Last updated: December 14th 2017
Planning a trip to Central Europe and looking for a Bratislava itinerary?
Wondering whether it’s even worth it to visit the Slovakian capital at all?
Today, I want to share with you my own Bratislava travel guide. This post is going to give you a better idea of some of the best things to do in Bratislava.
For many people, Bratislava is a day trip from Vienna. It’s worth spending at least one or two nights in the city. This way you can experience the best that it has to offer.
With a prime location right on the banks of the Danube River, visitors will find plenty to do both inside the city center and nearby.
In the heart of downtown you’ll find historical and picturesque architecture with a lively Old Town area. You can also learn more about Slovakian culture while drinking Slovak beer and enjoying some of their delicious cuisine.
The relatively small size of Bratislava makes it really easy to walk around exploring everywhere on foot. You can get a public transportation pass if you want to venture outside of the city center. For the most part, walking is the best way to get around the city.
Depending on where you’re arriving from, it’s easy to get into Bratislava from nearby Vienna and Budapest. These two cities are more popular among tourists but that doesn’t mean you should avoid Slovakia on your trip.
Of course it’s a smaller city and there isn’t nearly as much to do as you would find in larger capitals. It does have its own charm and it’s definitely worth visiting if not for the experience alone.
I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks in the suburbs and I gained valuable insight when it comes to what there is to see and the things to do in Bratislava.
The downtown area – the Old Town, the Castle, etc. – is busy with tourists, backpackers, and river cruise patrons. For many people this is just a quick stop or a day trip from Vienna. However, it’s worth it to spend at least a few days getting to know the Slovak culture and finding out what Bratislava is all about.
The Best Things to Do in Bratislava
The Old Town is the busiest part of the city and the first (and sometimes only) stop for many tourists.
Cobblestones, winding laneways, and historic buildings – these are just some of the things you will notice when you’re walking through the Old Town. The area is full of pubs, restaurants, hostels, and hotels.
If you’re on a budget you will want to avoid staying or eating here but otherwise it’s a great place to spend an entire day walking around.
While you’re walking through the narrow streets you’ll notice many different quirky statues. These are bronze monuments that were added in an attempt to add some humor and life to the communist-era architecture. You can find such interesting characters as a photographer, a man coming out of a sewer, and even Napoleon!
A great place to start your walk through the Old Town is right under St Michaels Gate. This is probably the most photographed and recognizable spot in the entire city. Right behind it be sure to check out the house on top of the Kebab restaurant. This is the narrowest house in Slovakia and is quite interesting to see in person.
Only a few short minutes away from St Michaels Gate is the Old Town Square. This is a good rendezvous point and is a good spot to leave from if you’re going on a self-guided tour or exploring.
There are a lot of touristy shops in this area. If you’re looking for souvenirs this is the best place to find them. The tourist office is nearby as well if you need additional information.
Walk Along The Danube River
The Danube River flows peacefully along the edge of downtown Bratislava.
There is a walking/cycling path on both sides on the river. On the Old Town side the path stretches from beyond the city in both directions.
The way the bridges and parks are set up results in a beautiful walk along the Danube River. Along the way there are many restaurants, two malls, and the Slovak National Theatre.
The best way to start this walk is to begin by crossing Most SNP (UFO bridge). A path runs along both sides and each side offers a unique view of the city.
One side provides a view of downtown while the other offers a stunning view of the Bratislava Castle. Regardless of which side you take there are stairs at the end and another location that offers a great vantage point.
Once you’re on the other side of the river there is a small park (Sad Janka Krala) and immediately afterwards is the Aupark Bratislava shopping Centre.
You can continue following the trail along the river or through the park until you get to Kosicka Bridge. Here you can cross and will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful and brand new Eurova shopping center.
After you’ve checked out the mall you can continue walking along the river on the Old Town side. You will pass many different restaurants and bars before reaching MOST SNP.
This river walk provides a great sense of the layout of the city and also offers many different vantage points. The entire trip would take less than an hour if you were to do it all at once and with all the cool stuff there is to see it’s definitely worth it.
The Bratislava Castle is the iconic white building you see in every picture of the city.
Built sometime around the 9th century, Bratislavsky Hrad has remained a centrepiece for over 1000 years. A trip to Bratislava isn’t complete without making the climb up to the whitewashed castle building.
