From the stunning, architecturally varied Staré Mesto (Old Town) to the stark, space-age modernism of the New Bridge, Bratislava balances the medieval, the baroque, and the modern in a classically Central European manner. Yet the discovery of Bratislava has been gradual. The city has often been overlooked by visitors to Central Europe in favor of Vienna to the west, Budapest to the southeast, and Prague to the northwest.
Why? Well, politics, for one. After the collapse of Communism in 1989 and years of authoritarian rule, it wasn't until the late 1990s that Slovakia slowly emerged into the European mainstream. Before and since this shift, Bratislava has been kept as a half-concealed secret.
The Old Town's gorgeous winding alleys, some unexpected bursts of ambitious modernism, an exciting bar and club scene, and inexpensive restaurants and shopping make Bratislava a fabulous choice for a weekend break, or better yet a jumping-off point for regional exploration to Slovakia's even more budget-friendly hinterlands.