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Bratislava is a small old city, not so fancy like its “cousin” Vienna, but it has its own character. You might be wondering if it’s worth the visit the city (since it isn’t so big like other European capitals), I’ll come back to it shortly, but I can assure you will find very nice things to do in Bratislava.
The city became Slovakia’s capital after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which took place, among other reasons, because of the Velvet Revolution and ethnic differences between the Czechs and Slovaks.
The pleasant medieval inner city, cheap beer, and interesting statues attract more and more tourists to Bratislava every year. If you’re in Vienna for a few days, this is a perfect day trip!
The cities are close to each other and in one day you can see the main Bratislava’s attractions. Keep in mind that the real charm of Bratislava is the vintage feeling: walking in the city center, drinking cheap and eating!
Should I go to Bratislava?
This question comes up often in Google searches. You might be reading this article because it could be an option to visit Slovakia while on a trip to another city in Europe, like Budapest, Vienna, Prague, etc, but you’re not sure it’s worth your time or even if there are nice things to do in Bratislava.
I’ll try to help you decide this, okay? The cities I mentioned above are way bigger and have many more attractions than Bratislava, that’s true, but I’d still visit Bratislava. Why?
Because the city has a vintage charm, an old atmosphere that takes you back in time. Not like Vienna where everything is fancy and huge, but a little more “people like us”, you know? Like normal people, not kings and palaces!
And when you’re there, try not to compare Bratislava with the other cities. Just enjoy it because you’ll certainly have things to do there, keep reading to know what. 🙂 Besides, this is a perfect day trip from Vienna.
How to get to Bratislava from Vienna?
There is a train between both cities that takes around 1 hour to get from one central station (Wien Hauptbahnhof) to another (Bratislava Hlavná stanica). The train is hardly full of people and they run quite often, so you don’t need to buy a ticket online (OBB website), you can just buy a ticket at the train station.
We paid €10 for a one-way ticket to Bratislava, so I assume a return ticket costs €20. 🙂
When you arrive there don’t be surprised by the difference between both central stations, Bratislava is definitely not as fancy as Vienna. The good side of it is that the prices aren’t like Vienna either. 🙂
The Old Town is 15 min by foot from here and this is honestly the easiest way to get to the center. We preferred to walk there rather than take public transport as you get to see more of the city that way.
Things to do in Bratislava
On the way to the city center, you’ll stroll by the beautiful presidential palace, Grassalkovich, where you can take some good pics. Ah, there is also a nice fountain in front of it, the Planet of Peace.
Ok, let’s start our day in the 1920’s! Head to Michael’s Gate to be more exact. The Gate is a 51 meters high tower that houses the exhibition of Weapons of Bratislava City Museum. This is the only gate that is still preserved of the medieval fortifications, it dates to 1300!! Probably one of the oldest buildings in Bratislava! You can climb it to have a better view of the city!
As you walk down the Michalská street you’ll see many restaurants, cafés, souvenir shops, etc. On Sedlárska street, to your left, you’ll see many cool pubs (Irish, Scottish..). This second street will lead you to Hlavné námestie, the main square. Some of the main landmarks found in this square are Napoleon’s soldier statue, the Old Town Hall and the Maximiliánova/ Roland Fountain.
I bought my souvenir on a street market at the Frantiskanske námestie, next to the square. It was cheaper than the souvenir shops I mentioned above. We saw a very cute sightseeing bus at the main square(first picture below), they make a short tour through the main attractions.
If you want a nice view of the square you can go up on the Old Town Hall Tower, where the place houses the oldest museum in the city (Museum of City History). The ticket to the museum costs €5.
Food, food, food
We stopped at the Koliba Kamzik restaurant to reload our energy a bit. I had the typical Slovakian dish Bryndzové, which is basically potatoes, as a Italian gnocchi, covered by sheep cheese, smoked bacon and pieces of sausage 🙂 🙂
I loved it! It’s really tasty and it wasn’t expensive, only €7,90. My boyfriend chose for the potato balls with smoked meat and sauerkraut, Zemiakové knedle s údeným mäsom, €8,90. That was so yummy! I had to take a bite (of course)! Plus French fries and beer, the check was €22,80 (including tip). A huge difference compared to Vienna!
