Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! I’m back in the office after traveling most of March in Europe (largely for business with some pleasure). Signs of early spring were evident in all the cities I visited (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Paris).
Yes, I was in Paris during the protests which are continuing into April. The upside for my clients is that they will know what to do when in a European city and their itinerary is impacted by unforeseen circumstances. The bottom line is that it was a relatively minor inconvenience to tourism contrary to what the media portrayed. But there are tricks to being prepared.
This week’s newsletter highlights my time in Bratislava, Slovakia, a hidden gem capital city in Europe. I toured Bratislava’s Old Town on a day stop while on an AmaWaterways river cruise of the Danube River from Vienna to Budapest. If a European river cruise is on your travel bucket list, reach out to me, and let’s see if we can get you on one before the end of 2023 or sometime in 2024. AND I highly recommend asking a few friends/couples/families to join you!
Read on for the scoop on Bratislava, Slovakia…
The Four European capital cities on the Danube River
There are four capital cities located on the Danube River:
- Vienna, Austria: Vienna is known for its rich cultural heritage, Baroque architecture, and vibrant arts and music scene. I’ve been telling everyone how much I love Vienna, and I’ve spent considerable time there over the last 6 months!
- Bratislava, Slovakia: The capital city of Slovakia, Bratislava is a charming city that offers a mix of history, culture, and natural beauty.
- Budapest, Hungary: Often called the “Queen of the Danube,” Budapest is a stunning city that straddles both banks of the river. It is famous for its thermal baths, delicious cuisine, and beautiful architecture. Budapest is truly incredible – more details in a future newsletter.
- Belgrade, Serbia: The capital of Serbia, Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has a rich history and cultural heritage. It is known for its vibrant nightlife, historic sites, and museums. I have Belgrade on my travel bucket list.
💎Hidden Gem Tip: For background, Slovakia was once part of Czechoslovakia which was separated on December 31, 1992. On that date, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic ceased to exist and were succeeded by two new states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
A Few Observations
For my day in Bratislava, I enjoyed an Old Town walking tour with a local on a cool, sunny day. The major walkway to town was merely steps from my river cruise ship – so convenient.
My initial impression of Bratislava is that it is a fascinating, charming historical city poised for a full revival (so go soon before it becomes a hot spot). There were many local families and friend groups enjoying the city mixed in with tourists, and the vibe was friendly.
One fun observation was the quirky statues that I came upon while strolling and listening to the guide including a man peeking out of a manhole. These folks have a good sense of humor.
Something else that caught my eye was the beverage prices. I’ve never seen prices so low in a capital city in Europe – coffee, beer, and wine were only EUR 1.50, 2.50, and 2.00 respectively! Menu prices were also low, and when I asked the river cruise crew about it, they said they try to stock up on necessities in Bratislava with the relatively low cost of goods.
Another fun, quirky fact: you can see cannonballs embedded in building walls from the Napoleonic wars.
You’ll easily find restaurants offering traditional dishes like bryndzové halušky (sheep cheese dumplings), goulash, and schnitzel, as well as elegant cafes with coffee and pastries like the places you see in Vienna and Budapest. It’s always a good idea to stop for a meal or treat and sit outside to people-watch.
Don’t Miss in Bratislava
There’s more to do than time will allow if you’re visiting while on a river cruise. I share the list below so you can prioritize based on your interests:
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is a beautiful city with a rich history and culture. Here are 10 highlights:
- Bratislava Castle: This iconic castle overlooking the city is a must-visit attraction. It dates back to the 9th century and has served as a royal residence for centuries.
- Old Town: The historic Old Town of Bratislava is a charming place to stroll around with its colorful buildings, narrow streets, and many cafes and restaurants.
- St. Martin’s Cathedral: This Gothic cathedral is one of the most important landmarks of Bratislava. It was the coronation site of many Hungarian kings and queens.
- Devin Castle: This castle ruin sits on a cliff above the Danube River and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
- Michael’s Gate: This 14th-century tower is the only remaining gate from the medieval fortifications of Bratislava. It now houses a museum of weapons.
- Danube River and bridges: The Danube River flows through Bratislava, and a walk along its banks or a river cruise is a great way to see the city from a different perspective.
- Slovak National Museum: This museum has a vast collection of historical artifacts, art, and natural history exhibits.
- UFO Tower: This futuristic observation deck and restaurant sits atop the SNP Bridge and offers panoramic views of Bratislava and the surrounding area.
- Bratislava Zoo: This popular zoo is home to over 150 species of animals, including many endangered species. Perfect for families.
- Slavin Memorial: This war memorial is dedicated to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Bratislava from the Nazis in 1945. It offers stunning views of the city.
Inspired? Reach out to me now to begin the planning process and get your questions answered.
Wishing you and your family continued good health,
Make your own Wanderlist for 2023! As a reminder, Wanderlist is an online portal where you can research, explore, and create shareable lists of destinations and experiences. Share your list with me so I can make it happen for you.