Bratislava is the heart of Slovakia
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. It is a unique capital bordering on two states – Austria and Hungary. There are multiple palaces, museums, castles and other interesting sites there. They will help you to learn more about the history and the culture of the country.
Brief historical information
According to the archives, the first mentioning of Bratislava took place in 907. This Moravian city, captured by the Hungarians, became the capital of Slovakia later. Initially, Bratislava was known as Pozon (later it was renamed to Presburg). In 1405 Hungarian king Sigismund of Luxemburg had to offer municipal rights to the city due to German invasion.
The occupation of the Buda by the Turkish Army was the reason for the Hungarians to transfer their capital to Presburg (1541–1684). This was the beginning of the age of city growth. Presburg was one of the most important cites of Austria-Hungary until the fall of the empire in 1918. The city was the HQ for the archbishops and held State assembly. Monarchs gained power in Presburg as well.
In 1918 the city was included in the Czech Republic and changed its name to Bratislava. In 1969 Bratislava became the capital of the Slovakian Republic and in 1990 the city became the capital of Czechoslovakia. In 1993 after a peaceful revolution and the fall of CSSR, Bratislava became the capital of Slovakia.
Slovakian capital is famous for bordering with two European states – Hungary and Austria. However, this is only one of eight interesting facts about Bratislava that you should know.
- First settlements appeared there in the Neolithic period. Celtic tribes inhabited this territory in 400 BC. Those tribes were later substituteb by the germans and in the I century BC Romans came here. In the V century, this territory was occupied by the Slavonic tribes. They have established Great Moravia here.
- The distance between Vienna and Bratislava is 80 kilometers. You can reach Austrian capital by train, using transfer, taxi or MV. Tramways connected those two cities before 1936.
- If you look at the Slovakian capital from a height, you can see that many Staro Mesto streets form 90 degrees angle when turning. This was done for security matters as such planning prevented cannons from direct fire and solders to regroup.
- Bratislava Grad is one of the unique places in Europe that was never captured by the enemy. Neither Osman troops nor the Napoleon army managed to seize the city surrounded by the double wall.
- There are no bearing elements in the cable-stayed bridge SNP. One of the bridge supports hosts a Slovak traditional meal restaurant where you can have a splendid view of the city and Danube river via panoramic windows.
- The first Slovakian elevator was installed in Bratislava. This device was installed in 1924 in the first nine-story building of the capital.
- Bratislava is included into the list of the European capitals have no subway. There were attempts to build one in 1980 but later all works were paused. IN 2002 the project was frozen because of was a lack of financing.
Famous Squares and streets of the old town
The majority of sites and municipal establishments are located in the historical part of the capital – Stare Mesto. The heart of this part of the city is Hlavne Namestie, former city market (XIV century) and currently, this is a treasury of architectural masterpieces of Bratislava, which can compete with the houses of Vienna.
The most beautiful constructions of the city are located around the Roland Fountain (1572). They include Paludaiho Palac, Aponiho Palac, Kutscherfeldov Palac, built in the Rococo style. Here you can also find the Old Townhall with a gabled roof constructed in 1599 in the Renaissance style.
The biggest square of Bratislava, Hviezdoslavovo Namestie is located on the left shore of Danube. It appeared in 1784. This square attracts attention by the groomed alleys, fountains, and a large number of restaurants. Zupne Namestie is also a very popular tourist site where you can find several old churches and former Trinity Monastery.
According to the archeological studies, Celtic tribes lived in the place of the oldest city artery – Michalska Ulica. Currently, old monuments of this place including Michalska gates and Barbakan of the XVth century live among modern shops and restaurants.
Venturska Ulica is the continuation of Michalska Ulica. Six-year Mozart demonstrated his skills to Maria Theresa in one of the cottages located on this street. Another central street is Kapitulska Ulica. It is famous for being one of the quietest places in the capital. The neighboring Panska Ulica is proud of sculptures and magnificent facades of gorgeous palaces.
This is one of the oldest constructions in the city. It is a composition of several buildings. The first one appeared in the XIV century. Later some other constructions appeared. The complex was finally built in the XV century.
