To be honest I’ve never been much of a fan of Bratislava, Slovakia. I visited it over 10 times and while it was nice I never really warmed up to it. Not until recently when I had a chance to spend the weekend there and then another one, get to know the city properly and enjoy numerous things to do in Bratislava.
For me it’s not the city you love right away, it takes time to discover it, find your own paths and spots. By now I have my favorite streets, buildings, restaurants, cafes and other Bratislava attractions, the places I try to visit every time I’m in the city.
I’m actually really glad I will be in Bratislava a few times again this year as it’s good to see how the city is changing and how this is a good change.
Table of contents
- 1 What to do in Bratislava
- 2 Outside Bratislava
- 3 Visiting Bratislava – practical information
What to do in Bratislava
For me, it’s optimal to spend 2 days in Bratislava. This way you have enough time to do the proper Bratislava sightseeing, also beyond the Old Town, and to enjoy all the best that it has to offer as well as to go outside the Slovak capital, see the countryside and taste some amazing wines this region is known for! Here’s my mini guide to best things to do in Bratislava!
The Old Town
The Old Town in Bratislava is the place where the majority of visitors spent their time and I definitely can see why. It’s compact, charming and full of interesting places around. When in the Old Town you can’t miss the main square – Hlavne Namestie – including the courtyard of the old town hall (Stara Radnica) as well as the national theatre and St. Martin’s Cathedral.
But the best thing to do in Bratislava Old Town is just to wander around, taking random streets here and there and just enjoy the place. Yes, it is rather touristy but still can be pretty. My favorite streets to wander around are: Michalska, Farska, Kapitulska, Venturska, Panska, and Laurinska but no matter which street you take chances it will be pretty and adorable are very high.
If you visit Bratislava around Christmas time you are lucky as the Old Town is full of Christmas markets (last year there were 5 of them!), each full of people, mulled wine and delicious food. I was really impressed with the atmosphere of the place. As much as I’m not really into Christmas markets I was really surprised with the ones in Bratislava and actually liked them a lot!
Towering above the Old Town and Danube river Bratislava castle might have a spectacular location but itself it looks more like the table standing upside down. Let’s be honest here, I saw better castles than this one. But still, it’s worth to climb up to see a pretty impressive view of the UFO Bridge and Petrzalka in the background.
Over the centuries Bratislava Castle played an important role in the history of Central Europe, from the mid-16th century it’s been the coronation city of the Hungarian Kingdom. These days the castle is still under reconstruction after the fire in 1811 but it’s open to visiting and serves as the museum with some interesting exhibitions (during my last visit there was one about the advertisements after WW2).
You love it or hate it but this is probably the most recognizable symbol of Bratislava (however some claim the castle has this title). Officially this is the SNP Bridge (SNP standing for Slovenské národné povstanie – Slovak National Uprising) but everyone claims it to be UFO Bridge, thanks to the brutalism structure located on top of it.
You can take the elevator up to the top and either dine in the restaurant or go to the viewing platform to admire the most spectacular view of Bratislava. I’ve heard soon the skywalk will be open there and that’s already a good reason for me to visit Bratislava again!
Built in 1760 in the Rococo / late Baroque style and located just outside the Old Town the Grassalkovich palace serves as the presidential palace. It’s impossible to visit it inside but you can freely enjoy the gardens, designed in the French style. It’s a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax in a beautiful green space.
Slovak Radio building
If you are a fan of brutalism and quirky architecture this place is a real gem! The building, finished in 1983, looks like the upside-down pyramid and once was included in the list of the 30 ugliest buildings in the world, alongside the National Library of Kosovo in Pristina or TV tower in Prague’s Zizkov. Well, for me it’s beautiful!
Bratislava is not the best city for street art (unlike Kosice, second biggest Slovak city) but things are slowly improving. In 2016 the first street art festival took place in the city and as a result you can see some beautiful murals like the one with the fox at Dunajska street.
Other places worth checking are under the UFO bridge (on the way to the castle) and the passage under Staromestska street, between Zochova, Kozia and Zupne namestie.
The independent art gallery focusing on Slovak 20th century and contemporary art. I’ve been there twice and each time I had a great time, enjoying some beautiful paintings. The gallery is conveniently located in the Bratislava Old Town and the building itself is worth visiting inside too. If you must visit only one art gallery in Bratislava I’d recommend Nedbalka.
That’s one place in Bratislava I haven’t been to yet but I always promise myself I will go and see it next time. Located on Slavin hill, the monument of Soviet casualties that lost their lives during the liberation of Bratislava in WW2 is interesting itself but that’s not the only reason why it’s worth to visit the place. Since this is one of the highest places in the city the view from there is supposed to be really amazing!
This is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen, it leaves me impressed every single time I see it. The Church of St. Elisabeth, better known as the Blue Church, is a perfect example of art nouveau architecture of the region. It looks like from a fairy tale, both from the inside and outside. Next to the church you will find another beautiful building – the school designed in art nouveau style.
If you’re fascinated with urban exploration and Soviet-style blocks then Petrzalka is your place to go in Bratislava. It is said this is the biggest neighborhood of that kind of Europe and I’m sure it’s not far from the truth. For some reason I haven’t made it there yet but I always admire it either from the UFO bridge or from in front of the castle and I can hear Petrzalka calling my name! Next time I will go there for sure!
