5 tips for Bratislava

Bratislava at night
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Similar to Vienna, Bratislava is also known for its coffee house culture. In addition, the city impresses with its many romantic corners, street artists and the historical center.

The capital of Slovakia has been influenced by many cultures over time. First the Celts, Romans and Germanic tribes, later the Germans, Hungarians and of course the Slovaks. During the reign of Maria Theresa was, the city received its greatest importance.

During the socialist era, Bratislava was also characterized by communist buildings. These were painted in color after the fall of communism to give the city a friendlier appearance. Another initiative to make the city look livelier and more interesting are the many statues that can be found everywhere in the old town. Hidden in the mix, they are just waiting to find new admirers.

Tip 1: Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle, is the central castle of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. It is located in the southern part of the Little Carpathians, on a rock on the left bank of the Danube River at the crossroads of European trade routes.

The castle hill has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The first settlers known by name were the Celts, later among others the Romans and Slavs.

Bratislava Castle
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The castle was first mentioned in 805 and 907 (the latter in the Salzburg Annals). Regarding the year 907, several sources report three battles at Brezalauspurc, which caused the fall of the Great Moravian Empire. In the eastern part of the hill a three-nave stone basilica has been preserved from that time.

In the 10th century coins with the inscription “Preslavva Civitas” were minted here. In the 11th century and 12th century a pre-Romanesque stone palace was built here. The castle got its present four-winged ground plan in the 15th century, and the extensive reconstruction also concerned the fortification mainly because of attacks of the Hussites.

During the following centuries it was rebuilt, destroyed and rebuilt several times. In May 1811 a devastating fire broke out, which quickly spread to the outer castle. 150 years after the fire, only the castle ruins rose above the town. The castle was then renovated in 1953-1968. Today it serves as a museum and representative building.

Tip 2: The Blue Church

The Catholic Church of Saint Elizabeth “Kostol svätej Alžbety” is originally dedicated to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.

The church is colloquially called “blue church”, which is due to the color of its facade. The foundation stone of the Elisabeth Church was laid on August 23, 1909. Built according to the plans of Ödön Lechner, the Memorial of St. Elizabeth was subject to the architectural style in the spirit of the Budapešt Secession. He also designed the adjacent grammar school and the parish.

Blue Church in Bratislava
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The double columns of the church are in a mixture of Romanesque and Oriental styles. The mosaic above the entrance depicts the Miracle of the Roses.

Inside the church, there are abundant paintings and artwork, and the altar is adorned with St. Elizabeth distributing gifts to the poor. Although the church is not very large, it is still very appreciated by Slovaks and also many tourists.

Tip 3: Michael’s Gate

St. Michael’s Gate is the only preserved gate of the medieval city fortification of Bratislava and is one of the oldest buildings in the city. The gate got its name from the no longer existing St. Michael’s Church, which was located outside the city walls. Today, the 51-meter-high tower houses the weapons exhibition of the Bratislava City Museum.

St. Michael's Gate at Bratislava
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The history of St. Michael’s Gate dates back to the late 13th century, with the oldest documented mention dating back to 1411. From 1563 to 1830, when Bratislava was the coronation city of the Kingdom of Hungary, monarchs had to walk a prescribed path through the city from Bratislava Castle. This led from Vydrica Gate to St. Martin’s Cathedral (the coronation church) and then through St. Michael’s Gate, where the newly crowned king took an oath of allegiance before the archbishop.

From 1753 to 1758 the tower was rebuilt in its present baroque form. At that time, a statue of Archangel Michael was also raised to the top of the tower. There is a viewing platform on the sixth floor.

Tip 4: Main Square

When you are in the Old Town of Bratislava to see the sights, you will automatically pass by the almost square-shaped Main Square. Here you will find the Old Town Hall, which houses an exhibition on the history of the city, and the famous Maximilian Fountain, which is the oldest fountain in Bratislava.

Bratislava Main Square
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The Main Square used to be the central market place where meetings were held and important people were greeted. Today you can observe the hustle and bustle of the city here in one of the cafes.

Tip 5: Čumil

In the main square and in its surroundings you will come across some bronze figures that enjoy great popularity:

The Beautiful Nací: This figure is dedicated to the “beautiful Ignatius”. It refers to Ignác Lámar, a legendary citizen of Bratislava who, despite his poverty at the beginning of the 20th century, always strolled through the streets of the city dressed up in tailcoat, patent leather shoes and top hat, showering women with compliments and handing out roses.

Cumil statue in Bratislava
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Napoleonic Soldier: This soldier leaning against a bench from Napoleon’s time is one of Bratislava’s most popular photo motifs, commemorating the French siege from 1805 to 1809.

Čumil, the Gaffer: If you are walking past the shop windows of the center, you should pay attention to the ground. Because there the Čumil looks out of a manhole cover.

There are several explanations for the bronze figure: Either it is a canal worker resting from work, or a worker taking the opportunity to peek up women’s skirts.

Wherever the truth may lie, the Čumil is without a doubt one of the most popular photo motifs in Bratislava.