Bratislava often goes unnoticed in comparison to its more illustrious neighboring capitals like Budapest, Prague, and Vienna and is thus never swamped by waves of tourists. Its picturesque Old Town offers an inviting warren of cobbled streets and pedestrian plazas with pastel-hued houses. This compact city can be quickly explored on foot and a Bratislava walking tour is the best way to explore the cocktail of urban, classic, and contemporary sights. This post includes a map for a self-guided free walking tour of Bratislava. Enjoy your walk! 🙂
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Table of Contents
Why Choose This Free Self-Guided Bratislava Walking Tour?
This free self-guided Bratislava walking tour itinerary is perfect if you are short on time and trying to save some money. With our free map, you can follow the route quite easily without having to hire an expensive guide for the day.
The tour will take you past the city’s major attractions, landmark public buildings, places of worship, cultural venues, restaurants, and cafes. You’ll also learn a few lesser-known tidbits about Bratislava along the way.
The tour will take you through the center of Bratislava, focusing on the Old Town which lies on the left bank of the Danube River.
Bratislava Walking Tour Itinerary
I’ve divided this Bratislava walking tour into a basic and an advanced tour. The basic walking tour is centered around the core of the Old Town and covers a total distance of approximately 4.8 kilometers (3 miles). This tour starts at the bus station beneath the UFO Bridge and terminates at Bratislava Castle.
If you’re still hungry to see more sights, you can proceed with the advanced tour in which the main sights lie near the periphery of the Old Town. The advanced walking tour adds approximately 4.4 kilometers (2.7 miles) to the basic walking tour.
So, the basic and advanced walking tours add up to a total of 9.2 kilometers (5.7 miles). Feel free to take a break if you feel jaded along the way.
Many of Bratislava’s streets are paved with bricks, some of which have cracks, uneven angles and can become slick when wet. Some parts of the walking tour take you through hilly areas. It is thus ideal to stick with a comfortable pair of flat shoes rather than heels as they can get stuck in the pavement.
I have included some cafes and restaurants in the map where you can take a breather and grab a bite. On this Bratislava walking tour, you will see:
- UFO Bridge
- Hviezdoslavovo Square
- Old Slovak National Theater
- Šafárikovo Square
- Blue Church
- Hlavné Square & Old Town Hall
- Primate’s Palace
- Franciscan Church
- Mirbach Palace
- Michael’s Gate
- Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross
- Kápitulska Street
- Pálffy Palace
- St. Martin’s Cathedral
- Medieval City Walls
- House at the Good Shepherd
- Bratislava Castle
- Grassalkovich Palace
- Archbishop’s Summer Palace
- Freedom Square & the Fountain of Union
- Slovak Radio Building
- Slavin Memorial
1. UFO Bridge
Kick-off your Bratislava walking tour at the famous UFO Bridge (Most SNP), Bratislava’s most unique landmark. Most SNP is short for Most Slovenského národného povstania, which translates to “Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising”, and is meant to honor the 1944 resistance movement against Nazi forces.
The saucer-shaped restaurant that is perched atop its single, asymmetrical pylon is what makes this structure alluring and the bridge is known almost universally as the “UFO bridge”. The 431-meter long bridge that spans the Danube River is the longest single-pylon suspension bridge in the world.
The UFO Bridge opened in 1972 and generated some controversy at the time because a large chunk of Bratislava’s historical core had to be destroyed for its construction, including the former Jewish Quarter and a beautiful neologic synagogue. Ironically, the Jewish Quarter of Bratislava remained intact during World War II.
You can go to the viewing terrace of the UFO restaurant (which sits at a height of 85 meters) for a fee of 7.40 EUR, for far-reaching views of the Danube and the city (take the walking path beneath the bridge to go to the other side). The observation deck is open daily from 10:00 – 23:00.
The viewing terrace is the best vantage point to see the vast housing estates of Petržalka – Bratislava’s largest district that is home to over 100,000 of the city’s inhabitants, and which is the most densely populated place in Central Europe.
Petržalka is dominated by a seemingly endless number of identical Soviet-era towers and serves as a reminder of the excesses of ugly Stalinist architecture.
Your next stop is Hviezdoslavovo Square (2) which can be easily reached by crossing under the UFO Bridge via Rybné námestie and continuing straight on Hviezdoslavovo námestie. You’ll be walking a distance of 350 m.