All the buildings were of Gothic style initially but after the earthquake of the XVI century as well as after fire of the XVIII century, those buildings had some reconstruction and obtained some details of neo-gothic and neo-renaissance. This territory was used for city meetings at the beginning of the XV century. Stara radnica was also a prison and mint at different periods.
Currently, a city museum works here. The oldest part of the complex is a watchtower. You can see a cannonball from the window of the second level. It reminds us of those hard times of Napoleon Buonaparte’s invasion.
The watchtower is one of the highest buildings in Bratislava. There is a viewing platform at the highest point of this building from where you can see the historical part of the city. The museum of the city’s history shows the history of inhabitants of Bratislava during different historical periods. Details.
Roland is a famous knight and the hero of multiple legends. Almost everyone has heard something about this character and about the famous song, written to honor this hero. Bratislava owns its own “Roland”. This is a small fountain located in front of the Stara radnica. This fountain is decorated with a figure of the knight wearing armor. According to some sources, this fountain was built to honor Maximilian II. It is not clear whether the emperor associated himself with the knight or local inhabitants wanted to honor their lord. The fountain appeared in 1572. It was small and had almost no decorations.
Later many legends about the fountain appeared. One of them tells that the knight leaves the fountain twice a year to walk the streets of the Old City. This happens during New Year celebrations and on Good Friday.
The knight is associated with a moody guarding of the city. Roland is going to protect Bratislava as he is ready to fight like a lion. This is a symbol of a fearless fighter, ready to protect his own city until his death.
Michalska brana is one of the central places. It was built in the XIII century. This was something like the main gates to the city from the North. There were similar constructions in the other parts of the city, but they were ruined. The main tower was used as a checkpoint. The name was given after the Saint Michael church. The statue of this saint fighting with the dragon decorates the dome.
The church was destroyed during the Turkish invasion. The stones were used to fortify the construction. Architects decided to leave memories about the former church and wall up a part of a gravestone in the wall of Michalska brana. You can see it if you look at the building from Michalska street. The obelisk is made of pink stone. The tower is in Baroque style with a viewing platform on the top. There is a museum of ancient arms inside the building. Detailed information about the museum.
Below the arch, there is an interesting place. If you are quiet here, you will become lucky forever. There is a zero kilometer below the gates, which shows the distance to European capitals and world megapolises from Bratislava.
This church has many names: Kostol trinitarov, Kostol svateho Jana z Mathy a svateho Felixa z Valois, Kostol Najsvatejsej Trojice, Kostol svatych Jana z Mathy a Felixa z Valois, Katedrala svatych Jana z Mathy a Felixa z Valois, Trinitarsky kostol, Trojicny kostol.
The church is in Baroque style and is the main temple complex in Bratislava. It was named the church of Saint John of Matha and Felix de Valois.
The suburb of Saint Michal was located in the same place where there is Hurbanovo Namestie currently. During the Turkish invasion city’s administration decided to ruin the complex as this point opened a good view of the enemy’s position.
Two centuries later construction of the church was launched. Church consecration took place in 1727. The church was closed in 1782 by the order of Joseph II, the emperor of Austria. IN 1844 it was completely rebuilt and became the HQ of the administration of Pressburg county. The large hall hosted concerts and other performances.
Slovakian National Council occupied this building from 1939 to 1993. The Independence of Slovakia was proclaimed here. From 2003 to 2009 this building was a cathedral of military ordinariate of Slovakia.
You can visit the church from February to November on Sundays from 15.00 to 17.00. The entrance is free. There are informational materials translated into 25 languages.
Kostol Svatego Stefana
This is one of the most interesting places in Bratislava. It is located in the Western part of Zupne Namestie (place).
Capuchins visited Bratislava in 1676 for the first time. They have chosen the chapel of Saint Katherine as their HQ. After a while, the chapel could not host all congregation members and Capuchins decided to build a new temple. It was started in 1698. The church consecration took place in 1711. It was called after Saint Stefan. The complex was rebuilt several times. It received its modern look in 1860.
The church has a modest interior as Capuchins’ traditions were against pomposity. Moreover, there is no bell tower in the church. The main part of the exterior is a sculpture of Saint Stefan, which is located above the main entrance.
Thhe furniture is made of wood and is decorated with incrustation. The altar is located in the central part of the church. It was built in 1737 of Baroque style.
