I realised, on arrival, that two nights in Bratislava is not nearly enough time to explore this area properly. Nonetheless, it gives you a good taste of a vibrant Slovakian city. Due to the recent and rather turbulent history of the country (which only gained independence in 1993), Bratislava maintains its old charm, but at the same time, makes space for change and growth. It is rich in culture, surrounded by beautiful countryside, full of interesting architecture and has plenty of options for sampling local Slovakian cuisine and homemade beer. In a day, you can easily cover the following highlights:
Take a Free Walking Tour of the Old Town
Learn about the interesting history of this old capital city and the many Slovakian traditions, which link strongly to the Czech Republic. For example, did you know that both countries enjoy carp for Christmas dinner? To get rid of the muddy taste, they buy the fish while it is still alive and let it swim in the bath tub on the days leading up to Christmas! Needless to say, the children are not very happy when their new pet becomes Christmas dinner. Free walking tours of the old town start at 10am from the Fountain of Hviezdoslav. In two hours, you will cover the main highlights, such as the castle, town hall, various cathedrals and the Blue Church. Pay what you feel the tour is worth at the end.
Try Traditional Slovakian Cuisine
Slovakian food reminds me very much of Polish and Czech cuisine, with its own special twist. Feast on Bryndzove halushky, potato dumplings with sheep cheese and roasted bacon, or bread spread with Bryndza. To keep away the vampires, you won’t go wrong with the traditional garlic and cheese soup – it is super powerful and served in a bread bowl. Wash it all down with a Slovakian beer or two. Later, sample ice creams from one of the many shops lining the promenades.
Climb the Devin Castle Ruins
Take Bus 28 or 29 from the main bus station for half an hour and get off at Devin to explore these old castle ruins and get magnificent views over the Danube and Morava rivers and well into Austria. The castle ruins are situated up on a rocky cliff and it is worth walking up for the scenery alone (and for a nice breath of country air). The earliest settlement here dates back to the 5th Century BC! You can even climb inside the old tower and look at remnants of weapons, tools and jewellery from centuries ago. Entrance costs five euros. Allow a good two hours to explore this magical area.
With more time, there are plenty of museums and galleries to explore, hills to climb and pathways to cycle.
Quick interesting fact: Many years ago, Bratislava was the capital of Hungary!
Note to self: Never spend less than three nights in a European capital city!
What did you do in Bratislava? Any tips for future visits?