When you can book a return flight to Bratislava, albeit in January, for only £25, the only question is why wouldn’t you? I agree that it’s possibly not the most popular city break destination. But with an open mind and a sense of adventure we headed to explore a new city.
The Slovak Government
From our hotel, we decided to head north through what I thought would be some pretty gardens around the Presidential palace. Unfortunately most of this area turned out to be very grey. The palace itself, is fairly impressive. Originally build for the archbishop of Esztergom, it now houses the Slovakian government. Interestingly, Esztergom is a city in Hungary, but during its occupation in the 1500’s, all of its archbishops were safely based in Bratislava. I imagine it’s always good to know that your neighbours will house your archbishops should invasion occur! Anyway, today it was deserted. Which may well be because the Slovak government only seems to sit on a Wednesday. So, after a quick lap of Freedom Square, we continued towards the old town. In my experience, the highlight of most European cities.
Old Town Bratislava
The Old town certainly has the most character. It’s feels medieval, which it is, and it’s probably best known for its many churches. We stumbled upon the main square almost by accident with the old town hall complete with clock tower just out of picture on the right, and the Renaissance style, Rowland Fountain, at its heart. In the summer months I imagine it’s alive with activity, but on a chilly January morning, all was quiet.
Just around the corner is the impressive pink and gold, Primates Palace, home to the town mayor as well as the hall of mirrors, a popular tourist attraction. Bratislava actually hosts an array of multi coloured buildings. We forgot to include the blue church on this route, but as it’s situated in the old town and without navigational oversight would have appeared here, I’m going to cheat and include it anyway!
Disappointingly, I can’t actually find any reason for its blue hue. I believe it was originally decorated in pastel colours, and the blue came later. The inside is equally blue and very pretty. It’s certainly worth a stop if you’re exploring the old town.
Man at work
Our next stop north of the river was ‘the man at work’ statue. There are a collection of these all over the city, but this was my favourite. And obviously, I couldn’t resist a quick planche!
Running the River Danube
Having exhausted the old town, he headed for the River. The Danube is Europe’s second largest river, with Slovakia being one of just ten countries that it flows through. As we approached the river, it was getting noticeably colder and a sprinkling of snow still dusted the ground.
We headed past one of the University buildings, above, and crossed the Danube via ‘the old bridge’. Or, to give it its more romantic sounding, local name, ‘Stary Most’.
I LOVE water, and I’m always happiest running along a river bank. The snow covered path along the South bank of the Danube might have been a little grey, but it’s still one of my favourite parts. You could actually have gone a lot further here, but with breakfast calling, we chose to head back over Most SNP. A bridge that I’m fairy sure has NOTHING to do with Nicola Sturgeon! It is however, also known as the UFO bridge due to the observation deck on the south side, which probably has spectacular views over the castle on a day less foggy than this!
The path up to most castles is steep. And Bratislava is no exception. You climb just over 200 feet in just under half a mile. With this, comes some spectacular views across the city. We were a little bit weather limited, but on a clear day, you can actually see as far as neighbouring Austria, and Hungary.
We entered the castle through Sigismund Gate, the best preserved part of the old castle, build in the 15th Century.
After a quick loop of the grounds, we followed the ‘what goes up, must come down’ mantra and headed back, through the pretty cobbled streets to the main part of the city.
Pancakes in Bratislava!
After 5 miles of exploring, what’s left to do? Find pancakes, obviously! Luckily, Bratislava has got you covered. We stopped at the aptly names, ‘Pan Cakes’ and decided that it was worth the wait for a table. Which it was! Controversially, I decided on a savoury pancake of mozzarella, pesto and tomato, which was great. As was the coffee. Strong and smooth, exactly how it should be. The UK REALLY needs to step up it’s game here. Or rather, maybe the big chains do. I don’t think you can better coffee in Europe. I’m not sure I’ve ever been disappointed.
Bratislava may not quite have the charisma to match somewhere like Prague, but it was a safe, friendly city, with a ton of small restaurants and coffee shops to graze your way around. Which, let’s be honest, it’s a huge part of the reason for any city break, after all. So, thanks for looking after us, Bratislava, or perhaps I should say, ‘Hvala vam’.