2. Hviezdoslavovo Square
See whether you can pronounce this tongue twister on the first attempt – Hviezdoslavovo Square (Hviezdoslavovo námestie) because I certainly couldn’t! Hviezdoslavovo is one of the best-known squares in Bratislava and certainly its most vibrant one.
It is named after Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, an important Slovak statesman from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A statue of him now stands in the center of the square.
This large square features a long tree-lined promenade that is home to galleries, lovely fountains, historic buildings, and cafés. Several statues of famous people can be found here, including one of Hans Christian Andersen, who was ostensibly infatuated with Bratislava’s fairy-tale-like charm.
Your next stop is the Old Slovak National Theater (3) which lies at the end of Hviezdoslavovo Square. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.
3. Old Slovak National Theater
The Old Slovak National Theater (Slovenské Národné Divadlo) is one of Bratislava’s most beautiful buildings and important landmarks. Built in 1884–6, the building was the brainchild of two Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer, who specialized in designing theaters.
Its sumptuous Neo-Renaissance facade is festooned with busts of luminaries like Goethe, Mozart, Liszt, and Shakespeare. The center of the tympanum boasts a sculptural group including Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, and bucolic poetry. Opera and ballet performances are frequently staged here.
A lovely marble fountain sits in front of the theater and depicts a scene from ancient Greek mythology. It shows the beautiful Trojan youth Ganymede flying on the back of Zeus, who has transformed into an eagle. Zeus is kidnapping Ganymede to Mount Olympus to serve as his cupbearer.
Your next stop is the Reduta (4) which can be reached by heading south before turning right onto Jesenského and then turning left onto Mostová. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.
Next up on this Bratislava walking tour is the Reduta, one of the most imposing and beautiful edifices in the Old Town. It was constructed in 1913–18 in an eclectic style that blends Neo-Baroque, Rococo, and Art Nouveau features.
The building formerly hosted social and artistic events, symphony concerts, and theater performances. Today, the Reduta is the home of the Slovak Philharmonic and is the principal venue for the Bratislava Music Festival, the chief Slovak festival of classical music.
It also serves as the venue for the official ceremony of the inauguration of newly elected President of Slovakia.
Your next stop is Šafárikovo Square (5) which can be reached by heading south, then turning left onto Medená, turning right onto Tobrucká and then left onto Dobrovičova. You’ll be walking a distance of 600 m.
5. Šafárikovo Square
Šafárikovo Square (Šafárikovo Námestie) is one of the most picturesque locations in Bratislava. If you’re a fan of architecture, you will love some of the grand buildings located on the square encompassing Art Nouveau, Gothic and Neo-Baroque styles, reminiscent of the fine architecture of Vienna and Prague.
There’s also a tranquil little park in the center of the square which features the fabulous Duck Fountain, a national cultural monument.
Your next stop is the Blue Church (6) which can be reached via turning left on Dobrovičova and then again on Bezručova. You’ll be walking a distance of 250 m.
6. Blue Church
The Blue Church (Modrý Kostolik) a.k.a. St. Elizabeth’s Church is one of the best things to see in Bratislava. This unique place of worship gets its name due to the color of its facade, mosaics, majolicas, and blue-glazed roof.
It was designed in exquisite Art Nouveau style by Hungarian architect Ödön Lechner and has a Secessionist flair to it. The remarkable blue hue of the church radiates a peaceful aura and makes the building look like an elaborate wedding cake or something out of a fairytale.
I felt as though I was looking at one of Gaudi’s works because of the Blue Church’s immaculate mosaics and the omnipresent motifs of nature, flowers, and trees. Have your camera ready here!
The church’s interior is bedecked in typical ostentatious Roman Catholic fashion with several beautiful statues and an Art Nouveau-style altarpiece.
The blue theme continues here and even the wooden pews are also decorated in pale shades of blue. The figure of St. Elizabeth, to whom the church is consecrated and who was supposedly born in Bratislava, is omnipresent in the church.
The only drawback about seeing the interior of the Blue Church is that the opening hours are a bit erratic, to say the least. It is open Monday-Saturday: 07:00–07:30 & 17:30–19:00, Sunday: 07:30–12:00 & 17:30–19:00. The entrance is free.
