A walk along the river Danube
The Slovak capital is a fascinating mixture of post-Soviet, post-Czechoslovak, Habsburg, Hungarian and Jewish cultures. Picturesque Bratislava packs many a historic sight into its compact, eminently walkable centre, panoramically divided by the Danube.
And that is exactly what we recommend, put on your comfortable walking shoes and take a trip along Danube. The river not only allows quick, easy waterborne access from Vienna and Budapest, it separates the pretty, partly cobbled Old Town (Stare Mesto) from the Socialist-era residential blocks that stretch over the south bank. Spanning the two is the imposing SNP (‘Slovak National Uprising’) Bridge, with its distinctive, sci-fi look. You can ride the lift to the panoramic restaurant at the top, a recommended first stop on any short-break visit.
Key sights are within easy reach of the bridge. Overlooking the approach road and Old Town around it is Bratislava Castle, set high on a hill, with modern-day Hungary visible on clear days. It hosts exhibitions relating to Slovak history, and a live music and DJ venue, Sub Club (‘Subcultures’ Music Club’) in the cellar.
Bratislava also has its own Versailles, the Primate’s Palace, containing a Hall of Mirrors, where Habsburg Austria and Napoleonic France signed the Peace of Preßburg after the Battle of Austerlitz. Today it accommodates the town council.
The city that was once home to Mozart, Liszt and Beethoven does high-brow culture too – autumn’s Bratislava Music Festival is a major event in the region. Summer’s Junifest is a mini Munich Oktoberfest, a beer bash involving lashings of tasty local Golden Pheasant, live music and enjoyably silly pageantry.