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Bavaria to Bratislava and Back in three weeks

Bavaria to Bratislava and Back in three weeks

Old Nov 22nd, 2018, 03:57 AM
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Bavaria to Bratislava and Back in three weeks

The itinerary may not one a lot of people would probably take – it skips Salzburg and Vienna (been to both on previous trips) and includes places like Graz that most people haven’t even heard of, but it served my purposes – to see some places I’ve missed on previous trips like Bratislava, and several UNESCO sites (Hallstatt, Graz, Wachu Valley, Bamberg, Regensburg) and my husband’s desire to check out a lot of Bavarian beer (he’s a home brewer/beer snob).

It included:

Munich 3 nights, Hallstatt 1, Graz 3, Bratislava 3, Wachu Valley 2, Nurnberg 3 (day trips to Bamberg & Regensberg), Rothenburg o.d. Taber 1, Heidelburg 2.


Turns out a lot of Fodors folks were right about three nights in Graz and Bratislava being too much (could have cut a day from each). But I was right about the one nighters. Hallstatt was hugely crowded with tour groups during the day, but was almost deserted evening and early morning. Pretty much the same with Rothenburg.


We did all our traveling by TRAIN The first one I booked on bahn.de, the official German train website. It was easy to use, but Capital One Visa did not like it at all and refused all subsequent attempts, so I ended up booking all the rest on “thetrainline.eu” which had the exact same schedules and prices as the German and Austrian sites. The only problems we had with regards to trains were some very short connection times. The main screen you get when searching (on any of the sites) showed departure and arrival times and how many connections there were, but to see details such as how long you had for the connection, you had to go to another screen, which I didn’t do as I ‘assumed’ if they were booking a journey from point A to point B, it would be a ‘doable’ connection. Sometimes they were only 3 or 4 minutes long meaning we had a few stressful moments. Although I don’t think any of the trains we took were totally full (so you could have purchased them on the day of travel) it did save considerably financially. In one case I checked the price of the €19.90 tickets we had and the price if we bought them that day would have been €49.90.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2018, 04:06 AM
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Photos of the trip - Germany - https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/f88619690
Austria - https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/f377335163
Bratislava - https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/p981659813



Days 1-3: We arrived in Munich around noon after our flight from Boston, via Dublin. Hotel Buddy – Uber modern. Check in on the ground floor kiosk or go up to the 2nd floor where there is another kiosk but also a nice lady to help you. The comfortable queen size bed is up against the wall but other wise fine. No closet or dresser but enough space for the two bags and surfaces to put stuff. Bathroom very modern, great rain shower, everything extremely new and clean. Could use a few hooks on the walls. AC, TV and fast wi-fi all worked great. The ‘free’ Buddy breakfast – I guess it was ‘worth the money’ - includes some cheap pastry and apples, vending machine has so-so cappuccino for €2. They set it out at 6:30 am, there may or may not be any left when you get up. €112 double (including the €10 extra for the ‘larger’ size room.)

Location is great, 5 minutes from the train station and one-minute from Karlz-platz, underneath which is a huge underground shopping center/food court. Escalators go down to it so it serves as a passage to go under the relatively busy Sonnen-strasse (one of which comes up almost directly in front of Hotel Buddy). Food options include Mexican, Indian, Thai, Kebab, Pasta, ‘traditional German (ham, schnitzel, etc.), sausage and fries, and numerous salad/sandwiches. One of the best-preserved city gates, (Karls-tor) is on Karlzplatz, through which is pedestrian street into town.


The Neuhauser-strasse / Kaufinger-strasse is lined with some interesting buildings interspersed with more modern (late 20th century) buildings – all of which house stores like Urban Outfitters, H&M, C&A, Zara, etc. The street was spruced up in 1972 for the Munich Olympics, becoming one of Europe’s first pedestrianized streets. St. Michael’s church is right on the street; set off by a half block is the Frauen-kirche, the tallest thing in central Munich with twin clock towers topped with green onion domes. Five minutes brings you to the Marien-platz with the New and Old Town Halls, clearly the center of the action in Munich. The new town hall is gigantic and impressive but I actually like the Old Town hall better. Some towns in Germany (most of which were badly damaged in WWII) rebuilt in modern style (e.g. Frankfurt) but Munich chose to renovate and rebuild its old town center. There are many beautiful buildings, but they are interspersed with some more boring, mid 20th century stuff and this is evident in the buildings around Marienplatz.


