I had high hopes for Bratislava. Due to time constraints, I hadn’t been able to visit in 2011 and so it was one of the first places I worked into my Interrail itinerary.
I can’t even pinpoint why I wanted to visit. I arrived knowing very little about the city other than the fact that it’s extremely small and the beer is cheap. With visions in my head of a smaller version of my beloved Ljubljana, I was sorely disappointed when I arrived at Bratislava train station – one of the ugliest I’ve ever stepped foot in. It was dark, creepy and covered in cobwebs. The surrounding scenery consisted of grey, concrete blocks of flats.
This was not a good first impression.
We were met at the train station by Eduard, the owner of the gorgeous apartment we were going to be staying in for the next few days. We were staying a half hour walk outside the old town, which severely limited the amount of sightseeing we were able to do as unfortunately, the rain from our time in Prague followed us over to Bratislava.
The old town itself is tiny. You can walk from one end to the other in 15 minutes and so Dave and I spent just a single day exploring and the rest of our time relaxing in the apartment – this was still plenty of time to see everything.
Here’s how we spent our day.
Our first stop was the beautiful light-blue St Elizabeth Church, which we stumbled upon by complete accident. Located outside the old town in a quiet residential area, our arguments over who had got us lost were silenced when we turned the corner and were greeted with this.
Bratislava’s old town reminded me of a grittier Ljubljana – dirtier, less colourful, less attractive and with a lot more graffiti – but it still had a certain charm to it. The cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways were lined with restaurants, bars and cafes and, to my surprise, a constant stream of tour groups.
Onto Hviezdoslav Square and one of the best array of statues and posing opportunities I’ve ever come across, this was obviously going to be one of the highlights of my time in Bratislava.
Like most places in Eastern Europe, Bratislava is dominated by a huge castle on a hill overlooking the city. On the climb up, we passed through a tunnel filled with some crazy looking street art.
After ten minutes of panting, sweating and narrowly avoiding cardiac arrest, I finally reached the top of the castle. It’s one of the highest points of the city and despite the rain, I still managed to spend 10 minutes or so enjoying the view of the surrounding countryside.
One of the most famous landmarks in Bratislava is Nový Most. One of only two asymmetrical suspension bridges in the world it is known for its bizarre UFO-shaped restaurant and observation deck.
With the terracotta roofs and gothic spires of old Bratislava on one side and hundreds of identical rows of Communist apartment blocks on the other, the bridge now acts as a divide between old and new in the city.
And to finish off my day exploring Bratislava I returned to our apartment, looked out the window and saw that the sky was on fire. It was an amazing sunset to end a, well, kind of dull day.
I left Bratislava feeling underwhelmed – I had expected so much more and I ended up disappointed.
As with my time in Prague, the weather didn’t help. I love small cities in Europe and one of my favourite things to do is check out the local cafes and bars and spend several hours people watching with a cold beer. It’s not particularly fun do this in the rain!
I feel like I could like Bratislava. If the sun had been shining then it would have been a beautiful city to spend a couple days in. I can’t help but feel that any longer than that and I’d be bored.
There just isn’t all that much to do.
My trip through Central and Eastern Europe was made possible by the lovely people at Interrailnet.com, and our accommodation in Bratislava was provided by Wimdu.