Although small in terms of population, Bratislava is a sprawling city and in some areas you can drive through what seems like rural countryside while still within the city limits. It’s divided into five districts, each with its own neighbourhoods. As driving from one end of the city to the other only takes 30-40 minutes, barring major traffic jams you needn’t be concerned about being too far from work or school.
Located in the centre of Bratislava and encompassing Old Town and many of the city’s historical attractions, this is the most popular district for expats. It includes the neighbourhoods of Stare Mesto (Old Town), Palisady, Slavin and Horsky Park and is both the smallest and the most expensive district in the city. The central location and quality of housing means that it’s both an extremely convenient place to live and a good investment if purchasing.
Old Town is a pedestrian zone with winding cobblestone streets, a variety of architectural styles and a huge selection of cafes, bars and restaurants. Neighbourhood highlights include the Slovak National Theatre, Saint Martin’s Cathedral and Michael’s Gate, the medieval gateway to Bratislava.
Apartments are typically found in the city centre in both the old historic buildings and the more recently constructed ones that line the streets. This area tends to attract younger expats without children and empty-nesters. Parking can be a problem in Old Town, where most streets are reserved for pedestrians, but if your building doesn’t have parking in the courtyard, one option is to rent a space in a nearby garage. Noise and congestion can also be an issue during tourist season, as Old Town is by far and away the most popular part of the city.
Stretching northwest from Hrad Castle and up and over a large rolling hill are the residential neighbourhoods of Palisady, Slavin and Horsky Park. While the main arteries are lined with buildings housing both offices and flats, most of the area consists of single family homes. The majority are of fairly recent construction but there are some magnificent restored villas that date back 100 years or more. This area is home to plenty of embassies and diplomats’ quarters. The hillsides are covered with gardens and greenery and at the top sits Slavin Monument, surrounded by a beautiful park. Many of the homes offer stunning panoramic views of the city and obviously the higher a home sits on the hill, the more spectacular the view. These neighbourhoods are very popular for families. They’re close to Old Town, to the new Eurovea Shopping Centre and to public transit, though that’s restricted to a single bus that runs along the narrow streets winding around the hill.
The major private health care providers – ProCare, Medifera and Hippokrates – operate clinics in District 1. The Poliklinika Bezrucova provides hospital services for adults at Bezrucova 5 and the Kramare University Hospital for Children and Medical Centre is a short drive away.
One of the fastest-growing areas of the city, District II includes the neighbourhoods of Ruzinov, Vrakuna and Podunajske Biskupice, along with part of Nove Mestro (New Town). It contains many new apartments and developments, with good investment opportunities. There are some neighbourhoods with single-family homes, but most of the district is a sea of twentieth century and new apartment buildings.
Polus, Shopping Palace and Avion shopping centres are here, along with sports facilities such as the National Tennis Centre, the ice hockey stadium and the football stadium Tehelne pole. The local hospital, the Poliklinika Ruzinov, provides services for both adults and children.
Despite the close proximity of shops and services and the ready availability of public transit, District II generally does not attract a great number of expats, due to the limited number of single-family homes.
This district covers areas north and north-east of the city centre, and includes the areas of Raca, Kramare and Koliba. Raca consists mainly of apartments and doesn’t have many expats. Kramare and Koliba, on the other hand, are neighbourhoods full of single-family homes and attract lots of expat families. Property values here are slightly lower than in Bratislava I and the neighbourhoods are very similiar to Palisady, Slavin and Horsky Park, with much of the housing up in the hills. Houses are mainly new and the views can be stunning.
Koliba is part of the Small Carpathians, with hiking in the summer and sledding in the winter. Public transit is good on the main arteries but it may be a 5-10-minute walk away in some of the residential areas. Winter driving can be treacherous in some areas, as streets tend to be narrow and winding and snow removal is the exception rather than the norm. If snow or ice is an issue, be advised that school buses will be unable to make it up into many areas in the hills.
Private medical clinics are an easy drive from Kramare and Koliba and you’ll find the largest hospital complex in Slovakia in Kramare, the Kramare University Hospital for Children and Medical Centre at Limbova 1. The Poliklinika Tehelna for adults is located at Tehelna 26.
While most of the area is residential, shopping and services are all readily available and accessible.
Karlova Ves, Dubravka, Lamac, Devin, Devinska Nova Ves and the village Zahorska Bystrica are all in Bratislava IV, in the western part of the city. These were once separate villages that have been incorporated into the capital and at times you’ll feel as if you’re driving through the countryside, even though you’re well within city limits.
Karlova Ves is closest to the city centre, followed by Dubravka and Lamac a little farther out and finally Devinska Nove Ves. All are fairly built-up areas. Devin is a small village home to the Devin Castle, on the banks where the Morava River meets the Danube. Zahorska Bystrica is the most popular village for expats, on the far western outskirts of the city. The countryside is beautiful, it’s an easy commute and villages offer a peace and serenity hard to come by in the city proper. New housing has been built, with some available to rent, and prices for some homes in Zahorska Bystrica can rival those in the city centre.
The British International School is in this district, as are the Bratislava Zoo and several blocks of student accommodation. There’s a non-stop Tesco in Lamac, as well as a Metro and other big box stores in the vicinity.
The Poliklinika Karlova Ves at Liscie udolie 57 is the hospital servicing this district for both adults and children. There’s a branch of private medical centre ProCare in Karlova Ves.
Situated on the south side of the Danube, Bratislava V covers the largest and newest part of Bratislava, Petrzalka, and the formerly independent villages Jarovce, Rusovce and Cunovo. It contains the city’s largest park, Janka Krala, as well as the Incheba exhibition centre and two large shopping centres, Aupark and Danubia, along with a Tesco. There are two hospitals in this district, the Nemocnica S Poliklinikou Sv. Cyrila A Metoda on Antolska 10 and the Adravotne Stredisko Strecnianska at Strecnianska 13.
Petrzalka is largely made up of concrete apartment blocks rather than family homes, making property generally cheaper than in other parts of the city. There are some new development projects with highly-priced flats, but you’ll find few expats in this part of the city.
Some expats choose to live outside the city, and there are a number of towns in the vicinity where new housing is being built and homes can be rented. The village of Cierna Voda is a popular location, at the foot of the Carpathians just outside the city limits to the east. The town has a recently built gated community for expats employed by Kia and Hyundai.
Public transit is limited to one bus, so having two cars is pretty much a necessity if you don’t want to get too isolated The airport and the Avion Shopping Centre are a short drive away, and the shopping, services and medical facilities in District II and III are within easy reach.