Europe / Slovakia / Travel

Bratislava: A Delightful Chance To Recharge The Batteries

What we needed was a short stop to transform the long Krakow to Budapest train trip into 2 shorter, more pleasant rides. The city had to be an interesting, low-stress kind of place, that we hadn’t visited before. After a quick perusal of the map, Bratislava, Slovakia quickly became the easy choice, and after visiting, we realize it was the best choice.

Fountain of Peace FI

Bratislava is small for a European capital, and its size is part of its allure. It’s been around since the 10th Century, and it has the required medieval gate (St. Michael’s) and clock tower.

St Michael's Gate 2

St Michael's Gate

The compact, historic district has narrow, winding cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings and churches.

The Watcher 2

But the city’s attractions aren’t all about old European tradition. Some of the most photographed sights in town are fun and peculiar sculptures like Cumil (The Watcher) peeking out from his manhole, and the French Army Soldier (looking a bit like Napoleon himself), leaning over a bench on the historical Main Square (Hlavne namestie) just in front of the French Embassy!

French Army Soldier

Every visitor who strolls down to the Danube can’t help but see the communist era “New Bridge”. This imposing, spaceship-like structure includes a restaurant called – what else? – the UFO (pronounced ew-fo).



We really enjoyed Bratislava. It was a joy to wander around a small, yet significant historic area, and not feel driven to work our way through the “must see” checklist. We marveled at small details, sampled some yummy local food, sat on benches in the sun, and watched boats on the Danube.

After a few weeks on the road, for us, it was a bit of decompression. And you long-term travelers out there know that recharging the batteries is never a bad thing.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri

GargoyleIf you know what it’s like to need a break from the big city, then you might enjoy:

Luang Prabang: A Village Wakes Up
Celebrating Epiphany in Cyprus
Falling for Ljubljana
Thanksgiving in Santorini

51 thoughts on “Bratislava: A Delightful Chance To Recharge The Batteries

    • You’re right Curt. I’d forgotten your Burning Man spaceship. My memory is that it’s very similar. Is this the universal spaceship design? There’s probably a movie or cartoon (or both) spaceship back in the mists that looked exactly like this, and Saturday morning TV burned it into our collective memories. ~James

  1. Great images guys, and a perfect city to break up your trip. I visited for a single day on a jaunt from Budapest a few years ago, and look forward to getting back for a longer stay next time.
    Hope you had a great weekend.
    Cheers, Steve.

    • Thanks Steve. After Krakow and all it had to offer, Bratislava was a nice change of pace. We rolled in without an agenda, and it was great. We discovered a great local pub, and the food and beer was great. ~James

  2. come sempre ritrovo nei tuoi reportage insieme con l’indiscussa bellezza delle foto, il vero sapore che porta all’esatta conoscenza del luogo visitato
    davvero grazie, e buon inizio settimana

    as always find myself in your reports together with the indisputable beauty of the photo, the true flavor that brings the exact knowledge of the place visited
    really thank you, and good start week

    • Thanks so much for the nice comment. We work hard to capture more than just the tourist side of a place, and we’re happy to hear that we did. You will hear more about the details of Bratislava. Thanks again. ~James

    • I hadn’t thought of those words, but you’re exactly right – a sense of fun. The narrow, cobblestone streets lined with bustling cafes, the tourist markets, and the quirky sculptures. All combine to produce a fun and relaxed atmosphere. ~James

      • Yes and to top it off we had groups of High School students who had just finished their final year wandering the streets in a wonderfully rowdy fashion trying to raise funds for their end of year celebrations. I think the real party was going to begin late the same day! Thankfully we’d sailed on by then.

      • Our hotel was just outside the historic area, and this was probably a good thing. We’ve learned to be careful in planning where to stay in Europe. There are lots of cities that have cheap flights from the UK, and they have gotten to be weekend party towns. What are normally calm, quiet towns can get really noisy (and unpleasant) on weekends. Parties are fine, but I don’t want them outside my bedroom window at 3AM. ~James

  3. Oh the importance of taking a break – for a few weeks, or even just a day. Yes. we know it well 🙂
    Bratislava sounds lovely. I imagine we’ll get there one day pretty soon.

    • I remember your posts on just this topic Alison, so I knew that you would agree. As long-term travelers (travelers, not tourists), we adopted the attitude that travel is supposed to be fun. We don’t keep a scoreboard, and we see what we see. If we miss something, so be it. As you know well, traveling long term can be exhausting and we all need a break periodically. All things in moderation. ~James

      • Well we’ve only had a few days in Piriapolis, and now on our way by comfortable bus to Colonia, going right by Montevideo. We’ve loved it so far. Piriapolis was just lovely and we wish we’d had more time there. By all accounts Colonia is lovely too. Montevideo apparently is not horrible but doesn’t have much to highly recommend it so we’re passing it by. Will report more by blog of course.

    • We usually try to mix it up when we travel Cathy (small to big to small, etc), but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Vienna is only an hour away by train, and we considered staying there and daytripping to Bratislava. We’re so glad we didn’t do it that way. ~James

      • I’m glad you did it this way too, James. When I stayed in Sintra, a half hour from Lisbon, for 3 nights, I think people wondered why I did it. Most people consider Sintra a day trip from Lisbon. I loved my 3 nights there, and would highly recommend no one do it as a day trip. 🙂

      • Cathy, these are the kinds of things that seasoned travelers learn (the hard way). When we visited Cyprus, obviously, Nicosia is the popular place to stay. After looking at the details and hassles of getting there, we stayed in Larnaca, and day tripped to Nicosia by bus, and it was perfect. Larnaca was on the coast, very low key and we were so glad we did it that way. ~James

  4. It really is a charming, peaceful city (aside from the odd boatload of river cruise folk off the Danube). I hope you made the 10km trip out of town to the charming ruins of Hrad Devin!

