has only been the capital of Slovakia for 16 years—since 1993, when Slovakia became its own country in the so-called “velvet divorce” from the Czech Republic—but its history goes back millennia. Archaeologists believe there was a settlement here as early as 5000 B.C.E.
Today it’s one of Europe’s smaller capital cities, with just over 400,000 residents. But, sitting at the crossroads of the continent, it has embraced a remarkable diversity of influences. Austrians, Czech, Germans, Hungarians, Slovaks, and others have all shaped Bratislava. Your tour will start in the Old City, where highlights include the Town Hall (with a museum covering the history of the city), the rococo Mirbach Palace, and the gothic Cathedral of St. Martin. The Primate’s Palace, next to the Town Hall, has a dazzling Hall of Mirrors and a rare collection of 17th-century English tapestries.
Looming above the city is the Bratislava Castle. A fortress stood on this site as early as the 10th century, though it was remodeled, expanded, and rebuilt many times over the centuries. For a period, it was one of the favorite residences of the Hapsburg kings and queens. If you hike to it with the EmeraldACTIVE
outing, you can enjoy a slice of strudel when you reach the top without feeling any guilt. You could also skip the exercise part and go straight to the sweets if you join the EmeraldPLUS
excursion that takes you into the home of Bratislava residents
for coffee and cake. Just don’t spoil your appetite: The Captain’s Gala Dinner is scheduled for this evening.