Hrad & Around covers a significant chunk of Bratislava, from the area immediately around Bratislava's Castle to the long promenade along the Danube west of Starometská and continuing on into the stately hilly neighborhoods north and west of the castle. The area immediately around the castle is dotted with museums and twisting hillside alleys.
Like many massive European castles, Bratislava's Hrad has been fortified and rebuilt in a range of architectural styles. Surprisingly, the current castle, towering over the city, was rebuilt in the 1950s.
The district northwest of the Hrad is a pleasant, hilly area dotted with impressive Baroque and modernist villas. This area is home to plenty of embassies and diplomats' quarters. Some hotels listed in Hrad & Around are just outside of Staré Mesto, while others are quite a hike from the action. Read through each hotel review to get a finer sense of location.
Nivy & east of Staré Mesto is another large neighborhood designation, stretching from Spitálska on the west to Bajkálska in the east, bordered on the south by the Danube and the north by Záhradnícka. Though the parts of this neighborhood closest to Staré Mesto are dotted with some beautiful old buildings, this area consists largely of modern, assembly line Eastern Bloc structures. There are several small green parks strewn throughout, however, so this neighborhood is not without its charms.
Still, this is not the area of Bratislava you came to visit. The distances here are more vast than your map might suggest, too, so consider hopping on a tram to get around. While touristic wanderings probably won't lead you here, you may need to visit Nivy to get to or from Bratislava's main bus terminal.
Staré Mesto is the hub of charming, old Bratislava. It's a knot of winding alleys, charming Medieval, Baroque, Gothic, and Neo-Renaissance imprints, and inviting cafes and bars. There are a few architectural injections of modernity in Staré Mesto, though these are the exception to the rule. For those familiar with Vienna, Bratislava's Staré Mesto can feel like a miniature variation on a Habsburg theme. Staré Mesto's architectural highlights include the Neo-Renaissance Slovak National Theatre, the Romanesque-Gothic St. Martin's Cathedral, and Michael's Gate, the city's medieval gateway.
The legions of weekend break tourists lured to Bratislava by the city's increasing buzz spend most of their time in Staré Mesto and the adjacent Hrad (Castle) district. Happily for locals and visitors alike, Staré Mesto is full of hip bars, cool cafes, and folksy restaurants. The downside to this buzz: During high season, this neighborhood's warrenlike alleyways can get quite crowded.