Bratislava Castle, in Slovak Bratislavský hrad, is one of the first attractions one will notice when arriving in Bratislava. The majestic white castle watches over the city from a rocky hill along the Danube. Once one climbs that hill, one can admire the Old Town (Staré miasto), Austria and even Hungary. And Petržalka (more about that later).
It is with mixed feelings that I write this post – with a glass of Müller-Thurgau from Château Topoľčianky in one hand. It’s funny – some time back I had the opportunity to listen to a guy who had written a book about wines. This connoisseur said that one wine-producing country he’d like to visit would be Slovakia. Ha, been there, done that. Without even knowing much about wine. Time to move on…
Now, let’s return to our topic – the Bratislava Castle. As mentioned above, it is called Bratislavský hrad in Slovak, but it is also known by the name Pressburg Castle (Pressburg being the name for Bratislava in German) and Pozsonyi Vár (in Hungarian). The castle was built on an important crossroad by the Danube and it has been transformed several times throughout history, with the most recent alternation having been made in the 18th century. The castle acted as a stronghold in Moravian times as well as during the Hungarian-Ottoman wars. The first king of Hungary, Stephen I, had his seat in the castle and later the castle was the formal seat of Hungarian kings. During the rule of Maria Theresa in the 18th century the castle experienced a conversion from being a military fortification to a royal residence.
After a fire in 1811, the castle was left in ruins and would remain so until 1953 when a decision was made to restore the building. The castle has been reconstructed more than once since, with the last reconstruction finished in 2011.
A friend once mentioned that the white color of the castle came as shock to the inhabitants of Bratislava. One day people woke up and the castle was no longer grey. However, according to this source, the castle only returned to its old color. Research shows that the castle had indeed been white throughout history.
Bratislava Castle – What to Do and What to See
When approaching Bratislava from Vienna, the first thing one will notice is the bright white building on the hilltop. Sometimes, I kid you not, it shines! As the castle is located in the very center of the city, it does not take much effort to go and have a closer look. In the narrow roads leading up to the castle, one can pay a quick visit to cozy cafés or grab something to eat in the restaurants. Or one could take the stairs. Or the bus. We recommend climbing up the hill, as the area is nice and the view is wonderful.
A visit to the exhibitions of the Slovak National Museum might well be worthwhile and history lovers could find it interesting to know that the huge statue on the courtyard shows King Svätopluk I of Moravia (that name sounds very funny in Swedish!).
Our tips are to take a walk around the park. There one can muse over the foundations of the Great Moravian basilica as well as admire the amazing view over the city with its sights. Some of the most prominent sights include Most SNP (the UFO Bridge) and St. Martin’s Cathedral.
Do you want to learn more about the Bratislava Castle? We used the following sources: