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Bratislava is the capital and largest city in Slovakia. It has a population of almost 415,000 and is the administrative, cultural and economic centre of the country.
Bratislava has a very pleasant medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets, a hill-top castle next to the river Danube, and many historic churches and buildings to visit. To explore this country provides you farms, vineyards, agricultural land, and tiny villages are situated less than 50 kilometres to the north and east of Bratislava.
Bratislava Milan Rastislav Štefánik Airport
Bratislava Airport (BTS) The airport is the largest in the Slovak Republic. The vast majority of scheduled flights are operated by the budget airline Ryanair, which flies to ca. 15 destinations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium. Additional carriers are Danube Wings flying to Kosice, Rijeka, Split and Zadar; Czech Arlines to Prague and Kosice; Norwegian Air Shuttle to Oslo and Copenhagen.
Be aware that the staff might take some regulations especially seriously. For example, you will not be allowed a small handbag/laptop bag AND hand luggage. If you are flying by Ryanair and have check-in luggage, do not let the small size of the airport fool you. Arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight, as the queue can get very long.
Vienna International Airport / Wien Schwechat
Vienna International Airport (VIE) is located ca. 40 km (25 mi) from Bratislava, near to the town of Schwechat in Austria, after which the airport is named. The airport is the home base of the flag-carrier Austrian and the budget airline Fly Niki. Most European airlines and a significant number of international airlines have direct connections to Vienna from their respective hubs.
Coach lines connect Bratislava with all of Slovakia, a high number of Czech cities and a number of EU destinations, including London, Paris and daily buses also depart to Budapest, Prague. The most frequent international coach connection by far is Vienna though, with three lines running every hour from Vienna's Sudtirolerplatz near Hauptbahnhof via Vienna International Airport.
Regular tourist boat lines operate on the Danube from spring through fall on routes from Vienna. You can find routes and schedules here.
Since 2006 it is possible to get to Vienna using a high speed ferry boat as well, yet the rates are higher compared to other means of transport.
Bratislava lies on the border of two other countries and has a relatively good road system. The town can be accessed by motorways (i.e. limited access highway) from northern Slovakia and Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary as well as Austria. As a result, you can pass the town without having to leave the motorway at all. Similar as in Austria or Czech Republic it's required to have a sticker (vignette) on your windshield to drive on motorways.
Generally, Bratislava is a walking city. The center is very small and cosy and you can easily walk from one side to another in a few minutes. The city center is a pedestrian area, however, be aware of cyclists and occasional cars.
If you need to travel outside of the center, use the trams or trolley buses if you need to get from one point to another quickly. Bratislava has a rather good public transportation system although some of the vehicles are quite old, especially during peak hours older buses can be seen. Buses tend to be the slowest means of transportation. Stops normally don't need to be requested unless stated otherwise - request stops are marked.
What to see
St. Martin's Cathedral – the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava, situated below Bratislava Castle. The Gothic cathedral, formerly the coronation-church of several Hungarian kings, begun in 1204, and reconsecrated in 1445. The tower is surmounted by a pyramid bearing a gilded Hungarian royal crown.
Bratislava Castle – the castle itself is already opened after reconstruction and hosts the expositions.
The SNP Bridge is a bridge over the Danube river, with its flying saucer-shaped structure housing a restaurant called "UFO". There is an observation deck on its roof.
Slavín monument – on the top of the hill behind the castle, overlooking the entire city. This is a monument in memory of Soviet casualties in the liberation battle of Bratislava in World War II. It is the highest place in the city, and thus the best place for viewing the city. Slavin actually is a cemetery and thus rather quiet.
What to do
Take a stroll through the centre of the town. Bratislava has one of the smallest historical centers around but the charm is more concentrated. The streets have been completely renovated over the last ten years, bringing life back here. Since then a multitude of cafes, bars and restaurants of all kinds have opened here, accompanied by a few souvenir shops and fashion stores.
You can visit also Slavin memorial for some really astounding views of the city. It's a calm and romantic spot but beware, it can get really windy up there. The City Museum located in the Old Town Hall offers visitors climbing up the steep stairwells of the clock tower or seeing the town's historical dungeons.
For a relaxed afternoon in the park, head either to Sad Janka Kráľa park (on the right bank of the river Danube and next to Aupark shopping centre), the oldest public park in central Europe.
In December, be sure to indulge in the scents and flavours of the traditional Christmas Market in front of Old Town Hall and on the Hlavne namestie (main square). The market - compared to the ones in Prague and Vienna - is smaller, but has a much friendlier, almost family-like atmosphere and feels much more traditional and less overtly commercialized than others in the region.
Bratislava is the home of the world famous Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra so if you love classical music, you should consider attending one of the concerts in the historic Reduta building. For more cultural indulgence, the Slovak National Theatre offers a wide selection on ballet, opera and theatre performances.
Although most of the activities have been moved to a city-district-in-the-making on the banks of the Danube, some performances are still being held in the historical theatre building, which gives them a unique feeling but a higher price tag as well. The old theatre building is right in the middle of the city at Hviezdoslavovo namestie.