We wandered around the Viktualien-markt but decided to go the Hofbrauhaus for lunch. The Viktualienmarkt is a huge market with mostly permanent stalls selling all manner of food (bakeries, butchers, fruits and veggies, cheese, flowers, etc.) including prepared foods. In the center is a beer garden and you can get food at any of the stalls and bring it to the tables in the beer garden as long as you order a drink (but all the tables were full). The market has been there for 200 years. The Hofbräuhaus – one of prettiest buildings and squares (Platzl) in Munich has been selling beer for over 400 years. We shared a table with a couple from Frankfurt, who spoke only marginal English (which was still way better than our German – but my husband did get to try out a few words). So we had a fun ‘conversation’ along with our bratwurst (grilled, pork sausage, served with mustard and sauerkraut) and some white sausage that is apparently the classic Munich sausage. It is veal and comes boiled which at first did not look that appetizing, but the mustard that came with it was really good (dark and sweet) so we actually liked that better. They pointed out the obvious that Germans are referred to as ‘krauts’ because of sauerkraut. My husband ordered a dark beer and I think it was the only one I saw, everyone else (hundreds of people) were drinking the light stuff.

After lunch we visited Peters-kirche. It’s Munich’s oldest church, begun in 1181 but rebuilt numerous times in different architectural style since then, today it is an elaborate Rococo / "Bavarian Baroque" style. The most interesting thing inside is the bizarre gem studded skeleton (of St Muundita). The view from the tower (307 steps, €3 each) is probably the best in the city. It is a pretty narrow stairway but there are numerous landings where you can ‘pull over’ to let people going in the other direction pass. I had read that was ‘scary and unsafe’ and so crowded at the viewing platform that it was not worth doing, but I didn’t find it anymore crowded than most towers (and I climb a lot of them). The views certainly made it worthwhile.

Last edited by isabel; Nov 22nd, 2018 at 04:10 AM.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2018, 11:49 AM
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Wonderful photos, as always.
We visited Bavaria in September and your photos are a lovely reminder of how gorgeous that part of the world is.
I remember being discouraged from visiting Rothenburg by (German) family and friends who said it was like ‘Disneyland’. Well, I went anyway, and loved it. Sure, it is busy. But so glad I didn’t miss it. And I took some German relatives and they were pleasantly surprised.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2018, 12:01 PM
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We skipped Bratislava while in Austria and Hungary. We were advised by several locals not to bother. After seeing your pictures I should have bothered. It looks lovely. Next time. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2018, 05:07 PM
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Firstly, Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans on this board! I just returned home from celebrating with family and eating a lot of turkey!

I decided to check Fodors before I go to bed, and was happy to see Isabel's report and photos of Bavaria, Austria and Bratislava. Your photos are gorgeous, as usual!!! I haven't been to Bratislava, but it looks very pretty and interesting, and I'm thinking of combining it with a trip to Vienna and Budapest some day.I know you said 3 nights is too much for Bratislava. Would you recommend 1 or 2 nights?
Thank you for taking the time to write your report and post your amazing photos!
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Old Nov 23rd, 2018, 04:03 AM
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I definitely feel that Rothenburg (and to a lesser extent, Hallstatt) were worth seeing despite the masses of tour groups. I'm also glad I didn't listen to people who said it wasn't worth it because it was too 'touristy'. But I am glad I had an overnight, it was like a switch was flipped in the early evening and morning without the tour groups.


