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SLOVAKIA : BRATISLAVA


Bratislava (German : Pressburg) is the capital of Slovakia. The city lies in the southwestern part of the country, on both sides of the Danube. The old centre is on the left bank. It lies at the foot of the Low Carpates. Bratislava has about 430.000 inhabitants and lies relatively close to Austria (Vienna is only about 60 km away) and Hungary. These two neighbouring countries have always played a large part in the city’s history. Even today Bratislava has a considerable Hungarian minority population.

Founded before the 10th century, the city was known originally as Pressburg. Strong fortifications erected during the 12th century gave it strategic importance; In 907 the city and its surroundings came under Hungarian control.  As from the 13th century a lot of German (Bavarian) immigrants settled in Bratislava.
King Matthias of Hungary founded here one of the first Middle-European universities in 1467, the Academia Istropolitana, which knew only a shortlived existence. In 1914 a new university was founded in Bratislava, but it moved to Budapest in 1921. After the city of Buda (today Budapest) had been conquered by the Turks, the kings of Hungary were crowned in Bratislava between 1563 and 1830. When Budapest regained its old importance, Bratislava turned again into a smaller provincial city. However, in the meantime it had become the centre of Slovak nationalism.

World War I ended with defeat for Austria-Hungary. The Treaty of Trianon gave Bratislava to the newly formed  republic of Czechoslovakia. In 1939 Bratislava became the capital of the Slovak puppet republic under Josef Tiso, after the liquidation of Czecoslovakia. After WWII Bratislava found itself behind the iron curtain in the communist ruled Czecoslovakia. The city was expanded with typical  large-scale socialist constructions and became the third city of the country after Prague and Brno.

In 1993 Bratislava received the status of capital city once again when the former Czecoslovak republic ceased to exist and the new Slovak Republic was proclaimed.

The symbol of Bratislava is the fortification or “Hrad”. This rather square-looking building lies on the western side of the centre, on a hill above the Danube.  The Main Square of the medieval town constitutes the center of the historical city. The most important events have happened here since the 14th century. Besides regular markets, all gatherings, celebrations and executions took place here. All the houses on the square have an older Gothic core, several of them were built prior to the fortification of the town as defensive houses with towers. The sandstone Renaissance Maximilian's Fountain and circular reservoir stand in the centre of the square. The square is dominated by the Town Hall.  

Bratislava is known for shipbuilding and the manufacture of furniture, chemicals, tobacco products, musical instruments, woolen goods, and leather products. Points of interest include an 11th-century Gothic cathedral that was restored in the second half of the 19th century; the ruins of the former royal palace of Hungary, on a hill overlooking the city; a 13th-century Franciscan church; the town hall, a 13th-century edifice; the Comenius University of Bratislava (1919); the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava (1938); and the Slovak Academy of Sciences (1953).


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