With its glorious past, medieval old town, narrow cobbled streets, baroque palaces, renaissance castle, communist-era structures, charming cafes, quirky statues, laid-back mood, inexpensive character, and super proximity to Vienna and other neighboring capital cities; Bratislava is a much sought-after destination for a day trip.
Strategically placed on both sides of Danube, rightfully called “Beauty on the Danube,” Bratislava is a capital and the largest city of Slovakia.
It doesn’t feel like a large, humming metropolitan city. It has a soul. It’s young and cheerful. The little big city.
But don’t be fooled by its compactness, it packs a hell lot of unique experiences.
While strolling the streets of the old town I felt Bratislava is underrated and deserves more attention than it gets.
The city might be known as one of the youngest capitals in Europe as it became capital of Independent Slovakia in 1993 but the city has a long-standing history older than Prague and Budapest.
During the 16th to 18th centuries, Bratislava served as a capital of the Kingdom of Hungary.
Did you know? Bratislava is the only capital city that borders two autonomous countries - Austria and Hungary.
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Best Time to Visit Bratislava
If you go by the book, March to October is considered the best time to visit Bratislava. We visited in early June and it was hot and crowded like anything.
I’d suggest you plan in the months of March, April, May, September, and October when temperatures are mild and tourists are less.
Good to Know Dobrý trh (Good Market) is one of the best outdoor markets in Bratislava. It takes place only a few times a year. Check their website to know if it's happening around your travel dates so that you don't miss the extravaganza.
How Safe is Bratislava for Tourists?
Slovakia is as such an extremely safe country. The crime rate is low. Bratislava, however, reports cases of petty theft. So, beware of pickpockets especially around touristy areas. Take care of your belongings.
Be extra wary of taxi drivers in Bratislava. They have an image of looting foreigners.
Avoid the deserted areas of the city at night especially if you are a woman traveling solo.
If you are driving on your own, make sure to carry the important documents needed to drive in Slovakia.
For dark skin travelers, there are unpleasant cases of racism and neo-Nazism in some parts of Bratislava.
Bratislava isn’t very wheel-chair friendly. The Slovak Union for the Disabled is trying hard to improve the facilities. Not all but some hotels, buildings, and means of public transport are wheel-chair friendly. Read a wheel-chair user’s point of view about Bratislava at TripAdvisor.
Getting to Bratislava
Bratislava Milan Rastislav Štefánik Airport, the largest in Slovakia has regular air flights around Europe, UK, and Russia. Ryanair, Danube Wings, Czech Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle (ASA), and UTair are the major airlines.
There are no direct flights from India and USA to Bratislava or Slovakia for that matter. It’s recommended to fly to Vienna, Austria, and travel by road to Bratislava.
Public buses connect the airport to the city center.
There are frequent train connections to and from Bratislava to rest of Slovakia and the major cities in central and eastern Europe.
The central train station, Bratislava Hlavná Stanica receives most of the international trains while another primary train station, Bratislava-Petržalka receives trains from Vienna. Both the stations have easy bus connections into the city center.
Coach buses connect Bratislava to rest of Slovakia and all the major cities of EU countries.
Buses arrive at Autobusová Stanica, the Central Coach Terminal located at Mlynské nivy.
Bratislava can be easily accessed by rental or own car using motorways from Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, Croatia, and Poland.
If you decide to drive, make sure to buy a vignette (highway toll sticker) from a gas station close to the border.
Pro-Tip Driving is fun but finding parking isn't. Why spoil the fun of driving then? Instead, travel to Bratislava on weekends when parking is free and easy to find.
Getting to Bratislava from Vienna
Most tourists explore Bratislava on a day trip from Vienna as the distance is super short (1 hour).
Bratislava is 80 km drive from Vienna. You can reach Bratislava by bus (Flixbus or Omio), train (raileurope or ÖBB), or car from Vienna.
Driving your own car is the fastest (1 hour) while catching a bus is the cheapest route.
We traveled by a rental car. The route was gorgeous. The countryside was filled with windmills on both sides of the road. And you know, the best part is there’s no border control between Vienna and Bratislava. We didn’t even notice that we have gone from Vienna to Bratislava. As simple!
Are you a road junkie like us? I'm sure then you'd love to travel around Europe in a car. Renting a car in Europe doesn't come by easy if you are a first-timer. No worries. Here are the tips and tricks to rent a car in Europe for you.
Getting Around Bratislava
Most of Bratislava’s worth-visiting attractions are crammed into Old Town in few blocks except for a few attractions that need you to wander a little away from the old town.