For Bratislava I think two nights would be perfect, but really even doable in a day trip or one night (with half of the two adjoining days). There were some tours off the river cruise boats but nothing on the scale of Rothenburg, so just being there in the day would have been OK. It is a perfect stopover on a trip that includes Vienna and Budapest. In fact, I did the train between those two cities and it went right through Bratislava and I remember telling myself I should have stopped. Oh well, it made this trip.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2018, 04:13 AM
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Munich continued:

Central Munich is small enough to easily cover in a day (we felt a day and a half was just about right) – we explored churches, markets, gates and gardens. We wandered around the Allstadt as far as the Residenz (on Max-Joseph Platz) and National Theater – reasonably impressive but nowhere near the top of ‘impressive palaces and theaters in Europe’. The Theatiner-kirche and Odeonsplatz were much better. For one thing the church is bright yellow and the Odeon is an Italian style loggia with two nice big lions guarding the steps into it, and another nice lion inside. There were also lions all along the side of the Residenz which, takes up the entire block between the two squares. Then we checked out the Hofgarten – tiny but with a nice little rotunda (with two guys playing violin) and several fountains and manicured flowerbeds.

We checked out the three city gates. Munich was originally protected by a city wall with nine gates, only three of which still remain. There's one we walked through every time we entered or left the center from our hotel, Karlstor, been seriously renovated but still looks very 'castle-y'. The oldest one, Sendlinger Tor is a short walk from Marienplatz and happens to be right next to a church we wanted to see, Asam Church,very tiny and very rococo, but much darker inside than most rococo churches, it was built by two brothers as their private church without an official order. It ranks among the finest Rococo style churches in the world but it was too dark and too ‘busy’ for my taste. The third gate, to the west of the center is Isator which looks totally different on the inside from the outside. There are several other interesting churches including Michaels-kirche which is the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps and the barrel vault inside is the second largest in the world after St Peter's in Rome. I don't know why facts like that interest me but they do for some reason. Anyway, it was pretty. All the church interiors in Munich were free to enter.

Throughout the center of Munich are several small squares, two of the prettiest are Alter Hof (1253) and Munzhof. Built between 1563 and 1567, this building has housed the imperial stables, the first museum north of the Alps, and a branch of the government mint. Today, it's headquarters for Munich's Landmark Preservation office. It’s connected to the Alter Hof by a covered arch.

On the other side of town is the Englischer Garten – the largest city park in Europe (so they say), bigger than Central Park. Don’t know cause we only did the lower half, and it was a good mile or more but somehow didn’t feel like it was on a scope with Central Park. Lot’s less ‘stuff’. There is an interesting very fast flowing river – not sure how it flows that fast in such a flat city, but in parts it’s fast enough that there are actual waves and guys surfing. Also a nice little waterfall, some swans, lots of tree shaded paths and large lawns. About half way in is a Japanese pagoda (large size, but all wood, not painted) surrounded by a large beer garden (also numerous kiosks serving food, was too early for lunch but looked like it would be good).

Our last day in Munich was cold and rainy - so possible day trips we had considered were not going to be worth it. However the Deutches Museum and the July sales kept us busy.

Last edited by isabel; Nov 23rd, 2018 at 04:15 AM.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2018, 04:18 AM
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Days 4-5 -

We traveled from Munich to HALLSTATT by train. The first leg was the 7:51 to Salzburg where we had about ten minutes to change trains and even though the Salzburg station is large (and modern and nicer than Munich’s) the train was on time and the platforms well marked so no problem. Then we had to change in a smaller town and 6 of our 11 minutes were taken up with the train being late. No time to dawdle but we made the train with about 2 minute to spare. Arrived in Hallstatt on time and followed the crowd to the waiting ferry, “The Stephanie”, for the five minute crossing ($2.50 per person, each way).

Hallstatt is located on the west bank of the Hallstätter See (Lake Hallstatt), a UNESCO World Heritage site, while trains run on the east bank only. Hallstatt train station (Bahnhof) is thus on the “wrong” side of the lake. This boat ride would probably be gorgeous in nice weather, and was even pretty in the clouds and drizzle. (As was the scenery on the train). The maps of Hallstatt (on line and posted on signs) are not that great but there’s really only a few streets and we headed away from the ferry and through the central square, kept following the road which hugs the lake. By then it was really raining fairly hard but nothing to do but keep going. It was at least a 10-15 minute walk but when we saw signs for the funicular I knew it was close. From the funicular station it’s just about a block to the hotel, Gasthof Gruner Anger.


