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Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Beauty on the Danube, Little Big City
 - City 367.584 km2 (141.9 sq mi)
 - Metro 2,053 km2 (792.7 sq mi)
 - City 471,061
 Density 3,283/km2 (8,502.9/sq mi)
 Metro 659,578

Bratislava (Austrian/German: Pressburg; Hungarian: Pozsony) is the capital of Slovakia. When part of Austria-Hungary it consisted of the inner town, or Altstadt, the Ferdinandstadt and Neustadt on the north, the Franz-Josef-Stadt on the Danube, and the Theresienstadt to the west. These have been renamed by the Slovaks, plus additional suburbs were constructed during the communist period (1945-1992). Bratislava is beautifully situated on the spurs of the Little Carpathians in south-west Slovakia on both banks of the Danube River. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two other countries.

In 1905 the town itself had a population of 61,500 inhabitants, just over half of whom were Austrians. In 1935 the city's new greater area (376.6 square kilometres) had a population of 123,852[1]. Today it has a much greater population, of 439,070[2], and is the country's largest city.


The history of the city, known for centuries by the German name Pressburg (road signs in Vienna still point to Pressburg), into the 20th century, has been strongly influenced by various peoples, including Austrians, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, and Slovaks. In the 10th century it became part of Hungary, was a key economic and administrative centre and was its capital under the Habsburg monarchy from 1536 to 1783, and where the Habsburgs were crowned for Hungary. In 1919 it became part of the new artificial state of Czechoslovakia. Pressburg was renamed Bratislava. The city was home to the small Slovak national movement of the 19th century and to many Slovak historical figures, including Milan Rastislav Štefánik and Alexander Dubček.

The Peace of Pressburg

The Peace of Pressburg (also known as the Treaty of Pressburg; German: Preßburger Frieden; French: Traité de Presbourg) was signed on 26 December 1805 between Napoleon and the Emperor Francis II as a consequence of the Austrian defeats by France at Ulm (25 September – 20 October) and Austerlitz (2 December). A truce was agreed on December 4 and negotiations for the treaty began. The treaty was signed in Pressburg by Johann I Josef, Prince of Liechtenstein and the Hungarian Count Ignaz Gyulai for Austria, and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand for France. (It is also sometimes known as the Fourth Peace of Pressburg).


The National Theatre.
USAAF bomb Bratislava in 1944.

High (272 feet) above the Danube stands the famous castle, or Royal Palace, which can be seen from miles around. It was burnt out in 1811 and damaged during World War II but has since been rebuilt/restored. In the centre of the Aldstadt is the Rathaus (Town Hall), begun in 1288 and frequently altered. The Column of the Virgin in front of the contiguous Jesuit church, was erected by Emperor Leopold I in 1672. In Batthyány Platz, behind the Rathaus, is the Primatial-Gebaude, erected in 1781. To the north of the Rathaus is the Franciscan church, founded in 1272 and afterwards altered (the tower was rebuilt in 1897). On the north side is the Gothic Chapel of St.John, with a double crypt. In the Landhaus, erected in 1783, the Hungarian Diets were held from 1802-1848, It later became a courthouse. near it stood the Grassalkowich Palace, until the end of The Great War a residence of the popular and energetic Archduke Friedrich.

The Gothic Cathedral of St.Martin, formerly the Hungarian coronation church, was begun in 1204, completed in 1445, and restored in 1861-80. The tower is surmounted by a pyramid bearing a gilded Hungarian Royal Crown. The late-Gothic Chapel of St.Anna, in the north aisle, dates from the 14th century. the Chapel of St.Eleemosinarius was built and decorated by Rafael Donner, who also executed the leaden equestrian statue of St.Martin, in Hungarian costume, outside the choir (1734).

In the centre of the Altstadt in what was formerly called the Kossuth Platz is the Theatre, built in 1886 by Fellner and Hellmer (also responsible for the Opera House in Lemberg). In front of it stood a bust, by the sculptor Viktor Oskar Tilgner, of the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a friend of both Beethoven and Franz Schubert, who was born in Pressburg in 1778.

To the south on the Danube once stood the Monument of Maria-Theresa (1897) by the Hungarian sculptor János Fadrusz, who was born in the city in 1858. The Empress was on horseback, flanked by a Hungarian magnate and a Kurutz; on the pedestal, the inscription vitam et sanguinem. This magnificent monument was destroyed by fanatical Czechs after 1919.

In 1944 the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) bombed Bratislava, causing major damage, despite Slovakia being neutral in WWII.


Bratislava is the political, cultural, and economic centre of Slovakia. It is the seat of the Slovak presidency, the parliament, and the government, and is home to several universities, museums, theatres, galleries and other important economic, cultural, and educational institutions. The headquarters of many of Slovakia's large businesses and financial institutions are in Bratislava. Fast trains to Vienna leave here and there is an International Airport.


  1. The New Pictorial Atlas of the World with Gazetteer , Odhams Press Ltd., London, 1935, p.240.
  • Baedeker, Karl, Austria-Hungary, Leipzig and London, 10th edition, 1905, pps: 322-324.