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Since the division of Checkoslovakia in Czech Republic and Slovakia (in 1993), Bratislava has been the capital of the independent state of Slovakia. From the 16th to the 18th century it was the capital of Hungary, which was then much bigger than it is now. The city has a beautiful old centre on the banks of the Danube, with historical buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries, for instance the Gothic Saint Martin cathedral (where Hungarian kings were crowned) and the town hall. There are also many baroque elements from later times. Bratislava castle, situated on an 82 metre high mountain, dominates the city's skyline.
The city has about half a million inhabitants. These days, most of them are Slovakians, but in the past Germans and Hungarians have left a clear mark on the city. Until the First World War, the Germans were the largest population group, followed by the Hungarians.
Bratislava is located in the extreme west of Slovakia on both banks of the Danube. The Austrian capital Vienna lies at only 50 kilometres to the west. The city's southern suburbs border on Hungary. To the north are the hills of the Malé Karpaty (Lower Carpathians).
Like in many former communist countries, the transition towards a free market economy has been a painful process in Slovakia, but in recent years Bratislava has reached quieter economic waters. Many international high-tech companies have located their service centres in the city, including IBM, Dell, Accenture, AT&T and SAP. Volkswagen has a factory in Bratislava and there is also a chemical and electronics industry. In addition, the city attracts more and more tourists, due to a large extent to the arrival of budget airlines. The average income is high compared to the other new member states of the European Union.
Bratislava's Milan Rastislav Štefánik International Airport is located 15 kilometres from the city centre. In recent years, the airport has focused on attracting low budget airlines, and there are various connections to many European cities, including Amsterdam.
Bus 61 provides a direct connection between the airport and the city's central station (Hlavna Stanica).
The airport of Vienna lies at a mere 40 kilometres to the west of Bratislava. There are two bus lines from the Viennese airport to the central bus station and the airport of Bratislava. There is a direct train connection to Vienna, although the train does not make a stop at the airport of the Austrian capital.
Public transport is operated by Dopravny podnik Bratislava. There are buses, trams and trolleybuses. For visitors, the tram is the easiest (and fastest) mode of transport. You can buy tickets in advance at ticket machines. The tickets have a certain use-by time, so you need to know roughly how long your journey will be. Stamp the cards immediately when boarding a tram of bus. Fines for travelling with a valid ticket are high and they are enforced rigorously.
At night there are a few bus lines, but the frequency is not very high.
In the city centre you can only park with a parking card, which you can buy from the traffic wardens with their yellow vests or at newspaper kiosks. Parking is not expensive, but it may be better to park your car in a car park. Bratislava has more than 10 car parks where you can park your car. A dynamic information system leads you to the nearest car park with free spaces. There is a centrally located underground car park on Ursulinska Street, behind the post office.
There is a wide variety of hotels to choose from in Bratislava, and in years to come their number will only increase. In the old centre are most of the 4 star hotels, including one on a boat on the Danube! In the old centre there are also apartments for rent, for shorter or longer periods. Near Bratislava Castle there is a cheap pension, but we only recommend this for those who do not mind climbing a steep hill. The city is gaining in economic importance and attracts more and more tourists. We therefore strongly recommend booking your accommodation in advance.
For more information about Bratislava, we recommend Google, and the following sources: