Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is the only capital city in the world that borders two neighbouring countries, Austria and Hungary. Bratislava and Vienna are the two closest capital cities in the world and are both places that I recommend you visit. There are plenty of interesting sights to see in beautiful Bratislava, such as an ancient castle, a quaint town and, believe it or not, a UFO! So, all you “aliens” (non-Slovakian citizens) out there, get ready for an amazing adventure in Bratislava.
Absolutely stunning views of 3 countries
There are few places in the world where you can see the beauty of 3 countries from one place. Bratislava Castle is one of those places. On a sunny day with clear skies, you can see not only Slovakia but also Austria and Hungary from the top of Bratislava Castle. This is because Bratislava Castle is situated on a plateau 85 metres (279 feet) above the River Danube which runs through all 3 countries.
Bratislava Castle was built in the 9th century and has witnessed the crowning of Hungarian kings, council meetings, and it is also the place where the coronation jewels were stored. In the 18th century, however, as it was burnt down, it had to be rebuilt and subsequently became the summer home for Queen Maria Theresa of Vienna. Bratislava Castle consists of four wings, each with a corner tower and the views from the towers are exceptional.
Bratislava Castle is also home to the Slovakian Museum of History, which houses both permanent and temporary exhibitions on a rich collection of objects. There is an entrance fee of approximately 4-6 EUR (approximately 4-7 USD) per person.
If you have limited time, I would suggest seeing Bratislava Castle from the outside as you will still get to see some incredible views. Make sure that you take your selfie-stick along as these are the type of views you will want to have a picture with yourself in!
An Old Town with a vibrant and welcoming feel
A rather quaint and charming little place, Bratislava’s Old Town has amazing architecture and narrow medieval streets that will result in you having your camera at-the-ready at all times. Whilst the Old Town is small in comparison to those in other European cities and can be walked around in an hour or so, it is still beautiful and picturesque and is well worth the visit.
The Old Town consists of a few squares including the Main Square, Franciscan Square, Hodza Square, Hviezdoslav Square and Primatial Square. I would recommend visiting the Main Square, Hodza Square and Hviezdoslav Square. The Main Square is home to the Old Town Hall; the Hodza Square houses the Presidential Palace and the Hviezdoslav Square is where you can see the Slovak National Theatre. Other famous monuments that you should consider visiting in the Old Town include St Michael’s Tower, St Michael’s Gate and St Martin’s Cathedral as well as the Palffy Palace which has a memorial plaque that indicates that Mozart had performed a concert there!
As you visit the squares and monuments, you will be drawn to one special feature of Bratislava which is its unique and unusual statues of individuals. You will most certainly feel welcomed by the silver and bronze quirky figures. Try and see if you can spot Cumil on the roadside; Napoleon’s Army Soldier leaning over a bench and Schone Naci, a well known figure from the early 20th century. There is also a statue on Hviezdoslav Square of the famous author, Hans Christian Andersen, who once said, “If you want a fairy tale, Bratislava is a fairy tale in itself”.
A magnificent experience in a "UFO"
Perched on the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, the UFO is one of the most modern forms of architecture in Bratislava, and is called a UFO because of its shape which resembles a flying saucer. As an “alien” in Bratislava, you must check out this iconic monument which is part of the World Federation of Great Towers because it is one of the most famous buildings in the world. There are multiple ways in which you can experience the UFO, which has its full name as, “UFO watch.eat.groove.”.
First, you can take a lift which will transport you within 45 seconds to 95 metres (311 feet) above the ground and onto the UFO’s observation deck. From the observation deck, you can get a 360 degree view of Bratislava and will be able to truly enjoy the beauty that this city has to offer, including Bratislava Castle, the Old Town and the Danube River. However, in order to access the observation deck, there is an entrance fee of 6.50 EUR (approximately 7 USD) for adults, which includes entry to the bar just below as well. The observation deck is open daily from 10.00am-11.00pm.
Second, you can take a lift which will transport you within 40 seconds to 85 metres (279 feet) above the ground and inside the UFO itself where you can enjoy a drink in its bar. The bar area has smaller tables and more of an informal seating area in comparison to the restaurant, which is just next to the bar. The bar menu has cold, hot, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The bar is open from 10.00am-11.00pm. If you want to relax and enjoy the stunning views of Bratislava, then having a drink in the bar is the perfect way to do so. Seeing the views from the bar is certainly more relaxing than amongst the hustling and bustling tourists on the observation deck, so if you can stretch a few more euros to have a drink, I would recommend visiting the bar.
Admire iconic landmarks from the sky
You can also choose to visit the rather expensive restaurant, which will be a fantastic way to celebrate your time in Bratislava. The restaurant is open from 12.00pm-11.00pm. The restaurant in the UFO is a high-end and sophisticated establishment that offers Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. The menu is often modified and updated and the food offered is a real work of art. Whilst the starter, the main and the desert that I tried were divine and flavoursome, it was unfortunate that there were very limited options for vegetarians. Nevertheless, the opportunity to sit in such an iconic landmark like the UFO whilst seeing the most famous sites of Bratislava, in such comfort and style, certainly does make up for it. From your seat, you will be able to see so many amazing sites including the Slovak National Parliament, Janko Kral Garden and Petrzalka.
There is no entrance fee for the restaurant. The average cost for a three-course meal at the restaurant is 50-70 EUR (approximately 54-76 USD) per person. I must warn you, however, that if the host or waiter offers you water, you must confirm the cost of it before accepting. This is very important because of the shocking price that is charged for certain bottles of water in this restaurant, including 90 EUR (approximately 98 USD) for one bottle. I was relieved and pleased when I declined such an offer!
A worthwhile trip in any season
Bratislava is such a wonderful city to visit and I would urge you to spend some time there. Although I would advise you to be mindful that if you travel during winter (as I have done), there are very few organised tours available and you may have to venture alone by exploring and being adventurous. However, I think it’s worth seeing this beautiful city during the low-tourism seasons as you can spend time really enjoying each place that you visit and getting to know the local people who are so very friendly and welcoming too.
If you’re in Vienna, I would encourage you to travel to Bratislava for a day at the very least. The two cities are connected by boat, plane or train; however, my preference is to depart from Vienna and travel to Bratislava by train. This is because you can see and appreciate the change from chic and modern architecture to the authentic and communist-influenced buildings during your journey. The cost of travelling by train is also the cheapest, and it is the fastest way to reach Bratislava. It costs around 15 EUR (approximately 16 USD) and takes about 1 hour.
I would certainly recommend visiting the main attractions such as Bratislava Castle and the Old Town by foot and then seeing them later from the UFO!
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