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Bratislava - When and where to visit
Central Bratislava is small, neat and compact and you will not find it easy to get lost. Having said that, the twisting, turning streets of the compact Old Town may get a bit confusing after sampling the excellent local brews!
The spires of St Martin's Cathedral and St Michael's Tower dominate the Bratislava skyline © DUOMEDIA
Bratislava’s Old Town and the castle are separated by the main road Staromestská leading to the Most SNP (SNP Bridge). To build this bridge and flyover section of the road in 1972, the Jewish synagogue and ghetto were demolished. The Danube (Dunaj, pronounced ‘doon-eye’) runs along the side of the Old Town, flowing west to east as it passes through Bratislava on its way from the Black Forest to the Black Sea.
The business area of Bratislava is situated to the east of the Old Town, as well as to the north, clustered around Námestie SNP, although some banks and offices are found within the Old Town too. The gruesome modern housing district of Petržalka spreads out in a vast concrete jungle on the southern side, or right bank, of the Danube, and the district is trapped in an enclave of Slovakia that lies between the Danube and the borders with Austria and Hungary.
Travellers to Bratislava are lucky as they have two airport options – Bratislava and Vienna Schwechat (only 61km away) – giving more variety of route, cost, timing and budget flight possibilities. Ticket prices will be higher during peak summer season (June–August) and at Christmas and New Year. Airport transfers are operated by the non-stop Airport Service, who can also arrange transport to airports in Vienna, Brno, Ostrava, Prague and Budapest. Bus 61 (travel time 30mins) runs to the main railway station every 20 minutes from where tram 1 or bus 93 or X13 takes you to the city centre in 10 minutes. Taxis are also available (travel time 20mins) and cost around €20–40. Alternatively, there are many car-hire firms at Bratislava Airport arrivals.
If you don’t fancy flying, or want to stop off en route, try the train. First cross the Channel by Eurostar to Brussels, take the high-speed Thalys to Cologne, then the Cologne-Vienna sleeper. Slovak Railways has information in English about train connections. You’ll arrive at Bratislava’s main railway station, Hlavná stanica, a bustling centre of life.
It is possible to travel to Bratislava by bus/coach from all major European cities; Eurolines is the most widely used company. Bratislava’s main bus station is at Mlynské nivy 31, from where it's a 15-minute walk to the Old Town centre, but too far to walk if carrying luggage. Taxis will whisk you into town, or take trolleybus 208 to Hodžovo námestie, trolleybus 210 to the main railway station, trolleybus 202 or 205 to Rajská (Kamenné námestie) or bus 70 to Most SNP. The bus station has several ticket offices, a small café, serving excellent pastries and upstairs are toilets (€0.40).
The transport system is impressively well organised with buses, trams and trolleys all linking up, they all run on time, are comfortable and clean and the prices are low. Therefore visitors should buy (and stamp) a ticket to give encouragement. There’s a route planner at www.imhd.sk with a brief history of Bratislava transport. The Bratislava transport company is at www.dpb.sk.
Bratislava has an excellent network of trolleybuses © Leonid Andronov, Shutterstock
There are nine tram routes running all around town, numbered 1–9. The trams generally run between 05.00 and 22.45. Be aware that the number 1 runs on one continuous loop (not on two lanes going forward and back), so the route going home to the hotel may not follow the same streets as you came in on, especially in town.
There are 66 bus routes, numbered 20–196 (with numerous missing numbers), one microbus x13, which runs between the main railway station and the New National Theatre (Nové SND) at Eurovea Shopping Mall, and 20 nightbus routes, Buses run generally between 05.00 and 23.30 and all link up well with the trams and trolleys, and services run on time. Probably the bus route you will use the most is the 29 (28 at weekends) to Devín.
There are 14 trolleybus routes, numbered 33 and 64 (a mixture of bus and trolley) and 201–212, running mostly in the hills and northern parts of town. Trolleys run generally between 04.00 and 23.00 and also can go around in a loop and come back on a different route from the way you went.