Sure, it’s far from amazing but we’re not sure why the Slovak capital got such a bad reputation…
As we all know, from taking fictional films like Hostel and Eurotrip as pure gospel, Bratislava is a hellhole that seems to have stopped moving forward since the 1950s.
However, if you were actually to visit the Slovakian capital – you’ll probably find an energetic city teeming with energy and plenty of tourists, at least 24-hours worth of activities, a great pub or two – and not a single horse and carriage in sight.
Don’t get us wrong, we won’t be rushing back for a vacation any time soon, but considering its less-than-kind reputation, we’d like to defend it from getting any more of a bad rap.
Plus, it’s the third capital city starting with B that sits on the Danube river (alongside Belgrade and Budapest), so if you’re collecting those, you have to go.
The more modern of Slovakia‘s castles, due in no small part to it’s recent restoration that took over five years – this imposing white and orange-tipped building sits on a lone rocky hill, directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava. The grounds are meticulously maintained and beautiful, and the walk up through the stony castle village is worth it if your legs aren’t still reduced to Tatra-induced jelly.
Old town: Another European capital, another old town-cum tourist attraction. Bratislava’s is nice, but largely now overrun with both tourists and tourist shops. However, Cumil the sewer worker may brighten your crowded wander through the cobblestoned streets. The odd statue popped up, quite literally, in 1997 for no particular reason or standing for no particular historical moment or cause or movement – just because the town wanted to spice things up a bit. Basically, he’s a bronze head and shoulders fashioned to be popping out of a sewer, and there’s a work bit on his head where hapless tourists queue for ages to rub it for luck and take a picture. If you’re desperate for that DP, by all means, but otherwise say hi, avoid the awkward pose in front of an assembled crowd as your boyfriend fumbles with your iPhone, and move on.
Church of St Elisabeth (blue church)
This ornate, gorgeously maintained blue church is a place you’re unlikely to find wandering the streets, as it’s tucked down a side alley – but it’s well worth seeking out. Any good walking tour will take you there, and any good hostel owner will tell you how to get there.
Nowhere near any of the rest of the sites in the city – this is one you need to commit to if you want to see. It’s basically a monument paying tribute to the Soviet Army, who liberated Slovakia in April 1945 from the Germans – and it’s hugely impressive. Sitting on a hill in the quieter suburbs of the city, there’s a huge stone column and a lovely peaceful garden. It’s also the burial ground of thousands of Soviet soldiers and Slovak troops, so it’s a good place to take in the more deep side of the history here.
Slovak Pub: The aptly-named Slovak pub is something of a Bratislavan treasure. Located in the Old Town, it’s as close as you’ll get to a traditional tavern, or a beer hall of sorts. As far as tourist gimmicks go, this is actually a solid effort; in that the costumes and decor don’t make you feel uneasy. Plus, the food is excellent and the prices extreeeemely reasonable – which are two things you’ll rarely find in a place universally-loved. Here’s where you’ll find all your knedle-based dishes, your pork, your goulash, and your bryndzove halusky; all dishes that rely pretty heavily on the complex carboyhydrate. Sure, when you leave Bratislava, your jeans won’t fit, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make.