Your next stop is Čumil (7) which can be reached by heading north on Bezručova, turning left onto Grösslingová before going through Pasáž Luxor to turn left onto Dunajská. Continue till you merge onto Laurinská and keep going straight. You’ll be walking a distance of 850 m.
What do you reckon is the most photographed sight in Bratislava? Bet you either guessed the Castle or the UFO Bridge. Well, the honor of the most photographed sight in Bratislava goes to a bronze statue called Čumil (The Watcher).
This quirky statue, erected in 1997, features an amusing chap peeping out of an imaginary sewer hole. You might have to wait in line for a few minutes for taking a picture of Čumil as everybody wants a snap with the popular fella.
The name Čumil roughly translates as ‘rubberneck’, and most sources believe he represents an allegory of a Soviet spy during the Communist era, clandestinely sneaking up on people and keeping tabs on them.
Other stories claim that Čumil is here simply to look up girls’ skirts, that he’s a legendary cleaner of Bratislava’s underground, or that he symbolizes an archetypal Slovak worker, waiting for his shift to end.
Due to his precarious position, Čumil has been involved in several car accidents resulting in the poor bloke’s head being badly damaged. Fortunately, he’s now shielded by a traffic sign that sits beside him.
Bratislava’s Old Town is famous for its outlandish statues. These statues were placed by locals after the fall of communism in an attempt to instill life in the center. Over time, these statues have become icons in their own right and you can often see visitors clamoring for selfies with them. One of these statues is Schöne Náci, a courteous gentleman doffing his hat to people on the streets.
Your next stop is the Hlavné Square & Old Town Hall (8) which can be reached by heading north on Rybárska brána. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.
8. Hlavné Square & Old Town Hall
The Hlavné Square (Hlavné námestie) is one of the highlights of the Old Town and consequently one of the main attractions on this self-guided Bratislava walking tour.
This historical square has served as the city’s main square and has witnessed all the major events in Bratislava’s history including public executions, medieval street theaters, military parades, and Christmas markets.
The eclectic mixture of architectural styles in the surrounding buildings here is a real treat to look at. Some of the best ones are the yellow-colored Palace of the Hungarian Exchange Bank, a stunning Art Nouveau edifice, the white Baroque Jeszenák’s Palace at number 4, which now serves as the Greek Embassy, and the yellow Rococo Kutscherfeld Palace at number 7.
The exquisite Maximilian Fountain, which was formerly used as the town’s water source, dominates the center of the square. On a tall plinth at the center of the fountain is the figure of Roland, a knight who defended the townspeople’s rights. According to legend, the figure moves at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
The Old Town Hall (Stará Radnica) is the most well-known building in Hlavné Square. The tower was constructed in the 14th century and over the next two centuries, neighboring buildings were added gradually turned to turn it into a complex of houses of different architectural styles.
The tower was originally built for the defense of Mayor Jacob’s house and acquired its present Baroque look after the reconstruction in the first half of the 18th century.
The Old Town Hall’s Gothic legacy is evident through the lower windows of the clock tower, as well as through the beautiful passageway which connects the inner courtyard with the square.
An important relic – a cannonball from the 1809 siege of Bratislava by Napoleon’s army, remains embedded in the wall beside the Gothic windows. The Old Town Hall is now home to the City Museum which showcases exhibits associated with the history of Bratislava.
Your next stop is the Primate’s Palace (9) which can be reached by turning right onto Kostolná and then turning right again onto Primaciálne námestie. You’ll be walking a distance of 120 m.
9. Primate’s Palace
The ornate Primate’s Palace (Primaciálny Palác) is easily the most beautiful palace in Bratislava. It was built in 1778–81 as a winter residence for Jozef Batthyány, the Primate of Hungary and archbishop of Esztergom.
The palace’s striking pink-and-gold Neoclassical façade is embellished with a phenomenal pediment that is crowned with the archbishop’s coat of arms, topped with a huge cardinal’s hat.
Figures of cherubs on the facade hold the letters I and C, a reference to the motto in the cardinal’s coat of arms – Iusticia (Justice) and Clementia (Mercy). Nowadays, the Primate’s Palace is the seat of Bratislava’s mayor and is partly open to the public.
The palace interior features a rather prosaic collection of paintings but is brought to life by six unique and vivid English tapestries illustrating the Greek myth of ‘Hero and Leander’. How they made their way from England to Bratislava is to this day a subject of countless theories. They were discovered folded behind the wallpaper in the vestibule of the palace’s Hall of Mirrors.
You can also visit the Hall of Mirrors, a ritzy room where numerous important accords were signed. The most notable of these was the Peace Treaty of Pressburg that was signed on 26 December 1805 between Napoleon and Francis I, after the French victory at the Battle of Austerlitz over the Holy Roman Empire and Russia.
Your next stop is the Franciscan Church (10). To get there, head east on Primaciálne námestie, turn left onto onto Uršulínska, then turn right onto Klobučnícka and finally turn left onto Nedbalova. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.
10. Franciscan Church
The Franciscan Church (Františkánský Kostol) is the oldest religious building in Bratislava. The order of Franciscans settled in Bratislava established the church not long after their foundation by Francis of Assisi and it was consecrated in 1297.
It owes its slightly outworn and inconspicuous present Baroque facade to implementations of new styles and remodeling works after crippling earthquakes in the 16th and 19th centuries.
The church’s furnishings are mainly Baroque in style and date from the 17th and 18th centuries. Particularly impressive are the two-tier 14th-century chapel of St John the Evangelist and an older, 15th-century Pietà (the famous work of art depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion) in a side altar.
However, It is still possible to see the Gothic rib vaulting above the presbytery. The plush decorations of the interiors stand in contrast to the Franciscan ideal of poverty. This is because of the grand coronation pageants that were held here, in which the newly crowned monarch appointed Knights of the Order of the Golden Spur.
Your next stop is the Mirbach Palace (11) which is just around the corner from the Franciscan Church.
11. Mirbach Palace
When exploring Bratislava on foot, the Rococo Mirbach Palace (Mirbachov Palác) shouldn’t be overlooked.
The palace was built in 1768–70 for Michael Spech, an affluent brewer. However, the palace owes its name to its last owner, Emil Mirbach, who bequeathed the building to the city.
The four-winged two-story palace with saddle roofs and triangular pediment is adorned with fine airy rocailles of imaginative shapes.
In the middle of the facade, there is a striking buttress ending with a massive tympanum, on which there is a cartouche with a pair of oval shields under the crest. They form the family coat of arms of the penultimate owners of the palace – the Nyary family.
At present, the interiors of the palace are adapted for museum purposes, holding the main collection of Bratislava’s City Gallery, focusing on 17th and 18th century Central European Baroque painting and sculpture.
Your next stop is Michael’s Gate (12) which can be reached by heading north on Františkánske námestie, continuing onto Zámočnícka and then turning right onto Michalská. You’ll be walking a distance of 120 m.
12. Michael’s Gate
No day of Bratislava sightseeing would be complete without paying a visit to Michael’s Gate (Michalská Brána). It is the only standing gate from the former four gateways into the Old Town.
The 14th-century Gothic tower was rebuilt in Baroque style in the 18th century and features a statue of Archangel Michael slaying the dragon on the top.
With its green-domed copper spire and white-brick tower, Michael’s Gate is one of Bratislava’s most recognizable landmarks. The tower houses the Museum of Weapons and Town Fortifications which is part of the Bratislava City Museum.
If you walk below the tower and look to the left side, you will encounter the narrowest house in Bratislava, only about 160 cm wide.
Just to the left side of Michael’s Gate lies a narrow street called ‘Baštová’. This street was formerly known to locals as Executioner’s Street since the town’s executioner used to live there in the house number 5. Being ancient times, folks were very superstitious and always avoided the street like the plague, as they were apprehensive that something terrible would happen to them if they walked here.
Your next stop is the Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross (13) which can be reached via Baštová and then turning left onto Klariská. You’ll be walking a distance of 230 m.
13. Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross
The Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross (Klariský Kostol), popularly known as ‘Poor Clares Church’ is a church that belongs to the complex of the monastery of the Poor Clares in the old town. The Nuns of the Order of the Poor Clares came to Bratislava in 1297 and, with the King’s help, built a church and a monastery in the 14th century.
This Gothic, single-nave church with cross vaulting was built in line with the strict rules binding the mendicant and contemplative orders, to be plain and austere. However, the exception to this rule is the prismatic church tower, dating from 1400 that is richly decorated with sculptures.
