Bratislava is at the centre of Europe, in the extreme southwest of Slovakia. The edge of the city actually forms Slovakia’s borders with Hungary, to the south, and Austria, to the west, making it the only capital city to border two neighbouring countries. In addition, the Czech Republic is only 62 kilometres away. The Austrian capital Vienna is only 60 kilometres distant, making them among the world’s closest capital cities.
Location and Size
Bratislava lies on the banks of the Danube, the second longest river in Europe, and at the foot of the Small Carpathian hills. The Middle Danube basin begins at Devín Gate in western Bratislava. The city forms part of the Bratislava Region, one of eight into which Slovakia is divided. The city covers a total area of 367.58 square kilometres. As well as the Danube, which crosses the city from the west to the south-east, the city also encompasses parts of the Morava River, which forms the north-western border of the city and enters the Danube at Devín, the Little Danube, and the Vydrica, which enters the Danube in the borough of Karlova Ves. The Carpathian mountain range, one of Europe’s biggest, begins in the city as the Small Carpathians (Malé Karpaty). The Záhorie and Danubian lowlands stretch into Bratislava in the west and the east respectively. The city’s lowest point is the Danube’s surface, at 126 metres above sea level; the highest point is Devínska Kobyla, at 514 metres. The average altitude of the city is 140 metres.
- Area: 367.5 km2
- Position: 17º7´ East, 48º9´ North
- Elevation: 126m – 514m above sea level
- Time zone: CET (GMT + 1 hour)
- Summer time (March to October): GMT + 2 hours
Almost everyone in Bratislava speaks Slovak, a western Slavic language. Slovak is very similar to Czech and more or less comprehensible to Polish-speakers. Hungarian, the first language of about 10 percent of Slovak citizens, most of whom live in the southern part of the country, is also spoken by a minority of Bratislava residents. Bratislava was once famed as a tri-lingual city, whose residents could switch with ease between German, Hungarian and Slovak, and a few still preserve this proud tradition.
English and German are both widely spoken as second languages, especially by younger people. The standard of English is often good, though speakers sometimes need encouragement before they will open up. Don’t be afraid to ask for an English-speaker: everyone understands the word ‘English’ (or if not, ‘anglitskee yah-zeek’ in phonetic Slovak) and there will almost always be one nearby.
Most Slovaks older than about 40 will have received several years of Russian-language tuition during their schooling, but few seem to remember much and you will rarely hear it spoken by locals.
Bratislava has a mild continental climate, characterized by wide differences between temperatures in summer and winter, as well as by four distinct seasons. In recent years, however, the transition from winter to summer in Bratislava has tended to occur without a typical spring, with freezing winter weather changing abruptly to warm summer temperatures from one day to another.
The same has begun to apply to the transition from summer to winter, which can occur quickly, with a short or non-existent autumn. Snow cover has also tended to be less than in the recent past.
Celtic settlements, The Romans, The Great Moravia Empire, Bratislava in the Middle Ages, Coronation city of the Kingdom of Hungary, City of Maria Theresa, The campaigns of Napoleonic troops and the end of bondage, First Czechoslovak Republic, Between the wars, Wartime Bratislava, Post-war Bratislava, Capital city for the second time.