The Castle dominating over the city and overlooking the Danube River is the major symbol of Bratislava. First time mentioned in 907, the fortress was for centuries a site, where the St. Stephen Crown and other Crown jewels were guarded. After 1811 fire, the ruins were restored in the 1950s-1970s and used as an exhibition and depots venue of the Slovak National Museum. The Castle waits now for its major restoration. From 2009, the distinct four-tower silhouette of the Bratislava Castle appears on new Slovak Euro coins.
St. Martin's Cathedral
This impressive Gothic cathedral dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, who was born in ancient Roman Sabaria (today Szombathely). The church served as the coronation church, where 11 Hungarian kings and 8 royal wives were crowned between the years 1563 - 1830. A large golden-plated model of the royal St. Stephen crown on top of the cathedral tower reminds this important tradition. The painstakingly restored sanctuary features a giant equestrian statue of St. Martin by Georg Raphael Donner, St. John the Almgiver chapel. You can also visit the underground crypts, where the Archbishops of Esztergom are buried, and the rich collections in the church treasury.
The Main Square
The central and the most prominent space of the Old Town district is the heart of Bratislava. This centuries-old hub of major events, including markets, military parades, stage for medieval theater plays and for executions, is the must to visit, while traveling to Bratislava. The palaces and houses of prominent Bratislava residents encircle the square; in the center stands the Renaissance Roland Fountain, erected as a gift of the King Maximilian in 1570. If you come to Bratislava during the warmer period of the year, you can appreciate the beauty of the charming square, while sipping your coffee or tea at one of the outdoor café terraces The impressive compound of the Old Town Hall stands in the eastern square side.
The Old Town Hall
The compound located in the heart of the Old Town is an assembly of precious historical buildings of various architectural styles. The compound has developed since the 13th century, when the tower served as a private house of Mayor Jakob, who was the first mayor of Bratislava. Later on, the Town Hall was rebuilt many times, last time prior to the First World War. Today, the compound serves for cultural purposes as the municipal museum and city archive. The charming Renaissance courtyard is a stage for concerts in the summer; the famous Bratislava Christmas market with traditional crafts is held here in December.
The Primate of Esztergom was the head of the Catholic Church in Hungary. Since Bratislava in the 18th century was an important residential town, similarly to many Hungarian noble families, also the primate had his official residence constructed in the town. Hence the large hat, actually the largest in Bratislava, can be seen on the top of the palace façade, crowning the proud principal coat-of-arm of the palace builder, the Prince Jozsef Bathyany von Nemetujvar. The neo-Classical palace from 1778-1781 is a museum today, and the visitors can explore the rich interiors with famous English tapestries from the 17th century, the St. Ladislaus oval chapel and the magnificent Mirror Hall, where the Pressburg Peace between Austria and France was negotiated in 1805.
If you like dramatic landscape, then the Devin Castle is the right place to visit, while staying in Bratislava. Located on the spot where the Morava and Danube River meet, the castle cliff is the official beginning of the Carpathian mountain range spreading from here over the territory of several European countries. This area was for centuries a strategic crossroad and the history of the castle is the evidence: the Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, Slavs and old Magyars were here. The castle Dowina [from Latin: girl] has been since the middle ages an important royal fortress that the King entrusted only to the most loyal noble families responsible for guarding the border, until the French Napoleonic army has blown the fortress in 1805. Ever since then the romantic ruin has been a popular goal of day trips from Bratislava.
The hill, offering spectacular views of the whole Bratislava area, including the Castle, the Old Town and the Small Carpathians, was after World War II selected as the burial site for the Soviet soldiers who died in April 1945, when Bratislava was liberated from the Nazis. The Soviet military cemetery with 6845 buried soldiers is a major landmark well visible from the entire city. On the top of a central memorial is a giant warrior statue with a flag standing on the broken swastika; many other sculptures are in the park. After decades of glorious parades, the compound is today a place of solemn remembrance and outlook on the city.
UFO / New Bridge
The New Bridge was the second bridge constructed over the Danube River at the height of Communist regime in the late 1960s. The megalomaniac city planners decided to cut the main access to the bridge cross the former Jewish neighborhood and synagogue, ?hanging? the bridge literally onto the St. Martin Cathedral and directing all the traffic to the square in front of the Baroque Presidential Palace. Thus, the city experienced one of the heavy damages that irreversibly brought heavy loses to its architectural heritage. Nevertheless, the Bridge is one of the most interesting landmarks of the 1960s architecture in Europe. The major attraction is an observation platform with a classy restaurant UFO on the opposite bank. From here you can enjoy a wide panorama view of Bratislava downtown, Danube River up to the Hungarian border as well as the adjoining Austrian territory with the large Neusiedler Lake.
The Chatam Sofer Memorial
The Chatam Sofer Memorial is a burial shrine of a renowned Bratislava rabbi from the 19th century. This is the only remaining part of the Jewish cemetery destroyed in 1943 that survived decades under the tram line. In 2002, the site was completely redeveloped in the spirit of modern architecture and re-opened as an attractive underground compound, which is a part of the European Routes of Jewish Heritage network. Visitors to the Chatam Sofer Memorial literally descend into an unknown layer of the Bratislava?s rich multicultural past.
The Blue Church is an extravagant piece of Art Nouveau architecture designed by the leading Budapest architect Odon Lechner just before the outbreak of World War I, when nobody would have imagined that the old world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire will disappear in few years time. Dedicated to St. Elisabeth, this distinct church and its parish house is an architecturally unique compound, a real gem of the European architecture, which must not be missed while visiting in Bratislava.