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5 Must do's in Bratislava, Slovakia

clock 16th November 2015 | comment0 Comments

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.

bratslavia-slovakia


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.

 

Bratislava Castle

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.

bratislava-castle

St Martin's Cathedral

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.

St Michael's Street and St Michael's Gate

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.

st-michaels-street-bratislava

Slovak National Theatre

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.

slovak-national-theatre

Novy Most

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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9 Historical attractions you must visit on the Danube

clock 20th October 2015 | comment0 Comments

The Danube is the heartline of eastern Europe, starting from the Black Sea cutting through many major countries before ending in Germany.

Such is the diversity of the cities along the Danube, it makes the river ideal for a cruising holiday. There is so much history attached to the waterway that is best experienced on a river cruise. There are a wide variety of Danube river cruises available such as starting in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, passing through the likes of Austria and Germany and ending in Amsterdam.

Along the way there is an abundance of historical sights which help to build the history of the Danube. Let's take a look at nine must-see attractions en route.

danube river

Shoes on the Danube Bank

Starting in Budapest, the Shoes on the Danube Bank is a highly poignant memorial. A collection of shoes on the banks of the river on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade honour the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in the capital during World War II.

Created by film director Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer, the memorial is a reminder of the tragedies which Budapest suffered during the war, while also commemorating the victims.

shoes on the Danube river

Schonbrunn Palace

This magnificent Baroque palace sits in the heart of Vienna, the next stop along the Danube. The 1,441-room palace is a former imperial summer residence originally purchased by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in 1569.

It remains a focal point of Vienna's, and by a larger extent Austria's, style of architecture reflecting the changing taste of the Habsburg monarchs. Since the 1950s both the palace and the gardens have become major tourist attractions and were recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Schonbrunn Palace, Austria

 

Kunsthistorisches Museum

Staying in Vienna and another attraction to tick off is the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Translated as the Museum of Art History, this magnificent building has stood in the Austrian capital since opening in 1891. Commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary it houses some of the nation's finest art.

Notable works currently installed at the picture gallery include Jan van Eyck: Portrait of Cardinal Niccolo Albergati (c. 1431), The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Rembrandt: Self Portrait (1652). It is an absolute must for all art lovers.

Mauthausen Memorial

Not far from the Austrian city of Linz is the Mauthausen memorial. Mauthausen-Gusen was a concentration camp used by the Nazis during World War II. Between 122,766 and 320,000 people are estimated to have been killed here during Germany's occupation of Austria.

Liberated by the US Army in May 1945, Mauthausen is now a national memorial site. It remains largely intact covering almost 3,000 sq ft. There are a number of guided tours going on throughout the day.

Regensburg Dom

Moving into Germany and the Regensburg Dom should be high up on the itinerary for anyone cruising the Danube. This huge cathedral is a brilliant example of pure German Gothic architecture and forms the focal point of the city.

Founded in 1275 and completed in 1634, the Dom is home to some magnificent monuments including one by renowned German sculptor Peter Vischer the Elder. It is a sight to behold and a must-see when in Regensburg.

Regensburg, Germany

Nuremberg Palace of Justice

Nuremberg is a city of huge prominence in Germany. The second largest in Bavaria, behind Munich, it is a place of so much history none more so than the Palace of Justice. Justizpalast was built in 1916 and was the scene of the infamous Nuremberg Trials between 1945 and 1949 after World War II.

Courtroom 600 saw the trial of the main Nazi Germany personalities such as Hermann Göering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Arthur Seyss-Inquart. The courts are still used today and are open to the public.

Rhine Gorge

A magnificent natural sight in the heart of Germany, the Rhine Gorge is where the Rhine takes over from the Danube. The 65-kilometre section of river between Koblenz and Bingen was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

The area is unusual as it produces its own microclimate and has become the home to a number of species not generally native to this part of the world. Aside from this the gorge provides some splendid views.

German National Museum of Contemporary History

Moving on to Bonn in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany and a must in this city is the German National Museum of Contemporary History. Charting the nation's past after 1945, the museum ranges from artefacts from over the previous decades to the changing face of politics in the country.

Admission is free and guide booklets can be obtained in English, as the exhibitions and tours are presented in German.

Koblenz Germany

Koblenz, Germany

Anne Frank Huis

Ending the trip in Amsterdam, a visit to the home of Anne Frank is an absolute must. Situated at the Prinsengracht in central Amsterdam, this unassuming house was where Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution.

The 17th-century canal house became a museum in May 1960, following the publication of Anne's diaries in 1957, she did not survive the war. Behind the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank Huis is well worth a visit.

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