I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Bratislava on my 2020 Interrail Adventure with the dog in tow and was very happy to have chosen to visit. I arrived after a short one-hour rail journey from Vienna, as it was a short cheap trip I purchased tickets separately.
Slovakia is the other half of the former country of Czechoslovakia whose capital is Bratislava. It is a very pretty country with borders with the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine Austria and Hungary. The key cities in Slovakia are the capital Bratislava, Kosice and Bardejov. Geographically the country is mainly mountainous and the River Danube runs through it.
The city of Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is one of the smallest capitals of Europe. Bratislava is located on the river Danube and is not far from Hungary and Austria. The city is very popular with tourists and travellers, in fact over a million come to see Bratislava every year. The city has 2 castles, countless museums, art galleries, theatres and vibrant cafe culture.
The city has a rich history dating as far back as 5000BC, the first major settlement has back in 200 BC where it was known as Oppidum a fortified town. As with much of Europe, the city becomes part of the Roman Empire, who introduced the Slovakians to grapes and winemaking.
The city has a very fascinating history since then, even becoming the capital of Hungary for a while. Much of the history of Bratislava is documented in the various museums of the city. For history buffs the local museums are interesting and depending on your interest can entertain you for days.
Bratislava Castle is one of two castles in the city and you catch glimpses of it while walking around. Due to it being located on a hill overlooking the town and the River Danube. The castle is a big rectangular white and red building with distinctive towers on all four corners.
The Church of St. Elizabeth also known as The Blue Church is a special and unique church in the city. It is a pale blue art nouveau building located at the eastern end of the city, about a 10-15 minute walk from the old town.
Slovak National Collection of Wines
The National Collection is located in the Museum of Viticulture where you can gain free access with the “Bratislava Card”. The museum is quite interesting for those interesting in the historical aspects of wine and winemaking.
Michael’s Gate is an iconic baroque tower in the old town area, it is a prominent feature on the cities skyline. The tower is home to the Museum of Arms which houses h weaponry artefacts & historical exhibits on the city’s defences.
The Presidential Palace is also known as Grassalkovich Palace or the Slovakian White House. It is located just outside the old town area and is a pretty special building with a nice garden to walk around towards the rear. The palace was built in 1760 by Antal Grassalkovich, a Hungarian noble who was serving as the head of the Hungarian Chamber. The building was used for various balls and parties of the Habsburg royal court, I imagine the balls were very grand with lots of Waltzing and other entertainment.
If walking from the train station you pass the palace and is well worth popping in the garden for a mooch around the gardens and to see the building from the rear. The Palace is a few minutes walk from the iconic Michael’s Gate and central areas of the city.
To the front of the building is a fountain which was made in the shape of the earth and is said to symbolise freedom. The palace has some very ornate black and gold gates that are similar in design to those at Buckingham Palace in the city of London. The Palace has many flags out the front and also at midday has a changing of the guard.
Sadly for those interested in viewing the interior, the palace is only open to the public one day per year. There are various websites showing the interior including the stunning Grand Hall, such as this collection from the Open Door event. Despite this, the gardens are fantastic to visit and see various sculptures or to admire the architecture from the outside. Sadly dogs were net permitted to enter the grounds according to signs on the side gates.
Museum of Pharmacy
The museum of pharmacy is located in a former pharmacy, The Red Crayfish. The location is near to the iconic St Michel’s Gate and is nice inside. This is a small museum, the current exhibition displays the history of pharmacy in Bratislava, the reception is furnished with the original “Red Crayfish” pharmacy fittings including a tare balance and a stand for a hand-balance. The main feature of the museum is the stoneware, wooden, china and glass containers for storing medicines. The collection dates from the end of the 18th century up to the mid-20th century.
Where to stay?
Hostel Bratislava is a budget cheap hostel near to the main train station and the tram routes. This was a functional place to stay with the dog, but not for those that like a luxury place to lay their head.
There are many hostels in the city, many of which are more centrally located. I found this list of the best rated cheap hostels that might be useful for others to choose from.
Eat & Drink Out
Bratislava has an array of pubs and restaurants to choose from, many serving local beers and traditional Slovak food. Some of the establishments that I enjoyed refreshments in include.
Located very near to Michael’s Gate in the old town is Zbrojnoš pub, a live music pub by night and a quiet watering hole by day. Zbrojnoš pub is a friendly place and serves great beer including the delightful Pilsner Urquell. The bar is adorned with big sturdy wooden tables and is quite dark with a mysterious vibe inside caused by some interesting lighting. The drinks were reasonably prices costing 2.6 Euro for a half litre of Pilsner Urquell. The bar has a still standing challenge, a bit of an international competition to win points for your country by finishing 10 drinks, you can also win a t-shirt.
Grand Mother’s Restaurant
Located in Old Town just down the hill from St Micael’s Gate is Grandmother’s Restaurant, an eatery serving traditional Slovak food. This is a nicely decorated place serving some delightful local food including goulash, soups and dumplings. An added bonus is that they are dog-friendly.
Located in the Old Town area is Linos a very comfortable cafe that serves a variety of food types including some traditional local dishes. The cafe has comfortable seating, is dog-friendly and good value.
The Red Lion
Located in the old town area, The Red Lion is a Slovak take on a traditional English Pub. They have happy hour late afternoon advertised just outside. This pub was dog-friendly and very good value for a drink while in the city.
Getting to Bratislava
The city has an international airport with flights from various European cities, making it an ideal destination for a city break. Bratislava is also very accessible by train and has become a popular interrail destination. It is easy to travel from Prague, Budapest and Vienna using the trains are all within a few hours travel, in fact, Vienna is just an hour away.