Catacombs are located below this church. Rich citizen was buried here. There is a place in front of the church where the statue of Saint Mary is placed.
Dom svateho Martina
This Gothic church is located in the historical part of Bratislava. Coronation of the Holy Roman Empire took place here for a couple of centuries.
The history of the church
The temple was built as a part of city fortifications at the beginning of the VIII century. Its consecration took place in 1452. In 1553 Bratislava becomes capital of Hungary and in 1563 a coronation of Hungary king took place here. Coronations took place here until 1830. This neogothic complex became the cathedral in 2008.
The church includes three naves. One of them is surmounted by the 85-meters tower with a copy of the Hungarian king’s crown on its peak indicating that the church was used for coronations. There are also several small churches close to the main building as well as sculptures in honor of the benefactor of this temple. There is a gallery inside the building where kings were sitting during services.
SLAVIN is the place where you can honor dead soldiers who fought for peace and a clear sky.
The history and the description of the complex
SLAVIN is located on the hill having the same name. The administration of the city has decided to create a complex here to honor the soldiers who died fighting against Germans and liberating Bratislava and Western Slovakia in 1945. Jan Svetlik was the main architect of the project. It was solemnly opened in 1960 on the cemetery.
The whole territory includes 10 000 square meters. There are six mass graves and 317 individual graves. The total number of the Soviet soldier buried here is 6845. Granite slabs with the names of all heroes were installed there to honor the 70th year of the liberation. In 2016 names of those soldiers died in hospitals and buried in Slavin were added.
There is a 37-meters obelisk in the central part of the memorial. A statue of a soldier with a flag in his hand kicking fascists’ symbol stands on the peak of the obelisk. There are also other statues standing in the mourning hall. There are names of Slovakian cities on the façade, liberated from the fascists.
An ancient palace is located in the central part of Hodzova place. Currently, this palace is the presidential residence. This magnificent complex was build in 1760 in Baroque style by the order of Grassalkovich count, who was the counselor of Maria Thereza. This palace was beyond the city’s walls in the place called Syche Myto. This palace hosted pompous balls with the participation of all Hungarian nobles. Wolfgang von Kempelen, the famous inventor admired by Napoleon, gave his performances there.
In 1897 the complex became the property of Ersherzog Friedrich. The palace was home for various country leaders and became the main palace in Slovakia currently. When the president is absent, there are excursions here. Once you have finished your tour inside the palace, you can stay for a while to admire the park including a fountain and several sculptures.
This square is located close to Stara radnica. The magnificent Primacialny palace is the dominant of the square. This is one of the most beautiful and pompous complexes of Bratislava.
A mansion was here before 1778. In 1778 a decision was taken to build a castle for Hungary’s Archbishop. The architect of the project of the castle in Neoclassic style was Melchior Hefele. The construction was ended in 1781. After Bratislava became the capital of the Hungary kingdom, this palace was used to coronate monarchs. Future kings stopped there before the main ceremony in the cathedral of Saint Martin.
The Mirror hall hosted one of the most important historical events. An agreement was signed to transfer Tirol and Dalmatia to Napoleon here. In 1903 this palace becomes the property of the city. This building was partially occupied by the city administration. However, there was a reconstruction before. During the reconstruction, a collection of precious tapestry from 1630 was found there.
Interior and architecture
This palace is a bright example of classic architecture. The walls are painted in a light pink color, there are marble sculptures on the facade. The interior is modest but there are several cultural values there including tapestry and the portraits of Habsburgs.
Kostol Svatej Alzhbety
This building is located beyond the historical center of Bratislava. Local inhabitants often use this cathedral for weddings.
Construction works started in 1909. The building is in the Secession style. Construction started by the order of Sapari. All works were done by 1913. There is an alternative version of this temple creation. Some sources suppose that this temple was built by Franz Josef to honor his wife Sisi, killed by a killer.
The church was part of a school and was used as a scholar temple for some time. The school was abolished later and the church became a separate object.
A tower with a cross stays above the church. Its height is 36.8 meters. It has a clock face and bells. The main decoration of the main entrance is a mosaic portrait of Alzhbeta. The interior is modest, made in white and blue colors.