The convent itself was built after the great fire of 1590, in Renaissance style. After the Poor Clares monastery was dissolved in the late 18th century, the complex housed the Law Academy and the Catholic Theological Seminary.
Today, it serves as a concert and theater hall as well as for exhibitions due to the church’s excellent acoustics.
Your next stop is Kapitulská Street (14) which can be reached via Farská. You’ll be walking a distance of 100 m.
14. Kapitulská Street
Of the several charming streets in Bratislava’s Old Town, Kápitulska Street (Kápitulska) is perhaps my favorite one. This postcard-perfect little alley is one of Bratislava’s oldest streets and goes back to the 14th century when the first-ever school in the city, a gymnasium, was founded here.
It is simply a treat to admire the pastel-hued buildings. Since crowds are scant, this mesmerizing street gives the belief that time has somehow stood still and transports you back to the Middle Ages.
Your next stop is Pálffy Palace (15) which can be reached by turning left onto Prepoštská and then right onto Ventúrska. You’ll be walking a distance of 190 m.
15. Pálffy Palace
Given that Bratislava is particularly rich in Baroque architecture, it’s no surprise that the Pálffy Palace (Pálfiho palác) is included in our Bratislava walking tour. The present appearance of the palace dates back to 1747 when it was built as the seat of the influential Hungarian Pálffy family.
Particularly striking is the interesting palace portal decorated with war trophies, as a reminder of Marshal Leopold Pálffy, one of the first owners of the house.
After the death of its final owner, count János Pálffy, a notable philanthropist, supporter, and collector of art, the palace underwent extensive reconstruction and presently serves as an extension to Bratislava’s City Gallery. Until 2012, it was home to the Austrian Embassy.
Your next stop is St. Martin’s Cathedral (16) which can be reached by heading south before turning right onto Panská, and then turning right onto Rudnayovo námestie. Take the stairs to stay on Rudnayovo námestie. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.
16. St. Martin’s Cathedral
Visiting St. Martin’s Cathedral (Dóm Sv. Martina)is one of the best things to do in Bratislava. St. Martin’s is Bratislava’s most prominent cathedral and an exemplary work of Gothic architecture. It was built on the site of an earlier, 14th-century Romanesque church, making it one of the city’s oldest churches.
Between 1563 and 1830, eleven Hungarian kings and eight queens were crowned here. The massive 300-kilogram gold-plated replica of the Hungarian Crown situated on the top of the huge steeple is a testament to this fact.
It is also possible to walk the former coronation route through the Old Town, starting from here, by following a series of golden crowns embedded in the pavement. The cathedral frequently undergoes repair work due to damage incurred from vibrations caused by heavy traffic on the nearby major road to the UFO Bridge.
St. Martin Cathedral’s interior is pretty impressive with ornate gold altars and depictions of biblical scenes. The interior was refurbished in the late 19th century and the Baroque furnishings were replaced with Neo-Gothic ones.
The main altar was also removed and its angels paying homage to St Martin were transported to Budapest. I really enjoyed the Gothic windows that are filled with colorful stained-glass depictions of religious figures and events. The Baroque sacristy and the St. Anne’s Chapel under the tower are also worth visiting.
Opening hours of St. Martin’s Cathedral are Monday-Friday: 09:00–11:30 & 13:00–18:00, Saturday: 09:00–11:30, Sunday: 13:45–16:30.
Bratislava has played a central role in Hungarian history. The Hungarians made Bratislava their capital after the Ottomans occupied Hungary in the 16th century and it remained so for over 200 years. It was in these times that the city reached the pinnacle of its glory, in particular during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, who took up residence at Bratislava Castle. Due to this, various aristocrats from Vienna chose to build opulent palaces here.
Your next stop is the Medieval City Walls (17) which lie beside St. Martin’s Cathedral.
17. Medieval City Walls
The medieval city walls are one of the most interesting sights along this Bratislava city tour. When Bratislava became a free royal city in the 13th century, it was granted many privileges, one of which was the right to build city walls.
With the onset of the Mongol invasion in the mid-13th century, this privilege soon morphed into a necessity. The fortifications encircled the entire Old Town, separating the free royal city of Bratislava from the Castle and its surroundings.
