If you’re staying in Bratislava for a few days, I would highly recommend a trip to Devín situated 10 km west of the city centre near the Austrian border. Originally a village, Devín has since become incorporated into the city limits thus has excellent transport links, yet remains physically separated from the rest of the city by hills and woodlands.
The notable attraction here is Devín Castle (Devínský hrad), an impressive ruin castle perched on a rocky outcrop at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers. Although the stone castle dates from the 13th century, this has been an important strategic site since the Great Moravian Empire during the 9th century. Unfortunately this castle, like so many in the region, was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the 19th century. Today the castle serves as a museum, however the upper section of the castle has been closed to the public since 2008 for restoration works (due to be concluded in 2017). Entry to the lower castle is €4 (€1.50 during the low season).
Despite the barbed wire and military watchtowers that comprised the infamous Iron Curtain, the proximity to Austria and the relatively slow flowing Morava river made this a tempting location for those who wanted to escape to The West during The Cold War. A memorial next to the Morava river commemorates those who were shot whilst doing so.
There are several cafes and restaurants within Devín; obviously those near the castle are slightly more expensive. One place worth investigating is the wine cellar of St.Urban where you can buy the traditional Ríbezľové víno (ríbezlák) – wine produced from the locally grown red and black currants. Alternatively, head to Cafe Eden (Hradná 5), which has an excellent beer garden, or U Srnčíka for a more substantial meal.
To get to Devin take bus #28 or #29 from Most SNP– the journey takes about 20 minutes and costs €0.90 each way. Boat trips with LOD are possible between April and September (€8 single; €10 return), with a two hour stop over in Devín.
Devínska Kobyla (514 m) is the hill immediately to the north of Devín, and a popular place for hiking. There are several routes to the summit (which is an abandoned military base) depending on whether you are starting from Devín, Karlova Ves, Dúbravka, or Devínska.
Unfortunately my hiking in this area has been somewhat limited, having only been twice since moving to Bratislava, although it’s an area I will explore further during the autumn months. The forested area provides adequate protection from both the sun and rain, thus it’s ideal for any time of year. Descending from the summit via the red trail provided fantastic views of the Danube and small Carpathian mountains on the Austrian side of the border, although I’ve no doubt that other trails are equally as impressive!
On the western slope of Devínska Kobyla is an area known as Sandberg, one of the most important palaeontological localities in Slovakia. Around 14-16 million years ago during the middle and upper Jurassic period this was region was a coastal landscape. The rocks and sand in this area are littered with fossils, not only marine life, but also larger mammals including apes, rhinos, antelopes. There are impressive panoramic views of Devín castle, Hainburg, the Schloss Hof palace and landscape of lower Austria. On a clear day you can see Vienna and the start of the Alps. You can reach Sandberg via the yellow trail from Devínska Nová Ves (10 minutes) or Devín (50 minutes).