European way of life

Eurotrip in Central Europe, day 4: a day in Bratislava

Bratislava is astonishing. If you expect a capital, you’ll be disappointed, if you expect an open-air museum of communism, you’ll be disappointed, if you just expect a Baroque town, you’ll be disappointed. Bratislava is a little bit of the three, and much more.

Immeuble du centre historique, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Building of the historical center, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

Vienna and Bratislava are the two closest capitals in the world (65 kilometers as the crow files). If you come from Vienna, you can join Bratislava by two different means of public transport:

–       by train, from Wien Hauptbahnhof to Bratislava Hlavná Stanica; a one-way ticket costs 13,50€ on average for an adult and the journey takes an hour.

–       by the Danube and the Twin City Liner which links the two capitals in 75 minutes; a one-way ticket costs 30€ on average in high season. The Viennese landing stage is on the Schwedenplatz and you can buy your ticket online.

Twin City Liner reliant Vienne et Bratislava sur le Danube, photo de http://www.danubeday.at/schiffsanlegestelle-schwedenplatz

Twin City Liner between Vienna and Bratislava, photo from http://www.danubeday.at/schiffsanlegestelle-schwedenplatz

I personally chose the train. I had to be in Budapest in the evening, so I was travelling with my suitcase and wished to leave it at the left-luggage office in Bratislava’s station. I learned too late that there was also a left-luggage office at the landing stage of the Twin City Liner in Slovakia… So feel free to choose any of these means of public transport!

At the Bratislava’s station, I left my suitcase in the left-luggage lockers (one or two euros for the day). You keep the key with you. There’s also a left-luggage office with real humans if you don’t trust the machine.

The station in itself will please those who are nostalgic of the Iron Curtain. It’s already Back to the Future. The pretty provincial station of the former Pressburg has been disfigured by an architectural addition in a outer space style probably built in the seventies.

Gare de Bratislava, Slovaquie, photo de Yusuke Kawasaki (CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Bratislava’s station, Slovakia, photo by Yusuke Kawasaki (CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

The station’s surroundings are… Picturesque. The Štefánikova street is an arterial road which joins the city-center; if you come from Vienna, the contrast is quite hard. This city of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire has a rich heritage made of elegant fin de siecle buildings more or less decrepit and Soviet buildings of dubious taste.

Non loin de la place Župné námestie, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Not far from the Župné námestie square, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

You will go past the Grassalkovich Palace, now the residence of the president of Slovakia. Keep going down the street and turn left along the tramway tracks. On the Župné námestie square, you will pass the Trinitarian Church, a little Baroque gem with a concave facade which is reminiscent of St. Peter in Vienna and was unfortunately closed the day I was there.

Église de la Trinité, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Trinitarian Church, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

There’s a nice castle view from this street; turn again left, go down the stairs in the Klariská street and you’ll be in the old Pressburg and pass the Clarissine Church around which I circled without ever finding the entrance.

Église et couvent des Clarisses, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Clarissine church and convent, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

The historical center of Bratislava is really small, you can explore it in a few hours.

In the east, the St. Martin’s Cathedral is bordered by the former Jewish district, now destroyed. The hard-surfaced bisections of a beltway have replaced it and a monument reminds us its location.

Emplacement de l'ancien quartier juif, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Location of the former Jewish district, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

In the south, the Danube. By walking along the river, you’ll meet a building that looks like an aerial parking but it’s in fact the modern addition of the National Slovak Gallery (1969 – 1977); I didn’t visit it, but the art lovers who went to Bratislava recommend it.

L'extension moderne de la Galerie nationale slovaque, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

The modern addition of the National Slovak Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

Besides, you won’t miss the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, built in a neo-spatial style. 7353 tons of steel and a panoramic restaurant at the height (the well-named UFO) that you can reach by using an elevator – by paying an entrance fee, if you didn’t book a table at the restaurant.

À l'arrière-plan, le Pont du Soulèvement national slovaque, et le UFO,  Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

In the background, the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, and the panoramic restaurant UFO, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

For lunch, I chose a more typical restaurant in the old town, very well ranked on TripAdvisor where I found it out: Prašná Bašta.

Slovak and Mediterranean food are served in this old cellar where locals and strangers rush. Central Europe food for me: émincé of veal with ceps and cream, and some rice balls. Prices reminds us Vienna: 14,50€! But it’s good and the staff is friendly, efficient and perfectly English-speaking. Well, a good adress!

Intérieur du restaurant Prašná Bašta, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Inside of the restaurant Prašná Bašta, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

Then, visit of the Franciscan church and convent; you have to see the beautiful Gothic chapel and its crypt, devoted to St. John the Evangelist and built in the 14th century!

Chapelle gothique dédiée à Saint Jean l'Évangélist, église franciscaine de Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Gothic chapel devoted to St. John the Evangelist, Franciscan church of Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

Without taking a breather, we keep up exploring the old town by visiting the little Mirbach Palace, little rococo house built between 1768 and 1770. We were the only visitors and the staff was discreet, very kind and spared no effort to make our visit more pleasant, by giving some extra informations or… By turning on the light in each room we passed through.

Intérieur du Palais Mirbachov, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Inside of the Marbach Palace, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

The second floor was being renovated and the signage was missing, so that we ended up surrounded by imperturbable workers!

Then, we went to the Hlavné námestie square, heart of the historical Bratislava, surrounded by elegants Baroque palaces and Art Nouveau buildings; perhaps a traditional player of fujara will brighten up your chocolate time on the terrace of the Schokocafé Maximilian Delikateso from where you have a nice view on the oldest fountain of Bratislava (1572) and the bronze sculptures which make the historical center of Bratislava now more famous in Europe or even in the world. Here, a Napoleonic soldier leaned on a bench.

Schokocafé Maximilian Delikateso, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Schokocafé Maximilian Delikateso, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

From this square, you can explore the Stará radnica, a buildings complex whose the oldest were built at the 14th century and host the former city hall and the Bratislava City Museum. The Stará radnica comes out on the Primatial Palace of Bratislava, where the Treaty of Pressburg was signed in 1809 by the emperors Napoleon I and Francis I of Austria.

Palais primatial, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Primatial Palace, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

End of the walk at the Danube’s edge before going back to the station for the last journey of the day, to Hungary and Budapest!

Le vieil homme et le Danube, Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

The old man and the Danube, Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

Bratislava has a rich past, a diverse heritage and it’s the fifth region of the EU. It’s a small capital which deserves your attention. Change your plans: come to Slovakia and explore the first city of the little Carpathians!

You can find a lot of informations and documents online on the official website of the Tourism board of Bratislava. Download the .pdf files on your smartphones or tablets to enjoy cultural informations during your stay in the Slovak capital!

Sculptures en bronze emblématiques du centre historique de Bratislava, Slovaquie © Eurofluence

Bronze sculptures of the historical center of Bratislava, Slovakia © Eurofluence

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