A Traveller’s Guide
Written By Molly Birchmore
Bratislava home to 650,000 people
Do you know where Bratislava is? Could you point to it on a map? Do not worry if the answer to both these questions is no, by the end of this Traveler’s Guide you’ll know everything you need to know about Slovakia’s spectacular capital city.
In this article we will cover
- Is Bratislava worth visiting?
- 24 hours in Bratislava
- Is Bratislava expensive?
- Backpacking Bratislava
- Unusual Things To Do In Bratislava
Whether you have just 24 hours in Bratislava or plan a weekend getaway there is a whole host of things to do to keep you entertained.
Bratislava is the epitome of Eastern European charm, although, this has not always been the case. Once the stomping ground of failing Communists, the city centre is now a charming and vibrant area that should feature high on your to-visit cities.
Colourful buildings that ooze quintessentially Slovakian architecture, quaint and classy boutique shops and laid back (beer filled) cafes to enjoy at your leisure.
Straddling the Danube River one can draw parallels with other Eastern European cities like Budapest.
But unlike popular and busy Budapest, Bratislava has still retained its under the raider status.The Old Town is a joy to behold, meandering side streets lined with shops, restaurants, and traditional eateries this area of the city should be your first point of call.
A truly multicultural city, Bratislava has been home to Hungarians, Germans and even the Romans at certain points across history. These phases have been secured in stone in the form of the ranging architecture about the city.
Bratislava is easy to access by road, rail or airplane and is one of the cheapest European cities to explore.
More bang for your buck, more culture for your coins and more entertainment for your Euro, get your bags at the ready you’ll be wishing the time away until you can set foot in this fantastic city.
Is Bratislava Worth Visiting?
Some travellers may feel that such a little-known city lies just off the beaten track for good reason. This is certainly not the case with Bratislava nor Slovakia as a whole. Whether you are looking to take a weekend mini-break in the mid-fall or hop across the European continent in the summer months there is plenty to see and do in Bratislava.
You may think that in the winter months Bratislava is not worth visiting but that is surely not the case.
As the chilly breeze blows Slovakia’s charming capital really comes to life.
Although the balmy summer temperatures truly plummet during the winter months the sun still hangs high in the sky allowing for wonderfully bright but cool days.
Bratislava, like many European cities, offer magical Christmas markets. Vendors head to the streets as of midday to serve up their outstanding local and traditional cuisines as well as some seasonal treats too. Handicraft creators sell their wares provide beautiful souvenirs to take home with you or some Christmas presents for friends and family alike.
The Christmas markets in Bratislava are somewhat more quiet and intimate than other popular winter markets in Europe. If you found the Christmas markets of Paris, Brussels, Vienna, and Krakow somewhat overwhelming then get yourself to Slovakia for a more steady experience.
If you are keen on Christmas markets then Bratislava is worth visiting for sure.
If you are lucky you may get snow during your time in the city. Although in many parts of the world snow can make a city go into shut down mode but not in Bratislava, normal service will ensue and the city looks even more majestic under the snowy skies.
Come the Spring months of April and May the city returns to its full blooming glory and the winter cobwebs have been firmly blown away
The outdoor seating of the cafes and restaurants reappear and line the pedestrianized streets. The Old Town comes out of its winter hibernation and returns to its vibrant and captivating self once more.
In the spring months be sure to visit the Bratislava Botanical Garden, the Medical Garden, and the Presidential Garden too.
Not only are these parks a great way to reconnect with nature but also highlight the romance of this lovely city. Plenty of photo opportunities too!
If a touch of romance sounds appealing head to Karloveská Zátoka and hire a boat and float your way around this bay of the Danube. The perfect spot for a picnic whether you are travelling as a loved up couple or a family with children. As with so many cities, Bratislava really comes into its own in the summer months.
Quite contrary to the deep, cold winters the summer months are as hot as can be. Remember to book a hotel room with a fan to help you stay cool during the balmy evenings.
