Marina Popjakova might not be a native of Bratislava, but she certainly feels like one after having lived there for so long. This self-proclaimed “economist wannabe” and movie enthusiast thinks Bratislava deserves more attention than it gets–and shares her enthusiasm for Slovakia’s capital city with the world as a volunteer for Spotted by LocalsHere are some of Marina’s favorite things about the “Beauty on the Danube.”

Read Marina’s articles on Spotted by Locals. 

Bratislava is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to Bratislava Castle. Apart from being the main trademark of the city (it is featured on the Slovak euro coins), it’s also a well-positioned starting point from which to tour the historic city center.

My city’s best museum is Nedbalka gallery because on its five round-shaped floors you can find the best Slovak modern art of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Cera Mel is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs–especially if you want to take home something sweet. The whole shop is dedicated to honey and all sorts of handmade honey-related products.

The Slavín war memorial pays tribute to the thousands of Soviet soldiers who died during WWII while liberating Bratislava from Nazi control. (Photograph by misterpeter, Flickr)

The Slavín pays tribute to the thousands of Soviet soldiers who died during WWII while liberating Bratislava from Nazi control. (Photograph by misterpeter, Flickr)

You can see my city best from the Slavín war memorial. Located on the top of a hill, this popular tourist spot also offers one a lovely panoramic view of Bratislava.

Locals know to skip more hoity-toity restaurants and check out one of the city’s bistros instead to get some authentic food.

In the past, notable people like NHL hockey player Peter Šťastný, figure skater Ondrej Nepela, and virtuoso pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel have called my city home.

May and June are the best times to visit my city because you avoid the summer heat wave and can enjoy the milder weather on one of the city center’s many terraces.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Železná studienka. This vast forest park is very popular among joggers and cyclists, but also those who simply want to relax in its greenery.

My city really knows how to celebrate May because we have a special festival called Majáles to celebrate spring and mark the opening of the cultural season in Bratislava on the southern bank of Danube.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they call the major landmarks by their former, communist-era names. Thus, you can still hear people say: “Let’s meet at Gottwald Square” (now Námestie Slobody) or “at Forum Hotel” (now Crowne Plaza).

For a fancy night out, I go to Sky Bar downtown to enjoy a great view of the castle and the city at night.

Just outside my city, you can visit the Devín castle ruins, overlooking the confluence of the Danube and Moravia rivers and the Austro-Slovak borders. From April until September you can take a sightseeing boat here.

Devín Castle, now in ruins, was built on a cliff at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers.  (Photograph by peatc, Flickr)

Devín Castle, now in ruins, was built on a cliff at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers. (Photograph by peatc, Flickr)

My city is known for being one of the youngest capitals in Europe, but really it is a city with a long history. Bratislava was even the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th-18th centuries.

The best outdoor market in my city is Dobrý trh. It is held only a few times a year, but it offers a great opportunity to try homemade products from local producers and enjoy great food, drinks, and cultural programs.

Moje café and grocery is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Minerva hamburger is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, check out Citylife.sk or the International Events in Bratislava Facebook page.

My city’s biggest sports event is any ice hockey game. Watch one at the new Ondrej Nepela Arena.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I avoid the city’s tempting shopping malls and take a walk in the old streets of the city center instead. Later on, I eschew the city’s many multiplex theaters in favor of its small independent cinemas such as Kino Mladosť or Lumière.

To escape the crowds, I skip the public transport and take a long walk alongside the river to clear my head.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Elijah Wood in his Lord of the Rings role (Frodo Baggins) because, just like hobbits, my city can be overlooked for its small size even though it holds a lot of potential inside.

The dish that represents my city best is Bratislavský rožok (walnut or poppy seed-filled croissant), and beer from local breweries like Bratislavský meštiansky pivovar and Zámocký pivovar is my city’s signature drink.

 

The Church of Saint Elisabeth--or Blue Church--in Old Town Bratislava (Photograph by peatc, Flickr)

The Church of Saint Elisabeth–or Blue Church–in Old Town Bratislava (Photograph by peatc, Flickr)

Church of Saint Elisabeth–known locally as “the Blue church”–is my favorite building in town because of its originality (I don’t believe there are many blue churches in Europe) and because it reminds me of Gaudi’s buildings in Barcelona.

The most random thing about my city is that you can find peculiar statues anywhere you look. One of the most famous is a workman peeking out from below a manhole cover.

KC Dunaj is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Nu Spirit Club.

A scene from the movie Eurotrip showing you how to stay in a five-star hotel for only $1.83 could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should have a picnic in Medická garden under the blossoming magnolia trees.

In the summer you should cool down in one of the lakes surrounding the city. We might not have a sea nearby, but when the summer heat comes you can catch some rays in Zlaté Piesky or Nové Košariská.

In the fall you should take the Small Carpathian Wine route. The Bratislava region has a strong viticultural history. When wine season begins, local villages offer great wine-tasting experiences.

Bratislava is known for its whimsical pubic art  (Photograph by waxorian, Flickr)

Bratislava is known for its whimsical pubic art (Photograph by waxorian, Flickr)

In the winter you should visit Bratislava’s Christmas market. The whole city gathers in the city center to eat lokše (potato pancakes) and drink mulled wine while listening to the concerts. If you get cold, you can warm up by making a few laps around the ice skating rink.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the dance chimes on Hurbanovo square. Just jump on the small metal squares and you’ll have the time of your life!

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that the whole historical city center is a pedestrian zone, so you can visit almost everything by foot. A fun alternative is to take Prešporáčik, a small train which takes you around all the major spots.

The best book about my city is Búranie Podhradia: Stavba Mosta SNP which details the history and circumstances in which the SNP Bridge was built.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it’s a “little big city”–full of its own unique charms.

Comments

  1. Marina Popjakova
    Bratislava
    April 15, 5:49 pm

    Hi Nicola, you took the words right out of my mouth :) It is true that Prague or Vienna are beautiful cities with a big history and thus Bratislava is facing a big competition and is often overlooked. But I always say that every city has something to offer; Bratislava has also its history and its specific vibe so it’s also worth a detour. You should definitely come to visit.

  2. Nicola Hilditch-Short
    April 9, 10:50 am

    I would like to visit Bratislava soon, I have heard wonderful things. I have visited Prague and really enjoyed it but feel that Bratislava would be maybe a more authentic experience with it being slightly less popular but just as interesting by the looks of it.

    http://www.nichilditch-short.co.uk/

  3. Rob Muhuhu
    Nairobi, Kenya
    April 3, 9:11 am

    I Love the last picture of a man coming out of a manhole. Thats a great sense of art in the town. http://nairobinationalparkdaytour.blogspot.com