The city walls were very successful in defending Bratislava until the 18th century when Empress Maria Theresa had most of the city walls dismantled to develop the city. This fragment of the wall is merely a small portion of the previous size of the city walls.
Your next stop is the House at the Good Shepherd (18) which can be reached by turning left on Rudnayovo námestie towards the UFO Bridge and then turning right onto Židovská. You’ll be walking a distance of 250 m.
18. House at the Good Shepherd
Being an architecture buff, the House at the Good Shepherd (Dom U Dobrého Pastiera) is one of my favorite sights in Bratislava. It is arguably the finest example of Rococo architecture in Bratislava. The House at the Good Shepherd derives its name from the statue of the Good Shepherd on its corner.
It was built in 1760 – 1765 and is now one of the few remaining original buildings in the area at the foot of Bratislava Castle. The lower parts of the building were used for commercial and production purposes while the upper parts were a living area.
The House at the Good Shepherd is one of the narrowest buildings in Europe, and there is only one room on each floor. It is now home to the Museum of Clocks, an extension of the City Museum.
The exhibit chronicles the evolution of clockmaking from the end of the 17th to the end of the 19th century through various types of portable, wall, and alarm clocks. Many of these are mostly the works of Bratislava’s clockmakers.
Your next stop is Bratislava Castle (19) which can be reached by heading north on Beblaveho. Take a sharp left to stay on Beblaveho which merges onto Zámocké schody. Continue straight and turn right onto Vodný vrch, then turn right and then left. You’ll be walking a distance of 750 m.
19. Bratislava Castle
No walking tour of Bratislava would be complete without seeing Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský Hrad), the city’s most characteristic landmark and top attraction. It is perched atop a hill dominating the city’s skyline and overlooking the Danube River.
Bratislava’s skyline just wouldn’t be the same without the four striking white towers that mark the corners of this grand, rectangular castle.
The castle itself probably dates back to the 9th-Century being initially inhabited by the Celts and is featured in the Annals of Salzburg of 907, the first written reference to Bratislava. This battle between the Bavarians and ancient Hungarians foreshadowed the definitive end of the Great Moravian Empire.
Like many prominent European castles, Bratislava Castle has undergone significant changes throughout its history. The original stone castle was rebuilt in Gothic style in the 15th century and was remodeled into a Renaissance residence in the 16th century.
Under the reign of EmpressMaria Theresa, the only female ruler in the House of Habsburg, in the 18th century, the castle underwent beautiful Rococo furnishing.
The castle burned down in the wee morning hours of 28 May 1811 when a fiery blaze broke out in the military storehouses. It stood in ruins for the next 150 years and the army even used a portion of its remaining walls and sold it as construction materials. Restoration work finally commenced in the 1950s and the Bratislava Castle has now been magnificently restored.
The castle now hosts several exhibitions from the Slovak National Museum which are a little underwhelming and not worth the price of admission. Rather, it is best to wander around the winding ramparts taking in the excellent views and explore the beautiful Baroque gardens.
Bratislava has been known by various names throughout its history, the most notable of which are ‘Pozsóny’ in Hungarian and ‘Pressburg’ in German. The city only officially acquired its current name of ‘Bratislava’ in 1919, when it became part of Czechoslovakia.
This concludes the basic walking tour of Bratislava. If you wish to continue with the advanced walking tour, your next stop will be Grassalkovich Palace (20). Turn right on Palisády and continue till you reach the palace. You’ll be walking a distance of 1.6 km.
20. Grassalkovich Palace
The elegant Grassalkovich Palace (Grassalkovičov Palác) was built in 1760 in Baroque and Rococo style as a residence for Anton Grassalkovich, an aristocrat who was one of the closest advisors to Empress Maria Theresa.
Grassalkovich Palace is the setting for one of the fabled love stories of the 20th century. This is where the Austro-Hungarian crown prince Franz Ferdinand d’Este met his future wife, Žofia Chotek, a palace maid. In 1914, the murder of the couple in Sarajevo triggered the beginning of World War I.
The Grassalkovich Palace has functioned as the residence of the President of Slovakia since 1996. You can visit the surrounding palace garden built in the French style, that has been restored to its former glory. Grassalkovich Palace and its environs make for a great photo opportunity.
Your next stop is the Archbishop’s Summer Palace (21) which can be reached by heading north onto Banskobystrická. You’ll be walking a distance of 400 m.
