Bratislava - City Sights
1. Bratislava Castle
Bratislava Castle is the city’s most prominent sight. A commanding
presence, 100 metres above the old town, its appearance has been
likened to an upside down table, with its four corner towers resembling
table legs. It has existed in various forms for thousands of years,
ever since the hill on which it stands was first settled by the
Celts. However it attained true pre-eminence in the 16th century
when it became the Royal castle of the Kingdom of Hungary. In order
to reflect this elevation in status, Emperor
Ferdinand 1st of Habsburg had it rebuilt into a Renaissance castle
by Italian builders and artists from Rome.
It underwent another extensive remodelling in the 18th century under
Maria Theresa, Queen of the Kingdom of Hungary, who used it as her
residence in Slovakia. It was subsequently used as a seminary then
a military barracks, only to be bombarded by Napoleon’s troops
then gutted by fire in the early 19th century. It remained in extreme
disrepair until 1957, when reconstruction began under the Communists.
More recently, in February 2005, it was the venue for the Slovakia
Summit between Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush.
The entrance is almost worth the price of admission, with its extremely
elegant, wide, white marble staircase, gilt-edged ceiling, and huge,
gold-framed mirrors. Taking up a couple of floors is the largest
branch of the Slovak National Museum, which covers folk crafts,
furniture, modern art and history. On the ground floor is the Treasury
of Slovakia, a small but important collection of archaeological
finds. Easily the highlight of the museum (and perhaps Bratislava)
is the exquisite mammoth-tusk Venus of Moravany, which is a 25,000
year-old fertility statue of a naked woman. Don’t blink as
you enter the ticket office or you’ll miss it. A large section
was devoted to art – approximately 3500 paintings, statues,
and prints by domestic and foreign artists grouped according to
theme. Other rooms, large enough to double for warehouses, were
filled with coloured Slovakian glassware, carved wooden furniture,
clocks, weapons, helmets and armor. There was an impressive display
of silver with bowls, plates and utensils from the 17th to 19th
century. Also impressive was a Renaissance jewel chest, circa 1600,
and a replica of the crown of the Hungarian kings. Near the crown
was a steep flight of stairs leading to the Crown Tower, a small,
enclosed tower offering 360-degree views of the city.
From the castle’s ramparts you can see Austria (3 km southwest)
and, on a clear day, Hungary (16km south), although with the New
Bridge and the mind-numbingly vast housing estates of Petržalka,
the view is not so much beautiful as awesome. The old and new towns
stretch to the east.
2. St Martin’s Cathedral
from Bratislava Castle lies St Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava’s
largest church and foremost Gothic building. It was begun in the
13th century and built in the Romanesque style, but consecration
did not take place until 1452, with reconstruction and remodelling
continuing for several centuries in order to accommodate Bratislava''s
growing population. This reconstruction included a baroque chapel
(1729-1732) and a complete transformation to neo-Gothic architecture
(19th century). Though a rather modest building at first glance,
it hosted the coronations of 17 Hungarian Royals between the 16th
and 19th centuries. To commemorate this fact a copy of the crown
of Hungary weighing 300 kg was added to the top of the Baroque tower
Inside, the three equal-size naves give an impression of space and
light. The most eye catching feature is a 1734 statue by Georg Raphael
Donner, Austria’s best-known baroque sculptor, of St Martin
cutting off the corner of his cloak for a beggar. The cathedral
is constantly undergoing renovations due to vibration from traffic
on the New Bridge.
3. Michael’s Gate
At the northern end of the main street, facing nearby Hurbanovo
námestie, lies Michael’s Gate, the only preserved watchtower
of the city’s medieval fortifications. It was built in several
stages. The bottom section of the gate retains its original Gothic
design from the 14th century. In the 16th century it was heightened,
and the copper, onion-domed, 51-metre tower was topped with a statue
of St. Michael in the 18th century. The tower affords a good view
over the Old Town, and the interior houses the Museum of Weapons
and City Fortifications, which displays antique swords, armour and
4. Primate’s Palace
Dominating austere, quiet Primaciálne námestie is
the 18th century Primate's Palace, considered to be the most beautiful
neoclassical building in Bratislava.
most famous feature is its Versailles-like Hall of Mirrors. It was
here that Napoleon and the Emperor Franz 1 signed the Treaty of
Pressburg in1805, following the Battle of Austerlitz between France
and Austria. The Palace was also the venue for the opening session
of the Hungarian Parliament and for King Ferdinand signing a document
here on the abolition of serfdom in Hungary 1848 .
The Palace was originally built by the Archbishop Jozef Bathyány
– a fact evident in the 150 kg, cast-iron cardinal’s
hat that tops the tympanum – and bought by the city government
in 1903. During subsequent reconstruction work, a series of six
unknown tapestries depicting the ancient legend of Hero and Leander
was found folded behind wallpaper in the State Rooms. The tapestries
turned out to come from Mortlake, England, and date from the 1630s.
The sunny courtyard of the Primate's Palace is also beautiful, with
its statue of St. George slaying the dragon.
5. Old Town Hall
door to the Primate’s Palace is Bratislava’s Town Hall,
a complex of 14th and 15th century burghers’ houses that has
been used as the city’s administrative centre for many centuries.
Features of particular interest include a Renaissance courtyard
and green-roofed neo-Gothic annexe – not to mention the cannonball
lodged in one of the walls, which is said to have been fired by
Today the Town Hall is mostly taken up by the City Museum (Mestské
múzeum), the oldest museum in Bratislava, founded in 1868.
As well as extensive collections focusing on coins, decorative arts,
archaeology, ethnography and sculpture, it has a lovingly (and gorily)
recreated dungeon in the basement.
During the summer brass bands play on a balcony atop the Town Hall’s
tower. Other concerts are given in front of the building in the
summer and before Christmas, New Year and Easter. At night the façade
forms the backdrop for a son et lumière show.
6. Church of the Clarissine Order
Situated on Kapitulská street, which runs north from the
cathedral, this 14th-century church was founded by the Cistercians,
a Catholic order of monks more commonly known as the Poor Clares.
It is simple but inspiring, with a wonderfully peaceful early Gothic
interior. As a mendicant order, the Poor Clares were forbidden to
build a steeple atop the church, so in the 15th century they manipulated
the rules and built it against a side wall at the back of the church
instead. The church is now a concert hall, though it also shows
an ongoing display of medieval art.
7. Devin Castle
A 14th century edifice, about 9 kilometres west of Bratislava,
Devin Castle is one of Slovakia’s most important historical
monuments. It is perched high on the banks of the Danube, where
it meets the Morava River.
the castle itself is mostly in ruins, there's a small museum chronicling
its various transitions over many centuries. It was originally a
Roman fort, but then was greatly expanded in the 9th century as
part of the Slavs’ Moravian Empire. It continued its role
as a key boundary stronghold, as well as a political and administrative
centre, in the Hungarian Empire. It passed from one family to another
in the ensuing centuries, only to fall into irretrievable disrepair
in the 18th century before being blown up by Napoleon’s army
in 1809. Later in the 19th century it was designated a ‘national
This complex history means that inside the castle complex you’ll
find Roman foundations, plus a 15th century guardhouse, 16th century
gate and reconstructed foundations of a 9th century church. As well
as lush surrounding gardens there are also beautiful views down
to the Danube from the fortifications. On weekdays and summer weekends,
bus No 29 departs Bratislava about every half-hour from the stand
beneath the New Bridge. The castle’s car park is the last
stop on its route.
8. Nový Most
The spectacular Nový Most or ‘New Bridge’ is
perhaps the only example of Communist-era architecture that has
been accepted by Bratislava’s citizens as an acceptable feature
of their city’s modern skyline. Originally lent the somewhat
ponderous, Central Committee-approved title
‘Bridge of the National Uprising,’ it was begun in 1967
and opened to traffic in 1971. It is an asymmetrical diagonal bridge,
suspended by steel ropes from a single pylon. The total length of
the bridge is 430.8 metres, the width is 21 metres and the weight
Its most distinctive feature is a flying saucer-like observation
deck and restaurant called “Ufo,” which stands on the
pylon 85 metres above the bridge. Bearing a strong resemblance to
the Space Needle in Seattle, it commands amazing views over both
sides of the river. The restaurant is also good, though a little
pricey by local standards. It can be reached using an elevator in
the left pillar, while in the right pillar there is an emergency
staircase with 430 stairs.