Bratislava is a relatively small city with a population of 430,000.
I would say you can take a nice walk around the city centre in one day easily visiting the most important and best looking attractions.
And as an extra, I highly recommend the Devin Castle, just 12 km (7.5 mi) from the centre of Bratislava.
Grassalkovich Palace – the residence of Slovakia’s president
I suggest you start your sightseeing here and then walk to the downtown monuments.
The Grassalkovich Palace is situated a little away from the city centre.
It was built in the 1760s, by Count Antal Grassalkovich, the President of the Royal Hungarian Chamber and confidant of Empress Maria Theresa.
The palace became the centre of musical life—Joseph Haydn gave concerts a number of times, Count Grassalkovich kept his orchestra here, while many times balls and parties were held in the building for aristocrats.
Now it serves as the residence of the president of Slovakia and is not open to the public.
However, you can take a walk in its Baroque gardens and take some nice shots of its facade facing south (which means it is lit by the sun from morning till late afternoon, an ideal orientation).
St. Michael’s Street & Downtown Bratislava
The very heart of Bratislava is St. Michael’s Street and St. Michael’s Gate.
It is a pedestrian area with a number of historical sights as well as shops, cafés, and restaurants.
St. Michael’s Gate
St. Michael’s Gate is a landmark of the city. Its first “version” was built early in the 14th century, and its present form was created in the 1750s when the statue of St. Michael with the dragon was placed on the top of the 51-metre (167 ft) high tower.
The tower hosts the Museum of Weapons and City Fortifications.
St. Michael’s Street > Ventúrska street
As you stroll down in St. Michael’s Street, continuing as Ventúrska street, you can take a look at some of the historical buildings.
The most notable are
- the Zichy Palace (built in the 1770s), now serving as a classy place for cultural events, art exhibitions, and weddings;
- the Baroque-style Pálffy Palace (built in the 1740s), Mozart played here at the age of 6, now serving as the Bratislava City Gallery;
- and the Leopold de Pauli Palace (built in the 1770s), which was an important spot in Hungarian history since it served as the venue of the Diet of Hungary (National Assembly, Parlamentum Publicum) from 1802 to 1848. It is now the building of the University Library.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
Within 100 metres from Ventúrska street, to the west, there is the largest and most famous church in Bratislava, St. Martin’s Cathedral.
This church played a crucial role in Hungarian history since it used to be the coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1563 and 1830. 11 Hungarian kings and 8 queens were crowned here.
Probably the best-known among them was Maria Theresa (1717–1780) of the House of Habsburg.
The cathedral was completed and consecrated in 1452, but additional work and reconstructions continued in the 16th, 17th, and 18th century.
The tower is 85 m (279 ft) tall and used to be a part of the medieval city fortifications.
The magnificent 4-tower castle building, on a rocky hill, over the Danube, can be seen basically from every spot of the city.
Over 5000 years ago this the area was already a fortified settlement. The Celts had an “acropolis” or “oppidum” here in the 1st century BC and Romans lived here, at the border of the Roman Empire, from 1st to 4th century AD.
The Slavs arrived in the 6th century and later added some fortifications and constructed a huge wooden Slavic fortress.
In the 9th century, a stone palace and a basilica were built.
From the beginning of the 10th century, the castle belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary and a new stone castle was built up by the Hungarian Árpád dynasty protecting from against Bohemian and German attacks.
In the 1550s, a Renaissance-style conversion of the palace took place, followed by Baroque reconstructions during the 1600s, which gave the castle the exterior look we see today.
In the era of Maria Theresa, major interior changes were carried out from 1760 and also a garden was added north of the castle.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the castle burned down and deteriorated gradually onwards.
It was only in 1957 when restoration projects were started. You can see The Slovak National Museum’s exhibitions inside.
Just about 12 km (7.5 mi) from downtown Bratislava, Devín Castle rises majestically above the confluence of the Danube and the Morava rivers.
If you have the chance, e.g. have a car at hand, I definitely suggest you visit this beautiful place. Climbing up the hill takes a little effort, but you’ll be greatly rewarded in the end.
The castle has been nicely renovated, you can walk around safely and enjoy the wonderful view as well as check out the museum inside the caves underneath the castle.
Text and photographs © Daniel Kerek
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