21. Archbishop’s Summer Palace
The Archbishop’s Summer Palace (Letný arcibiskupský palác) is the last palace you’ll see on our Bratislava walking tour. The palace was built in 1614 as a three-wing Renaissance summer residence of the Esztergom archbishop (highest ranking Hungarian church official at that time), as Esztergom was occupied by the Ottomans.
In the mid 18th century it was converted into a Baroque palace with Rococo decorations and fences. After the return of the archbishop from Bratislava to Esztergom, the palace along with the garden and statues became increasingly neglected.
Most of them were lost in the 19th century when a military hospital was temporarily housed in the palace. Today, the palace houses the Office of the Government of the Slovak Republic and is off-limits to the public.
Your next stop is Freedom Square (22) which lies directly opposite to the Archbishop’s Summer Palace.
22. Freedom Square & the Fountain of Union
The Freedom Square (Námestie slobody) is the largest public square in Bratislava. The centerpiece of the square is the imposing Fountain of Union (Fontána Družby), built by local Slovak sculptors. It is not only the biggest fountain in Bratislava but also the whole of Slovakia.
It was designed in such a manner that water would flow from an underground tunnel before bursting into the air, creating an impressive spectacle. It is modeled after the shape of the linden flower, a sacred plant in Slavic mythology.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the fountain ceased to be maintained, permitting seeping water to damage its underground control spaces. The fountain has been a dry and inert structure ever since water stopped flowing in 2007.
It has been estimated that repairing the fountain would cost one million euros and no one is willing to cough up the dough. It’s a bit of a shame as I reckon it would look nice it was repaired. Anyway, it serves as a reminder to Bratislava’s Soviet past.
Your next stop is the Slovak Radio Building (23) which can be reached by heading left on Námestie slobody and continuing straight onto Mýtna. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.
23. Slovak Radio Building
The infamous Slovak Radio Building is one of the more unusual things to see in Bratislava. Completed in 1983, it is a fascinating example of post-war modern architecture.
The huge brown building looks like an inverted pyramid balancing on a pointed tip that’s been thrust into the ground. Naturally, the building’s eccentric and provocative shape has been subject to high praise and intense scorn.
It has now been designated a national cultural monument. Count me among its fans since I felt eerily besotted by this building.
Your next stop is the Slavin Memorial (24). You’ll be walking a distance of 1.9 km.
24. Slavin Memorial
You’ve now reached the final sight on this walking tour of Bratislava. The Slavin Memorial is one of the best things to see in Bratislava. The memorial pays tribute to the thousands of Soviet soldiers killed in battles with the Nazis around Bratislava in the latter stages of World War II.
It consists of a central hall of honor with various statues and a symbolic sarcophagus made of white marble. The exterior walls bear the dates of the liberation of various places in Slovakia in the years 1944-1945. It also features a 40-meter obelisk is topped by a bronze figure of a Red Army soldier holding a banner.
The monument is surrounded by a cemetery containing over 6,800 war graves. It is used as a venue for official celebrations.
Walking along the paths around the mass and individual graves is a reflective experience that makes you ponder the futility of war. The Slavin Memorial also accords you great views of the distant Small Carpathian mountains to the north.
What Else to See in Bratislava
There are plenty more things to see and do in Bratislava than what we have covered in our walking tour. Places like the scenic Devin Castle, the amazing Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum and the Neo-Gothic Zichy Castle all demand to be seen.
Where to Stay in Bratislava
Since nearly all of Bratislava’s attractions are located in the city center (Old Town), it is best to select a hotel close to the center. These are our recommendations on where to stay:
Hostel: Wild Elephants Hostel, a great hostel with a lively atmosphere, just off the Main Square in the Old Town
Budget: Garni Hotel VIRGO, a small, congenial hotel in a quiet location, about 10 minutes on foot from Bratislava Castle and the Old Town
Mid-range: LOFT Hotel Bratislava, a chic boutique hotel with sleek interiors, near the Presidential Palace and only a 10-minute walk from the main train station
Splurge: Marrol’s Boutique Hotel, sumptuous top-choice pick with retro-style interiors and excellent amenities in a quiet location of the Old Town
Now, what do you think? Did you enjoy our self-guided walking tour of Bratislava? Are there any other stops that we should be adding? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!