That’s one of my favorite things to do in Bratislava! For me the Slovak capital has one of the best cafe scenes and new places are opening up often, living up to the high standards the city’s cafe scene has. My favorite cafes are Urban Space, Urban House, Stur Cafe, Dobre&Dobre and my recent discovery – W Cafe (close to the bus station). They are all stylish, carefully designed and so charming I could spend hours enjoying them over the cup of nice coffee.
When you’re done with all the Bratislava attractions but would like to explore some more I’m happy to report that the area around the Slovak capital offers a lot too! Did you know Slovakia produces a really good wine? It’s not widely popular outside of the country but it really is good! And the best place to try it is Male Karpaty region, not far from Bratislava! Other attractions of the area include:
It is considered one of the most beautiful castles of the region. Built in the 16th century Cerveny Kamen castle is very well preserved until this day. When I visited it was right before the St. Nicholas Day so I managed to tour the castle with a bunch of excited kids, the angel and the devil were our guides and eventually St. Nicholas himself appeared. It was so much fun! I was also lucky as it was a gorgeous winter day and everything looked like from a fairy tale!
Modra is one of the places where you can go wine tasting but that’s not the only reason to visit the town. This is one of the oldest towns in Slovakia and since 1607 it was known as Free Royal Town of Modra. Until this day you can see the traditional urban space, surrounded by the city walls – it’s best to admire the view of the town and the area around from the tower of The Roman Catholic Church of St. Stephen the King.
Modra is also known for its ceramic which is just the prettiest and makes a perfect souvenir from Slovakia (I so wanted to buy everything there!) as well as the place where Ludovit Stur – the father of contemporary Slovak language – died.
Located just 15kms away from Bratislava Svaty Jur is famous for the wine too but the town itself is interesting as well, with the gothic church being one of the oldest of that kind in Slovakia. Unfortunately, I visited the town and dusk so I couldn’t see it properly but it looks so quiet and peaceful under the blanket of snow.
This is probably the easiest and most popular (half) day trip from Bratislava yet I didn’t make it to Devin Castle myself. Located only 10kms away from the Bratislava Old Town, very well preserved ruins of the castle dating back to the 9th century dominate the area, hanging on top of the cliff at the confluence of Danube and Morava rivers. Devin Castle is also on top of my list of things to do in Bratislava next time I’m there!
While most of the people visit Bratislava as the day trip from Vienna it’s possible to do the reverse trip too, after all it’s only one hour by train. Vienna is full of attractions and might be one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in Europe but if you start your day early enough you can see a big part of it! Vienna is always a good idea but it might drain your wallet – that’s when staying in Bratislava and spending only one day in Vienna comes in handy!
Just like Vienna, Gyor is located only one hour away from Bratislava and makes a perfect day trip from there. If you feel like visiting Hungary this might be your answer. I haven’t been there myself (yet!) but passed by recently on my way from Bratislava to Budapest and I really liked what I’ve seen. Seemed to me like Gyor is another example of pleasant Central European city that might be interesting to explore. My friend Megan went to Gyor for one day from Bratislava, you can read more about her trip here.
Brno, Czech Republic
Bratislava can be a great base for visiting Brno too! The second biggest city in the Czech Republic is among my favorites and has so much to offer: beautiful architecture, long history, one of the most unique UNESCO listed monuments – modernist Tugendhat Villa – and of course great pubs and cafes.
Visiting Bratislava – practical information
How to get to Bratislava
Bratislava Ivanka airport is located very close to the center, less than 30 minutes by the public bus no 61 (it goes to/from the main train station). The ticket machine is located in the airport, on both sides of the exit door. It’s a small airport, you won’t miss it. The main airlines that serve Bratislava airport are Wizzair and Ryanair – check Skyscanner for the best deals on flights!
The main train station – Bratislava Hlavna Stanica – is located some 10 minutes walking from the Old Town. As much as I love trains and train stations this is not my favorite place and I usually try to spend there as little time as possible. But if you’re hungry there is a decent restaurant upstairs. From the main train station there are frequent train connections to Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary as well as less frequent to Poland or Germany.
The main bus station is also located some 10-15 minutes walking from the Old Town but in a different direction than the train station. If you need to wait for a while for your bus the nearby W Cafe is a perfect place to kill some time.
Where to stay in Bratislava?
Of all the place I’ve stayed in Bratislava I can definitely recommend Falkensteiner Hotel (8.6/10 on Booking). It’s located at the edge of the Old Town, has big and comfy rooms and if you’re lucky you might have an awesome view! Click here to check more details and current deals on Falkensteiner Hotel!
Other recommended places to stay:
- Roset Boutique Hotel (9.2/10 on Booking) – highly rated for cleanliness, location and comfort.
- Arcadia Boutique Hotel (9.0/10 on Booking) – visitors valued this place for the location, comfort and free wifi.
- Art Hostel Taurus (8.6/10 on Booking) – it is recommended for the location, personel and money value.
How to get around Bratislava?
The city, and especially the center, is pretty small so you can easily walk everywhere. If you need to use the public transport this website is your best source of information with maps, tickets info and schedules.
Where to eat in Bratislava?
You already know my favorite cafes in the city. The Old Town is full of numerous restaurants, serving both local and international cuisine. If you’re looking for some typical Slovak food I can definitely recommend you Bratislava Flagship Restaurant (the place is so beautiful!!) or Savoy Restaurant for the contemporary take on Slovak food.
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