Bratislava, a small quaint capital of Slovakia, is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. A city filled with old world charm, mysterious architecture and outdoor cafes. As you walk through the streets you will notice this city is brimming with rich culture and unusual stories from dour communist era which it’s eager to shed.
When I decided to make a quick stop at Bratislava en route to Prague, I had no idea what to expect. In fact I have never even heard of this city before. I knew very little of Slovakia. But sometimes ignorance can lead to wonderful experiences. Although I only spent one day in Bratislava, I was taken away by the beauty and sweet hospitality of it’s people.
Bratislava, Slovakia: Travel Guide for 2020
Geographically, this city has a special advantage, Bratislava borders two other countries, Austria and Hungary. Getting from Vienna to Bratislava is a breeze. It takes an hour or so and few hours from Prague. Moreover you can see most of the city in a single day. So there is no reason why you shouldn’t allow at least one day in Bratislava.
Day Trip to Bratislava from Vienna
You have 3 easy options to get from Vienna to Bratislava, and they’re all around 1 hour.
This is a direct train with OBB from Vienna Central Station to Bratislava Hlavna Station. The cost starts at around €11 Euro and it takes 1 hour.
There are 4-5 bus lines that run between the two cities, all taking between 55 minutes to 1.5 hours to get there. Tickets are as cheap as €3!
Very cool and unexpected way to get between Vienna and Bratislava is by Ferry down the Danube. LOB has a ferry that takes around 1.5 hours with tickets starting at €24.
Day Trip to Bratislava from Budapest
You have 2 easy options to get from Budapest to Bratislava, the bus and the train.
This is a direct train with Hungarian Railways from Budapest Nyugati Station to Bratislava Hlavna Station. The cost starts at around €8 Euro and it takes 2.25 hours.
There are a few bus lines that run between the two cities, all taking between 55 minutes to 1.5 hours to get there. Tickets start at €12!
Fun Facts About Bratislava
- Bratislava, is the only capital in the world which borders two other countries, Austria and Hungary.
- Bratislava is the biggest city in Slovakia.
- The city received its present name in 1919. Until then, it was mostly known by its German name, Pressburg.
- It became a centre for ‘Slovak national movement’, during the 18th century.
- Bratislava is probably the only city in the world, where you can have lunch in a UFO.
- The distance between Vienna and Bratislava is only 60km, making them closest two capitals in Europe.
- Bratislava (and all of Slovakia) uses the Euro €
Best Time To Go To Bratislava
Spring and Autumn
Even if Bratislava is not the most popular destination among tourists, the combination of good weather and number of tourists can make or break the trip. Summer will give you the best weather, but the highest tourist numbers.
Shoulder season is between April and September. Temperature is pleasant, not very hot or cold with lesser crowd. September also is a month of the grape harvest in Slovakia. So expect to find plenty of weekend wine and trdelnik festivals if visiting during this period.
Winters are usually cold and humid. But fun aspect about them are Christmas markets. Atmosphere in the city will be lively and festive, with streets full of food, drinks and holiday cheer.
Getting Around Bratislava
City is extremely easy to navigate as a visitor, another reason why Bratislava is a perfect day trip from Vienna or Budapest. You will be spending most of your time in a compact Old Town, which means you will most likely be walking from one attraction to another.
Although exploring on foot is the best option but if you plan on visiting sites beyond old town or are too tired to walk, there is also a decent network of public transport, connecting the whole city through buses, trams and trolleybuses.
Same ticket can be used for all three modes making it super convenient to hop around the town. A single ticket valid for 15 minutes (1 ride) costs €0.50, while a ticket valid for 1 hour (multiple rides) costs €0.70. Or you can buy an unlimited day pass for €3.50.
Tickets need to be purchased before boarding. Can be bought at newspaper kiosks or at automated (yellow) machines, located inside most stations. Don’t forget to get them validated immediately after boarding.
Top Things To Do In Bratislava In One Day
Now you must be thinking 24 hours is not enough time to see everything the city has to offer. But you are in luck, as Slovakia’s capital is not a huge destination and could be easily explored in one day’s time. The key is to know exactly where to go and what to see. And here is when this travel guide will come handy. Follow me as I take you through all the impressive landmarks and different parts of this city
Start With The Main Square
This is a perfect spot to start your visit. Main square is located in the centre, deep in the old town area. Often marked by elegant lined buildings, it has two main landmarks Old Town Hall and Roland Fountain. This is definitely the classical pretty side of the city.
