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Bratislava is known as “the little big city” because even though it is Slovakia‘s capital and home to many government offices and multinational businesses, it does not feel like a large, bustling metropolis. Strolling through the quiet cobbled alleyways of the historic Old Town, you might never guess that you’re in a city with about 450,000 inhabitants. Although small, Bratislava is home to five unique neighborhoods worth your attention. Read on to discover the very best that Bratislava’s five coolest neighborhoods have to offer.
As a tourist, you’ll want to spend most of your time in the vicinity of Stare Mesto (or Old Town) neighborhood, as this is where you’ll find the majority of the museums, sightseeing attractions, and cute cafés. The center of Bratislava’s Old Town is a pedestrian-only area, which makes it convenient to walk through the compact sightseeing area from St. Michael’s Gate to the Slovak National Theatre to the Bratislava Riverfront.
You’ll want to linger in Bratislava’s quaint Main Square, especially during the annual Christmas market in December. Stop in at Kaffee Mayer for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake in a traditional coffee house atmosphere; the café was originally opened in 1913 by Julius Mayer. Then make sure to walk about ten minutes from the Main Square to see the Blue Church, a gorgeous Art Nouveau building that is often missed by tourists, as it lies just outside of the central ring of the city. In the evening, sample some of the best Slovak wines with the friendly staff at Grand Cru Wine Gallery. If you want to sample Bratislava’s nightlife, check out The Club Bratislava for the best DJs and dance floor in the city center.
Venture a bit further to Palisady to explore the the Slavín War Memorial and the gorgeous neighborhood that the ambassadors call home. The Palisady neighborhood sits just behind the Bratislava Castle and is mostly residential. This is where Bratislava’s wealthiest have lived for many years, because it is so close to the Old Town, yet much quieter, and with stunning views over the city. Many people find spots on the Palisady hill to watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Visitors who cycle, take the boat, or take the train to the suburb of Devín will be rewarded with a splendid medieval castle and a quaint town dotted with Slovak restaurants and cafés. Stop into the Devín Wine Cellar of St.Urban to sample locally produced blackcurrant wine. The picturesque Café Eden is a lovely place to enjoy a sandwich or a slice of cake in a relaxing outdoor courtyard. Devín offers a small-town feel just minutes outside of Bratislava. Some visitors like it so much that they choose to spend the night there and explore some of the hiking and cycling paths in the area.
If you are flying into Bratislava, you will arrive at the international airport in the Ružinov neighborhood. Just around the corner from the airport is Bratislava’s largest shopping center, Avion, which is home to Slovakia’s only IKEA and 170 other stores. Ružinov is also home to the Mileticova Open-air Market, the largest in Bratislava, offering fresh produce, freshly made cheese and other dairy products, flowers from the fields near the city, and Slovak fast foods such as lángoš. Bring your appetite if you plan on eating lángoš, as it is made using fried dough topped with sour cream, garlic, and cheese. The market is open daily, but typically offers a bigger selection on the weekends.
There is really only one main reason to visit Petržalka: if you are interested in Communist-style architecture. Row after row of block-style housing known as “panelak” extends for several kilometers in this neighborhood. “Panelak” refers to buildings constructed of pre-fabricated and pre-stressed concrete, and Petržalka is known for having the largest concentration of these and the highest population density in Central Europe; about 130,000 people still live in the apartment blocks in this neighborhood. Construction on the rows of apartments began in 1977 and was designed to provide affordable housing that reinforced the collective nature of the Communist regime.
Another reason to venture across the Danube to Petržalka is to visit the Dunajsky Pivovar, a restaurant, brewery, and boutique hotel on a boat docked on the Danube River. Riverside rooms at the “botel” provide stunning views of Bratislava, and dining on the stylish rooftop deck of the boat is also a memorable experience.