Bratislava, Slovakia, is a relatively undiscovered gem of Eastern Europe. Only 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Vienna, it is a world away in culture. The town center is a charming, small, compact area with an adorable town square. In the center of the square, vendors display their local crafts and trinkets. The Town Hall, with its cute, yellow tower, plays music every hour.
Around the corner from the town hall, in its own small square, is the Primate Palace, where Napoleon and Franz I, the Austrian Emperor, once signed a peace treaty (1805). There are tapestries on display as well as a Hall of Mirrors (which pales compared to Versailles’). In the courtyard is St George’s Fountain.
The entire Old Town is pedestrian-only, so it is a pleasure to walk the narrow streets. Check out Michalska Street, anchored at one end by Michael’s Tower, which is attached to a gate through the medieval walls of the city.
The obligatory Bratislava Castle is a considerable climb (hundreds of stairs) from the Old Town.
1. In the Primate Palace are some of the most beautiful and modern rest rooms in Europe (worth the price of admission to the palace!)
2. Just off the town square, opposite the Franciscan Church, is a charming little restaurant, Vinaren Velky frantiskani, which serves delicious local specialties at great prices. Try the Cesnakova polievka (Garlic Soup) and the Bryndzove Halusky, dumplings baked with sheep’s milk cheese and bits of bacon. Entering the restaurant is reminiscent of entering a cave, since it is downstairs with low ceilings — very attractive.