Old Town is very much walkable. In fact, the town ought to be explored on foot provided the weather is favorable.
The city has easy and cheap public transport system with a good number of buses, trams, trolleys, and night buses. You can buy the tickets from the ticket machines installed at most of the stops, newsstands, and tourist information centers. You need an exact change to buy tickets from the machine.
Buy a 24-hour travel ticket as it comes cheap (3.50€ per person) and gives you the freedom to use all modes of public transport as much as you want.
If you plan to use public transport in Bratislava this website is your ultimate source of information.
We walked the entire length and breadth of the Old Town (even on a hot sunny day) and hopped on a small tourist city train Prešporáčik Oldtimer that took us around major landmarks at the speed of 5 km per hour meaning we could easily take in the sights and click photos.
Where to Stay in Bratislava
Bratislava is the only city in Europe where you can stay in a luxury hotel at the price of a budget hotel.
Hey! I’m not kidding! Try it for yourself.
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Where to Eat in Bratislava
There are a number of amazing places in Bratislava where you can sample the best of traditional Slovakian cuisine.
Bratislava Flagship Restaurant
Bratislava Flagship is not only a restaurant but a symbol of Bratislava. They are right in a say that “If you have not been in Bratislava Flagship Restaurant, you don’t know Bratislava!”
One of Europe’s largest restaurants, Flagship is the best place to try local Bratislava cuisine and traditional Slovak dishes. It is located at the Námestie SNP, aka Slovak National Uprising Square.
We tried Bryndzové halušky, Bryndzové Pirohy (sheep cheese dumplings), Kuracie Krídelká, and S Chelbom (Crispy chicken wings with bread and homemade marinade). The food (taste as well as portion) and ambiance, both were great.
We ordered individual Slovak specialties; you can order a Slovakian Delicacies Platter with three local specialties served in a huge platter that takes care of two-person’ appetite.
Though the outside sitting area is a lovely place to eat, I’d suggest you take a tour inside the restaurant. It houses the Bratislava Golden Lane that takes you through a historical Bratislava.
We paid €29.70 for three dishes, coke, coffee with milk, a bottle of water (sparkling), and a large beer.
Insider Tip Just a few steps away from the restaurant is Hurbanovo Square, where you can look for the weird square- shaped metal object. It might look like a drain but that's actually a music box. Let the kids jump on the squares and dance to the chimes.
Bratislavsky Meštiansky Pivovar
The oldest brewery in the town, Meštiansky Pivovar is the best place to try traditional Slovakian cuisine. Also, their draft beer is some of the best in Bratislava.
It’s one of those places where you can eat your heart out without spending a fortune.
They have two locations in the town – Drevená and Dunajská. The one at Dunajská, a bit away from the hubbub of the old town with a huge outdoor terrace garden is nicer 🙂
Sky Bar and Restaurant
If you have are not thinking about the budget or want to overindulge, Sky Bar is a perfect choice. It is a great blend of the stunning view, delectable food, and amazing cocktails and mocktails.
We tried Skywalker, Irish Coffee and Mango Cheesecake.
What to Eat and Drink in Bratislava
As always, we recommend trying local delicacies as food tells a hell lot about the culture of the country.
Here are some of the Slovak dishes you should try when in Bratislava:
- Garlic Soup
- Bratislavský Rožok (walnut or poppy seed-filled croissant)
- Lokše or Zamiatone (potato pancakes)
- Bryndzove Halusky
- Bratislava Rolls
- Chimney Cake (Trdelnik)
- Local Beer
Things to do in Bratislava
Bratislava is full of surprises! There’s something for everyone. An all-ages-friendly city won’t disappoint anyone. Here’s what to do in Bratislava:
Old Town (Staré Mesto)
As with every European city, Bratislava’s soul lies in its Old Town. It’s where you’ll see almost all the must-see attractions. It’s the historic center of Bratislava.
Inside-Tip Booklover or not, Antikvariát Steiner (antiquarian bookstore Steiner), a second-hand bookshop located in the heart of the old town is a delight to visit. Its books, bookshelves, and the walls echo the bygone days - good and bad. It's open from 10 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday.
I love to buy second-hand books. Aside from the story, they have so much history plus they smell divine. And what about you?
Hlavné Námestie (main square) in the old town is packed with tourists all the time being the epicenter of the town.
Architectural splendors surround every nook and cranny of the main square like Old Town Hall (Stara Radnica), a unified complex of gorgeous buildings from different time periods, Roland Fountain (Maximilian Fountain), a statue on top of which spins magically at New Year’s Eve that can only be seen by a Bratislavian with a pure heart, and Palugyayov Palác, a neo-baroque palace.
