Which city is the only capital in the world that borders two countries?
Chances are that you’ve already read the title, and therefore already have rather a reliable hunch for the answer, so give yourself a pat on the back and a large portion of parene buchty (steamed dumplings filled with jam) if you answered BRATISLAVA!
Last autumn my lovely Hayzybob and I went travelling around Central Europe. Bratislava, the Slovak capital, emerged as one of our favourite places – a stunning little city with a frankly LOVELY old town with interesting shops, delicious cafes, picturesque things to look at, funky things to pose for pictures with, fascinating things to learn from.
Here are recommendations I have for your trip from our brief 24h Bratislava experience:
- Arrive by speed ferry down the River Danube – there is an excellent connection from Vienna, just 60km away. Fun fact – Bratislava and Vienna are actually officially the closest neighbouring capitals in Europe!
- Go on a tour of the Old Town in the adorable old town train which squeezes through alleyways so narrow you wonder how the side mirrors are still intact.
- Explore the old town by foot and stroll the cobbled alleyways.
- Jump in the misty arch!
- Pop in the adorable little market stalls and shops.
- Photograph yourself with the stony Bratislavian locals. One of the most charming features of this little city is its many funky statues on various corners of the old town. Bratislava, making sure tourist photos are never boring!
- Spot trams.
- Eat dumplings and drink Slovak beer.
- Order soup with a side of dumplings at restaurants and try and find a waiter with the most expressive face of disbelief, confusion and/or amusement. What a terd of a tourist, you don’t eat soup with dumplings! Now isn’t THIS a story to tell the kiddies at home.
- Visit the quaint wine bars.
- If quaint gets too boring, admire the UFO-bridge over the Danube.
- Visit Bratislava castle, a restored baroque castle just outside the centre of the city. (Which we were unable to do, due to unintentionally timing our 24h in Bratislava to coincide with a high security-EU summit meeting. The political big wigs arrived escorted by dozens of police cars with their sirens blazing, numerous helicopters and even a sniper or two on the bridge. And their meeting was in the Bratislava castle.)
- Visit Devin castle, a historic castle (first mentioned in written sources in the year 864) on a cliff about twenty minutes by bus from the city centre. (Which we were unable to do, see above. During this EU summit half of the public transport had decided to be free of cost (making sure roads stay empty); half of the public transport was cancelled. No one seemed quite sure if the Devin bus was or wasn’t running – according to one staff member and the board with upcoming bus departures, it was running; according to another staff member and our visual evidence, it wasn’t running. After hanging about the bus area for half an hour we gave up and decided to leave Devin castle to a later visit.)
- Sit at the cute cafés with your funky coffees and savour both cake and the fact you are not surrounded by blazing sirens of political escorts.
The first police cars and pompous black vans were exciting. By the time it had continued for 5-10 minutes, somehow it had become a whole lot less fun.
Despite summit meetings, Bratislava rose from the ashes of the unknown to the skyscraping levels of excellence. A lovely, charming little city I would love to get to know better. Bratislava, I will be back!
What are your favourite things about Bratislava?