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Capital of Slovakia: Bratislava

Why go? Bratislava is the most cosmopolitan, accessible city for American and other Western visitors. Filled with historic sites and the energy of a large student population, Bratislava has the best restaurants, cafes, and entertainment – including high-brow culture such as operas and symphonies, folk music and dance and international pop culture.

As the capital, it’s the logical starting point. Also makes sense from a transportation standpoint if you are arriving by air from the US or stopping in Slovakia on a Danube River Cruise or other tour of Central Europe.

Bratislava is probably the least typical place in the whole country! So be sure to take some extra time to see at least one other town in addition to the capital city.

BRATISLAVA

Easy to reach the border with Austria (2 miles), Czech Republic (40 miles) and Hungary (8 miles) with Vienna only 50 minutes away by car or train.

Top sights in the Old Town:

* Main Square (Hlavne namestie) lined with handsome pastel-colored baroque and renaissance buildings – formerly the homes of merchants, now housing many embassies. Notice the amusing statues around the Square, especially Cumil, who looks up women’s skirts from a manhole near an ice cream stand. And the smiling but tragic Handsome Ignatius (Schone Naci), who went insane after his fiance was killed in a concentration camp.

* Michael’s Gate (Michalska brana) – the last remaining original gate of the city’s fortified walls. Climb the tower for a great rooftop view and peek into the weapons museum.

* Old Town Hall (Stara Radnica) with patterned roof tiles – on the main square, still has a cannonball fired by Napoleon’s troops in one of its walls. The Municipal History Museum is here with fascinating paintings and photos that show how the city has changed over the past 150 years. Also an exhibit of instruments of torture.

Take a coffee break in one of the many charming cafés tucked into courtyards and alleys off the Main Square and throughout Old Town.

* Palffy Palace (Palffyho palac) where Mozart played for Empress Maria Theresa in 1762.

* Primate’s (Primacialny palac) 18th c. neo-Classical pink palace with 300 lb. archbishop’s hat on top to indicate it was the winter residence of the Hungarian Archbishop. Inside are valuable 17th c. tapestries. Famous documents signed in the palace’s Hall of Mirrors: 1805 treaty ending war between Napoleon and Austro-Hungarian Empire; 1848 abolition of serfdom (similar to slavery); 1968 agreement by Soviets not to interfere with the democratic reforms known as the “Prague Spring” (less than a month later, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia).

* St. Martin’s Cathedral (Dom sv. Martina) – with a crown on the steeple, rather than a cross. This is where Hungary crowned its kings and queens for nearly 300 years.

* Good Shepherd House (Domcek u Dobreho pastiera) – 6 ft-wide lovely rococco building housing the Museum of Historical Clocks.

* Trinity Church (Kostol Trinitarov) is known for its magnificent trompe l’oeil frescos.

* Mirbach Palace – fine Rococo building (Mirbachov palac), today houses the City Gallery and its collection of baroque art and visiting exhibits.

* Obchodna Street – good shops for handicrafts.

Lunch at one of the restaurants listed in Bratislava section

In the afternoon, choose from:

* Option 1:
Visit Bratislava Castle, to see its museums, including the 22,800 year-old figure of a woman carved from a mammoth tusk.
Proceed uphill to Slavin, a cementery of Soviet soldiers with panoramic view of the city. If you choose this option for the morning of another day, try to MODRA HVIEZDA restaurant on the way back to St. Martin’s Cathedral from the Castle.

* Option 2:
Drive 20 min west to see Devin Castle, picturesque castle ruins in a place that was fortified since Roman times. Located high above the juncture of two rivers, it’s worth visiting for the view alone.

* Option 3:
Kamzik hill with its revolving restaurant at the top of a TV tower (15 minutes from downtown, in Bratislava Forest Park). From there you have an unforgettable view of Slovakia, Austria, Hungary and sometimes even the Czech Republic.

* Option 4:
Visit the Chatam Sofer Memorial to an important Jewish scholar – this must be arranged through a local travel agency.

* Option 5:
Drive 20 minutes toward the Hungarian border to the town of Cunovo, which has the largest Slovak modern art museum, Danubiana.

Dinner at one of restaurants listed in Bratislava or Food & Drink section.

Afterwards, sample the cultural life of the city:

* Opera
* Ballet
* Concert
* Folk dance performance

Or simply relax in one of the many cafés or nightclubs, especially in the Old Town. And feel the vitality of this city reinventing itself.

Stay at one of hotels.

Additional day: combine any of the above options or see Route 5 for Bratislava Vicinity options for 1-day ideas

RESTAURANTS, HOTELS and USEFUL SITES/RESOURCES for BRATISLAVA are all listed in BRATISLAVA section.

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