Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, was made infamous by movies like Eurotrip and Hostel.
Truth be told, the city of Bratislava is not on many travellers’ radars. The capital of Slovakia is small and all its points of interest can be covered in 24 hours.
So why did I decide to go?
The truth is that many travellers mentioned to me that Bratislava “can be skipped”. The reasons were that Bratislava was small and not as beautiful as other European capitals, and that I was much better off heading to Budapest directly.
So I booked a ticket so that I can discover Bratislava for myself.
Getting to Bratislava was no easy feat. From Zakopane I had to return to Krakow and take an overnight bus which left me in the city of Brno in the Czech Republic at 2:00AM, waiting for the transfer to Bratislava at 5:00AM.
I finally arrived to Bratislava’s Novi Most bus station to one of the worst first impressions I’ve had in my life. The bus station is under a bridge giving way to the highway. I went up a flight of stairs and let my first “WTF…” of this part of my trip:
I wasn’t too sure what I was looking at. It would only be later that I would learn that this “UFO Bridge” was built during the communist era, and is now what separates the former communist apartment blocks to the old, more touristic, part of town.
I took a Free Guided City Tour which showed me the major most important parts of the city. As it is often the case with these tours, little time is left to take pictures (and if I do, the group leaves me behind, like in Krakow), so I went back to some of the nicest areas I saw during the tour.
The Old Town
Bratislava’s Old Town, its historic center, is the real charm of the city. It’s cobbled streets and many cafés and restaurants adorning each small alley and bigger street gives Bratislava a welcoming feeling, and the lack of enormous crowds gives it an easygoing vibe not found in many of the bigger and busiest capitals in western and central Europe.
Yes, compared to fighting crowds in places like Prague or Vienna, a walk down historical Bratislava is a breeze. You could literally walk on a straight line in many of its central streets and alleyways and never ever have to move!
One of my favourite parts of the Old Town was by Michael’s Gate, mainly because of its narrow streets, the feeling of old, and the colourful street market.
Next up on my schedule was Bratislava castle. You can see the castle from many points in the city, especially from the “beautiful” Novy bus station…
It is a bit of a small hike to get up there, and I have to say that the castle itself is far from impressive. The castle is more of a massive square modernish looking building with a big backyard than an actual castle, or maybe it is my expectation that all castles have to look like they came out of a fairy tale that did not help Bratislava Castle make an impression on me.
The views from the castle are also OK. The main view is towards UFO bridge and the communist block apartments I was talking about earlier. On a clear day you can also see part of Vienna which is about 1 hour away from Bratislava.
Statues and More Statues
Bratislava has many, MANY, statues. All over the city these pieces of art adorn the many streets of the city centre.
Some are quite charming, while some others are just weird like this “working man” as it is known, or “gutter man” which is a more accurate description..
One of my favourite parts of Bratislava was discovering its hidden old streets.
Within and outside of the tourist areas, it is not rare to find charming spots such as these ones.
As always, getting lost on purpose provided me some of the best rewards during my time in Bratislava.
Bratislava has much to offer, but you have to be willing to explore. Its charming streets make it one of my favourite capitals in eastern Europe. What do you think?