I remember planning my trip to Slovakia and thinking it would be e great hub to visit more two European capitals in one single week. Plus, our designer loft Airbnb downtown next to the Námestie Franza Liszta train and bus station was quite affordable.
This Airbnb gives me quite good memories of spending time in a city that lives with the past and future in a quite clever way.
And Bratislava is quite an interesting city, anyways. We were prepared to spend some days exploring the old town and surrounding areas. The remnant of the communist regime is still portrayed in squares, old buildings, and brutalist architecture.
The historic Bratislava is the capital and largest city of Slovakia, with 420,000 inhabitants. The local architecture is impressive, but most people visit the capital of Slovakia because of its stunning castles.
The castles are the great attraction of Slovakia, with more than three hundred scattered throughout the country. The most famous of these is in Bratislava, the Bratislava Castle, an imposing building that can be seen from all over the city and overlooks the Danube River.
As Bratislava is a compact city, we decided to visit most of its attractions on foot. So, here is my complete guide to things to do in Bratislava.
Walking Through the Old Town
We arrived in Bratislava in the afternoon, after flying from London, we decided to have a bit of rest in the Airbnb until started exploring the city.
Strolling through the streets of the old town is a captivating experience. With cobbled streets, colourful buildings, and narrow alleys, Bratislava preserves a medieval climate in its picturesque old town.
The castles and historical buildings contrast with the communist regime buildings lived from 1918 to 1993. I quite love the brutalist architecture with its large squares and quirky building, businesses, and bookstores.
Bratislava preserves this vibe. In the present day, the past and present coexist in harmony with these buildings painted with energetic colours that give a whole colourful the city. It is in the old town that we can also find one of the most interesting pubs that I have visited in life –the KGB pub.
You may think it is quite an intriguing place to visit. But I can guarantee you that it is a cosy bar to drink a glass or two of wine. Nice service, and all memorabilia related to the famous Soviet Union secret agency, as you can imagine.
Trying Local Food
I do confess that I had a list of different restaurants, but we did not have time to reach all of them. But we ended up coming back to the same place to eat at Bratislava flagship restaurant – yep, this is the name – every single night.
First, the food is delicious, and the service is quite friendly. Second, it is a huge place. I mean – huge. So, we knew it would have a table available anytime we visited it. Food is rich. I remember browsing a lot of pork sausages in the supermarket and it was an amazing experience to try some of the typical Slovak meals during this trip.
Due to its history, Bratislava has a very particular cuisine. Because it was founded by different central European countries, including Germany, Austria, and Hungary; Bratislava reflects this story also in its typical dishes. Meals that are inspired by Hungarian cuisine with its known spicy foods, such as pork soups.
Do not miss the Castle
Every city has its postal card. In Bratislava, its castle. A grandiose hilltop building, all painted white. Impossible to miss. This great building is visible from a great distance.
From the castle, it is possible to have a spectacular view of the Danube, one of the main rivers of Central Europe. The visit from the outside of the castle is free of charge, but for those who wish to visit its interior, you will have to pay around seven euros.
It is worth it to walk through the gardens of the castle and check this impressive construction and its stunning views from it is possible to see the borders with Austria and Hungary.
A Church or a Cake?
I am not going to lie, but one of the most interesting spots in Bratislava is a church. The good news is that there are numerous ones in the capital of Slovakia. And the architecture of churches is always something that draws attention.
Known as the Blue Church is by far the most interesting one, it became quite popular due to its design and aesthetically pleasing features. In fact, it looks more like a dessert covered with blue frosting, hugely different from the majestic traditional buildings.
The Saint Elizabeth church was erected in the early twentieth century and has this colour and rounded features because Art Noveau inspired it.
The UFO Bridge is another quite popular spot in Bratislava to check. If you want to see a perfect example of how influential communist architecture was in Slovakia, this is the place to be as well.
Visiting it was also a great excuse to walk about the city a bit more. Especially when you have the possibility of crossing the xx bridge and checking another stunning view from it.
The bridge was built in the early 1970s when the communist regime was at its peak. Its futuristic appearance, looking like a flying saucer at the top, was inspired by the feeling of optimism about the future.
We had the chance to go up and check an amazing sunset from the top of this famous observation tower, where you can have amazing views of the magnificent Danube, and also check the amazing 360 degrees view of brutalist architecture around the city.
We also enjoyed a few drinks in a gorgeous bar and wished to have more time to visit it again before leaving the capital.
Follow the Street Statues
After the end of the communist regime, Bratislava tried to lively up the city’s mood by painting the façade of the houses with lived colours and installing statues with amusing expressions and attitudes.
I know it is interesting, and at the same time, quite a strange idea. The truth is that tourists love to track it out. So, once you visit Bratislava, do not forget to find them.
The most popular is no doubt the Napoleon parading in the square resting and a man with a cheerful smile coming out of a manhole. Intriguing, I know.
But this famous Slovak statue named Cumil -the Sewer worker installed in the late’90s still makes tourists curious to know if the cheek chap is resting or lurking.
I believe he is resting and appreciating the gorgeous architecture of this fascinating capital. It is the purpose of entertaining people from Bratislava and all over the world is still working.
Embrace the Brutalist Architecture
Well, you know I love minimalism and I have a thing for architecture too. So, imagine being in a city where you can spot quite exquisite buildings wherever you look – Bratislava is exactly like this. And I loved it.
I understand that most of those buildings are neglected and covered up with graffiti (And I love it) now. However, we, the visitors, should appreciate and understand it more.
It is an important part of the history of Slovakia. You can check it as soon as you leave the airport.
Some of those buildings are quite familiar to me because you can find this kind of architecture in Brazil, and Birmingham too. Who does not remember the pile of concrete that was the old Birmingham library? Loved or hated, these are historical buildings.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, the Slovak capital is a city to explore on foot. So, there were, browsing those amazing constructions in streets that we probably won’t have the chance to see again in our lifetime.
If you are also fascinated by this kind of subject, I would recommend you read this article about the brutalist buildings of Bratislava.