Gasthof Gruner Anger is pleasant enough – looks like every other house in town. It was about 1:45 and the room wasn’t ready but we were not about to go out walking around in the pouring rain so we sat and had a beer till the room was ready around 2:30. Pretty large room, big bathroom, every thing relatively new, fast Wi-Fi. There isn’t a ‘restaurant’ but guests can have dinner if you tell the host by 4pm, choice of pork or fish. So we ordered dinner, which is served at 6pm. It was quite good, came with soup, salad and desert for €14 each, drinks extra.


Hallstatt is the oldest still-inhabited village in Europe, owing its longevity to the local deposits of salt. Between it’s history and setting it is on the UNESCO list. It is very scenic, even on a cloudy day. There were a lot of people, but I wouldn’t say it was mobbed, perhaps the rain kept the crowds down (I don’t know, where do tour buses go when it rains?). Asian’s outnumbering everyone else by about 10 to one. According to our hotel host, Hallstatt has become so popular with Chinese that someone in China built a complete replica of the town, which has served to make it even more popular.


We walked the length of town – if you just strolled and didn’t stop to take photos it would take maybe half hour tops. We looked in both churches and climbed a ways up the hill – to what turned out to be a parking lot with a view. Apparently there is a highway that goes through the mountains just above the town. There is also a pretty significant waterfall right in the middle of town, the best view of which is from said parking lot.


The following morning it was still drizzly. At 9 am the town was almost deserted, by 10 am there were a good number of people but still not oppressive, by 11 it was crowded. We wandered around to the various viewpoints at each end of town. Decided it was too cloudy to make it worth the money to take the funicular up.


All in all Hallstatt is certainly a very pretty town in a beautiful setting. But you can walk from one end to the other in half an hour, the shops are all just touristy crap. Even the paths up the hill above town are not that great – the mountains coming down to the lake are very pretty but the town from above is not all that striking – best views are from one side or the other, from within and from above not so much. You could do the salt mine, or rent little boats and tool around the lake but neither of those really enticed us. Twenty-four hours was more than enough. But I think it was the right decision for us to do a one-nighter there, thus being there before and after the tour groups.

Last edited by isabel; Nov 23rd, 2018 at 04:22 AM.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2018, 05:58 AM
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I've been following along and enjoying your impressions.

We like Bratislava, but with the caveat that we come and go from Vienna whenever there is something of interest going on. Even if I added "everything" that one might do as a visitor to the list, I don't see more than one overnight being needed, either.

We had a different experience in Hallstatt; that is, perfect weather, but agree that the little town is completely different after the last tour bus leaves. The photos from our late afternoon and early morning walks are the ones by which we choose to remember Hallstatt. (Not all the stores have tourist tchotchke. The Salzkontor store sells wonderful salt blends for cooking, made with local flowers and herbs.)

Looking forward to more!
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Old Nov 23rd, 2018, 06:58 AM
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Sorry the weather was bad in Hallstatt. I spent two nights there and loved the setting, but it was twelve years ago and a lot less crowded.

I enjoyed Graz enough to go back, so will be interested to read your impression.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2018, 11:32 AM
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I am enjoying reading your report. I have been wanting to go to Hallstatt and last time I was in Bavaria, we just did not have enough time.
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Old Nov 24th, 2018, 03:11 AM
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I am glad I went to Hallstatt, just disappointed it didn't live up to my expectations. I find that happens a lot. Places I have really high expectations for disappoint because they don't quite live up to them - doesn't mean they aren't great places and worth visiting. But them most of the time I really love places that I had just 'average' expectations for. In the case of Hallstatt I saw photos of it while researching my first trip to the area (over 15 years ago) but we couldn't fit it in and ever since I've had this image in my head. Well, it actually does look like that image. It's just that's pretty much all there is.

I did see all the interesting salt products but this was the beginning of a 5 week trip so hauling heavy salt around (every pound counts on flights) wasn't a good idea. I had done the salt mine tour in Krakow a few years ago so didn't feel the need to do this one.


