Slovakia's capital since the country's independence in 1993, Bratislava is a mosaic of illustrious history: a medieval and Gothic old town, baroque palaces commissioned by Hungarian nobles, and the crowning castle, rebuilt to Renaissance finery. Slicing through the city are stark-angled, communist-era blocks and a futurist bridge.
Recent years have added a cast of outlandish statues, boutiques and modish cafes, eagerly sought out by visiting stag party groups and day trippers from Vienna. Many arrive purely to enjoy the uproarious nightlife, from rowdy beer halls to hidden nightclubs.
Despite the march of modernism, Bratislava still has nature on its doorstep. The city banks the Danube River, only a few kilometres from the Austrian border. Rolling north are the Malé Karpaty (Small Carpathians), their lowlands draped with vineyards. Flitting between postcard-pretty, steely and gorgeously green, Bratislava never fails to intrigue.