On my way from Vienna to Budapest, I decided to stop and explore Bratislava for one day. Compared to other European capitals, the city is fairly small but definitely worth a visit! Here’s how I made the most of my short stay in Bratislava.
Bratislava can easily be reached via bus or train. There are numerous companies that operate regular buses between Bratislava and the neighbouring cities. I took Slovak Lines from Vienna to Bratislava. I chose the bus because it was super cheap (only 5 euros) and convenient. The bus departed on time and the journey is just over one-hour long.
Where to stay
Finding accommodation in Bratislava will not be a problem. There are plenty of budget options or fancy hotels – take your pick! I stayed at Patio Hostel in a private room. My suggestion is to stay as close to the city centre as possible.
The currency used in Slovakia is Euros.
Bratislava is a very walkable city! If you stay close to the city centre, you can easily walk everywhere. No need to use public transportation.
What to do and see
There’s a lot to do and see in Bratislava. Below are my recommendations:
Join a free walking tour
There are two walking tours that you can join for free. The general Free Walking tour takes you to all the landmark sites in and around the historic city centre. The Communism and Castle tour focuses on the communist history of Slovakia. You will learn all about the Velvet Revolution and the Velvet Divorce. I highly recommend doing both tours. Each tour takes you to a different part of the city.
The square stretches from the opera house all the way to the highway. You’ll find two important statues in the square: one of Hviezdoslav (a famous ‘Tolkienesk’ local poet) and one of Hans Christian Anderson (famous Danish poet and author).
Interestingly, Hans only visited Bratislava for one day. The city, however, left a huge impression on him and one of his stories, The little match girl, is based on his short time in Bratislava.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
The cathedral is one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. Unfortunately, with the newly constructed highway right next to the church, the structure of the building is threatened by the vibrations from the road. It may only stand for 10 years or more before it collapses! Remember to visit the inside of the cathedral. It’s completely free.
Next, to the church, you’ll find an interesting memorial for the Jewish people who lost their lives during World War II.
The Church of St. Elizabeth (aka Blue Church)
Get your dose of colourful architecture here! The church is as blue on the inside as on the outside. Be sure to sneak a peek at the inside of the church!
This castle itself isn’t beautiful like for instance Neuschwanstein, as it was built for military purposes. It was never a residence for rulers or royal families. The gardens that surround the castle is pretty, though.
The view from the castle is the best! You’ll see some parts of the historic city centre, all the bridges that cross the Danube river and also the newer part of Bratislava with a lot of communist buildings. The view is also unique because you can see three countries: Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.
Remnants of Communism
Everywhere in the city, you’ll find remnants of Bratislava’s communist past. You cannot miss the distinct architecture. (In my opinion: it’s ugly!)
Here are some examples of the communist housing. Everything is uniform and simple.
Freedom Park (Námestie Slobody) was built during the communist rule. It’s really eerie and creepy! The benches in the park were designed to be really uncomfortable. The message was clear: Look at this beautiful park we built you. But actually, we don’t want you to be here. Go home!
Take a look at this dreadful pyramid building. It has been nominated as one of the ugliest buildings in the world.
Michael’s Gate is one of the oldest town buildings. As you walk through the gate, you’ll see a compass of the floor. It’s cool for me because it features Pretoria on it!
Man at work statue
This is a fun statue in the city centre. Because it’s so close to the ground, the statue has lost its head twice. To stop this from happening again, a unique traffic sign was placed next to the statue.
You cannot miss this alien-looking bridge. At the top of the bridge is a restaurant with a panoramic view of Bratislava.
What to eat and drink
Slovakia is known for its alcohol, for example, wine. You probably haven’t heard of Slovak wine because it isn’t exported. The wine is consumed in the country as the demand is so high. (I tried a glass of red wine – it’s really good!). During special festivals, there is a fountain that dispenses wine for free!
Slovakia is also known for its beer and strong spirits like Tetratea. If alcohol isn’t your thing, you have to try Kofola, a local super sugary drink similar to Coca-Cola. It tastes better than Coca-Cola for me, but it’s much sweeter.
A local must try dish is Bryndzove Halusky. This dish consists of small potato dumplings served in a cheese sauce with spring onions and bacon. You can order it without bacon for a vegetarian-friendly option. It’s really dense and heavy, but delicious!
As is the case with most cities, the restaurants in the city centre are very expensive. I found a great affordable place to eat close to the city centre and just around the corner from my hostel – Slovak Pub. It’s a great place to try local cuisine at good prices.
I enjoyed my short time in Bratislava very much. I loved the medieval architecture and feel of the city centre! If you can, stay longer than a day.