Our Old Town is full of beautiful squares of different sizes and style with interesting monuments and amazing history to tell. Do you know which square used to be called “Hitler’s Square” or which had the first ATM machine in Slovakia? Where was the first taxi depot installed? Keep reading to find out the interesting facts about squares in Bratislava:
MAIN SQUARE (HLAVNÉ NÁMESTIE)
It is one of the most impressive squares in Bratislava thanks to its regular almost square-like shape. It used to be the main marketplace, the spot for welcoming monarchs but also for public executions, and the gathering point of citizens. We have found out that it was called Hitler’s Square during the WWII. Or have you heard that there was a green park in the middle of the square up to the end of the 20th century?
Nowadays, it is still very popular and appealing for having a nice cup of coffee next to the renaissance Roland’s Fountain or taking a picture on the bench with a Napoleon soldier.
Each of the buildings standing here deserves our attention. The most dominant one, however, is the Old Town Hall. Its original purpose is rather surprising. Since medieval Bratislava did not have the strongest fortification, wealthy families built their own private fortresses in the form od stone towers to protect their property. And the Old Town Hall is the only one preserved up today! They rebuilt the building into a Town Hall in 1434. In 1442, they built the underpass which enabled the entrance into the Town Hall from the Main Square. This impressive architectural element has been preserved up to this day in its full beauty. Do notice a plaque with an index line showing the height of Danube river during the devastating flood in 1850. You can find the Museum of City History in the Old Town Hall building.
FRANCISCAN SQUARE (FRANTIŠKÁNSKE NÁMESTIE)
Františkánske Square is somewhat calmer than the busy Main Square, offering quiet atmosphere among the old historic buildings. Its name is derived from one of the oldest churches in Bratislava – The Franciscan Church with a cloister from the 13th century. It has an assymetrical shape and an incline.
Mirbach Palace is an architectural beauty and a rococo jewel in the upper part of the square. Together with the Primate’s Palace, which we will mention next, it is one of the most beautiful buildings Bratislava offers to its tourists. It stands in the rococo style since 1770. Its last private owner was Lord Emil Mirbach who donated the building to the city in his last will under the condition that it would establish a gallery within its premises. Therefore it now hosts the Bratislava City Gallery.
PRIMATE’S SQUARE (PRIMACIÁLNE NÁMESTIE)
Definitely one of the most charming squares which hosts the king among palaces, the Primate’s Palace. It takes the whole southern part of the square. They built it between 1778 and 1781 with a strict classical facade. Do not miss the unique collection of six Bratislava gobelins from the 17th century. They originate from the British royal manufactory in Mortlake and are displayed in the palace, depicting a tragic love story.
Did you know that there was a special way how to punish the dishonest craftsmen in the medieval ages? The executioner dropped the guilty one in a cage down the local well at the Primate’s Square. In 1977, the archeologists discovered the abolished well and incorporated it into a new pavement of the square.
HVIEZDOSLAV’S SQUARE (HVIEZDOSLAVOVO NÁMESTIE)
With a pedestrian line, outdoor restaurants, bars and cafes all around, Hviezdoslav’s Square is in fact more of a boulevard than a square. As the big trees shade the whole place, it carried a name Promenade in the past. There are many benches to sit on, and with all the cafes around we understand why so many people come to spend time here. It is one of the most beautiful and most vibrant squares in town.
The square carries the name of an important Slovak poet Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav. He is one of the leading personalities of the Slovak literature and culture in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
The most dominant building here is the Slovak National Theater. Two Viennese architects built this beautiful historical building in an eclectic Baroque and Neo-Renaissance design with French touch. These two gentlemen designed impressive 45 theaters throughout Europe. It is the second oldest professional theater of Slovakia, established in 1920.
Luxurious hotel Carlton has become the symbol of the square, being the oldest hotel in the city. You might notice a big clock in front of the hotel. When locals make an arrangement to “meet under the clock”, it means they are meeting at the Hviezdoslav’s Square :)
Maybe you already heard that Hviezdoslav’s Square was the place where the first taxi depot stood. And the first taxi driver was Mr Gustáv Schuster, in 1911.
RYBNÉ SQUARE (RYBNÉ NÁMESTIE)
Its current size is only a fraction of the original square. In the past, this area ranged beyond the city walls. It was a vast field bordering with the Danube bay. As there used to be a rafter’s port, its name was “Fletzerstadl”. Thanks to its strategic location near the river, the local fishermen used to sell their catch here.
At the beginning of the 18th century, they raised two plague columns here to commemorate plague epidemics. 18th century also meant a considerable construction at this place. With constant extension of ground, The Danube bay disappeared and the square moved further from the river.
19th century brought the biggest urban change when a construction company of Feigler brothers built three-storey palaces at the southern part of the square. The most distinct building was a Synagogue which was demolished later to create space for the New Bridge.
Currently you can find only three of the original structures – one of the plague columns from 1713, a corner house between Rybné and Hviezdoslav’s Square from the end of 19th century and a neighbouring building, currently hosting Bibiana – International House of Art for Children.
This charming small square is very popular for its unique atmosphere. It carries its name after a Slovak cardinal Alexander Rudnay.
The southern part of St Martin’s Cathedral lies at this square which has an extraordinary terrace character. St Martin’s Cathedral is the largest and finest, as well as one of the oldest churches in Bratislava in which Queen Maria Theresa was crowned. It is the second most popular tourist location in Bratislava. Its 85 m high spire dominates Old Town’s skyline. Make sure you visit its underground crypt with catacombs.
We love how the park area around the church connects with the street where you can find many restaurants and cafes. It is a truly enjoyable spot to sit down and have a drink or two.
SQUARE OF SLOVAK NATIONAL UPRISING (SNP SQUARE)
SNP Square used to lie behind the city walls. There were several bastions at its southern side, one of them being the Butcher’s Bastion. The wealthy butchers organised in a guild protected it.
The square had several interesting names throughout history. It used to be divided into three parts and each had its own name. The upper part of the square was the Merciful Square, since the Monastery and Hospital of the Merciful Brothers took most of the south-eastern part. The part between Kolárska Street and Špitálska Street was called Shopkeeper’s Row as it was packed with small shops. The bottom part (around the statue of St. Florian) was originally a Granary Market, as they sold grains here. Later, at the end of the 18th century, they renamed it to Poultry Market and even later to Green Market, as people could buy vegetables, fruits, poultry and eggs here every Tuesday and Saturday. Once the square received only one name, it was simply called a Market Square. Interestingly, they renamed it to Stalin’s Square in the 50’s.
Did you know that in 1988, they installed the first ATM machine in Slovakia at the SNP Square?
Nowadays, the main attraction here is the Old Market Hall where various sellers gather every Saturday to offer and sell their products. Make sure you come, you’re in for a treat.
Author: Zuzana Mytna