Set along the Danube, corralled with thick wilderness and rich farmlands, Bratislava is a little known town that hides big experiences – a trait that has helped it earn the title of the Little Big City.
After being the poor cousin of Prague for a long time, Bratislava came on its own in 1993 when Czechoslovakia was split into Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. While the Czechs grabbed Prague – the hotspot of history, music, art, and architecture – Slovaks were awarded a little known port town in their kitty. That, however, did not stop Bratislava from carving a niche for itself. Today, only twenty-five years after its independence, the city stands on its own in more ways than one.
Quiant, quiet, cozy and comforting, Bratislava is a fairy tale town with old world charm. Fairytale castles, medieval churches, and colourful homes share space with cobbled streets, quirky design boutiques, candy stores, souvenir stalls and tiny cafés. A walk through the quiet lanes meandering off the buzzing main square transports you to another time. The heart of Bratislava however is in its Old Town, a lively space where travelers, tourists, performers, and locals hang out and tiny red trains run without rails.
Do You Know?
Thanks to the multiplicity of its inhabitants and empires that ruled over it, the Slovakian capital city was called by different names – Pressburg, Pozsony, Požun; Pojon being some of them. It was named Bratislava only in 1919.
The Slovakian capital is not just about history – walk a few yards and you and you’d come across a modern town. Men and women dressed in formals glide in and out of sleek tramcars, chic office goes stutter the sidewalks in stilettos, and families stroll along the Danube. The youngsters meanwhile throng high streets and pubs. Fancy cars whiz past on wide, tree-lined avenues flaunting wild poppies and ugly communist buildings with equal élan.
It would be incorrect to say that you’d be awed by Bratislava. The beauty of the town is not in its grandeur; its charm is in its contrasts – of the old and the new, the medieval and the modern, the loss and the pride. And it is this feeling that you will carry back with you from the Little Big City.
Top Sights in Bratislava:
- Hviezdoslavovo Námestie – The Main Plaza
This charming tree lined avenue houses Embassies, University, State Opera House, and iconic hotels. It connects the Danube, and the Bus Station, to the Old Town.
- Hlavné Námestie – Old Town Square
Located in the center of Old Town, it is the perfect place to sit back and soak the city’s laid-back vibe. Also to spot cute toy trains that ferry tourists around and pick souvenirs.
- Bratislava Castle
There is no place locals love more than the Castle. Perched on a hill, the castle is small, pretty, and white. It makes for a great spot for watching the town below.
- St Martin’s Cathedral
Famous for hosting the coronation ceremony of Maria Theresa, the Cathedral’s tower is embellished with real gold and has a large crown sitting pretty on its top.
- Most SNP – The UFO Bridge & Slovak Radio Building
The upside down radio building is a communist heritage that Slovaks are not too proud of but will urge you to look at nonetheless. The UFO Building on the other hand is a modern marvel that provides a birds eye view of the city and comes highly recommended.
A version of this story first appeared in Provoke Lifestyle Magazine’s October edition.