Cosmopolitan Bratislava emerges from Communist dowdiness

Huge changes in Bratislava are set to put the capital city of Slovakia on the European property ladder, according to the latest reports.

Nestling on the banks of the Danube, it had a reputation of being dowdy and run down with grim suburbs of concrete grey.

But in just four years since Slovakia joined the European Union the city has turned itself around. By 2010, the value of development projects implemented by private investors in Bratislava is expected to total € 1.2 billion.

Now there are bright shopping malls and new residential districts. Much of Bratislava's old centre has also been transformed into picture book prettiness. The castle, green copper spires, Medieval style burgher's houses, cobbled lanes and archways make it a place that now attracts more tourisits than ever before, according to the main tourist office.

Many restored buildings have been repainted with the pink, cream, and lemon colors that typify the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. You can visit Vienna for a day trip by hydrofoil; numerous castles and the spa town of Piestany are easily accessible. In the city itself there is opera and ballet and a new national theatre.

Bratislava's nightlife is another attraction with clubs, pubs, and smart new cafés creating a cosmopolitan feel. Budget flights make it a cheap destination.

Along with this comes new property developments. 'We are delighted that new developments are attracting investors. The government is working towards making Bratislava a prosperous European city,' said estate agent Adriana Laukova. Already one key development, Eurovea is being described as Central Europe's most desirable residential address, the ultimate in riverside city living.

The size of 16 football pitches, Eurovea's concept is to extend the historic city down to the banks of the Danube. Bratislava Castle is on the hill and the heart of the old centre is only a short walk.

Eurovea's first phase will include luxury apartments, an upmarket mall, 24,000 square meters of grade-A office space, a five-star Sheraton Hotel and a riverside park with leisure and entertainment facilities, plus a new landing dock for hydrofoils from Vienna.

Irish developers, Ballymore have built a number of flagship developments in London's regenerated Docklands as well as in other European capitals.

There are 254 apartments just released in Phase One starting at $421,374 for a 36-square-meter studio. One-bedroom, 59-square-meter units start at $781,434.