Bratislava or Pozsony in Hungarian and Pressburg in German, is the capital and largest city in Slovakia. It has a population of almost 415,000 and is the administrative, cultural and economic centre of the country. Before 1919, it was known as Prešporok in Slovak.
Bratislava has a very pleasant medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets, a hill-top castle next to the river Danube, and many historic churches and buildings to visit. The old town is centered on two squares, Hlavne namestie (main square) and Hviezdoslavovo namestie (Hviezdoslav square, named after a famous Slovak poet). Of a rather different architectural character are some of the communist-era buildings found in the modern parts of the city; a prime example is Petrzalka housing estate, the biggest Communist-era concrete block housing complex in Central Europe, which stretches on endlessly just across the river. Move further east and there are plenty of rural places to explore. Farms, vineyards, agricultural land, and tiny villages are situated less than 50 kilometres to the north and east of Bratislava.
Today, Bratislava and its surroundings form the second-most prosperous region in Central and Eastern Europe, with a per capita GDP of around 167% of the EU-27 average (after Prague).
After the fall of the Great Moravian Empire, Slovakia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 10th century until the end of the First World War. The city was even the capital (1536-1784), the coronation city (1563-1830), and the seat of the diet (1536-1848) of the Kingdom of Hungary for three centuries. In this period, eleven Hungarian kings and queens were crowned at St. Martin's Cathedral. At that time, the city was called Preßburg in German and Pozsony in Hungarian, and had a clear German (42%) and Hungarian (40%) ethnic majority (1910 census). In 1919, the Treaty of Trianon created Czechoslovakia, and Bratislava was attached to the newly founded state. In the same year, the name Bratislava was officially adopted for the first time in history.
Between 1939 and 1944, Slovakia was a Nazi Germany-controlled state. In 1941–1942 and 1944–1945, the pro-Nazi Slovak government cooperated in deporting most of Bratislava's approximately 15,000 Jews. Bratislava was occupied by German troops in 1944, and eventually taken by the Soviet Red Army on 4 April 1945, after a failed insurrection of Slovak partisans, now commemorated as Slovenského národného povstania, or "Slovak National Uprising".
After the Communist Party seized power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the city witnessed profound demographic and urban transformation, and in 1969 it became the capital city of the Slovak Socialist Republic, one of the two component state of federal Czechoslovakia.
Bratislava's dissidents anticipated the fall of Communism with the Bratislava candle demonstration in 1988, and the city became one of the foremost centres of the anti-Communist "Velvet Revolution" in 1989. In 1993, the city became the capital of the newly formed Slovak Republic following the "Velvet Divorce".
Bratislava Milan Rastislav Štefánik Airport
Bratislava Airport (IATA: BTS) is the largest in the Slovak Republic. The vast majority of scheduled flights are operated by the budget airline Ryanair, which flies to roughly 15 destinations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium, including London, Dublin, Milan-Bergamo, Rome, and Brussels-Charleroi. Additional carriers are Danube Wings flying to Kosice, Rijeka, Split and Zadar; Norwegian Air Shuttle to Oslo and Copenhagen; UTair to Moscow and Sun d'Or to Tel Aviv (seasonal flights). Direct bus services operating in approximately hourly intervals connect the airport with Vienna airport and the city of Vienna (travel time to Vienna is c. 80–90 minutes).
Be aware that the staff might take some regulations especially seriously. For example, you will not be allowed a small handbag/laptop bag AND hand luggage. If you are flying by Ryanair and have check-in luggage, do not let the small size of the airport fool you. Arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight, as the queue can get very long.
After leaving the terminal, do not expect any shuttle bus, but rather municipal public transport. Use bus No 61 (or N61 at night) for a direct connection to the Central Train Station (Hlavná stanica) or change at Trnavské mýto to get to the city center (in order to get to the tram stop, use the underpass and the exit marked "Centrum" (city center); take any tram in the direction towards center. You can also wait one more stop and exit at Racianské mýto, where trams also travel to the city centre and there is no underpass with which to contend. Bus drivers don't sell tickets in Bratislava (see "Get around" below) so you need to get tickets in advance. Use the vending machines at the bus stop but note that you will need euro coins as the vending machines don't take notes (there are also two big red ticket machines in the terminal building close to arrivals, which accept banknotes). You can also buy tickets in the tourist and exchange offices in the terminal, but they have only limited working hours. Be aware that the airport shops and kiosks are not very helpful when it comes to changing bills into coins. A screen in the arrivals hall displays actual departure times of next public transport buses and buses to Vienna.
Taxis are expensive (more than €30 for a 15-minute journey to the city centre) and even worse, taxi drivers do not respect the price you agreed with them in advance. Public transport buses are cheaper - a single ticket to the city centre (validate the ticket in the marking machine in the bus; valid for 60 minutes from the moment of validation; transfer to other public transport lines allowed) costs €0.90.
Vienna International Airport(IATA: VIE) is c. 40 km (25 mi) from Bratislava, near to the town of Schwechat in Austria, after which the airport is named. The airport is the home base of the flag-carrier Austrian and the budget airline Fly Niki. Most European airlines and a significant number of international airlines have direct connections to Vienna from their respective hubs. A quick summary of transport options:
- Blaguss (Bus). 10 buses a day between Vienna Airport and Bratislava city centre. The buses alight at the bus terminal under the New Bridge and continue towards Bratislava Airport. €7.20.
- Postbus/Slovak Lines (Bus). Bus run almost every hour between Sudtiroler Platz (close to Wien Hauptbahnhof) and Vienna Airport and Bratislava Bus Station, some buses run as far as Bratislava Airport. Please check the timetable. You are allowed to transport two pieces of baggage per person at €1.00 per piece. The baggage tags can be purchased from ticket window or from the driver. €7.70, €14.30 return.
