In between Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Krakow lies Bratislava, Slovakia's charming capital city. Zuzana and Tim from Be Free Tours open up this hidden gem, sharing their insider tips.
"Bratislava is a city on the intersection of three countries... From the castle called Devin, you can look over to the other side of the river Danube and you will see Hungary on the left and Austria on the right. For 40 years, the river separated not only countries but two different regimes. You can still feel that mood in the air at this place."
Zuzana and Tim's extensive knowledge of their city has seen Be Free Tours go from strength to strength. They guarantee their tours' accessibility by operating a 'tips only' policy: "guests can tip at the end if they feel it's been a worthwhile experience and their guide has gone above and beyond." Each tour guide feels passionately about showing off their city: "Our guides love their job and if it's a fun experience for our guides, then we believe it will transfer onto our guests....We love it when guests get involved in our tours and they can expect to get some fun lessons in the Slovak language (including some tongue twisters that most locals cannot even pronounce) as well as getting an insight into Slovakia's slightly crazy Easter and Christmas traditions."
Bird's eye view
Zuzana and Tim describe Bratislava as "small and cozy and busy and exciting at the same time.” They've noted that "visitors are often surprised at the different faces and contrasts of the city. On the one hand, there is the small but charming Old Town and on the other the social realist architectural legacy, which is everywhere from the rundown train station to the upside pyramid radio building." The train station is just an 8-minute drive from our Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel, Bratislava.
To show off the different sides of the city, Be Free Tours run themed tours, including "our ever popular Pub Crawl of Bratislava's nightlife, our Bunker and Communist tour of the city's socialist sites, as well as many adventure activities including AK47 & M16 machine gun shooting. We like to keep visitors on their toes."
Be Free Tours' top five
St. Elizabeth’s Church
"Affectionately known as the “Blue Church” or “Smurf Church,” this landmark is tucked away but well worth the effort to visit it."
"The Castle dominates the city and no visit to Bratislava is complete without seeing it. The grounds are free to walk around and you can get a fantastic view of not only the city but of Hungary and Austria."
Grassalkovich Palace and Gardens
"If your timing is right you'll be able to see the changing of the guards and while the palace is only accessible one day a year, the grounds behind are nice to stroll around in."
Old Town Hall and Main Square
"The heart of the old town, this is a great place to start exploring the beautiful narrow alleyways of the city. The old town itself has a city museum and an exhibition of torture instruments."
Slovak National Uprising Bridge
"We had to put in at least one relic of the socialist days, and none are more controversial that this bridge. Known by locals as the UFO bridge, it was a marvel of socialist architecture but many still see it as a blight on Bratislava's landscape – we still like it though!"