Bratislava is located on the longest river (2830 km) in Europe: the Danube. Locally named the Dunaj, this watercourse has always been of great economic importance for Central Europe. This increased even further when the Rhine-Main-Danube canal was opened in 1992, allowing larger inland navigation vessels to operate directly from the North Sea to the Black Sea.
Initially, this was complicated by the troubles in the former Yugoslavia, where ships that were sunk and blown up bridges made it impossible to sail on the Dunaj. But since 2005, the Danube is once again freely navigable, which gave Bratislava the opportunity to create river cruises for tourists; the ships used for this purpose moor directly opposite the (car-free) Old Town.
Staré Mesto starts up
Partly because of its location on this beautiful river, tourism is now picking up. Just twenty years ago, Bratislava's Staré Mesto (Old City) was dead by dinner time. The heart of the city was dilapidated, the atmosphere was as haunting as it is today in some of the city's most beautiful areas. However, the destination is facing a revival - Cengiz Ünal and Thomas Hilbrechttake a peek at the most visited sights in the Slovak capital.
Elegance in the Staré Mesto
The main attraction of Bratislava is the car-free Old Town (Staré Mesto). Almost all historical buildings have been restored with an eye for detail. Hlavné Namestie, the most important square, is flanked by baroque town halls. The spectacular Old Town Hall with its unique tower is now the city museum.
Hviezdoslavovo Square, which used to be a tributary of the Danube, is one of the greenest urban areas in the world and is lined up with beautiful terraces. It is dominated by the Slovak National Theatre, founded in a neo-Renaissance style, where operas are mainly performed.
The bronze statues in the Old Town are remarkable. Including one of the man, Cumil who is half submerged in the sewer.
At Hlavné Namestie is another statue of Schöner Náci, a legendary ‘dandy’ who enjoyed the lively nightlife of the Old Town in between the First and Second World War.
Opposite the Staré Mesto (Old City) on the other bank of the Danube is the Petrzalka district, where 120,000 people live. Along the banks of the Danube is a green strip of land with bars, discos and a hotel boat: Botel Dunajský Pivovar, with its own brewery on board.
Kaffee Mayer has always been the place to get coffee, with the local speciality Bratsilavský rozok, a pastry filled with poppy seed and walnuts.
Quackers over dinner
The municipality of Slovenský Grob, east of Batislava, is a place to go for ‘foodies’. A famous restaurant in this town is Leberfinger, where the Slovak version of the Hungarian goulash is served. But the regional speciality here is Pecenou husou se selim loksamise: roasted goose with sauerkraut, red cabbage and potato pancakes.
For more international cuisine with Slovakian flavours, you can visit the Savoy restaurant at the Carlton Hotel in the Old Town.
From the top of the UFO Restaurant, 85 metres above the Most SNP (Brug of the Slovak National Uprising), you have the best view of the city.
Located in Petrzalka, Fou Zoo combines Asian and European cuisine.
To and from the city
Bratislava has a small modern airport 9 km from the city centre: M. R Stefánik Airport (SEN). Routes from Manchester and Edinburgh are direct, but otherwise a change is needed. The airport in Vienna is located 45 km west and offers significantly better connections to London.
From Schwechat shuttle buses drive to Bratislava (blaguss. sk, regionojet. sk and slovaklines. sk).
From Stefánik it is considerably cheaper to order a taxi by phone than to go to the stand. This applies not only to the airport, but to the whole of Bratislava (Taxi (0)904 216 321). Always check that the meter is on and at zero.
The Bratislava City Card offers free public transport travel and a 5 percent discount in participating museums, shops and restaurants. A three day pass costs €19, including a city tour that starts every day at 14.00 hrs.