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Just like Vienna (only 60 kilometers to the west) and Budapest, Bratislava lies on the Danube. Slovakia's capital is built on both banks of the river, but most attractions are located on the north bank in the beautifully restored old town (Staré Mesto).
On a hill stands the city's castle (Hrad), also referred to as 'upside down table'. There are octagonal towers on the four corners of the castle and from a distance it indeed looks like a table with its legs up in the air. The castle houses the Museum of History which has a wonderful collection of items, mainly from the Middle Ages. Among other things, you can see valuable jewelry which were used at the coronation of Hungarian kings. Bratislava became the capital of Hungary when Budapest fell into Turkish hands. The kings were then crowned in the impressive St. Martin (Dom Svateho Marine) from the thirteenth century.
Behind the castle lies Slavín, a cemetery for Soviet soldiers who fell during the liberation of Bratislava at the end of World War II. This is the highest part of the town and it is pleasantly quiet there.
The center of Bratislava - which is pedestrianized - is full of houses and other buildings in baroque style. One example is the St. Michael's Tower (Michalska Veza) from the fourteenth century and part of the old city wall. From the tower you can enjoy a beautiful view over the old Bratislava: the baroque houses on Michalska Ulica and the quaint cottages at the foot of the castle. There is a small exhibition of antique weapons inside the St. Michael's Tower.
The heart of the city is the Hlavne Square, where the old city hall (Stará radnica) is, housing the City Museum (Mestke Muzeum). This complex has been expanded several times and therefore consists of several building styles. The oldest part originates from the fourteenth century. In the dungeons you can see which methods were used in medieval times to force prisoners to confess.
The National Museum (Slovenska Narodna Galeria) houses works from the Middle Ages of Slovak and European artists. Temporary exhibitions are also held with an emphasis on the intercultural history of the city.
The Primatial Palace (Primaciálny Palác) was built at the end of the seventeenth century by the primate (the archbishop) of Bratislava. In 1805 the peace treaty between Napoleon and Emperor Franz I of Austria was signed in this neoclassical palace. There is a small museum in the shining Hall of Mirrors, and also a museum dedicated to folk music.
Bratislava lies at the foot of the Little Carpathians. With a rental car you can make beautiful trips through this area, for example by following the wine route. In the hills of the Little Carpathians are several vineyards, including Rača, Pezinok and Modra. On the other side of the border, in the Czech Republic, lies the wine region Mutěnice where the best Czech wines are made.
The Slovakian capital already has a picturesque heart, but if you can not get enough of that you definitely need to drive to Trenčin, north of Bratislava. The town in the White Carpathians has a beautiful old center and an impressive castle. Trenčin is an excellent base to make trips through the mountains and forests in the region too. For example to Visnove where the ruin of the Častiche Castle is. It is famous and notorious because 'Blood Countess' Elisabeth Báthory lived here. This countess had young girls picked up and murdered, to then bathe in their blood. According to Elisabeth it gave her 'eternal youth'.
The Bojnice Castle, 70 kilometers northeast of Trenčin, is the stage of a ghost and spirit festival every spring time. And Saint Nicholas visits here every year on the 6th of December.
The historical center of Bratislava is pedestrianized, but around it lie several parking lots. It can be less safe to park your rental car there, it is better to park in one of the garages around the center. Electronic information signs indicate which garage has free spaces.
Bratislava Airport lies 9 kilometers northeast of the city center. The airport is easily accessible with a rental car: it lies right along the important highway D1, which also takes you past the eastern suburbs of Bratislava. From the airport you drive your rental car via Ivanska cesta and Trnavska cesta (road number 572) to the historical center of the city.