Didn’t see any sports while we were there but maybe next time we visit! Glad you got to witness a game – one of the most fun introductions to a city for sure!

    • Bratislava football fans are quite rabid, with a reputation to go with it. What a rare glimpse into the local culture, a riot.

  7. I lived for one and a half year in Bratislava before moving back to Sweden. I really enjoyed my time in the city and it is really nice to hear when people have taken there time to visit the city. It really got a lot more to offer than what is generally known. 🙂

    • So glad to hear that you had the opportunity to live here Jesper. It really is such an underrated city, un-deservably so! I hope we can inspire more people to visit and realize it’s charms 🙂

    • That is true. Bratislava is the best kept secret in Central Europe!

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