If you follow the Rybárska brána street a little bit further you’ll see a very sympathetic man at work. Or better saying, Cumil, the sewer worker who is watching pedestrians (or beautiful women? Or just resting?). Whatever the man is doing there, the statue was placed in 1997 and it lost its head twice in car accidents 🙁 (the city placed a sign now to make sure drivers know he is there, poor man).
Since we are talking about Bratislava’s statues you’ll notice a paparazzi is taking pictures of you 😮 This sneaky photographer is peeking around the corner of Laurinská and Radnicná. Just kidding, you’ll have to walk to the other corner if you want to see him hehe.
Head to St. Martin’s Cathedral and walk around it so you can find the path to the castle (we didn’t go inside cause a mass was taking place at the time), the streets around this cathedral are really cute and photogenic, take your time to appreciate them. I really had a feeling that I was in an old movie, the whole city is old, but these streets, in particular, are picturesque.
P.S.: Do you know what my name means in Slovakian? Or even in this sign above? I saw this next to the cathedral, but I have not a clue about what it could be.
Stroll up the hill to the castle through cute and steep streets (or stairs, there are 2 ways up on your left side, as you cross the bridge from the cathedral’s side). There are some real movie scene-cafés on the way up.
This is the most important castle of Slovakia, it dates to around 907, but the building was reconstructed again and again over time. This place, in particular, was very precious because of its strategical location – above the Danube river -, and the ground was used as a fortification for the Celts, Romans, Hungarians, and Slavs.
The castle is a perfect historical place with an amazing view. Ah, don’t forget to take a look at the gorgeous garden. The castle is pretty simple compared to other European cities, but it is still worth the walk up, in my opinion.
The good part for travelers on a budget? The entry to the castle is free! Yaaay! But Bratislava’s castle houses collections of the Slovak National Museum and the entrance to the museum costs €7.
When you get up there and look down to the Danube river, notice the wind turbines on your right side, that is Austria. Look left to see the Soviet blocks, that is Bratislava (duuh) and, if the weather allows, further away you can see Hungary.
You can also see the UFO bridge from here. Come back at night if you want to take some nice photos of it!
The UFO bridge is contrasting to everything you have seen so far, there is nothing more modern in the city. It has the best panoramic view and if you are into photography, you should consider coming here around sunset/ evening, I can assure you this is one of the best things to do in Bratislava, in that case.
The lights from the castle are beautiful at night and lit up the whole photo! Up there is an observation deck, a bar and a restaurant (it is pricey) if you consume food from the menu (you usually need a reservation for the restaurant, mainly during the weekends) you get a 100% discount on the admission fee.
Admission fee adults €7,40, students and big groups €4,95.
- Deck: daily from 10 am to 11 pm
- Restaurant: daily from 12 pm to 11 pm
- Bar: daily from 10 am to 11 pm
St Elizabeth’s church
This is the Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary but commonly referred as Blue Church. The building is relatively new if you compare to the rest of the city, it dates to 1913.
The whole church is decorated in shades of blue and it actually reminds me of some Disney movie: all blue and cute! It’s really a fairy-tale place! Bratislava’s most appealing art nouveau building represents Slovakia in Mini-Europe park in Brussels.
The Blue Church is located 10-15 minutes from the city center by foot, but it is worth the walk. 🙂
- Mon-Sat from 06:30 am to 08 am and from 05:30 pm to 07:30 pm
- Sun from 07:30 am to 12 pm and from 05:30 pm to 07:30 pm (or during a regular mass)
When to go to Bratislava?
Spring would be the best time to go as the trees are blooming and it’s starting to get warm. Autumn is also a good time to go, around September/ October. Winter is chilly and the brief summer is hot as the climate here is continental.
If you don’t know what “continental climate” is, well I didn’t, it means the climate is relatively dry with very hot summers/ cold winters. Ta-daaa. I told you we learn more traveling than reading, right?
So, do you have some tips to share for things to do in Bratislava? Write it in the comments! I wanna hear your stories!
*The prices mentioned here might have changed when you read this.
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