Slovakia, or the Slovak Republic, is a high-income advanced economy situated in Central Europe, bordered by Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria. Staying in the capital, Bratislava, the only capital city which borders two countries – Hungary and Austria, Carl & I had the chance to explore one of the oldest castles in Slovakia and recognized as a National Heritage in 1961 – the Devin Castle. Afterwards, we caught amazing panoramic views of the city and the mighty Danube River on top of the 95 m high UFO Observation Deck! Bratislava is a charming city, full of history and rich in culture.
08:00 AM Breakfast at Hotel Pension Petit
Before heading to Castle Devin, which is situated about 10 kms from the city proper, we enjoyed the free breakfast at the adjoining cafe. Breakfast selection was good, and I was happy to see the pastry bread with black stuffing, the exact same bread I first tasted in Prague. Well, I just found out now that they are poppy seed rolls. 😀
09:00 AM Bratislava Old Town
In order to get to the bus station, where we were to take Bus 29 to Devin Castle, we had to find our way through the Old Town. We passed by some attractions/landmarks, which were interesting to point out. Our first stop: the Trinitarian Church. Located on Hurban Square, the magnificent building was built in the 18th century and was dedicated to the founder of the Order of Trinitarians, St. John of Matha.
Moving on, we passed by a famous landmark in the city: Michael’s Gate. Built in the 14th century, the baroque 51 meter- tall tower features a 0-kilometer plate just below it. The plate lists the distance of 29 cities from Bratislava. How cool is that?
From the Gate, we walked along Ventúrska street, which was lined with shops, restaurants and other business establishments that were just beginning to open at around 9 am. Turning right towards Rodnayovo square, we came across another church – St. Martin’s Cathedral. Actually, we only caught a glimpse because we were trying to catch the bus to Castle Devin, but this cathedral we visited again the following day.
09:30 AM Bus ride to Devin Castle from SNP Bridge (Most SNP)
Bus tickets to Castle Devin (Hrad Devin) cost 0,90€ and it takes about 20 minutes to get there. We took bus 29 from the station under the SNP Bridge, and got off at Hrad Devin, after which we walked about 1km to the foot of the hill. It was a pleasant journey, and at exactly 10 AM, we were ready to conquer the castle! 😉 For bus timetables, check here: Journey Planner Slovakia.
10 AM Exploring the Devin Castle
The Castle looked stunning from the foot of the hill! We purchased our entrance tickets, 5€ for adults, and 2,50€ for students. There were kiosks and restaurants at the foot, where visitors could purchase water/beverages, which was a must for the climb in summer!
The Castle stands on top of a 212 meter high cliff. Dating back to the 5th century, it served as a defense fortification against invaders. It is said that Devin came from the slavic word “deva”, meaning “girl”, and the Maiden Tower, the most photographed part of the castle, was said to be a prison tower for virgins during the medieval era. These virgins eventually jumped off to their death. More about the castle’s history here: Devin Castle.
The first notable structure on the hill was an early Christian chapel from the 4th century. The foundations seemed to belong to a very small chapel.. Then, there were remains of Slavic settlements, until we came across the statue of a maiden, right before we entered the Lower Castle.
I guess it was here where I got a good depiction of the phrase “rolling valleys”. We saw amazing views of the little town of Devin, and so endless fields and hills and valleys beyond! It was refreshing!
AT the Lower Castle, you’d find a deep well, where you could splash some water and wait for it to hit the bottom! Watch the little clip below, best with headphones 😉
If the views from the Lower Castle were amazing, what more from the Upper Castle? One could get panoramic, scenic views of the great Danube river and Austria on the other side! Austria never seemed so close.. And of course, there was the overview of the entire castle.
The Castle also had activities for children in summer, like trying our costumes, photo-op with medieval weapons and darts/archery.
AT the foot of the castle hill, right by where river Morava and river Danube meet, was a memorial for the 400 men and women who tried to escape to Austria during the Cold War.
12:35 PM Lunch at Old Town Bratislava
We decided to get some lunch somewhere at the Old Town before heading to our next big stop. The street was lined with restaurants that it was kind of difficult to choose. Tired, we settled for this restaurant in the corner of Panska street – Jimmy’s Restaurant and bar. Well, the food was ok, blant, needs more taste. It was the waiting time that was a little bit off – to long waiting time for a not to satisfying dish of rice, chicken with mushroom sauce and salad. But the goal then was to fill up our tummy to continue exploring, so that’s bearable. (I have nothing against Jimmy. I’m just telling the truth.)
14:00 PM Crossing the SNP Bridge (Most SNP)
The SNP Bridge, or the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, is a beautiful suspension bridge designed by A. Tesár, J. Lacko and I. Slameň. It was opened to public in 1972 – 431 meters in length and 21 meters in width. The famous landmark crosses the mighty Danube River, and on the other end is a 95-meter high Observation Deck and restaurant, popularly known as the UFO tower. The huge bridge has pedestrian lanes on both sides, and a highway for vehicles in the upper middle part.
14:15 PM Going up the UFO Observation Deck
Taking the lift to the top of 95-meter UFO tower was exciting! We went straight to the observation deck to get panoramic views of the city and the mighty Danube river. There’s a bar and restaurant on top, but we weren’t feeling hungry yet, so we just tried out the interesting toilets and went back to the city center. The UFO tower is an amazing experience, check out the entrance fees and other information here: UFO Observation Deck.
15:00 PM Visiting the Man at Work statue at Old Town Bratislava
Before going back to the hotel, we made sure to visit one of the city’s well-loved quirky statues: the Man at Work, formally known as Cumil or “the watcher”. It was installed in 1997 at the junction between Panska and Laurinska streets, and became the most photographed statue in Bratislava.
It was a wonderful day and our souls were satisfied with what we saw and experienced in the Little Big City of Bratislava. I just loved it when our misconceptions of a city that was not often talked about in Northern Europe were proven to be just misconceptions. Bratislava is amazing, well-developed, with lots to offer, and yet – comparatively cheaper than Scandinavian cities! We still had two more full days in the city.. where to go next?