There were quite a few touristic highlights during the state visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands to Slovakia from 7 to 9 March 2023. The city of Bratislava was known until 1919 as Pressburg, and was part of the Austrian Empire.
Tuesday 7 March 2023
The presidential palace in the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava is, as so often, a former noble residence. Originally the late baroque building was completed in 1760 as the summer residence of Count Anton Grassalkovich, who was an advisor to the Austrian Empress Maria Theresia. The Empress even visited the palace in 1775. The last residents of the Grassalkovich palace during the Austro-Hungarian Empire were Archduke Friedrich of Austria and his wife Isabella. The French garden behind the palace is now a city park.
The next stop was the Gate of Freedom, located at the bottom of the ruins of the Gothic castle of Devín. The castle defended this strategic spot near the passage of the Danube between the Alps and the Lesser Carpathians. It was destroyed by the army of French Emperor Napoléon in 1809. The Gate of Freedom is a memorial dedicated to the 400 people who lost their lives while trying to flee the country during the communist times between 1948 and 1989. Once the Iron Curtain was on the spot. It was here where the King and Queen laid a wreath.
The royal couple shortly walked through the historical city centre of Bratislava. They saw the St Martin’s Cathedral, where between 1563 and 1830 the Kings of Hungary were crowned, as the country was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. The couple posed in the Liszt Garden and passed the last city gate with the St Michael’s Tower, and the Franciscan Church. The walk ended at the Square of the Slovak National Uprising, after which the monument for Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová was visited. The journalist and his fiancée were killed in their house on 21 February 2018. The memorial was erected in 2022. The King and Queen also attended a discussion in the Hall of Mirrors at the neoclassical Primaciálny Palace (the Primate’s Palace), that was built 1778-1781 for Archbishop József Batthyány, and was visited by many royals during its history. It is open as a tourist attraction.
The state banquet in the evening didn’t take place at the palace but at the Reduta, the Slovak Philharmonic, built between 1913 and 1919.
Wednesday 8 March 2023
The day started early with a visit to the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava, where on the occasion of the International Women’s Day a discussion was being held with young people on women’s empowerment and gender equality. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima shortly toured the exhibition of Stanislav Filkos “12 Colours of Reality”. They afterwards left for Bratislava Castle, that houses the Slovak National Museum and a number of official government reception rooms. After having posed in front of the castle, the royal couple met with the president of the Slovak parliament, Boris Kollár, and attended the business forum The Future Is Now. They also spoke with people from Slovakia and The Netherlands about business, the recovery of Slovakia’s neighbour land Ukraine and health care. The lunch was being held at the former summer residence of the Archbishop of Esztergom, nowadays the seath of the government. The evening concert was held at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava
Thursday 9 March 2023
The last day of the state visit was spent in northern Slovakia at the foot of the High Tatra Mountains. A short visit was paid to the village of Spišská Sobota, one of the best-preserved medieval villages in Slovakia. The King and Queen were informed about its history on the square and afterwards visited the Gothic church of St Juraj. The theme in the afternoon, at the end of the state visit, was the biodiversity and the nature conservation in the Tatra National Park. The King and Queen were given an explanation of the Belá River ecosystem and the impact of climate change. The walk continued through part of the Ticha Valley with explanations on nature conservation in Slovakia.