Try to time your visit for the early summer time as you’ll be able to experience the Festival of Frankovka Modra, which is Bratislava’s wine festival.
Celebrating the wine of the region locals participate in musical performance, dance, historical fencing battles and more. This is a great way to get to grips with Slovakia’s rich culture and deep history.
Is Bratislava Expensive?
As western cities go Bratislava is very, very cheap. You could enjoy a weekend in Bratislava in a mid-range hotel and eat in top rated restaurants for $200. Many people head to Bratislava for the beer and it is easy to see why. Eastern Europe is famed for its high-quality beer and to make matters even better they sell their high-esteemed booze for considerably cheaper than most of the rest of Europe and certainly the United States of America, Australia, and New Zealand.
A pint of beer costs, on average, €1.20! With more premium beers coming in at €3 a pint. Same pricing scale applies for wine too; a standard measure 125ml glass of wine will cost around €2. Slovakia has a thriving wine industry so be sure to sample some of their vineyard’s finest creations.
A main meal in a good restaurant will cost between €4-8 depending on whether you’re having a three-course dining experience and whether or not you eat meat.
The city’s 24-hour public transport ticket costs just €4.50 a day which is considerably cheaper than Paris or London where is it upwards of €10 a day. That said, depending on how frequently you will be using the ticket throughout the day it may end up being cheaper to buy single tickets per journey that cost just €0.70 per ride.
Lots of the main attractions and sightseeing spots in Bratislava are located very close together and as such, you can save yourself some money by walking from one place to the next.
In terms of accommodation, there are plenty of options available to you.
There are some really funky, quirky hostels in Bratislava that are a great place to meet new people, especially if travelling alone. Hostels have seriously upped their game over the past decade and many have private double and twin rooms available if you still want the hostel vibe and your privacy too.
Hostels often have kitchen facilities available too which can help bring your budget down for you can cook for yourself and not pay restaurant prices.
There are loads of really gorgeous hotels in Bratislava, a five-star hotel will set you back just $260 a night for a double room, breakfast included.
A three-star hotel that boasts wonderful views over the city will cost around $110 for a double room which, again, is very reasonable.
If you look on holiday rental sites like Airbnb you will find some awesome spaces to rent for the duration of your time in Bratislava. You can hire an entire one-bedroom apartment for just $14, located at the heart of the city and beautifully decorated and furnished too. Believe it or not, in cities like Bratislava hotel rentals will work out a cheaper, and more luxurious, option for your accommodation.
In terms of transport and getting to and from Bratislava this is very cheap too.
A train from Budapest costs just €17 one way. Budget airlines like EasyJet, RyanAir, and FlyBe all fly into Bratislava International Airport to over 40 cities worldwide. Booking your flight tickets seven weeks before your trip gives you access to the cheapest and best rate fares. Remember to budget for extra baggage when travelling with budget airlines.
So, is Bratislava expensive? In the grand scheme of things, no. If you have cash to splash your trip to Bratislava will be one of the most luxurious destinations in Europe to visit but even on a tighter budget, you can still get a lot of value for money.
24 Hours in Bratislava
Bratislava is a rich and versatile city and in all honesty, just 24-hours in this city does not to it justice. If you are short on time or just passing through Bratislava as part of a bigger Europe trip then know that you can fit a lot into a short 24-hour period and really experience a lot of what this little capital city has to offer.
The best decision you will make for a 24-hours in Bratislava is to arrive early and leave late. If possible, arrive on the earliest possible flight or train. Night trains from Budapest and Prague get into the train station in the early hours so you can be out exploring as the sun comes up. On the other hand, be sure to get your transport out of Bratislava arranged for as late in the day as possible.
In just 24 short hours you can cover the main sightseeing attractions in Bratislava, make some wonderful memories and definitely not feel pressed for time.