- Train. Unfortunately, trains from Vienna to Bratislava do not stop at Vienna airport. However, there is a direct connection between both central train stations. It is possible to take the train (S7 or RSB7) from Vienna Airport to Wolfsthal on the Austrian border (45 minutes, cheapest ticket is 3 VOR-Zone for €5.40) and change to Slovak-operated regional bus 901 that will take you to Bratislava city center (€1.50, €0.75 for under 26 years of age, children under 6 travel free) in just 15 minutes. The buses leave at 55 minutes past the hour, but be aware that the departures/arrivals of the bus are not always aligned with the trains so you run into risk of up to two hours of waiting in a small village 5 km from the border. Walking to Bratislava from here will take an hour and is not recommended though there is a path near the Danube. All in all, this is not a preferable way to get to Bratislava, but could be useful if schedules have been checked or if you have a back-up plan to arrange a ride or taxi (which can be hard to explain if you don't speak Slovak or German) from Wolfsthal.
- Taxi. Cab fare is not set, so agree before getting in.
- Vienna Bratislava Transfer. offer a flat rate of €75 for transfers between Vienna and Bratislava
Brno Airport has a very small, albeit good selection of destination offerings. Budapest and Prague airports are about a 4-5 hour journey but can mean substantial savings on intercontinental trips, especially to New York City or Beijing.
Most international trains stop at the main train station (Bratislava hlavná stanica) that has a good connections to buses. To get to the city centre, take bus 93 and get off at Hodžovo námestie or Zochova stops. Unfortunately, there is no tram connection starting from 1 November 2011 due to track damage. The other principal station is Bratislava-Petržalka, situated in a residential district, south of the river Danube. The station serves as a terminus for some of the trains from Vienna. Bus 80 (direction: Kollárovo námestie) departs from outside the station building or use the underground passageway in the station hall then hop on any of the buses that leave from the opposite side of the road. Buses 91 and 191 (direction: Nový most), 93 and 94 (direction: Hlavná stanica and Vazovova respectively) all go directly to city centre.
- Vienna: 1h. There are two regional express services leaving from different stations in Bratislava - one from Bratislava Hlavná stanica (Main station) via Marchegg and the other from Bratislava Petržalka station via Kittsee - each operating in hourly intervals, with first daily service leaving around 5AM and the last train leaving around 10:30PM. Both services terminate at Wien Hauptbahnhof in Vienna. Tickets are valid for both routes. A day-return ticket called EURegio purchased in Vienna costs €15 and also allows use of all public transportation in town.
- Prague: 4¼h, EC trains every 2 hours. Online tickets are much cheaper than the tickets purchased at the station, but you should buy them at least 3 days in advance. It is possible to get on a through sleeper car, attached to train R 719, however the journey only takes 6½ hours meaning you won't get too much sleep.
- Berlin: 9h, two direct EC trains, another two with change in Prague and through sleeper cars attached to EN Metropol. Online ticket is much cheaper than ticket bought at station, but you should buy it at least 3 days in advance.
- Budapest: 2¾h, six EC trains a day, departing from Budapest Keleti station. The train shuttles every 2 hours from both stations. The first train from Bratislava departs at 5:50 and the last direct one at 19:54. From Budapest, the first one departs at 5:25 and the last direct one at 15:25.
- Warsaw: 8¼h in through cars on EC Praha; 7¼ in two daily connections with change at Břeclav; 8¾h in through sleeper cars attached to train Chopin. There is a limited offer (SparDay for daytime trains, SparNight for sleepers) of discounted tickets to Budapest via Bratislava, they're much cheaper that normal tickets to Bratislava.
- Belgrade: 11½h with direct EC Avala, 12¾h with change at Budapest. The connection with change costs almost half of the direct train, because you can buy discounted tickets Belgrade–Budapest and Budapest–Bratislava. Trains from Serbia are often delayed, but at Budapest you have 2h gap to change.
- Kiev: 28 hours, daily night train with through cars from Moscow (42 hr). The train is often delayed.
Coach lines connect Bratislava with all of Slovakia, a high number of Czech cities and a number of EU destinations, including London, Paris and daily buses also depart to Budapest. The most frequent international coach connection by far is Vienna though, with two lines running almost every hour from Vienna's Sudtirolerplatz near Sudbahnhof via Vienna International Airport: Blaguss has tickets sold by the driver priced at €6, with stops in central Bratislava (beneath Nový most bridge) and Bratislava Airport. Slovak Lines has buses that stop at the Coach Terminal and Bratislava Airport, for a cost of €7.70. The tickets can be purchased from the driver or booked online). A trip from/to Vienna takes about 1.5 hours.
The Central Coach Terminal (Autobusová stanica) is at Mlynské nivy, at the eastern border of the city centre. To get to/from the main railway station (Hlavná stanica), take trolleybus No 210. If you need to get to/from the city centre, take trolleybus No 205 or 202 (the terminus is behind the Tesco department store at Kamenné námestie) or buses No 50 (getting on/off at Šafárikovo námestie, close to the banks of the river Danube) or 70 (getting off at Nový most, the New Bridge).
The bus terminal has a left-luggage office where you can store your bags for ca. €1 per item per day. There is also a bakery, a bar/canteen, a newspaper kiosk and several shops on the upper floor.
Regular tourist boat lines operate on the Danube from spring through fall on routes from Vienna. You can find routes and schedules here.
Since 2006 it is possible to get to Vienna using a high speed ferry boat as well, yet the rates are higher compared to other means of transport. A one-way ticket from Vienna to Bratislava by Twin City Liner costs about €25-30 (whereas a return train ticket is less than €15). The Twin City Liner's boats travel at 60 kmph and the journey takes about 1 hour 15 minutes from Vienna to Bratislava and about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Bratislava to Vienna (almost as much as the train). Unlike the train though, which stops at stations distant from the center (about 2–3 km), the boat stops are in the very centres of both Vienna (Schwedenplatz) and Bratislava (Novy Most).
By kayak and canoe
Danube river is getting very popular for multi-day tours. Some people do their paddling all the way from Germany to Black Sea (more than 2516 km / 1563 mi), also known as TID. Bratislava is well developed for paddling. There are several paddling clubs at "Karloveske rameno" with accommodation possible at Paddler Club at river km 1872, near "Stary most" at r.km 1868. Free camping is possible along river shore; good places are around km. 1872 right, 1864-60 left.