So onward to GRAZ. Our first train was 8 minutes late pulling into Hallstatt and we only had a 6 minute connection so we were sure we’d miss it but just as we were pulling in to the station where our connection was, so was our next train – we literally ran across the platform and hopped on.

Days 6-7 We spent two and a half days just exploring Graz. The main squares and buildings on the main streets of Graz are really nice – it’s a UNESCO site after all. According to Unesco’s website “A harmonious blend of architectural styles and artistic movements that have succeeded each other from the Middle Ages until the 18th century, from the many neighboring regions of Central and Mediterranean Europe.” The main streets seem to be mostly car free – though the trams go through them.

The main square, Hauptplatz, is nice, lots of ancient houses with red-tile roofs and narrow gables. A few have arcades and elaborate decorations. The town hall is beautiful. The square was full of food trucks, which while they did provide us with a couple tasty lunches, sort of detracted from the ambiance. There were a lot of them. Herrengasse is the main street and it leads from the square to another square with a large fountain and benches. It's car free but the trams go down it so not exactly pedestrianized. But has some impressive buildings including one called the 'painted' building featuring a slew of Greek an Roman gods doing various things.

The main building I wanted to see in Graz certainly lived up to it's reputation. The Landhaus is a 1557 Renaissance 'masterpiece, reminiscent of a Venetian palazzo' (which it was). Supposedly the finest Renaissance building north of the Alps and I believe that. I had read that there are concerts there and sure enough, a free orchestra was performing in the courtyard the evening we arrived. I loved that building so much we went through the courtyard every time we passed it (and it's very central so several times a day). I just couldn't stop taking pictures of it. Nicely lit in the evening too.

A few atmospheric side streets from there lead to Glockenspielplatz, one of the prettiest squares in the city and featuring an 1884 Glockenspeil.Graz’s cathedral (Dom, St Giles), I didn’t think was anything special, but right next to it is the Mausoleum and the turquoise domes of the church and mausoleum together make a nice site. But even more interesting across the street is the Hofburg (all residences of the Habsburgs were called “Hofburg”. The burg itself is pretty plain (nothing ‘castle’ like about it) and if there was a way to tour the interior we didn’t find it. But it’s main feature, a double spiral staircase we did find. If you like stone spiral staircases this one is a stunner. That alone (well that plus the Landhaus) made the trip to Graz worth it for me. Just behind it is a small but pleasant city park with duck pond and some statuary.

Probably the most noticeable feature of Graz is the Schlossburg, up on a hill in the center of town. There is only a small part of the original fortress, but the 16th century clock/bell tower remains and there is now a lovely park around it with a beer garden and the few remains of the fortress itself. The views are pretty good.

The Mur river runs through Graz, just outside the main part of the old town and there is an interesting ‘thing’ in the middle of it. I guess you could describe it as a footbridge with a man made glass island in the center with a café. Definitely unusual. And just past that on the other side of the river is the Kunsthaus, an art museum in a building, referred to as the ‘friendly alien’ which looks kind of like a blue glass balloon. Very interesting contrast to the surrounding neighborhood of old gabled buildings and square.

There were numerous other squares and neighborhoods and several nice churches.
I would say Graz can definitely be ‘seen’ in a day or day and a half. If you wanted to do Eggenburg Palace and the armory museum that would take another half day – unfortunately both were closed on Monday which is the day we would have gone so we didn’t get to them. I love most old European cities and I'm glad I saw Graz, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest someone go there instead of Saltzburg or Vienna. Since I had been to both of them previously, visiting Graz was a good decision for this trip. It was also very 'untouristy' in the sense that I didn't see any tour groups, and whatever tourists there were blended in with the locals.