The Old Town Hall houses the Bratislava City Museum, city’s oldest museum.
Adjacent to the Old Town Hall, New Town Hall, and Museum of City History, the pretty pink neoclassical palace is located at Primaciálne námestie (The Primary Square) in the old town. It’s the seat of Bratislava’s Mayor.
The Hall of Mirrors is the most famous chamber in Primate’s Palace. You are not allowed to take pictures of other chambers and halls except the Hall of Mirrors.
Michael’s Gate and Tower
A pedestrian bridge with love locks takes you to the city’s last standing medieval gate, Michael’s Gate. As you cross the gate and walk further, the streets brimming with cafes, restaurants, and shops welcome you.
Michael’s Tower is hard to miss as it rises 51 meters above the gate. The golden circle right in front of Michael’s Tower known as Kilometer Zero displays the distance to other European capitals from Bratislava.
The observation deck on the top of the Museum of Arms inside Michael’s Tower offers a panoramic view over the city in 5€ (per adult) and 3€ (per child aged 6-14).
The walk from the tower towards right takes you to a little and charming cobbled street, Baštová Street which is best known for being the narrowest in Bratislava.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
A stroll through Baštová Street to Kapitulská Street among the vibrant old buildings paves the way to Rudnayovo Námestie where St. Martin’s Cathedral is located.
The gothic spire of the cathedral adorns the Old Town’s skyline.
Named after Slovakia’s famous poet, Pavol Ország Hviezdoslav, Hviezdoslavovo námestie is one of many squares in Bratislava.
With a host of outdoor restaurants and cafes, pedestrian zone lined with trees and benches, and souvenirs stalls, the square is popular among locals and tourists alike.
It’s where city’s oldest hotel, Carlton is located.
Slovak National Theatre
The historical Slovak National Theatre at Hviezdoslav Square and the New Slovak National Theater at Pribinova near Eurovea shopping center have three permanent ensembles: Opera, Ballet, and Drama.
The performances take place almost every day during summer. Tickets range from 1 to 50 euros. Ain’t they cheap?
Check out the performances and their timings plus prices at theater’s official website.
The Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising (Most SNP) or New Bridge (Nový most) connects the old town with Petržalka, a district in Bratislava.
The name UFO Bridge comes from its spaceship-shaped architecture.
You can see the bridge from most of the places in Bratislava. It’s the most distinguished attraction in Bratislava. A lift at one of the legs of the bridge takes you to the observation deck on the top of the bridge that offers scenic views over Bratislava.
The entry fee is around 7€ which is discounted in your bill if you plan to dine at the UFO Restaurant.
You can spot the castle placed on a hill much before you enter Bratislava. It’s the symbol of Bratislava. The castle is depicted on the Slovak euro coins.
If you choose to walk to the Bratislava Castle from St. Martin’s Cathedral through Židovská street, you’d spot the House of the Good Shephard, a yellow-colored narrow, rococo-style townhouse that’s home to the Museum of Clocks today.
If walking the old town has exhausted you, take a city sightseeing train that crisscrosses through the city’s major landmark to reach the castle.
The castle with its baroque garden is beautiful though the real charm lies in the sweeping view over the old town, UFO, Danube River, and Austria from the castle.
You can visit the Museum of History (SNM-Historické Múzeum) inside the castle with an entry ticket of 10€ (per adult) and 4€ (per child aged 6 to 14).
Grassalkovich Palace aka Presidential Palace, a venue for the aristocratic society’s events formerly serves as the residence of Slovakia’s president today.
The palace is open to the public only once in a year usually in June though you can visit the huge Presidential Garden or French Garden at the back of the palace any time of the year.
The Blue Church
As the name clearly suggests, it’s a church in blue color. The exteriors, as well as interiors, showcase the stunning blue color.
On a clear day, it looks ultra-gorgeous with a blue sky as a backdrop.
Not far away from the city center, it’s located on Bezručova Street. We had a chance to witness a beautiful wedding ceremony at the church.
Slavin War Memorial
Slavin is a memorial monument plus military cemetery where around 7,000 Soviet soldiers who sacrificed their lives during World War II to free the city from Germans in 1945 are buried.
Designated as a National Cultural Monument in 1960, Slavin is located in a posh area (embassy residences and mansions are situated here) on the Slavin hill in the old town, thus offers amazing views of Bratislava.
Starting at Hodžovo námestie, the trolley bus number 203 or 207 takes you to Búdková from where you can walk up to the hill to reach Slavin.