Bratislava lies on the border of two other countries and has a relatively good road system. The town can be accessed by motorways (i.e. limited access highway) from northern Slovakia and Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary as well as Austria. As a result, you can pass the town without having to leave the motorway at all. Together with countries like Austria and Czech Republic it's required to have a sticker on your windshield to drive on motorways. Stickers can be bought at any regular gas station - it's recommended to stop at the first gas station after crossing the border.
After entering the city, a parking information system is in place to lead you to the next free parking spot. In the center of town you either can use one of the paid underground garages or buy a parking card from vendors in yellow vests and try to find a free spot in the streets. The former is recommended on weekends as finding a parking place in the one-ways can turn into a real head breaking puzzle. If you do find a spot in the street and it's a weekday between 8AM and 4PM, a parking card may be necessary. You need them in the center of the city only, parking on the streets is free otherwise. You can purchase parking cards from vendors in yellow vests; they cost €0.70 and are valid for 60 minutes.
It may be a good idea to leave the car at the Aupark parking lot which also serves as a "Park and Walk" facility for tourists (note that the indoor parking facilities as well as parts of the outdoor parking lot are closed from 11PM-6AM, the rest of the parking space is free to use 24/7). You can leave your car here and walk through the park and across the Danube to the city center, which is a 10 minute stroll, or just use public transportation. It is not recommended to leave the car in residential areas outside of the city center to avoid paid parking, as foreign cars may attract car thieves.
Renting a car is also an option, especially if you are visiting destinations outside of Bratislava. All major rental companies have a stall at the airport but most have a city office as well.
Bratislava has nice surroundings for biking and an international bike route leads along Danube river (EuroVelo 6). The route from Austria via Bratislava down to Hungary is well marked but the town itself has not many biking routes and they are mostly ignored by car drivers. There are millions of ways though to bike in the Carpathian hills and along the rivers Danube and Morava. Read some more in "Do" below.
Generally, Bratislava is a walking city. The center is very small and cosy and you can easily walk from one side to another in a few minutes. The city center is a pedestrian area but be aware of cyclists and occasional cars that use to drive rather quickly in between the walking people and outdoor cafes.
If you need to travel outside of the center, use the trams or trolley buses if you need to get from one point to another quickly. Bratislava has a rather good public transportation system although a lot of the vehicles are quite old. Buses tend to be the slowest means of transportation. Stops normally don't need to be requested unless stated otherwise - request stops are marked "zastávka na znamenie" at the bus stop sign as well as on electronic information displays in most buses/trams. Bus doors are opened by the driver; tram and trolleybus doors usually have to be opened by yourself by pushing a green or yellow button at the doors.
A single-journey ticket costs €0.70. It's valid for 15 minutes and doesn't allow change - you need to stamp a new 15 min. ticket every time you change bus/tram. There is a transfer ticket available for €0.90 (valid for 60 minutes on weekdays and 90 minutes on weekends and holidays), which you can use for any number of travels within the specified time period. If you are staying for a holiday, consider buying one from a choice of longer term tickets valid for 1, 2, 3 and 7 days for €4.50, €8.30, €10 and €15 respectively.
You must validate your ticket in the validation machines on the bus/tram immediately after boarding (via any door). When it comes to proving that you have not exceeded the time stated on your ticket (e.g. 15 minutes on a 15-minute ticket), official schedule times are decisive - not actual travel times (do not give in to unfriendly ticket inspectors claiming the contrary). You can find out the scheduled travel times in the left-most column of the schedules, left of the stop name or via the internet (see below).
Bus and tram drivers in Bratislava do not sell tickets, therefore you need to obtain a ticket prior to entering a bus or a tram. There are ticket vending machines at most stops in the town. No bills or credit cards can be used at the machines (which can be quite frustrating if you need to buy a longer term ticket). If you purchased a return ticket in Vienna, it also serves as a pass for all public transportation and does not need to be validated.
Besides vending machines, tickets are also sold in many newsstands and - very conveniently for travelers arriving by train, late in the evening or at weekends - in railway stations at the ticket counters (ticket counter 16 at the main railway station). You can also purchase tickets for public transport in every tourist information bureau. Try asking for the Bratislava City Card which combines a 1 to 3-day ticket with various discounts and is available at information bureaus.
There are 3 main interchange points in the close city center where you can get a bus or tram to nearly anywhere else:
- Hodžovo námestie (Presidential palace) for northwest- and east-bound bus connections
- Poštová (down the ped area below Hodžovo námestie) for trams
- Most SNP or also known as Nový most from 1993 till 2012 (close to St. Martin's Cathedral and the Danube banks) for trams and for west-bound buses as well as bus connections to Petržalka.
Main tram, bus and trolley lines operate from 4:30AM until approximately 11:30PM. If you need to travel by bus at night, go to the main railway station which is the main night line interchange point or use the bus stops at Presidential palace (Hodzovo namestie). All night lines have common departure times from the main railway station at 11:30PM and then every 60 minutes for every line and outbound direction until 3:30AM. Some lines have an extra outbound departure at midnight. You will need a night ticket for €1.40 in night lines. When traveling by night lines, please remember that every stop needs to be requested. Also note that especially around midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, the buses tend to be very crowded on some lines as young people return from clubs.
You can get all relevant information about public transportation in Bratislava (including schedules, maps and an online route planner) at imhd.sk. Although this is not the site of the transportation company, it always contains official and up-to-date data.
If necessary, it is also possible to walk to Petrzalka station from the city (some 25 minutes). The path is clearly marked now but note that Petržalka is just a little more than the biggest block flats housing estate in Central Europe. Head for the bridge with the UFO-like looking tower atop it (Most SNP or also known as Nový most). Once you reach the bridge, you will notice that there is a walkway running along the underside of it, for pedestrians. Once on the other side of the Danube river, follow the right hand-side of the bridge with a walkway made of red paving. This will lead you to the station. Alternatively, you can walk through Bratislava's equivalent of the Central Park called Sad Janka Kráľa and visit the Aupark Shopping Mall at the park. Once exiting Aupark on the other side, turn right and follow the street to get to the pavement mentioned above. The route is very safe during the day, but for typically western-looking tourists, it might be dangerous at night (although not more than in any other European "panelák" (see above) housing estate). Take a guide, if needed. If you want to walk from the station to the city, turn right outside of the station building and follow the path described above in reverse direction.
- Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad), ☎ . The castle itself is already opened after reconstruction and hosts the exhibitions. Entrance is free..
Museums and galleries
For museum-goers, Bratislava is the place to go, with some bigger and loads of small museums around town. Every year in the weekend around 24 April Bratislava celebrates a festival called "Bratislava for All", giving locals and visitors alike the possibility to visit most of the facilities governed by the city for free or a reduced fee, this including most of the museums and galleries. In May, the city's museums and galleries keep their gates open to visitors until late at night, this being called the "Night of Museums and Galleries".
- Pharmacological Museum (Farmaceutické múzeum).
- Slovak National Gallery (SNG). For a taste of visual arts, pay a visit to the National Gallery at the embankment between Starý most and Nový most with permanent collections of Slovak and European medieval art pieces, although the temporary exhibitions tend to be far more interesting.
- Bratislava City Gallery (GMB). Bratislava City Gallery is also a good pick to see displays of historical fine arts, paintings and sculptures along with interesting temporary exhibitions.
- Danubiana Art Museum. If you like modern art better, pay a visit to the Danubiana Art Museum on the southern edge of Bratislava but be aware that it is too far for a stroll, with little to no public transport connections, and is best reached by car or taxi.
- Milan Dobes Museum. This small museum features modernist Op-art. It lies in the city center and is recommended to all interested in the development of modern art.
- National Museum, Žižkova 14 (At the foot of Castle Hill), ☎ . An unique exhibition on ancient Egypt is being held here until end of August 2008, together with permanent archeological collections and more,
- Natural Science Museum, Vajanského nábrežie 2, ☎ . Echoing the communist era, the natural science exhibitions have an interesting collection of artifacts and is slowly being transformed into a modern era exhibition,
- Gerulata, Gerulatska ul.. This is an ancient Roman military camp with archeological findings on display. If you're into all things Roman, you should also consider a visit to the nearby Carnuntum which has a large archeological site and is only a few minutes by car from Bratislava.
- Museum of Transport, Šancová 1/a, ☎ . With a display of historical vehicles, situated in the first railway station in the city, very close to the current Main Railway Station,
- Museum of Trade, Linzbothova 16, ☎ . This museum has some remarking pieces of historic advertising plates and other artifacts.
- Jewish Community Museum, Heydukova 11-13, ☎ . Rare Jewish ritual tools, gold-embroidered mantles protecting the holy biblical scrolls, unique photographs of students who had attended the famed Bratislava rabbi school that reveal even to this day the atrocities of the Holocaust. It is situated in the Heydukova Street Synagogue, which is the only synagogue in Bratislava. Constructed in 1923-1926, it is a Cubist building designed by the Bratislava-based Jewish architect Artur Szalatnai-Slatinský and is listed as a national cultural monument. Orthodox in orientation, the synagogue still serves as an active Jewish house of worship. The Jewish Community Museum with a permanent exhibition “The Jews of Bratislava and Their Heritage” is installed upstairs and during the summer season is open to the public up till September, every Friday 1 till 4PM and every Sunday 10AM-1PM.
- Museum of City History (in the old town hall), ☎ . Including the museums of history and music as well as the city dungeon and the exhibition on medieval justice.
- St. Martin's Cathedral (Dóm sv. Martina). Nov-Mar: Mon-Sat 09:00-11:30, 13:00-16:00, Sun 13:30-16:00; Apr-Oct: Mon-Sat 09:00-11:30, 13:00-18:00, Sun 13:30-16:00. The largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava, situated below Bratislava Castle. The Gothic cathedral, formerly the coronation-church of several Hungarian kings, begun in 1204, and reconsecrated in 1445, was restored in 1861-80. The tower is surmounted by a pyramid bearing a gilded Hungarian royal crown. Entrance €2.
- St. Clare's Church (Kostol sv. Kláry). A Gothic church on Klariská street, in the historical center; currently used as a concert hall.
- Church of the Annunciation (Kostol Zvestovania / Františkáni / Františkánsky kostol).
- Church of the Holy Savior (Kostol Najsvätejšieho Spasitel'a).
- Church of St. Elisabeth (Kostol svätej Alžbety) (Located on Bezručova street). Nicknamed the Blue Church (Modrý kostolík), this is a beautiful Jugendstil church finished in 1913.
Other prominent buildings
- Primate's Palace (Primaciálny palác). Currently the seat of the Mayor of Bratislava.
- Old Town Hall (Stará radnica), Primaciálne square 3 (next to Primate's Palace). The Old Town Hall is open to the public as a museum.
- Grassalkovich Palace and gardens (Grassalkovičov palác). Or the Presidential Palace (Prezidentský palác) - a Rococo/late Baroque summer palace with a French garden, used as a seat of the President of Slovakia. In one of the garden's alleys you will see a row of trees planted by famous people such as Juan Carlos I (King of Spain). In front of the Palace you will see the Slovak National Guard.
- Mirbach Palace (Mirbachov palác).
- Palffy Palace (Pálffyho palác).
- Academia Istropolitana. The oldest historic University in the area, which is now occupied by the state of Slovakia, from the 13th century.
- Slovak National Theatre (Slovenské národné divadlo), Hviezdoslavovo square. The historic building of the Slovak National Theatre, built in 1886.
- Slovak Radio Building (Slovenský rozhlas). Its main building is a peculiar 60m high reversed pyramid from the communist era and a landmark in sharp contrast with the building of the Slovak National Bank just across the street.
