In 1993 the former country of Czechoslovakia was divided into the independent sovereign states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Thanks to the magical city of Prague, the Czech Republic was quickly able to become a popular tourist destination with Slovakia lagging well behind in terms of visitor numbers. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, has seen a growing number of visitors in recent times but remains a secondary attraction when compared with the great cities of central Europe such as Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and Vienna.
Nevertheless Bratislava is well worth a visit and if it is included as a port of call on your Danube river cruise you won’t be disappointed. Located on the frontier with both Austria and Hungary it is the only national capital bordering two countries with a historic centre composed of medieval palaces juxtaposed with more modern structures.
If you happen to be starting or ending your Danube river cruise in Bratislava then you will have a choice of two airports for getting to and from your ship. Nearest is Bratislava Airport which lies just 9km north-east of the city centre, however, there are many more flights into Vienna International Airport which is about 50km to the west of the city.
Public transport services connect both airports with the centre of Bratislava but for convenience sake it’s well worth booking a private transfer with a shuttle company. Shuttledirect provide transport from both Bratislava Airport and Vienna Airport. Their services include direct transfer services between both airports and the port in Bratislava.
Port of Bratislava
The port where your ship will berth in Bratislava is ideally located between the New Bridge and the Old Bridge right next to the Slovak National Museum. It lies on the same side of the river as the historic centre, within just a few minutes’ walk of Hviezdoslavovo Square. Bus and tram stops are close by at Safarikovo Namestie and Namestie Ludovita Stura respectively.
Getting Around in Bratislava
Whilst there’s an extensive transport network which includes buses, trams and trolleybuses, you’re most likely to just wander around the historic centre of Bratislava on foot. Very informative walking tours with local guides depart daily from the main Hviezdoslav Square at 11am and 4pm lasting for up to 3 hours. There’s no fixed charge with guides working on a ‘tips only’ basis.
Another less strenuous way to take in the main sites is to hop on the antique tourist train (Prešporáčik) which slowly winds its way around a circuit of the Old Town in about 50 minutes. It departs from the main square.
Main Tourist Attractions
Bratislava Castle: As you cruise along the Danube you cannot fail spot this stone structure which overlooks the river. It is particularly impressive at night when fully illuminated. The castle dates back to the 10th century with a history entwined with that of the city itself. Today’s building has been fully renovated with little remaining of its historical roots yet it’s still worth a visit even if it’s just for the great views it offers from the courtyard. In the summer it serves as a venue for a number of musical events.
Old Town: Whilst the historic centre might not have the same number of must-see attractions as other destinations on your Danube River Cruise, it’s still a lovely place to wander around for a few hours. Packed with beautiful architecture and good-value bars and restaurants, many with open air terraces, it’s a great city for people-watching. Look out for Michael’s Gate which dates back to 1300 and is one of the city’s oldest buildings having been preserved from the original fortifications.
Insider Tip: Be sure to pay a visit to the Schokocafe Maximilian (Hlavné námestie 2) which is right on the main square. This is a great place for a coffee break whilst watching the world go by in the heart of Bratislava.
Old Town Hall: The 14th century town hall buildings are one of the highlights of the Old Town. Today it houses the interesting Bratislava City Museum and visitors can climb to the top of the tower for stunning views across the rooftops of Bratislava’s historic centre.
Devín Castle: Located about 10km from the Old Town and accessible by bus and river boat, this is one of the country’s most important archaeological sites. It’s quite a remarkable site sitting on a cliff more than 200m above the ground from where the views over the Danube and Morava rivers are outstanding.
St. Martin’s Cathedral: One of the most notable features of the Bratislava skyline is the spire of this building which reaches 85 metres. Dating back to the 13th century Saint Martin’s is one of the country’s oldest and largest religious buildings.
Insider Tip: Perhaps the most popular attraction built in recent years is the New Bridge which was completed in 2012. It is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world and is more commonly referred to as the ‘UFO Bridge’ on account of the flying saucer-like structure which stands at almost 85m above the road. This is a restaurant accessed by an elevator which is worth a visit for the views alone.
St. Elizabeth’s Church Built in 1907-08 this Hungarian Art Nouveau church features on the city’s list of tourist attractions thanks to its colourful exterior which has earned it the better known name of ‘the Blue Church’.
Grassalkovich Palace: Nowadays this Baroque-style Palace is the residence of the Slovakian president. As such it isn’t open to the public but is still worth a look. The public gardens behind the building are a lovely place to take a break from sightseeing.
Episcopal Summer Palace: This beautiful 17th century palace formerly served as a residence of the archbishop of Bratislava. Today it is home to the Slovakian government so inaccesible to the public.
One Night in Bratislava
Few river cruise vessels elect to spend an overnight in Bratislava, however, if you do have such time available you’ll find a flourishing cultural scene focused on the Slovak National Theatre. Opera, ballet and drama performances are held at their original theatre on Hviezdoslav Square and in their new venue on the riverside.
The city is also home to the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra which performs on select dates during the year at the Reduta Bratislava Concert Hall. Popular with music lovers are the annual Bratislava Music Festival which takes place in autumn and the Bratislava Jazz Days event which is held in October.
For an authentic night out with typical local cuisine try the old beer house called Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar (Drevená 575/8). Great place for ribs or goulash with Slovakian beers.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the most established and respected airport transfer provider in Europe and northern Africa. Our friendly local drivers will ensure your safe, economical, and convenient passage to and from the cruise terminal, airport, or major train station of your choice with a minimum of fuss. Book your transfer with our easy to use online booking system and leave the rest up to us!