Bratislava as a tourist destination sits somewhat awkwardly between the “Golden Triangle” of Budapest, Vienna and Prague. Smaller than them all it thus has a compact but attractive and pedestrianised centre. There are fewer tourists (an advantage over Prague), a Danube frontage (an advantage over Vienna) and less grime and poor people (an advantage over Budapest).
Often described as Europe’s youngest capital, that tag has passed to Pristina in Kosovo. But Bratislava remains the former capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, a part of the larger Habsburg Monarchy territories, from 1536 to 1783. The gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral, built in the 13th-16th centuries, was the coronation church between 1563 and 1830.
The prominent square structure of Bratislava Castle sits on a plateau 85 metres above the Danube. The Town Hall is a complex of three buildings erected in the 14th-15th centuries and now hosts the City Museum. Michael’s Gate is the only gate that has been preserved from the medieval fortifications and is among the oldest in the centre, right next to the narrowest house in Europe.
Among the many baroque palaces is a selection of quirky modern statues, including a fellow emerging from a manhole, a French army soldier leaning over a bench, “Beautifil Ignaz” doffing his topper and a paparazzi photographer peaking round a corner.
Nový Most bridge with its UFO-shaped restaurant and Slovak Radio’s inverted-pyramid-shaped headquarters are imaginative 20th-century constructions in the city known to many Hungarians as Pozsony.
Let the train take the strain.
Every two hours from Keleti for most of day starting at 5.25am.
Tel. 06 (40) 49 49 49