- Slavín monument. On the top of the hill behind the castle, overlooking the entire city. This is a monument in memory of Soviet casualties in the liberation battle of Bratislava in World War II. It is the highest place in the city, and thus the best place for viewing the city. Slavin actually is a cemetery and thus rather quiet. On warm nights it's a very romantic place, allowing you to sit in the shadows of the monument and look at the traffic below. To get there, take trolleybus no. 203 from Hodžovo námestie (in front of the Presidential Palace) in the direction Búdková and get off in 9 minutes at the last stop, then walk 500 m along Stará vinárska and then Pažického streets. Slavin is near an embassy district.
- Roland Fountain (Rolandova fontána). Built by stone cutter Andreas Luttringer and commissioned by Hungarian king Maximilian in 1527, this was the first fountain in Bratislava.
- Michael's Gate with Tower (Michalská brána). This 51m high tower above the gate with its green copper roof is one of the best known and the oldest buildings in Bratislava. It has been built in the 14th century as one of the four gates to the city.
- Laurin's Gate (Laurinská brána).
- Jewish Cemetery, Jewish Community Museum and Bratislava Synagogue, Heydukova. The only synagogue in Bratislava.
- SNP Bridge (Most Slovenského národného povstania, called Nový most from 1993 to 2012). A bridge over the Danube river, with its flying saucer-shaped structure housing a restaurant called "UFO". There is an observation deck on its roof, open from 10:00-23:00 daily, offering great views of the old town, as well as the apartment blocks in Petržalka. Entrance costs €6.50, but is free of charge if you eat in the restaurant..
- Main Indoor Market (Tržnica at Trnavské mýto).
Take a stroll through the centre of the town. Bratislava has one of the smallest historical centers around but the charm is more concentrated. The streets have been completely renovated over the last ten years, bringing life back here. Since then a multitude of cafes, bars and restaurants of all kinds have opened here, accompanied by a few souvenir shops and fashion stores. On warm days almost every cafe has an outdoor seating section in the street, bustling with life and giving the city a unique cozy feeling.
When it comes to sightseeing, Bratislava Castle generally is a must and is already opened after the reconstruction. You can visit also Slavin memorial for some really astounding views of the city. It's a calm and romantic spot but beware, it can get really windy up there. The City Museum located in the Old Town Hall offers visitors climbing up the steep stairwells of the clock tower or seeing the town's historical dungeons, an exhibition that was quite outdated but still scary in 2008.
In summer, you can also visit Bratislava Zoo, providing a nice walk between the animal enclosures, the latest addition being some rare white tigers. The facilities of the zoo are slowly being renovated to attract more visitors and the zoo is a favourite for families on sunny days. You can also go to the Botanical Gardens of Comenius University (Botanická 3, take trams No 1, 4, 5, 9 or 12 to stop Botanická záhrada) for quiet and peaceful strolls in this green space. There are also several lakes opened for bathing. The biggest and probably the most famous lake is called Zlaté piesky (Golden Lakes) or Vajnorské jazerá, known as Bager lake.
For a relaxed afternoon in the park, head either to Sad Janka Kráľa park (on the right bank of the river Danube and next to Aupark shopping centre), the oldest public park in central Europe, relax at the embankments on both sides of the river or head to Horský park (Forest Park) north off Slavin memorial for a civilized stroll through the forest. There's a small café here as well as a pub, the latter mostly populated by students from the nearby campus. For a more outdoorsy experience, hop on bus No 203/213 to Koliba and walk up to Kamzík (takes about 30 minutes uphill) or try the newly renovated facilities of Partizánska lúka and Snežienka, all with extensive picknicking areas and loads of fireplaces for grilling. The area is several kilometers long and you can either walk here from the terminal station of bus No 212 (Vojenska nemocnica) or take a bus to Patronka and use bus No 43 driving up the area and back every 15–30 minutes (depending on time of day/year as well as weather). Only cars with a permit can enter the area but there is a parking lot at the entrance, close to a bus stop. Snezienka's grass fields and the top of Kamzik hill are connected with a chairlift, operating Thursdays through Sundays and on holidays, the price for one ride being approx. €3.
In December, be sure to indulge in the scents and flavours of the traditional Christmas Market in front of Old Town Hall and on the Hlavne namestie (main square). The market - compared to the ones in Prague and Vienna - is smaller, but has a much friendlier, almost family-like atmosphere and feels much more traditional and less overtly commercialized than others in the region. The people of Bratislava love to meet here for a drink and a bite to eat; try the 'varene vino' (mulled wine).
Bratislava is the home of the world famous Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra so if you love classical music, you should consider attending one of the concerts in the historic Reduta building. For more cultural indulgence, the Slovak National Theatre offers a wide selection on ballet, opera and theatre performances. Although most of the activities have been moved to a city-district-in-the-making on the banks of the Danube, some performances are still being held in the historical theatre building, which gives them a unique feeling but a higher price tag as well. The old theatre building is right in the middle of the city at Hviezdoslavovo namestie. The new theatre is accessible by bus No 88 from the Coach Terminal at Mlynske nivy (get off at Landererova) or by buses No 50, 70 and 78 (stop is called Wüstenrot). None of these stop directly at the theatre though, so you should count on a 5-10 minute walk from the bus stop to the theatre. You cannot miss the building as it is of unmistakably communist megalomaniac design covered in white marble. The entrance is facing the Danube so you need to walk around the building to get in. Note that the riverside is currently being developed and the whole area is one big - although very clean, hats off - construction site and will remain that way at least until end of 2009.
If sports are your thing, know that ice hockey is the national sport of Slovakia. The local hockey team, HC Slovan Bratislava, plays games frequently throughout each year beginning in September and concluding in the spring of the following year. Since this team plays in KHL league, even more Slovaks started visiting it's matches. Home games are played at Ondrej Nepela Arena stadium, Odbojárov 9. Many Slovaks are passionate about both watching and playing ice hockey. The stadium can be reached easily by public transport.
Over the last two decades, many foreigners have been moving to Bratislava to study and work at the many international companies that created new jobs. After work, many expatriates and their Slovak friends hang out at casual events where everybody speaks English and enjoys the evening together. For travelers to Bratislava, joining these usually free events is an excellent and fun opportunity to meet local people and learn from them about what one should see or do in Bratislava next day.
