Eastern Europe has so much to offer holiday goers and explorers alike, with unique quirks, historical towns and beautiful landscapes, there is something to appeal to everyone. The likes of Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia are now seeing an influx of visitors from Western Europe and the welcoming locals make a trip here truly unforgettable. One nation in particular which is growing in popularity is Slovakia, with the capital Bratislava an absolute must on a European cruise.
Iglu Cruise offer a number of river cruises along the Danube, starting in Hungary and stopping off in Bratislava en route to Austria. So what is there to do in Slovakia's largest city? Here are our top five suggestions.
Sitting on a hill of the Little Carphathians overlooking the city, Bratislava Castle is arguably the most historic and recognisable sight in the capital. It provides stunning views over Bratislava, parts of Austria and on clear days you will you be able to see as far as Hungary. As you would expect, the castle has a long and rich history. It can trace its origins back to the ninth century where it was believed to have been built by the Romans as a frontier post. It was accidentally burned to the ground by garrisoned soldiers in May 1811, leading to a full rebuild in the 1950s. It is home to both The History Museum and the National Museum, with one of the rooms dedicated to the works of Slovakian and foreign artists. Around 3,500 paintings, statues and print are housed in the castle, the most impressive being copies of 15th century altarpieces by Paul of Levoca.
Sticking with the historical theme, St Martin's Cathedral is a testament to Bratislava's Gothic architecture. Situated on the edge of the Old Town, the church can trace its history back to the 13th century when it was originally built in a Romanesque style. However, by the 14th century it was replaced by a three-nave Gothic dome and was fully transformed by 1452. Being the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava it has been the scene of many a famous ceremony. Between 1563 and 1830 it was known for being the coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary and saw 19 Hungarian Emperors crowned during this time. Today, it remains open to the public allowing people to wander around this magnificent structure and the see the work of famous Austrian baroque sculptor Raphael Donner.
Both St Michael's Street and St Michael's Gate are go-to places for anyone visiting Bratislava. It is the main hub of activity in the city with shops and restaurants lining the street, making for a very lively place. Both locals and tourists alike come out to enjoy the ambiance on an evening with street bands providing a great atmosphere as the sun goes down. At the top of the street is St Michael's Gate which remains the only city gate in Slovakia that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications. Originally built during the year 1300, it was rebuilt in 1758 and has survived several wars, occupations and the Communist rule, a period renowned for tearing down and replacing historic buildings. Now it is seen and appreciated as a hugely relaxing area, ideal for enjoying a glass of wine or two and simply watching the world go by.
If you get the chance, a visit to the Slovak National Theatre is an absolute must if you are a lover of the arts. It is the oldest professional theatre in the country and consists of three ensembles - opera, ballet and drama. It is split into two separate buildings the old, opened in 1886, and the new, opened in 2007. The former was designed by Viennese architects R. Fellner and H. Helmer, responsible for creating ten buildings across Europe. It is the home of Neo-Renaissance opera, ballet and philharmonic performances and if you have the chance to catch a show, then it will be an unforgettable experience.
While Bratislava Castle provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city, for more spectacular views head to one of the more modern structures in Bratislava - Novy Most Bridge. Despite being built during the era of Slovak Communism, the 1971 bridge does not follow conventional architecture of the time. It is more inkeeping with Bratislava's more historic side and has drawn comparisons to the Space Needle in Seattle. Providing a link over the Danube, you can venture up the impressive structure to an observation desk where you can take in all the views of Bratislava. Maybe even have a spot of lunch at the restaurant UFO, a popular eatery so booking is advised.
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