Climb The Old Town Hall
Built in 1370, this is one of the oldest buildings in Bratislava. With adorned green tiled roof and pretty courtyard in the centre, it’s among the most picturesque landmark of the city.
To get great views of the main square, you can also climb the tower.
Wander Around The Old Town
After getting great views of the main square, you can start exploring the old town in any direction you like. It’s so compact and small that you can walk from start to finish in less than 10 minutes or spend hours strolling through cobbled streets, shopping or finding your favourite cafe along the way.
As you stroll you will find few attractions here which are worth a walk through like Hviezdoslav Square, The Primate’s Palace and St Martin’s Cathedral, the city’s largest gothic cathedral.
Visit Michael’s Gate
Built in the 1300s, this is the only surviving medieval gate in Bratislava. It is 51ft tall and a must visit for anyone coming to Slovakia’s capital. It is located at the northern end of Old Town.There is ‘museum of art’ at the ground floor, while the top terrace gives perfect panoramic views of the old town.
Get A Picture In Narrowest House Of Europe
It may sound outlandish but you will find the narrowest house of Europe in Bratislava. Built in a tiny space between Michael’s gate and Michael tower, this house is 130cm wide. Known as ‘zero point’, it was constructed in18th century, after the removal of Bratislava city wall. Not much to do here but it’s cool place to get a picture for your social media. After all how many people in the world can say they have been to the narrowest house of Europe?
Visit The Blue Church
Located on the eastern side of the city centre is another must visit landmark of Bratislava.
Although officially it is called Church of St. Elisabeth, but due to it’s appearance locals have dubbed it as ‘The Blue Church’. Everything about it is blue – the exteriors, interiors, even the roof. It was built in 1913, today is the most appealing and standout building in Bratislava.
It’s impossible to miss this landmark. Sitting on hillside, overlooking the city, it was built in the 9th century. The walk to the castle from old town is mildly strenuous and could take 20 minutes or more. Along the way you will pass plenty of wine bars, cute shops and cafes. So it’s not bad at all.
Once you make your way to the top, you will reach the castle gate. It’s awesome to wander around the exterior of the castle, get gorgeous views of Danube and all for free. Although I didn’t go inside the castle, but if you want to checkout the interiors, you can book a castle walking tour. Or buy a pass to the Museum of History, located inside the castle.
I feel the best part about traveling is the opportunity to taste the local culture. Kofala is a non alcoholic beverage, originated in the 20th century when Czechoslovakia was a satellite state of Soviet Union. It was developed as a cheap alternative to Coca Cola and Pepsi. Grab it from any little shop you see.
….need more than one day in Bratislava?
Where To Stay In Bratislava
Historic city centre of Bratislava is “The old town”. It’s here where most of the attractions are except for the UFO, which is on the other side of the Danube. As a visitor you will be spending most of your time in and around Old town, which means best places to stay are ones which are walking distance from the Old Town. Moreover, it is great for nightlife due to the numerous bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
Compared to western Europe, Bratislava is cheap but if you are looking for more affordable accommodation you should find good options towards north, near the train station, or east where most of the apartments are located.
Hotels in Bratislava
Good news. Accommodation in general is pretty affordable in Bratislava! Below are some of the top recommendations in all price categories. By the way, any hotel or hostel mentioned here has at least a 8/10 review rating, so rest assured knowing they are not dives.
Bratislava accommodation under €20
€20 – €50/night
€50 – €100/night
So now you know everything you need to know for your perfect 24 hours in Bratislava. Exploring main sights and the town will be a breeze.
PS- Have a wonderful time ! “Travel in Slovakia —- a GOOD IDEA” – (The Country’s slogan).
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Hi I am Rashi, face behind desigalaroundtheworld.com. A travel blogging website dedicated to all you lovely readers who like to explore places on a budget and without a tour guide. I share everything about my travels through photography, writing and videography hoping to make your next trip more successful !