A few recommendations are:
Bratislava Language Exchange Meeting, where people from different countries get together at tables and teach each other a foreign language.
Toastmasters Club Bratislava, a speech club where people practice their public speaking skills.
Bratislava Expat Meetup and Internations Meetings for the more business-oriented crowd that seeks to expand their network while having a glass of Martini in a stylish sky bar.
International Students Parties, where the foreign exchange students dance the night away and knock out their brains.
Upcoming events can be found in this calendar of international events.
Slovakia is a member of the European Union, therefore, any citizen of a European Union, European Economic Area country or Switzerland can work and live there without restrictions.
Qualified third nationals can get a work permit. This system still uses bribes.
Tourists seeking duty-free goods should be warned to make their purchases before returning to the airport as duty-free goods available in the departure lounge are roughly double the cost of identical goods purchased in local supermarkets.
- Shop in the large and expanding shopping centers - Aupark, Polus City Center, Avion, Shopping Palace, Eurovea or Central.
Bryndzové halušky (small, spaetzle-like dumplings with sheep's cheese and topped with pieces of meat) is the national dish of Slovakia and recommended to try. Potent garlic soup (but perhaps not on a date) and Slovak white wine (due to its cooler climate, Slovakia's reds pale in comparison with some of Europe's other offerings), schnitzels, goulashes and other typically Central European foods. Fresh vegetables are more common here thanks to the large amount of land given over to agriculture.
In December, don't miss the Christmas market in front of the Old Town Hall. The traditional foods of the Christmas market are roasted pork or chicken sandwich burgers ("ciganska pecienka") with mustard and onions, potato pancakes ("loksa") with various fillings ranging traditionally from plain ones with goose fat, with garlic or goose liver to poppy seed, nut or chocolate. Bread with pork fat and onions is also popular. Also there are a few stands which offer specialities from other European countries. You can wash down the food with a cup of red or white mulled wine or a small cup of honey wine, also tea with or without rum is available, as well as grog or other "hot mixed drinks" like the Červený medveď (red bear).
Of course, junk food can be found in Bratislava, too. Try Bratislava's special form of junk food - a richman which is a big bread roll filled with cabbage and cheese and/or meat with mayonnaise. Richman stands can be found on Kamenné námestie, in front of the Tesco building, and in Safarikovo square. You can also try a sub sandwich from one of the many cafeterias in the city, a good one is found in Šafárikovo namestie. Another excellent cafeteria is on Zelená Ulica between Ventúrska Ulica and Hlavné námestie. A big sandwich, a bageta (from the French baguette) with cheese, ham and eggs would cost you about €1.50.
Another specialty in Bratislava (but also available in other regions of Slovakia) is treska. It is a cold salad made of Codfish with mayonnaise. There are vegetables like onions and carrots in the salad too. It has a very distinct taste, somewhere between sour and bitter - you should try it! You can buy it fresh in most "Lahôdky" shops, which means something like "delicacies", but generally stands for old-fashioned fast food shops - they sell salads, soups, etc. instead of hamburgers or French fries. Treska tastes very good with rolls. If you like the taste of Treska, you can also buy it packed to take home.
If you're low on cash and want to self-cater, there's a huge Tesco supermarket on Kamenné námestie (at the junction of Štúrova and Špitálska) directly in the city. You could easily have lunch consisting of a couple of bread rolls, ham, cheese, fruit and maybe a cake or two, for €3-4. New American-type shopping malls with big cinemas and of course food courts within reach of the center are Aupark on the right bank of the Danube (next to Sad Janka Kráľa park, some 10 minutes from St. Martins's Cathedral) and Polus City Center on Vajnorská Street to the north of the city (some 10–15 minutes from the city by tram).
Interestingly, it is rather hard to find a Slovak restaurant among all the Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian and other eateries, so if you are looking for a real Slovak meal, head either to the Slovak Pub or the fancy and expensive Slovak Restaurant in Hviezdoslavovo square, the former being the better pick in terms of pricing and atmosphere, the latter in terms of food. A very new addition is the Pressburg restaurant in Michalska street, completing the Slovak trio with prices in the mid-range or slightly above.
Try Prašná Bašta (see below) for tasty meals or Pizza Mizza for the biggest pizza in town.
San Marten is another restaurant with great food and excellent service at affordable prices. For good and reasonably priced halušky, the unique Slovak national meal, visit the Slovak Pub on Obchodna. There are a large number of restaurants in the center of Bratislava in all price ranges so there are plenty to choose from.
- Prasna basta (Zamocnicka 11). The best old Pressburger restaurant in town. Just few steps from Michalska street (turn left directly after Michalska tower). Really authentic frequented by locals. With hidden inner garden.
You can get a nice view and can meet some local celebrities at the übercool and very expensive UFO restaurant and disco on top of Nový most bridge.
Try Kofola, a Slovak & Czech soft drink with a similar colour to Coca Cola, but lower in sugar and caffeine (and carbonation). Some places serve "draft Kofola" which indeed is draft from a barrel in a way similar to beer (until recently it was actually co-produced by a Bratislava brewery). Some Slovaks say draft Kofola is even better than the bottled version and that it is best enjoyed outside in the sun, for example after a hike or a bike or rollerblade ride. Kofola is a popular alternative to beer if you want to hang out but don't want to drink alcohol. Vinea is another genuine Slovak soft drink made from grapes, offered both in "white" (green grapes) and "red" varieties (red grapes) and even in a rather sweet and maybe not-so-tasty "soft" version without carbon dioxide.
There are quite a few Slovak beer brands, e.g. Zlatý Bažant, Šariš, Smädný Mních and Topvar. Stein beer is a local Bratislava variety which until very recently was brewed practically in the city centre. There are three micro-breweries offering beer in Bratislava, Mestiansky Pivovar, Richtar Jakub and Patronka.
If spirits are more your thing, perhaps you will enjoy Slivovica, a fruit-plums brandy of high quality that is associated with Slovakia.
The best pubs offering Slovak beers can be found in the Old Town: Kristian in Michalska street, Bar Parada in Hviezdoslavovo square, or AeroPressoDepresso in Venturska street. All of them are quite cheap (about €1 per half-liter glass of beer).
