Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, is a beautiful European city with a population of less than half a million inhabitants. Dating back to pre-Roman times, this city has a long history and has been a cultural melting pot and home to Celts, Romans, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, and of course Slovaks, a fact that has given the city an impressive range of styles, architecture, languages and cuisine.
It is known for its charm and combination of environments; sophisticated restaurants and traditional taverns, a mixture of opera and jazz, a fusion of cultures that give the city charisma and with the most important river in Europe, the Danube, as a backdrop. On the outskirts of the city the slopes and hills have been home to vineyards, which for centuries have made Bratislava and the surrounding cities famous for their fine wine production.
One of the quintessential attractions of Bratislava is Bratislava Castle, now the cityâ€™s observation deck and which, because of its tumultuous and checkered history has had to be rebuilt several times. From its walls there are excellent views of the medieval old town and the banks of the Danube. Another of the cityâ€™s attractions is the beautiful homes of the Austro-Hungarian noble families who, in their day, built palaces throughout the city and many of which are now open to the public as museums and galleries.
In the past, Bratislava was one of the most important centres of Jewish studies in Europe and outstanding amongst its historic heritage is the unique monument dedicated to the famous rabbi, Chatam Sofer, as well as the Museum of Jewish Culture, which is visited daily by large numbers of tourists. Communism has also left its mark, and clearly visible on the other side of the Danube are the unmistakable concrete housing blocks, called "panelĂˇk" in Slovak, which fill the horizon.
The river Danube is, of course, one of the cityâ€™s main attractions and all along its banks there are lots of bustling cafes. The New Bridge is one of the most striking landmarks, since it contrasts with the architecture of Bratislava. This is a bridge with a "UFO" towering over the river, where a bar-cafĂ© of the same name is also located. The pedestrian walkways of both the New Bridge and the Old Bridge are used as viewpoints by tourists and locals from which to observe the Danube with its boats departing daily for the capital of Austria, Vienna and its vast cultural heritage.
In Bratislava, concerts featuring international artists are becoming increasingly common. Both the Slovak Philharmonic and the opera and ballet of the Slovak National Theatre regularly give world-class performances, which arouse great interest among visitors. The city centre is full of lively bars, pubs and restaurants offering both international and traditional cuisine, as well as local beers and wines. Having fully enjoyed the Bratislava cuisine, there are many delightful trips to be made on foot or bike through the wooded hills north of the city, or head south along the Danube, where there are dozens of kilometres of traffic-free pathways for the enjoyment of all kinds of sports.