Last edited by isabel; Nov 24th, 2018 at 03:18 AM.
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Old Nov 24th, 2018, 05:59 AM
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One reason I liked Graz was just because it was less touristed. Nice town for just wandering around and drinking coffee. I did make it to Schloss Eggenberg. It's mostly about the frescoes, and you need to be there when the light is good as there is no electricity. There are quite a few museums, although I only visited the History Museum, which seems to have moved since I was there. I do think the Kunsthaus is a monstrosity! BTW, if anyone is thinking of going there are very good open-faced sandwiches here: https://www.frankowitsch.at/
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Old Nov 24th, 2018, 07:33 AM
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"I love most old European cities and I'm glad I saw Graz, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest someone go there instead of Saltzburg or Vienna."

Agreed. We have used the city as a base for a couple of weekends, to visit Piber for its Lippizaner Almabtreib and Reigersburg for its castle. Graz' weekend farmers market is pleasant; and yes, the city is pleasantly untouristed.
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Old Nov 25th, 2018, 05:22 AM
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Days 8-10 BRATISLAVA


Bratislava’s compact old town has been completely and beautifully renovated and most of it is car free. It’s much smaller than I expected (the city’s population is close to half a million, and while most old European city’s old towns are pretty compact, this seemed much smaller than most). Similar to – but not as picturesque or interesting as – Prague, Krakow, Tallinn. But so small, without stopping you can literally walk across it in ten minutes. Easy to cover the entire area, including all the side streets, in a few hours. The castle on the hill is a nice touch but more scenic from a distance. Surrounding the old town is a massive area of Communist era concrete apartments but you really don’t notice them at all while in the old town. It’s a relaxing little city with a nice setting on the Danube, with plenty of picturesque squares and side streets to explore, and lots of reasonably priced restaurants with “Slovakian” food (as well as an assortment of Scottish, Irish and Mexican).


Tons of river cruises stop here (one day I counted 12, they were even ‘double parked’). So there were plenty of tour groups wandering around, but overall it was not clogged with tourists and the whole center being car free was really nice. The one thing it lacked was interesting shops. Can’t remember any other city with so few stores selling anything at all I was interested in. The tourists shops sold nothing but junk and there were almost no other stores in the center.


We stayed at Aplend City Hotel Michaisk. There are two Aplend City Hotels in Bratislava. Bratislava train station is about 20 minute walk to St Michael’s gate and this hotel is just around the corner from the gate. One of the nicest little lanes in town and we got upgraded to an apartment – huge, two big rooms, full kitchen, spotless, really comfortable. Right next door to the hotel itself. So don’t know how the rooms there are but the apartment is fabulous. And we got breakfast – not sure if it goes with the apt. or if we got it cause we had booked a regular room.

The main square, Hlavné námestie, is small but in addition to a large fountain and the huge clock tower of the town hall, has a number of buildings from various eras,Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, as well as art nouveau. On the other side of the town hall is the Primate's Palace (Primaciálny Palác), a very pretty pink building, that is now the home of the mayor. The Old Town Hall/ Altes Rathaus is a beautiful yellow building with a gorgeous clock tower (can climb it for €2.50) for nice view of the old town and the castle as well as the Danube and theretro-futuristic SNP Bridge which was built in the late 1960s at the height of Communist excess, inspired by optimistic futurism and looks like it sprang right out of an episode of Star Trek or The Jetsons.

The ‘best’ thing in town is St. Michael's Tower (Michalská veza). It serves as the entryway into the Old Town and is actually part of the city's medieval fortification system. There is one small area of town walls remaining between there and the cathedral, opposite the castle. There was an interesting exhibit about WWII in one section. The castle itself is across the main highway (built in communist times, it goes right in front of the cathedral, done on purpose to diminish the importance of the ‘church’). There are both under and over passes to get from the old town to the castle side. One of the most interesting buildings in town is just below the castle, opposite the cathedral, the House of the Good Shepherd, a very narrow Rococo style building, built in 1760.
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Old Nov 25th, 2018, 05:37 AM
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Originally Posted by isabel View Post
Days 8-10 BRATISLAVA


Bratislava’s compact old town has been completely and beautifully renovated and most of it is car free. It’s much smaller than I expected (the city’s population is close to half a million, and while most old European city’s old towns are pretty compact, this seemed much smaller than most). Similar to – but not as picturesque or interesting as – Prague, Krakow, Tallinn. But so small, without stopping you can literally walk across it in ten minutes. Easy to cover the entire area, including all the side streets, in a few hours. The castle on the hill is a nice touch but more scenic from a distance. Surrounding the old town is a massive area of Communist era concrete apartments but you really don’t notice them at all while in the old town. It’s a relaxing little city with a nice setting on the Danube, with plenty of picturesque squares and side streets to explore, and lots of reasonably priced restaurants with “Slovakian” food (as well as an assortment of Scottish, Irish and Mexican).