- Bratislava Pub Crawl, Rock Ok Šafárikovo nám. c.4, Bratislava. Wed & Sat 9:30PM. Great value bar tour popular with young backpackers & locals alike. Includes free beer for 1hr, free shots & entry to multiple clubs. €13.
- Bakchus Vinaren, Hlboka 5, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A must place for every Bratislava visitor. The best local and Indian dishes in town, purely Slovak wines and historical setting of a traditional wine cellar.
- Camouflage, Ventúrska 1, ☎ , fax: +421 220 922 912, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Try this place for cocktails and enjoy the modern ambience. approx €5.15/drink.
- Grandes Melones, Laurinska 3, ☎ . M-Th noon-1:30AM F Sa noon-2AM Su 2PM-1:30AM. Great for cocktails. Friendly staff and air conditioning. Don't be put off by the name, you could spend days in this place. around €5.60/drink.
- BeAbout, Presernova 4 (Vajanskeho nabrezie 10, near Safarikovo namestie), ☎ . Su-Th 10AM-midnight, F Sa 10AM-5AM. Music club near the riverside popular with younger crowd. Good selection of beers including Belgian specialty beers.
- GMT Bar. Very nice cocktail menu with waitress service if you can find a table. Ensure you wear a shirt at the weekends!
- UFO. If you want to go for extraordinary, visit UFO. It looks like real U.F.O. and it's a high on a New Bridge (the member of great-towers.com), and you have to use a lift to go there. There is a good restaurant and lounge bar and observation deck. The view is incomparable.
Larger clubs in Bratislava include Loft, KC Dunaj, Duplex and SubClub, the latter a former nuclear bunker located under Bratislava Castle. There are many smaller bars with dancefloors closer to the centre, such as Radost on Obchodná Street, next to the Slovak Pub.
Although some cafes are considered gay inclusive, there are at least two bars dedicated to the gay and lesbian crowd in Bratislava, all of them in the city center, close to the Presidential Palace:
- Apollon Gay Club, Panenska 18 (the entrance is in the dooryard of a townhouse), ☎ .
- B-Club, Vysoka 14 (at the crossing behind Tatra Banka and Volksbank).
Accommodation prices usually do not include city tax. For the year 2012 the city tax is €1.65/person/night. Students up to age 26 and youths up to 18 do not need to pay city tax.
- Patio Hostel, ☎ . Špitálska 35. Very popular, located in the center, close to the train & bus stations, easily reachable from the airport. Dorms and privates, free Internet, parking lot, laundry. From €11 plus tax (low season).
- Paddler Hostel**, ☎ . Karloveské rameno 2. Opened in May 2009 at Danube river shore, 6 minutes to center.a better hostel standard. free parking next to house. From €10,60 (tax included), 8,90 with student discount.
- Downtown Backpackers Hostel, ☎ . Panenská 31. Dorms from €12 per night per person, double rooms from €21.90 per night per person (plus tax). 18 minutes walk from the central station.
- Hostel Blues, ☎ . Špitálska 2, central location and dorm beds from €12.90 (plus tax).
- Hotel Junior, ☎ . Drieňova 14. Double rooms from €64 per room per night.
- Hotel Turist Bratislava, Ondavska 5, phone +421 2 5557 2789 or 5541 0509, fax +421 2 5557 3180, Email: email@example.com, . Double rooms at €40, triple rooms at €45, near Ice rink (Zimny Stadion), 10 minutes by bus to city center.
- Hostel Juraj, ☎ . Karpatska 28. A small cozy hostel located really close to train station and less than a 15 minute walk from the city center. Juraj, the owner, is a friendly man who speaks amazing English and will pick you up from the train station, offer to do your laundry, and provide a great atmosphere. Bed €16,5 in private room (included tax), dorm bed €12,5; €10 for students.
- Hostel Mansard, Obchodná 52, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Really clean hostel with friendly staff and located conveniently in the city centre. Partygoers and the tram in the street can be a tad noisy. €18.50 for a dorm bed (including tax).
- Hostel Possonium, ☎ . Šancová 20. Stylish hostel in the centre. Only 3 minutes by walk from main railway station. Free breakfast, wifi, internet, free laundry, cozy bar, great chill out in garden. Dorm bed from €17, double from €48.
- Hostel Red Star, ☎ . Botanicka 25, Seasonal. Dorm bed from €14.
- Hotel Arcus, ☎ , fax: +421 2 5557 6750, e-mail: email@example.com. Nice family hotel, big rooms and bathrooms, fresh cooked breakfast, 10 min walk from the old town. Moskovská 5, Rooms from €54/night/include breakfast.
- Aston Business Hotel.
- Hotel Echo, ☎ . Prešovská 39
- Hotel Holiday Inn.
- Hotel Ibis. Zamocka 38. Double rooms from €48, recently built hotel in central location, just a short walk from the Old town.
- Hotel Mercure. Zabotova 2. Double rooms from €55, recently built mid-scale business hotel near the main railway station.
- Botel Marina, ☎ .
- Albrecht. Mudronova 82. Five star design hotel with 12 rooms and suites nestled on hill above Bratislava castle and Old Town. The Albrecht features flagship restaurant and lounge bar as well as lavish urban spa - unique of its kind in Bratislava.
- Arcadia. Františkánska 3,
- Devín. Riečna 4. 4 star traditional hotel with 100 rooms and suites. Located in the historical centre of Bratislava, walking distance to all main attraction. It provides accommodation, restaurant, conference services and relaxation center with pool.
- Gate One. Business and conference hotel near airport.
- Kempinski Hotel River Park. A newly opened five star hotel offering facilities. Directly overlooking the Danube.
- Marroll's, ☎ . Tobrucka 4.
- Park Inn Danube, Rybne nam 1, ☎ , fax: +421 2 5441 4311, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Central location.
- Perugia. Near the main square.
- Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel, Hviezdoslavovo nam 3, ☎ , fax: +421 (2) 5939 0010, e-mail: email@example.com. Located in the heart of Bratislava, has been fully renovated and retains many of its original features.
