Bratislava is one of those cities where the history is rich and colorful, which is why we love exploring it every time we end up there, even if it’s just for a few days.
People occupied the area 15 to 25 million years ago, there are traces of Roman remains, and it wasn’t until the 5th and 6th centuries that the Slavs first made their presence. From the 13th to the mid-16th century, Bratislava was under Hungarian rule until 1918, when it became part of the Habsburg Monarchy. However, a few decades later after World War II, when Czechoslovakia broke up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Bratislava was declared the capital of Slovakia while still being a communist nation until 1993. It was during communism and some parts of WWII that large parts of the city were destroyed, yet once the nation became completely independent, it was able to rebuild itself into the charming destination it is today.
For those of you who are planning a getaway to Bratislava, here are some sites and places we recommend you add to your itinerary.
Obchod v Muzeu
Built in the first part of the 20th century, Obchod v Muzeu is the oldest shop in the city located on Biela Street in the old center. The shop, which is also a museum, is decorated in early 20th-century decor with a cash register that’s over 100 years old. You can shop for souvenirs, drinks like wine or schnapps, and even tasty treats like Bratislavske rozky, a half-moon pastry filled with walnuts or poppy seeds. The museum part of the shop showcases artifacts from the same time period, which you can check out, free of charge.
Completed in 1297, the Franciscan Church is the oldest religious building in Bratislava and was a gathering space for nobles centuries ago. Although large parts of the Church were destroyed after an earthquake and fire, there’s still a small section preserved from the 13th century. It’s a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, and if you happen to wander past it, we recommend seeing the interior and the crypt, located right next to the church.
This Soviet-themed bar is a perfect place to stop by for some good and cheap beer. The decor is interesting, the vibe is relaxed, and the place stays open from 11am to 12am on most weekdays, and until 2am on Friday and Saturday (closed on Sunday). You can either go downstairs into the cellar or out in the courtyard (if the weather is warm) to enjoy a cold beer, and if you’re hungry, or want to pair the beer with a bite to eat, KGB serves good food too.
Step back about 100 years in time and enjoy traditional cuisine at Zylinder, a restaurant serving a unique combination of cuisines originating from Austria (Bratislava was once an outlying district of Vienna), Slovakia and Hungary. While sitting in a space surrounded by 20th-century decor, you can enjoy dining on potato or cheese-filled dumplings, oxtail, pork ribs, beef goulash and schnitzel. Zylinder is open every day from 11am to 11pm.
Spooky Legends of Bratislava
Embark on a unique walking tour called Spooky Legends of Bratislava, where you’ll be taken to parts of the city where there’s a lot of dark history. The tour guide will reveal grim stories such as the ghost’s handprint on the wooden beam, the white stone lady made from vapor, the haunted mansion and the boys that were turned into stone by an angry goblin. Whether you believe in the tales or not, it’s a captivating 1-hour tour that’s completely free (tips are recommended).
Bratislava’s history has been influenced by Vienna, Budapest and Prague, which played an important role in the making of this remarkable capital. If this historical city is on your list of European destinations, we hope this guide will allow you to explore some of Bratislava’s gems for a memorable experience.
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