Experiencing quite a cultural boom after its years of Communist rule, Slovakia’s trendy capital is known for its romantic, colorful old buildings, a historic Castle and gate to the city, lively squares and theaters and quirky, whimsical statues. Explore the wonders of Bratislava during our Grand Danube, Blue Danube Discovery, Magna on the Danube, Melodies of the Danube and Romantic Danube itineraries.
A Complex History
Bratislava is becoming a thriving city once again - with museums, theaters, galleries and financial institutions making their home here. But it was once one of Central Europe’s economic, cultural and political centers. From the Middle Ages through the 18th century, Bratislava’s history was intertwined with that of its neighbors -- Austria and Hungary. In the 10th century, it was a part of Hungary and in 1536, it became Hungary’s then-capital. Kings and queens were crowned at St. Martin’s Cathedral – and Hungary’s crown jewels were held in the city as well. The city (then known as Pressburg) thrived, becoming the largest and most important town of Hungary, while the city was a glittering center of social and cultural life. Mozart and Beethoven performed. The castle became a summer residence for Austria’s Queen Maria Theresa – and its renovation a passion project for her.
The city pays homage to its glorious history – and melting-pot of cultures – in many ways. Find a range of architectural styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classic and Empire. Hammered into the cobblestone streets, find plaques with gilded crowns commemorating the coronation of Hungarian kings.
A Castle on a Hill
Bratislava Castle is the most popular tourist destination, sitting above a hill overlooking not just Bratislava – but also into Austria and Hungary on a clear day. Where else can one see three countries from one spot! For nearly 200 years, the castle stores the crown jewels of Hungary and had Two Hungarian crown guards, 50 Hungarian and 50 Austrian infantry soldiers caring for it at any given time. Austria’s Queen Maria Theresa made many major renovations inside the castle in her preferred Rococo style, including a grand staircase. This was built on a lower gradient so the queen could ride her horses up them. When her daughter and son-in-law took up residence, the castle became a whirl of events promoting culture and science.