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Bratislava History

It’s been a rocky ride for Bratislava, but the city has emerged as a modern European metropolis.

Originally settled by Neolithic man from the late Stone Age, Bratislava later held a high status in the second century BC as an important Celtic defence and trading post.

The Romans built military camps here – one of which, Gerulata, lies under the modern suburb of Rusovce.

Bratislava first appears in written records in the 10th century, when it was part of the Moravian Empire, but it was annexed by Hungary in the 11th century.

From 1536 to 1783, Bratislava was the capital of Hungary, known as Pozsony.

Despite its population being decimated by plague in 1711, Bratislava reached its zenith in the mid-18th century under the patronage of Empress Marie Theresa.

Maria Theresa’s successor was considerably less able however, and only three years after her death, the Hungarian capital became Budapest once more.

Bratislava was besieged by Napoleon’s troops in 1809. The castle was burnt down in 1811.

Attempts were made to gain greater autonomy from Hungary, but following the establishment of the Dual Monarchy in 1867, Slovak culture was heavily suppressed.

Until 1918, the city was a 'resort' area of Austria-Hungary, called Pressburg in German. In 1919, the city was annexed to the Czechoslovak Republic.

During WWII, a quasi-Nazi government was established in Slovakia. An armed uprising against this government in 1944 was crushed.

Slovakia’s long years under Communist rule following the war were interrupted only once, briefly, when the reformist policies of Bratislava-born Party Secretary Alexander Dubček led to the Prague Spring of 1968 – after which the Soviet tanks rolled in.

After the fall of Communism in 1989, Bratislava restored its Old Town and soon became a popular visitor destination.

When Czechoslovakia split in 1993, Bratislava became the Slovak capital, joining the EU in 2004.

Did you know?
• Mozart performed in Bratislava in 1762 when he was six.
• Bratislava used to be known as a tri-lingual city, whose inhabitants could switch between Slovak, German and Hungarian.
• Bratislava has co-hosted the Ice Hockey World Championships three times – in 1959, 1992 and 2011.

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Featured Hotels


City Hostel

This is a basic but cheap and clean hostel on the edge of the old town. The single, double, triple and quad rooms each have their own ensuite bathrooms, and there’s free internet access at reception. Other amenities include a summer terrace and secure bicycle parking.


The smart Mercure is conveniently located near the main railway station, and just a 15-minute walk from the old town. The comfortable rooms are dark-furnished but spacious, with gleaming, semi-transparent bathrooms. The hotel has its own bar and upmarket restaurant, as well as the requisite fitness centre. Impeccable service.

Kempinski Hotel River Park

Über-luxurious hotel complex on the banks of the Danube, just a short walk from the old town. With some 231 rooms and suites, the Kempinski boasts its own restaurant, a lobby lounge and a cigar bar, not to mention an 11th-floor spa with jaw-dropping views over the Danube. Possible extras to ensure a seriously good pampering range from a complimentary luxury Rolls Royce or BMW to drive you into town, to your own personal chef.

Hostel Blues

This fun and friendly place, just on the edge of the Old Town, is perfect for young travellers on a budget, particularly music-lovers. It hosts concerts weekly and provides free internet access.

Falkensteiner Hotel Bratislava

This 162-room hotel on the edge of the Old Town has excellent business and conference facilities as well as very comfortable and elegant rooms for leisure travellers, as well as a gym and sauna. The staff are friendly and helpful.

Hotel Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel

Set in a beautifully restored old building on the Old Town's attractive main promenade, this luxury, 170-room establishment was built in 1837 and boasts a superb Danube view from the seventh-floor terrace, as well as an acclaimed restaurant and a casino. There's a leafy summer terrace, a plush Mirror Bar, an upmarket restaurant (the Savoy), and the buffet breakfasts are legendary.