    • I have seen river cruise ships before Chris, but never as big as the Danube cruisers. While we were visiting, there were a few large tour groups that could sometimes be a nuisance (moving like a herd of sheep, totally oblivious to everyone else in the universe), but in general, it was no big deal. And we discussed going to see the castle, but decided we were happy just to chill in the city. We had been moving around a lot, and it felt too good just taking it easy. Maybe next time. ~James

  5. Love your perspective in the second picture (I’m taking notes)! But The Watcher is the best!! You have a way of finding the tiniest details in a city and sharing them with us!

    • Thanks Rusha. You have no idea how hard it was to get a photo of The Watcher without someone’s feet included. This is, without a doubt, the most photographed sight in Bratislava. Forget the 14th Century Town Hall, and the Gothic Cathedrals. Cumil is the man, and they should make him mayor. Funny you should mention details. Watch this space. ~James

  6. Some people like Bratislava, some others don’t. But this post has surely added more perspective for me, and from the look of it I might want to spend a few days in the city.

    • Bama, I don’t really see that there’s much to dislike about Bratislava. It’s a small, interesting place, and 2-3 days is plenty. With the Danube cruises, I can see that high season would be wacky. But, we didn’t have that problem. For someone who just wants to check it off the list, a day trip from Vienna would do. But, as we said, for us, it was a low key, relaxing place. ~James

  7. It looks like such a clean city. I love the colors, the lines of the buildings, and the statues are such a great surprise. I feel like I’ve had a relaxing stroll through the town just having seen the pictures. Thanks for sharing, J & T!

    • That’s a great observation, Anita! It was very clean – the residents obviously take a lot of pride in their charming little city. And their attention to detail was really fun – more on that on Thursday. Hope you two are doing well. ~Terri

  8. Pity you didn’t take longer between Krakow and Bratislava. I loved the Tatra mountains, and the charming small town of Levoce. Even Zakopane, where I stopped between Krakow and Stary Smokovec in Slovakia made up for being touristy (lots of market stalls) with gorgeous mountains.

    • A friend had recommended the Tatra Mts and they were on our potential list, but unfortunately, on this trip we couldn’t make it. After spending a few weeks in the area, we know we’ll go back and hit some other places. ~James

  9. What a wonderful place for recharging your batteries! I love those sculptures, especially ‘The Watcher’. 🙂 It must have been so relaxing to wander down those cobblestone streets.

  10. I am catching up after our move this week, a return to Šibenik, Croatia, and I see you selected a great place for a respite. I am fortunate that you have opened my eyes to places we have yet to see, and that I am now excited to visit. You have captured some of the whimsical along with the unusual. The UFO bears an uncanny resemblance to the cap of Seattle’s Space Needle. Slovakia did not make our list of places to live. We felt like we had to choose between Slovakia and Czech Republic. Our thinking was that we would be close enough to visit. Do you think that is the best choice? You have a better perspective for comparison than I. – Mike

    • Mike, as I said to Curt above, I think that this may be a universal image for a spaceship, and we probably have Disney or Hanna-Barbera to thank for it. I wonder who planted this image in the Russians’ heads. Re: Slovakia vs. Czech Republic. Either would do, but, from our experience, there is frequent, inexpensive train transport, so moving around the area is no problem. And most of the trips would be relatively short. Also, things are less expensive than in the rest of Europe, but Prague is probably more expensive than Bratislava. ~James

  11. I’ve been struck by the whimsy of the Eastern European towns that you’ve visited! I unfairly pictured them to be stern & solemn places, but Bratislava (and of course, the gnomes!) couldn’t have proved me more wrong.

    • Miranda, stern and solemn are exactly the words that I’d use, but we’ve seen quite a bit of Eastern Europe, and I have to honest, once outside the historic areas, the Post-Soviet landscape can be sobering. Not always, but frequently. But most of the cities have realized that tourism can be a huge boost for the local economy, so they’ve done their best to make the tourist areas nice and interesting. And it appears that the long-held love of art that was suppressed by communism if flourishing. ~James

    • There’s a backstory on Camil, Jo. He’s located on a corner, and apparently a bit to close to the street. We read that his head had been knocked off a couple of times. Can you imagine what the driver of the car must have thought when he hit him? ~James

  12. It looks like you found the perfect place to recharge those batteries. The architecture is wonderful but those unusual bronze statues are just delightful! 🙂

    • Olli, I don’t think that you will be disappointed. Because Slovakia is small, it’s easy to visit, and the mountains are beautiful. Bratislava, can be seen in a couple of days, or it would make a nice, long daytrip from Vienna. It was a relaxing stop for us. ~James

    • Thanks Madhu. Bratislava really was a nice surprise, and a relaxing break for us. If you get to this part of the world, it’s worth a short stop. You could also do it in a long daytrip from Vienna. ~James

  13. Pingback: Day 13 – Bratislava; The City of Fun. | European Holiday and River Cruising Memoirs

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