Tons of river cruises stop here (one day I counted 12, they were even ‘double parked’). So there were plenty of tour groups wandering around, but overall it was not clogged with tourists and the whole center being car free was really nice. The one thing it lacked was interesting shops. Can’t remember any other city with so few stores selling anything at all I was interested in. The tourists shops sold nothing but junk and there were almost no other stores in the center.


We stayed at Aplend City Hotel Michaisk. There are two Aplend City Hotels in Bratislava. Bratislava train station is about 20 minute walk to St Michael’s gate and this hotel is just around the corner from the gate. One of the nicest little lanes in town and we got upgraded to an apartment – huge, two big rooms, full kitchen, spotless, really comfortable. Right next door to the hotel itself. So don’t know how the rooms there are but the apartment is fabulous. And we got breakfast – not sure if it goes with the apt. or if we got it cause we had booked a regular room.

The main square, Hlavné námestie, is small but in addition to a large fountain and the huge clock tower of the town hall, has a number of buildings from various eras,Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, as well as art nouveau. On the other side of the town hall is the Primate's Palace (Primaciálny Palác), a very pretty pink building, that is now the home of the mayor. The Old Town Hall/ Altes Rathaus is a beautiful yellow building with a gorgeous clock tower (can climb it for €2.50) for nice view of the old town and the castle as well as the Danube and theretro-futuristic SNP Bridge which was built in the late 1960s at the height of Communist excess, inspired by optimistic futurism and looks like it sprang right out of an episode of Star Trek or The Jetsons.

The ‘best’ thing in town is St. Michael's Tower (Michalská veza). It serves as the entryway into the Old Town and is actually part of the city's medieval fortification system. There is one small area of town walls remaining between there and the cathedral, opposite the castle. There was an interesting exhibit about WWII in one section. The castle itself is across the main highway (built in communist times, it goes right in front of the cathedral, done on purpose to diminish the importance of the ‘church’). There are both under and over passes to get from the old town to the castle side. One of the most interesting buildings in town is just below the castle, opposite the cathedral, the House of the Good Shepherd, a very narrow Rococo style building, built in 1760.
Isabel, I like the way you describe the city itself, what it looks like, the architecture, the narrow lanes, etc. And I like the way you compare and contrast places to other cities, such as comparing Bratislava to Prague, etc. Or comparing Graz to Vienna and Salzsburg. It's helpful to know these things when one is planning a trip and doesn't have the time to see everything, and must decide what to leave out. I know everyone has different opinions about places, but it is still helpful to have this information as a guide.

Bratislava sounds very interesting. While a person could probably see it in a day, I think spending at least one night would be nice.
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Old Nov 25th, 2018, 08:09 AM
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We absolutely fell in love with Bratislava and wished that we had another night or two to spend there. I thought it was one of the most beautiful and interesting places I'd ever been in Europe.
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Old Nov 25th, 2018, 10:14 PM
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"The one thing it lacked was interesting shops. Can’t remember any other city with so few stores selling anything at all I was interested in. The tourists shops sold nothing but junk and there were almost no other stores in the center."

I've noticed that, as well. Aside from a Herend (which is Hungarian) shop and an upscale folk art store, there is little shopping for authentic Slovakian craft wares and the like, and little quality shopping overall.