Heydukova Street Synagogue
Designed in a cubist style, Heydukova Street Synagogue is the only Jewish synagogue in the city. It houses the Bratislava Jewish Community Museum. The museum holds a permanent exhibition – Bratislava Jews and their Cultural Heritage.
The synagogue is open to the public during summer from 10 am to 4 pm with an entry fee of around 6€ per person.
Please dress modestly as it’s an active house of Jewish worship.
Slovak Radio Building
Listed as one of the top 30 ugliest buildings in the world, Slovak Radio Building doesn’t look like one actually. My perception maybe.
Constructed in an upturned pyramid shape, the building has a communist-era feel as with other bizarre Cold War era-structures in Bratislava.
If you have a day or two in Bratislava, consider crossing the Danube into the outer suburb of Petrzalka.
Central Europe’s largest residential district, Petrzalka has nothing special yet worth a visit if you want to have a close look at the brutalist or communist architecture. It once was known as Bratislava Bronx.
The collection of communist-era concrete colorful blocks, locally known as Paneláks are a stark reminder of the painful past but at the same time indicate the cultural vibrancy of Bratislava.
Bratislava City Gallery
The Pálffy Palace at Panská street near Hviezdoslavovo Square along with Mirbach Palace at Františkánskest street house the Bratislava City Gallery.
The City Gallery holds permanent as well as temporary exhibitions from time to time.
The permanent exhibition “Stories and Phenomena: 2oth Century Slovak Fine Art II” at Pálffy Palace features remarkable installations: Villa of Mysteries and Matej Kren Passage.
The major drawcard here is Matej Kren Passage that creates an illusion of endless space from the books and mirrors.
Marked as one of the best museums in Bratislava, Nedbalka’s impressive five circle-shaped floors display the best Slovak modern and contemporary art.
Devin Castle Ruins
Hrad Devín or Devín Castle is located on a cliff in Devín, 12 km away from Bratislava. It overlooks the Austro-Slovak borders and the confluence of the rivers of Danube and Morava.
You can add Devin to your itinerary if you have more than a day’s time in Bratislava. It takes around 2-3 hours to explore the castle and its attractions.
Insider Tip Add Sandberg, a geological site in Devin if you have time on your hands.
The Streets of Bratislava
The best way to explore and soak the atmosphere of the city is wandering its streets and alleyways. This is how you chance upon places and attractions that are not in the guidebooks.
Some of our favorite streets in Bratislava are Michalská, Panska (aka Aristocracy Street), Laurainska, Nedbalova, Ventúrska, Obchodná, Farska, Baštová street, and Kapitulska Streets.
Kapitulska street, one of the oldest streets in Bratislava is special. It oozes history. Walking the street lined with colorful traditional houses is like taking a walk into the past.
The Statues of Bratislava
You are sure to bump into one or the other interesting statue while strolling the streets of Old Town of Bratislava. Outlandish statues. They are everywhere.
Statues really are a big thing in the capital city of Slovakia. They are different, in the sense that they ain’t dedicated to famous personalities but to ordinary people from different walks of life.
They breathe more life and quirkiness into the city! They in fact are the most famous photo points in Bratislava.
Čumil being the celebrity, you’d have to wait in a line to get clicked with Čumil 😉 Tourists know it as “Man at Work” and “Rubberneck”.
Čumil is a Slovakian word that translates to the watcher. There are many stories as to why he’s named so. Hear them from locals.
Some claim that this naughty man is trying to get a look under the girls’ skirts. Others say that he’s a lazy worker who works less and watches more. While some suggest that he’s just taking rest after a day’s hard work while enjoying his surroundings. Whatever it is, a smile on his face says that he loves watching people go by.
Legend has it that if you rub his head and make a wish – it’ll come true provided you manage to keep it a secret.
Schöne Náci is an exception being the only silver statue among the bronze ones. The statue is dedicated to Ignac Lamar, a lover from Pressburg (old name of Bratislava) who lost his mind when the girl he loved turned down his proposal.
He aimlessly wandered the streets of Bratislava while offering flowers to random girls. You can spot the statue greeting you by raising his hat just in front of the Cafe Mayer at Sedlárska Street.
Napoleon’s Army Soldier
Napoleon’s Army Soldier stands just in the center of the main square. The sculpture is dedicated to Hubert who came to Bratislava in 1805 with Napolean and his army. A love affair with a Bratislavian girl made him stay back.
He later on cultivated the sparkling wine brand named after him, Hubert. We couldn’t take a pic because the statue was covered due to maintenance work.
