Introduction to Bratislava
Located 60 kilometres from Vienna and a day trip from Prague, Bratislava is lined with bite-size pleasures and 18th-century architecture. The capital of Slovakia springs to life on the banks of the Danube, catching accidental tourists and experienced travellers by surprise.
Everybody falls in love with Europe’s most walkable city; the streets of Bratislava are relaxed and bendy. Starý Mesto (Old Town) lures curious sightseers into a labyrinth of museums, art galleries and libraries. Hop from cafe to cafe, sampling a richman (a meat-filled roll) on the road, or trade walking for city cycling. Slovakians are very active people, so don’t expect to see a lot of cars. Natural highlights are literally a quick 20-minute cycle away where the Carpathian Mountains open up and breathtaking hiking trails provide endless distractions. Bratislava is also a gateway to Slovakia’s ski fields and resort retreats - luxuriate on the lawns of Sad Janka Kráľa Park, the oldest park in Europe, one day and slip into a nutrient-rich spring the next.
Bratislava Castle is nobody’s stop-gap. The castle measures the city’s living memory – at last count, 415,000 people agreed with this assessment. The Celts, Romans, Hungarians, Germans and Jews have all left their mark. Decipher where one civilisation begins and where another ends.
Bratislava is an antidote for the sombre cities of its Central European neighbours where Communist facades are fairly common, if strange, against the decadent Hungarian design of older palaces. Stranger still are the bronze statues posed throughout the city. Erected to dissipate post-Communist tensions, these funny figurines are the perfect photo ops for camera-happy wanderers.