- Sheraton Bratislava Hotel. Pribinova 12. Located in Bratislava's sophisticated new city center EUROVEA, the first Sheraton hotel in Slovakia offers five star service, 186 stylish guest rooms and 23 suites and Shine Spa - wellness center with indoor swimming pool, saunas, 24/7 gym and many different massages.
- Falkensteiner Bratislava Hotel. Pilarikova 5, located close to city centre, new four star business hotel.
- Michalská Brána. In the very city center - no car access.
- Hotel Hradná Brána, ☎ . Slovanské nábrežie 15. First class, newly opened hotel has a panoramic view over the Devín castle. It provides accommodation, restaurant, congressional and relaxation services.
When making international calls, you need to dial 00, then the country code of the country you are calling. The international code of Bratislava is +421 2, the national one is 02. You don't need to use any of these when making local calls. There mostly are cardphones in phone booths, coin phones are located e.g. in front of the telecoms office (T-Centrum) on Namestie SNP (Dunaj department store) or at Kolarska ulica. You can purchase phone cards at most newspaper kiosks and in any of the T-Centers.
Phone numbers beginning with 090, 091 or 094 are mostly mobile numbers. All of Bratislava is covered with a 3G network, the operators being Orange, T-Mobile and O2. In parts of Bratislava (mostly up on the hills), mobile phones sometimes switch to Hungarian or Austrian providers, so it is better to check the network name before dialing. For best mobile roaming rates, check .
You can use internet for free at the information bureau in the old town.
There are several internet cafes in the city, most of them hidden. You can try to get to one of the internet access portals in the T-Centrum on Namestie SNP or in Aupark Shopping Center.
If you have a notebook computer, you can use multiple wireless hotspots throughout the city. Some of them are paid and you need to obtain a user name and password in order to use them. Some hotels, cafes and restaurants provide free Wi-Fi to their customers. Besides that, the heart of the city center (Hlavné námestie, Františkánske námestie, Primaciálne námestie) is covered by a small public wireless network provided by the city council and this is free to use. There are also other places with free Wi-Fi throughout the city. A full list of these can be found on the website of the Slovak Telecoms Office.
Bratislava is generally very safe by Western standards. It is quite small and the crime rate is low. There is a significant police presence in the city, especially the historical parts, and it is generally not a problem to walk around the city at night. The centre especially is under camera surveillance.
There is very little violent crime in Bratislava. walking alone after midnight outside of the historical centre is not recommended on Fridays, since you could have an unpleasant encounter with rowdy drunks who could congregate around cheaper establishments. If a problem occurs, you can reach the police on phone number 158. General emergency number (police, fire dept., ambulance) can be reached by dialing 112.
Always ask for printed receipts in establishments to avoid being overcharged. Especially taxi drivers might try to do that. For reference, the usual fare is around €4 around the town, and you shouldn't be charged more than around €10 getting anywhere in Bratislava. Your best bet is to call a taxi dispatch. Ask around for a recommendation in your hotel/hostel.
On pedestrian crossings without traffic lights, watch out for aggressive drivers. Some of them might not give you the right of way.
- Finland, Palisády 29/A, 4. poschodie, 811 06 Bratislava, ☎ , fax: + 421-2-5980 5120, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mo-Fr 9AM-11:30AM.
- The castle Červený kameň is located about 30 km north-east of Bratislava; it can be reached by bus from Mlynske Nivy bus terminal.
- Do like the locals and hike in the Small Carpathians mountain range. Bratislava lies on the southeast slopes of these mountains. Hiking routes are well indicated.
- Visit the Small Carpathians Wine Region; on the southern slopes of the Small Carpathians there are extensive vineyards and typical wine villages and towns like Rača, Pezinok or Modra. If you are more interested in local wines, follow the Little Carpathians Wine Route.
- Visit Cachtice castle, associated with the blood-thirsty deeds of countess Bathory. It is a large and picturesque ruin set on a hilltop above the small village of Visnove. Take the train north from Bratislava to Nove Mesto nad Vahom (75 minutes), and then change to a small local train for the short journey west to Visnove (15 minutes).
- The Mutěnice Wine Region near the Slovak border in the Czech Republic is well worth a weekend visit. It has some of the best wine in the Czech Republic and many great small cellars to visit. You'll need to take a train to Břeclav and then from there to Hodonín.
- Take the train to Trenčin (one hour and forty minutes), a Slovak town to the north of the capital with a towering hill-top castle and a picturesque old town centre spread out below it.
- The Carnuntum archaeological park is located 25 km from Bratislava, across the Austrian border. The site offers the chance to see the excavations of an ancient Roman city. It is worth a one-day visit together with a stop in the old walled city of Hainburg, the first major town in Austria after crossing the Slovak border.
- Lednice-Valtice in the south-eastern corner of the Czech Republic is a UNESCO World Heritage site containing one of Europe's largest Palacial parklands.
- Senec is a small town 30 km to the west of Bratislava, with the lake resort "Slnečné jazerá" ("Sunny Lakes"). It is a cool place to swim or relax at the beach in the summer months.
- You can use the bus no. 91 of the public transport company of Bratislava (DPB) going to Čunovo in order to cross between Rajka (Hungary) and Bratislava (Slovakia). In Bratislava, the bus has Nový most as its terminus, and near the Hungarian border you get on/off at the stop Čunovské jazerá (you need to signal to the driver if you plan to get off at this stop). From Čunovské jazerá it's a four-kilometer-long straight walk through a flat terrain to the town of Rajka, two kilometers on each side of the border. You may detour to visit a monument at the Austrian-Hungarian-Slovakian three country border.
- The public transport company of Bratislava (DPB) runs a cross-border bus line no. 901 between Hainburg an der Donau (Austria) and Bratislava (Slovakia), with a stop also in the Austrian town of Wolfsthal. In Bratislava, the terminus is the stop Nový most. Note that even though the bus stops at Einsteinova street before crossing the border, it is not possible to alight until reaching Wolfsthal.