When many people think of Bratislava they think of the Castle and it is the most recognized symbol of the city. From the very center of the Old Town it only takes 10-15 minutes to walk up the hill to the Castle entrance. There are 3 different entrance gates:
- Sigmund Gate
- Vienna Gate
- Nicholas Gate
Each entrance gate provides access to the grounds and surrounding area. These gates would have been in place throughout the history of the Castle to defend against intruders and to levy taxes.
There have been recent archaeological finds in the rear of the structure. The Slovak government is in the process of analyzing everything they’ve uncovered.
If the weather allows it’s fun to spend a few hours walking around the Castle and enjoying the grounds. There are many great views of both downtown Bratislava, Austria, and sweeping views of the Danube. You can also enjoy an interesting look at Petrzalka right across the river.
Be sure to bring a water bottle. There aren’t many places at the castle complex to grab a drink besides expensive restaurants.
Guided tours and entrance to Bratislava Castle itself can be arranged at different locations across the grounds or at the tourist office in the Old Town.
The Blue Church
Of all the quirky and off the beaten path things to do in Bratislava the Blue Church is definitely the most popular.
Built in 1908 the Church of St Elisabeth as it’s locally known is an interesting structure to check out while you’re wondering around downtown. Only a 5-10 minute walk from the heart of the Old Town, the Blue Church Bratislava is definitely something you’re going to want to check out.
The Blue Church is where Hungarian Secessionist Catholics come for mass. Located in the Eastern part of the city, this church boasts a nearly 40m high tower and is completely pained blue.
Unless you are worshipping it’s unlikely you’ll be allowed to enter just to take photographs and look around. Thankfully the entrance is covered with a gate and visitors are still able to get great shots of the interior.
The architecture is that of Hungarian Art Nouveau style and the Hungarian influence can be seen across the structure.
The Blue Church Bratislava is one of the most attractive examples of Art Nouveau style in the city. Tucked away in narrow side streets it’s almost as if you stumbled across a fairy tale when you first catch a glimpse of this church.
The Slavin War Memorial
Located high above the city is the Slavin War Memorial. The statue and memorial can be seen from much of the city and surrounding areas and is definitely a cool thing to do in Bratislava.
It’s not quite popular with locals and tourists alike and if you’re looking for a getaway from the hustle of downtown and you want to enjoy some beautiful views of the city and surrounding country then the Slavin War Memorial is just what you need.
The Slavin War Memorial is built on the hill that overlooks the Castle and the rest of the city. It stands there to commemorate the efforts of the Red Army in the liberation of Bratislava during World War 2. There are also almost 7,000 Soviet Red Army soldiers buried there and a large part of the grounds is a cemetery.
The entire structure stands at nearly 50m high and was erected by 1960. Since then it had stood to remind the citizens that without the Soviets it’s likely their city would have been occupied by the Germans until the 90s.
This is a great example of Soviet era architecture and its monumental look can be seen with statues and similar structures all across Eastern and Central Europe.
It’s easy to reach the Slavin War Memorial from downtown. There is a public bus stop located down the street from one of the entrances but it’s an enjoyable 20-minute walk from the center of town.
Your walk will take you through residential Bratislava and provide a glimpse into how the middle class lives. There are a few entrances to the memorial park and some signs and maps throughout the grounds.
Most SNP, or the UFO Bridge, is a focal point of Bratislava tourism. It was built to connect the core of the city to the suburb of Petrzalka.
People unfamiliar with the city are typically unaware of the UFO Bridge. Once you see it towering over the Danube you’re unlikely to ever forget it.
The Bridge was built in 1972 and parts of the original city wall were discovered during construction. Unfortunately the old Jewish Quarter and parts of the Old Town were demolished. Now the UFO Bridge is a prominent feature and symbol of Bratislava.
At the top of the bridge in the UFO part is a high-class restaurant. At the very top is a viewing deck, which can be accessed for small fee. From the top you are provided with an incredible view of all of Bratislava including the Castle and a stunning view of Petrzalka.
Even if you don’t get a chance to visit the top you will want to walk across this bridge to get some great shots of the downtown and Danube river.
Kamzik TV Tower
The Kamzik TV Tower, also known as the Bratislava TV tower, stands nearly 470m above the city and is a great place to check out if you have a few hours.