Schone Naci Statue
There are many interesting and funny statues in the historical center of Bratislava. One of them is the Schone Naci Statue. This object is dedicated to a real person named Ignac Lamar. He was born in 1897 in Bratislava and was an unlucky man. However, he was always joyful and friendly to people. He loved to walk around the city wearing tails and top hat. He welcomed each passer-by be lifting his hat. Many thought he was crazy but he was friendly and nobody even touched him. He was taking his meals in one of the capital’s cafes. Naci died in 1967 being alone. As he had no relatives, the city administration decided to bury him and take all the expenses.
The statue was created by Juraj Melis. The statue had a special mechanism, which allowed Naci to lift his hat. However, later the mechanism was removed. The statue was located close to Cumil Zevaka crossroads. However, later it was relocated closer to the Central square.
If you are walking around Bratislava, you can see different interesting monuments and sculptures. All of them have their own history and legends. Cumil monument can be seen on the crossroads of Panska and Laurinska streets. Many tourists come here to rub some magic places of the monument and to make a wish.
Modern artist Viktor Gulikov has created this unusual composition. The monument was opened on June 26, 1997. This is a half-closed manhole cover with a kind man in a hat. Local inhabitants call him Cumil or a cheerful spirit of the city. Yourists call him a plumber. The author called him Zevaka.
There are several interesting legends connected to the monument. If you rub the edge of the hat, your wish will come true. If you rub his nose, you will be lucky during the year.
Monument to a French soldier
This sculpture is one of the most interesting and mysterious in Bratislava. No one knows what the artist wanted to show by this piece of art. The statue is a French soldier leaning on a bench. This statue is placed in front of the French Embassy. Some think that this is Napoleon himself but he is shoeless. Local guides have found an original answer: he is shoeless because he was chased from France and he has forgotten his boots. This is nothing more than a legend.
The other version tells us that this is a collective image of French soldiers of the Napoleonian army. This army stood twice in front of the walls of Bratislava. In 1805 Napoleon has captured the city without a single shot. Bratislava was under his fist until the Prespor peace treaty. However, in 1809 this treaty was broken and the Napoleonian army came here again. They have started to bombard the city. You can see a cannonball in the Stara radnica wall.
The statue spends winter months in a city’s storage. In spring the sculpture returns back to its place.
A wooden guard cabin appeared in the XVII on the Main Square. The main goal was to maintain order. In 1767 the cabin was burnt and it was replaced by another guard cabin made of bricks, which stood there until the 60s of the XIX century. In 2006 local authorities have decided to create a monument with a bronze guardsman in honor of the guard cabin. The authors of the monument were Marian Presnajder, Otto Grossmann and Juraj Simek
There is a guardman made of bronze on the frontal side of the cabin. On the rear side, there is a fountain with drinking water. One of the walls has a plate with a description of the object.
You can visit the city during the festivals to make your tour even more interesting. The main event is Bratislavske Korunovacie. This is a three days carnival starting on the last weekend of June. Its main idea is to show the crowning ceremony of one of the eighteen Hungarian monarchs, which took place between 1563 and 1830.
Two hundred actors take part in this celebration. They are wearing historical costumes. Besides the authentic ceremony, visitors can see the whole program including a solemn procession of royal entourage across the streets of the city, knight’s tournaments, historical battles, fairs, and various interesting competitions.
The festival of kraft beer Salon Piva Bratislava gathers the representatives of small Slovak breweries, which are producing this original frothy beverage. The amateurs of ale and porter can find there new sorts of their beloved malt elixir. There are also traditional snacks and folk music.
The night becomes the day during the festival of modern art Biela Noc. Bratislava turns into a huge open-air interactive museum at the beginning of October. Visitors can see unique art compositions, theatre, and dance performances, poetry reading, audiovisual as well as light installations.
The capital of Slovakia turns into a fragrant garden in April, when the nature awakes from winter sleep. It’s time for Flora Bratislava, an international flower festival receiving delegations from all European countries. Multiple events take place during this festival including flower arranging, Ikebana master classes, professional consultations on plant care.
The most important sites of Bratislava
Museums and Galleries of Bratislava
A family vacation in Bratislava