Many travelers argue the best way to explore a city is by walking. You get the best feel for a city directly through your feet. You take things more slowly and get to experience the place on a deeper, more personal level. Walking in Bratislava is no exception. You can feel the city especially well when you walk through its hills.
One of my favorite hill walks in Bratislava is from the Bratislava Main Train Station to the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising aka the UFO Bridge. The city’s history, nature, and even beer all intersect on this route.
As you head down from the train station, use the overpass to cross the Štefánikova Street thoroughfare. When you head uphill to Hlboká (meaning “deep”) Street, you will pass the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Benihana Restaurant. Three quarters of the way up, take the path or stairs on your right to an open-air chapel.
Originally a quarry, it was converted into a place of worship in 1892. A statue of Virgin Mary of the Lourdes stands in a cave-like opening over an altar. The walls of this sanctuary are covered with more than 4,000 plaques from Bratislava residents expressing gratitude for Virgin Mary’s healing powers.
Whether you are Catholic or not, the place offers a peaceful respite from your journey to Slovakia’s capital. I enjoy sitting on a bench and listening to the trees rustle overhead. Most of the time, I can have the place all to myself.
At the end of Hlboká Street, stands the grandiose Our Lady of the Snows Church. Straight ahead, take a break at the Funus pub, popular with the 19th century Slovak patriots and current residents of the nearby Mountain Park Dormitory alike. Funus (slang for “funeral”) is a classic dive with a patio that’s ideal for lounging over beer and párky (sausages). Even after the recent remodel, the spirit of the place remains.
Thus refreshed, take a stroll through Horský (meaning “mountain”) Park. You can easily forget you’re walking around a European capital in this sprawling forest-like park.
The Slavín War Memorial dominates this part of town. Visible from afar, the memorial is dedicated to Soviet soldiers who perished during the city’s liberation in 1945. Many of the fallen soldiers are buried here. Aside from its historical significance, Slavín boasts one of the best views in Bratislava, looking north and towards the Bratislava Castle. Because it is secluded, it’s a favorite spot for drinking and romantic outings away from the public eye. I spent a few of these here during college while I lived at the Mountain Park Dormitory.
Slavín War Memorial
Continue your walk through the neighborhood, hearing south toward the Danube. Turn left on Mudroňova Street, named after the 19th century Slovak politician. The street used to be called Emperor Road. Legend has it that Empress Maria Theresa used the road to take walks in the woods outside the city. The area is one of the wealthiest parts of Bratislava, a host of many mansions, villas and embassies. If you need another break, the 5-star Hotel Albrecht has an upscale menu for the ages.
As you near the castle, take the right turn at Strmá (meaning “steep”) Road, where you will find the last remaining public staircase leading down to the Danube promenade. Watch your step as you admire the views of the river and Austria.
At the bottom of the hill, take a short detour to the right (west) to pay respects at the Chatam Sofer Memorial. The place at the intersection of a tram track and the busy riverside road commemorates a 19th-century rabbi and, indirectly, the demolition of the Jewish part of the city. There used to be a 17th century cemetery here.
The final leg of the hike takes you along the Danube River down Dvořák Promenade. The Slovak Parliament and the Castle tower above you as you approach the UFO Bridge. This is the most famous of Bratislava’s bridges. A lesser known fact: it features some of the best graffiti the city has to offer.
About 7.5 kilometers (4.7 miles) after you left the Main Train Station, you have arrived. Bratislava’s Old Town lies straight ahead. The city awaits you.
Peter Korchnak is a native of Košice, Slovakia, and the co-author of the food travel website Where Is Your Toothbrush? He lived in Bratislava from 1995 to 2000 while attending university; he revisits his old haunts every few years.
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