Bratislava is not nearly as glamorous as nearby Vienna. But there is much to be said about a beautiful city that is not overrun with tourists, where beer is almost donated.
The patron saint of Slovakia's surprisingly charming capital is St. Martin, the Roman soldier who tore his cape in two to clothe a beggar. And you could say that Bratislava, located at a crossroads in central Europe, is equally divided – between east and west and between its colorful medieval history and the most recent Soviet past.
All of this makes for an intriguing short-haul destination easily reached by low cost flights.
& # 39; Bratislava is nowhere near as glamorous as neighboring Vienna. But there is a lot to be said about a beautiful city that is not overrun with tourists & # 39; & # 39; & # 39; & rs; writes Thomas W. Hodgkinson
Where to stay
For a song, you can spend your nights floating in the Danube waters. This basic boat hotel offers a great view of the SNP bridge and the impressive UFO restaurant – and is right outside the old town. Rooms from £ 48, botelgracia.sk.
The Devin is extraordinarily good in value, considering its superior Danube location, grand interiors and portentous history as a meeting place for the Communist nomenklatura. The hesitant staff seem a little intimidated by the ambience, but there is a sumptuous breakfast of delicious home-made cakes. Rooms from £ 65, hoteldevin.sk.
This elegant, centrally located chain hotel is a great option. The staff are friendly, the breakfast is impressive, and there is a seductive lounge bar offering beautiful rooftop views. Fold from £ 80, falkensteiner.com.
Elisabeth Old Town
Similar to a period, this inexpensive hotel at the eastern end of the old city is not fascinating. But for anyone who is happy to know what a Slovak hotel would look like 20 years ago, it is a pleasant experience, enriched by the friendly staff. Rooms from £ 45, elisabeth.sk.
What to see and do
Break into the castles
The capital of Slovakia is overlooked by the beautiful Bratislava Castle (£ 9 tickets). For an even more romantic experience, take a five-mile trip to Devin Castle (£ 4, muzeum.bratislava.sk) – is a suitable ruin for a Byronic ode. There are also some joyful activities for the young at heart, including a maneuvering facility that involves dodging swaying sandbags.
Explore the old city
The best of the capital: Highlights of the old city above include Michael's Gate and St Martin's Cathedral
Visit St Martin's Cathedral (free, dom.fara.sk), which was crowned by ten Hungarian kings. Strangely, a highway passes a few feet away – built by the Communists in a gesture of disrespect.
Another highlight of the old town is Michael's Gate (£ 4, visitbratislava.com/places/michaels-gate) Climb your spiral staircase, observing the weapons museum and then emerge to gaze at the bright red roofs of the city.
The island of art
In Bratislava itself, it is worth seeing the Nedbalka Gallery of Slovak Art (4 pounds). But a much better bet is to take a trip to the Meulensteen Danubian Art Museum (£ 9, danubiana.sk)
Founded in 2000, this gallery is spectacularly situated 20 kilometers south of the city on an island on the Danube. It is dedicated to modern works by artists from Central Europe, ranging from bizarre to dazzling. Highly recommended.
Do you like to go for a walk in the forest? Just a few miles from the city, the sprawling Koliba Forest, dense with oak and beech, is like something out of a fairy tale. There is an excellent playground for children, plus a summer sled race, which is very exciting regardless of your age (bobodraha.sk)
Ascend to outer space
In 1972, someone thought it was a good idea to build a structure that looked like a flying saucer was about to attack Bratislava. And they were right.
You pay £ 7 for a lift up to the impressive modernist UFO restaurant (pronounced locally as 'oof-o'). From there, you get stunning views of the city and the Danube below – and, if you're hungry, also a decent burger (£ 10, u-f-o.sk)
Where to eat
Popular local strapacky dish
Close to Michael's Gate, this simple restaurant serves strapacky, a popular Slovak dish, for a few pounds. Expect a type of pasta made from dumplings and shredded cabbage, garnished with lard. It is surprisingly tasty. Address: Michalska 388/18.
South of the old town, the tree-lined avenue of Hviezdoslav Square is full of elegant restaurants, some of which are of good value. Cafe Verne has tasty Hungarian goulash for £ 7. Address: Hviezdoslavovo namestie 175/18.
The name means "Slovakian restaurant" which is encouraging. This unpretentious place shows that even in the heart of the tourist town, you can dine well without spending too much. Try the steak with chili sauce. Address: Panska 239/8.
Rooftop by Regal
Rooftop offers the best burgers in Bratislava and its elevated location offers a great view of Michael's Gate. It's a fraction more expensive than the average Slovak restaurant, but it's worth it. Address: Hurbanovo namestie.
Wizz Air returns from Luton from £ 40 (0911 752 2257, wizzair.com)
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