In the early morning visit the UFO Tower. The UFO Tower really does look like a UFO and is located right atop of Bratislava’s main car bridge. From the top of the tower, you can see for miles and miles across the cityscape below. This is a great way to gain a panoramic perspective of the city and get some brilliant photographs for your album and to share on your social media to make all your friends envious.
The admission free to the UFO Tower is just €7.40 and opens at 10 am. After a hearty breakfast in town, this is a great way to get to grips with the city before exploring it close up. In the evening the Tower gets very busy and the entrance queues stack up, getting the early also helps avoid the queue and long waiting times.
While you are up in the UFO Tower locate the Bratislava Castle from afar, pin point it in your mind for this is your next stop.
Bratislava Castle is accessible from the UFO Tower on foot. Walk over the bridge and then double back on yourself under the bridge. On a sunny day, the bright white cladding of the Castle provides a glorious contrast to the bold blue skies above. To get to the main Bratislava Castle entrance you must walk up the hill for about 15-minutes at a leisurely, lazy, holiday-strolling pace.
The walk up to Bratislava Castle is a wonderful activity in its own right. The cobbled street is lined with gorgeous little traditional Slovakian houses with window boxes overflowing with sweetly scented flowers.
This walk alone is perfectly photogenic but be careful not to intrude on anyone’s privacy when taking photos of homes and the windows.
As castles go, Bratislava Castle is one of the most modern and recently built in all of Europe. Built in just 1950 the original castle was lost in a fire, so to see Bratislava Castle is a wonderful way to see the old and the new sides of the city all in one space.
There are lots of view points along the walk up to the castle main entrance. So to say the walk takes 15-minutes is to say walking fast and not stopping sees you reaching the entrance in that amount of time. If you adopt a leisurely pace and stop to admire the view and take some photographs then 20-30 minutes is more accurate. Even on a 24-hour turnaround, you have time to give to the walk. It is well worth it.
Then there is the castle itself and the Slovak National Museum which is really quite interesting. Admission fees are just €6 and for those with a keen interest in European history, this is a must visit.
Now on to Old Town; walking up and subsequently down from Bratislava Castle will help you work up an appetite for sure so timing your visit to Old Town after you visit the castle is a good idea for there are plenty of cafes and eateries to enjoy and take a breather.
By hitting up Old Town you are getting a glimpse at over 90% of the tourist orientated side of Bratislava. It really is the heart of the action and is the epitome of Slovak culture. There is so much to see and do but in a relax and laid back way, Old Town is far from overwhelming. As the name would suggest Old Town takes life at a more slow pace in the most endearing way.
After having a lunch and a beer or two in Old Town be sure to head to the Blue Church.
A real architectural gem. Not hugely popular and if you are enjoying being lazy in Old Town don’t rush over there. If you are keen to cram in as much as possible then the Blue Church is the next logical step.
Depending on your transport out of Bratislava this will either conclude your day in the city or just your day time. In the evenings the city really does come to life and you would be wise to snap up tickets to the opera. Far, far, cheaper than tickets in Vienna tickets to the opera in Bratislava are easy to buy and watching the show is another fine way to experience the versatile Slovak culture.
If the opera is not your kind of activity then there are plenty of cool bars to explore, as well as nightclubs too.
Book yourself on to a pub crawl to meet like-minded travellers and experience Bratislava’s party culture.
Unusual Things To Do In Bratislava
Everything we have described so far for Bratislava has been pretty run of the mill but there are plenty of usual things to do in Bratislava if you are feeling a little more adventurous.
Got on a hunt for gold, or rather bronze and try and find the city’s much loved Cumil the Sewer Worker. This bronze statue emerges from the ground. He can be found in the Old Town but we won’t tell you where!
The Obrazáreň pri Dóme is a true hidden gem. This long abandoned church now features modern stain glass windows that depict dreamy images. For art lovers and those keen on the quirky, this should feature high on your list. Heading here at sunset is a good idea to see the light glisten and gleam through the glass panes.