This post is part of the series Slovakia
Other posts in this series:
- The Perfect Weekend in Bratislava ~ Day One
- The Perfect Weekend in Bratislava ~ Day Two (Current)
The weather on the second day of Bratislava weekend was not our best friend at all – it was cold, windy and rainy on top. So we simply welcomed the rainy Sunday walk through the streets of Bratislava. Several churches, Grassalkovich Palace and Bratislava Castle were on our to-do list. But mainly because of the weather we almost spent the whole afternoon in the Slovak National Museum of Bratislava Castle. You can find my blog post from the first day in Bratislava here:
As harsh it may sound, before coming to Bratislava I thought that the city is off the beaten track. In fact, after spending a weekend in the charming capital of Slovakia, I could easily say that the city is completely overlooked by the travellers.
We didn’t have a strict weekend plan to explore Bratislava – we run into the streets and pubs by accident and we loved it!
So let’s go through what we managed to visit on our second day:
St Elizabeth of Hungary ~ The Blue Church of Bratislava
The Blue Church of Bratislava is officially known as the Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary. The church got the “blue” name for one obvious reason. The Blue church is the most discernible art nouveau building in Bratislava – like borrowed from a fairy-tale! All fifty shades of blue – everything from the roof to its mosaic is painted in shades of pale blue and decorated with blue majolica.
The extravagant building was designed during the 20th century by the Hungarian architect Ödön Lechner. Some connoisseurs reckon that the Blue Church reminds a lot the work of Gaudi in Barcelona. The Blue Church was named after Elisabeth of Hungary, the daughter of Andrew II, who grew up in the Castle of Bratislava.
The Blue Church is located at the beginning of the Old Town on Bezručova Street, 10 minutes walking distance from the city centre. I found this neighbourhood to be truly cosy due to the narrow streets and lovely coffee houses – one on every corner. “Art nouveau” or not – the Blue Church reminds me of a wedding cake due to its form and colour… Just look at it! You can easily admit it – a church like this doesn’t come along every day!
On our way to the Castle, we stopped by the Primatial Palace. The palace serves as the office of the mayor of Bratislava and hosts the City Council. The Palace was built in 1781 in a beautiful classic style. Nowadays the luxurious building with a pink facade is still one of the must-sees in the city. In the small inner courtyard, you’ll find the Fountain of St George and the Dragon. The legend says, on St George’s Day, the stone statue comes to life in order to keep an eye on Bratislava.
Interesting fact about Primatial Palace is that Napoleon signed the peace treaty between France and Austria in the palace’s Hall of Mirrors on 26 December 1805. Nowadays the palace hosts many international cultural events and numerous exhibitions in Bratislava’s City Gallery.
The Jesuit Church, officially known as the Holy Saviour Church is located on the Franciscan Square in the historical centre of Bratislava. Nowadays the church belongs to the Society of Jesus – the Jesuit Order. At first sight, the church seems not to be very spectacular from outside. The facade is very basic and grey, due to the fact that the church originally belonged to evangelicals in the 17th century. The reigning King at that time could not accept a Roman-Catholic model of worship, so he decided against building a church with a spire. But the simplicity from its exterior is compensated by the beauty of its interior – baroque altars from the 18th century and unique Rococo pulpit from the 17th century!
The baroque building of Grassalkovich Palace is also known as Slovakia’s White House – the official seat of the president of Slovakia. The white palace was built in 1760 as the private residence of Marie Therese. After its major reconstruction in 1996, the Grassalkovich became the official residence of the Slovak President.
The huge building is located at Hodžovo Square, 5 minutes walking distance from the city centre and the Old Town. Here you can visit the famous French garden which used to be a favourite place for hosting aristocratic events and concerts. Here you can spot the statue of Empress Maria Theresa on horseback, the Fountain of Youth and numerous vanguard statues by modern artists.
Last but not least, we made it to the most prominent city landmark and the most photographed and visited location in Bratislava – Bratislava Castle or Pressburg Castle as named in the past! The Castle is located on the hill above the Old Town and Danube River, just 15 minutes walk from Michael’s Gate. You can take the public transport too, but you’ll miss a lot of beautiful views on your way, such as the tiny teeny-tiny narrow old streets of the Old Town.
The best know tourist attraction of Bratislava has very long and rich history which dates back to the late Stone and Bronze Age. The very first known hill inhabitants were the Celts with settlement called Oppidum. The oldest written source of history where the castle was mentioned, appears in some letters from a battle between Bavarians and Hungarians during the 9th century. The place had its strategic geographical importance in the period of the Great Moravian Empire. At that time the Slavs raised a fortress around the city. One century later the city became one of the most developing Hungarian states where the Hungarians decided to build a stone castle and a church on the hill. During the 11th century and the Tartar raids, the first Hungarian King Stephen had his seat inside the Pressburg Castle.
Later on in the history, during the 15th century, the stone castle was rebuilt in a gothic style by the Sigismund of Luxembourg. In the 16th century, the castle was rebuilt again, but this time in the Renaissance style by King Ferdinand. During this century the castle served as a protection during the Ottoman expansion, not only for Bratislava but also for Vienna. During the 17th century, the city became the official coronation town for Hungarian Kings. The 18th century brought the era of Maria Theresa who reconstructed the castle from fortress to a residence of the Austrian Empire.
After the death of Maria Theresa, the castle was used as a military garrison till 1811, when the historical fire of Bratislava burned everything into ruins. 250 years later, the castle was subject to comprehensive reconstructions. This major renovation left what we can see and visit today – the beautiful Bratislava Castle!
What you can see and visit in Bratislava Castle:
The Yard of Honor – the area in front of the castle, bordered by two triumphal gates and the houses of the imperial guard.
An exhibition of the Slovak National Museums – a great collection which provides the development of society in Slovakia from the middle ages up to the present
The Castle Tower with some of the Best views of Bratislava.
The reconstructed remains of the Great-Moravian basilica from the 11th century on the eastern terrace.
A lot of the things you can see in Bratislava are for free. And when it is not free – it is totally affordable! I would definitely recommend the city as a secret weekend getaway. Behind the random crumbling buildings of Soviet architecture, there is a great little city with a rich history to dive into.
Bratislava is a European capital like no other with a relaxed atmosphere, no heavy city noise, no crazy traffic, no pertinacious beggars, and no crowded streets. Bratislava is easy and very chilled! And therefore, I’ll be back for sure 🙂