Did you visit any of the museums? Any sampling at the craft beer places?
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Old Nov 26th, 2018, 12:26 PM
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When trying to decide how many nights for Bratislava I asked the question on Fodors and got everything from ‘just do a day trip from Vienna’ to ‘you could be happy with three days’. Well my now ‘expert’ opinion is that a day trip would be ‘ok’ – you really can see the whole old town in a few hours, and while pleasant after dark it’s not that special that you 'need' an overnight. And since it's not (yet) a major day trip destination, it wasn't that crowded during the day like some places are. However one night (with several hours each day) would be fine and two nights even better as it would allow for the visit to Devin – again, a nice enough fortress ruin but not a ‘must see’. Three nights - we were pretty bored by the second full day. Of course if your travel style is to just laze around cafes Bratislava is a pretty nice place to do that. We had several decent meals (husband sample numerous 'local' beers) and got to see a bit of the city that's not just the old center and got to Devin but we didn't do any museums, and as I said, there wasn't much shopping (which in some places can keep me busy poking around interesting shops). Here's what else we did.

Bratislava castle – We walked up to the castle – certainly a climb but probably no higher than some bell towers. You can see forever but the 20th century buildings are right up close to the old town so not that picturesque. But the Danube is pretty (though much more green than blue). Great view of the thousands of communist era apartment blocks that surround the city. Reviews of the interior of the castle were disappointing so we just walked through the grounds and gardens. More good views of the 1960s space age tower (UFO) just across the river is interesting.I'd read you could do 'tours' of the communist area buildings but we weren't that interested.


Across the highway from the castle is a section of the town walls. I had read no information on it and it wasn't even on the map we got at the TI. But there was an interesting exhibit on life in Bratislava during and after WWII that was quite interesting. Not very large or time consuming but I'm glad I explored it. The area just inside that walled section has a lot of atmospheric lanes and buildings and while I did spot the little red tourist train, other than that there we no tourists in the area.



The “Blue Church” is Bratislava’s most appealing art nouveau building (1913). Its style, sometimes known as Hungarian Secession, is repeated in the nearby grammar school on Grösslingová Street. Both the interior and exterior of the church are painted in shades of pale blue and decorated with blue majolica; even the roof is tiled with blue-glazed ceramics.

10 km west of the city center, Devín Castle is built on the top of a high crag, it towers over the small village of Devín and the confluence of the Danube and the Morava rivers, which form the border with Austria. Up to 1989 the Iron Curtain was drawn below the Castle, lined with barbed wire. Much of the literature (and the lady in the TI) said take bus 28, but when we went to buy tickets (from a kiosk, under the bridge just before the Bratislava castle ) the guy told us to get bus 29. So we did, comes every 20 minutes and takes about 20 minutes (.90€ pp each way, buy round trip as there is no where to get the tickets in Devin). You could see the castle, and the stop was marked Devin Hrad. Ten minute walk to the entrance, another 10 after you buy your tickets (€5). Very nice ruins on top of a hill with a gorgeous view of the Danube – also the Morava as it joins the Danube. Also can see 3 countries: Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. Spent about 1˝ hours climbing various parts.


Although the major ‘attraction’ to Bratislava is it’s old town center, there is also a lovely riverside promenade (part of a 10 K walk that goes across the river to the other side and back) that leads to an area of modern glass buildings including one of the nicest malls I’ve seen (Eurovea Mall)– totally glass roof, interesting bronze statues scattered around, nice fountain out front and right on the river – with tons of cafes and bars along the riverfront. Across the Danube is a huge communist era apartment sprawl that apparently houses two hundred thousand people. Had no desire to explore it but interesting to think about what the city must have been like in those days.


Overall, we were very happy we made the effort to get to Bratislava, next time we are in the 'vicinity' we'll probably go back. Definitely makes sense if going between Vienna and Budapest, or even just Vienna.

Last edited by isabel; Nov 26th, 2018 at 12:32 PM.
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Old Nov 26th, 2018, 12:41 PM
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We loved wandering the riverside promenade. And while there weren't many shopping opportunities (which was just fine with us), there seemed to be musical events at every turn, in every church and gathering spot. In two days' time we heard Gregorian chants, old Slovakian folk music, Christmas music, impromptu concertos - the amount of music was simply astounding. Maybe it was the time of year, but we were duly impressed. And yes, we ate very well there. Did not sample beer, but had a couple of delicious Irish coffee-like drinks to stave off the cold.
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