Just opposite to Napoleon’s Soldier stands another military figurine.
Ah! and there’s another one hidden inside a hole in the wall just above the shop named Fokus along the Panská street. He’s called the Taunter!
The legend has it that an old man used to spy a lot on his neighbors that annoyed them so much that they placed his naked statue to mock his shenanigans.
Other notable statues in the town include the statue of Hans Christian Andersen at Hviezdoslav’s Square, two girls resting, one on top and one underneath a valid post box at Obchodná Street, a Paparazzi spying on people at UFO restaurant, and Statue of Warhol at Ventúrska street.
Farmers’ Markets in Bratislava
We love to taste the fresh local produce wherever we go so checking out on the farmer’s markets is must for us.
Marketplace Miletičova (Trhovisko Miletičova) is a historic open-air market with individual stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat.
Nova Trznica (New Market) is a market hall dating back to the socialist era. The building houses a grocery store plus stalls selling fruits, vegetables, local cheese, meat, and wine.
Cafes of Bratislava
I need a cup of coffee in-between explorations. I love to sit and relax in a good cafe with a hot cup of coffee and watch the people go by. Thus, cafe-hopping is an important part of our travels.
Here are some of the cafes I discovered and loved while I was in Bratislava and feel them worthy of the mention.
- Konditorei Kormuth at Sedlárska
- Urban House at Laurinská
- Five Points at Panska
- Zeppelin Cafe and Souvenirs at Sedlárska
- Underground Tea Room at Venturska
- Kapucino Coffee & Cakes at Kapucinska
Best Views Over Bratislava
You can witness the lovely views over Bratislava from Bratislava Castle, Michael’s Gate, Old Town Hall, UFO Tower, Slavin Memorial, and Kamzik Tower at Bratislava Forest Park.
UFO Tower is said to be the best spot to get a panoramic view of Bratislava. I also loved the way Bratislava and UFO looked from Bratislava Castle.
Outdoor Fun in Bratislava
As a nature lover and a family traveler who travels with kids, I constantly look for places where kids can have outdoor fun and we can stretch our legs after all the city exploration.
Bratislava has a couple of them.
Bratislava Forest Park located in the hills above the town is one of the best nature parks to walk, aimlessly, breathe in some fresh air, and relax.
A cable car connects the Bratislava Forest Park to Železná studnička from where many hiking and biking trails start. There are many lakes, playgrounds, and small cafes to stop by.
Horsky Park and Medická Garden are the green open spaces right in the Old Town. You don’t even need to leave the city to step into nature.
Zlaté Piesky (Golden Sands) is a natural water lake at the border of the city. Wakelake, a part of the Golden Sands is the recreational and sporting area.
You can get tanned at the beach, or play beach volleyball or beach tennis, or try wakeboarding or wakeskating or eat your heart out at a Wakelake restaurant.
Sad Janka Kráľa Park, the oldest park in central Europe in Petržalka is also a beautiful park quite close to the city center.
Should you Buy a Bratislava Card?
We almost always buy and recommend other travelers to consider buying the City Cards. They are in fact good value for money.
Bratislava Card gets you free or discounted entrance to many sights, attractions, museums, and gives free unlimited access to public transportation. It also offers a free walking tour.
So, if you plan to use public transportation for the entire duration of stay, are keen to visit the tourist attractions, and are a museum person, Bratislava Card is most likely a good bet for you.
On the other hand, if you are a slow and independent traveler like me who loves to walk a lot, wants to explore the city at his or her own pace, and enjoys getting lost in the unknown streets, Bratislava Card may not be a good fit for you.
Souvenirs from Bratislava
I love picking up traditional souvenirs to take back home from wherever I go so that I could go back to that place all over again whenever I want by just looking at those memorabilia. What about you?
Here are the souvenirs you can fill your bags and memories with when in Bratislava.
- Corn Husk Dolls
- Traditional Folk Embroidered Tops and Dresses
- Baliarne Herbal Tea
- Horalky Slovak Wafer Bar
- Honey and honey-based local products from Cera Mel Medový Obchod Honey Shop
Where to Shop in Bratislava
The best places to shop for local and authentic souvenirs in Bratislava are Cera Mel Medový Obchod and Uluv.
The Michalská and Ventúrska streets are lined with small stalls and shops selling traditional souvenirs at reasonable prices.
I make sure to read a book or two about a particular city or country or region I plan to visit. This habit pays off. I’d highly recommend reading any of these books before traveling to Bratislava, Slovakia.
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Have you ever been to Bratislava? How do you like it? I’d love to know!
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