The Kamzik TV Tower is a cool thing to do in Bratislava if you’re looking for something that most tourists don’t check out and that offers a unique experience.
The area around the tower is known as Koliba and there are many hiking trails, restaurants, and activities in the area.
There is a cable car, which takes you down through the forest and provides a great view of the hills the surrounding countryside. It’s a bit Soviet-era though so be careful since there aren’t at seat-belts and seemingly no regulations.
The Kamzik TV Tower can only be accessed by public transit or by car. If you’re up for the challenge it’s also possible to rent a bike and cycle up to the top.
Once you reach the tower there is a high-tech elevator that will take you to the top. At the top is a fairly cheap café but the selling point here is the amazing view of the entire city, surrounding hills and forest.
It’s a great place to spend a few hours enjoying the view and hanging out. In the bathrooms are windows as well so you’ll never be left without anything to look at.
Day Trip to Devin Castle
Devin Castle is one of the best day trips from Bratislava.
It’s easy to reach using public transportation. If you’re spending more than just one or two days in the city it’s worth planning a trip to the castle.
To get there you need to hop on the Number 28 Bus. I believe you can grab the bus underneath the bridge just outside of the Old Town. It’s a short 15-minute bus ride to get to the small town of Devin right underneath the castle. From here follow the signs and you’ll reach the castle in no time.
From the castle ruins there are beautiful views of the Danube River and surrounding countryside. It’s also neat to explore the castle grounds at the top and at the bottom of the structure.
Keep an eye out for the maiden tower. This is one of the most unique features of the ruins. From the top you can see that it’s precariously balancing on a series of rocks. From the bottom of the tower looks picturesque with the castle as the backdrop.
Keep an Eye Out for Statues
Scattered throughout the Old Town are a handful of different Bronze Statues.
Over the years these have become a popular tourist attraction in the city center. Some of them have been removed but it’s still possible to find some unique statues.
Right in the Old Town Square you can find a statue of the Napoleon Soldier. This is one of the most popular ones. People are always standing around waiting to take photo with him.
Another one of the most popular statues is Cumil. He’s more of a Peeping Tom coming out of the sewer at ground level. You can find Cumil a block away from the main Square.
There are quite a few other statues waiting to be discovered. Keep your eyes peeled while you’re exploring the old town city center. You’re bound to stumble across a few different statues when you’re walking around.
Enjoy Some Slovakian Cuisine
A trip to Bratislava isn’t complete without trying some Slovakian cuisine.
There are a few different Slovak restaurants in the old town. As a budget-friendly destination the prices here are reasonable. I recommend trying out a few different dishes to get a taste for the best local cuisine.
One of the main things you should try is Slovak beer. The popular beer here in the city is called Zlaty Bazant and it’s available at every restaurant and pub.
As for the food, the first thing you’re going to want to try is Bryndzove halusky. This is one of the most popular dishes in the country. It’s a mix of potato dumplings with bacon, goats cheese, and some places put chives on top.
It’s not the healthiest thing to grab to eat but it’s a local favorite so you don’t want to miss it.
Another great food you should try in Bratislava is deep fried cheese. This is popular across the entire country as well and available at any local restaurant.
For a large meal including a beer you can expect to spend about 7€ to 10€ per person at most places.
Trip to Vienna
Depending on your travel plans a day trip to Vienna might be something worth considering.
It’s possible to reach Vienna in an hour by bus. you could choose to take the train or boat as well depending on how adventurous you’re feeling.
Vienna embodies the best of what Austria has to offer. It’s not as budget-friendly of a destination as Bratislava but it’s still worth checking out.
Spending the day in Vienna isn’t enough to properly explore the city. You can visit some of the main tourist attractions although two to three days would allow you to see more.
I would recommend visiting Vienna from Bratislava if you’re traveling on a budget. Accommodation is much more reasonably priced in Slovakia. You’ll spend less money taking the bus between the cities than you would if you chose to stay in Vienna.
Vienna on its own is a beautiful place so you still might want to visit if you get the chance.
Slovak National Gallery
Art lovers will want to pay a visit to the Slovak National Gallery. This is the largest Art Gallery in the entire country. Here you’ll find a selection of different exhibits ranging from photographs and sculptures to historic paintings and other artwork.
The gallery is a great place to spend some time if it’s raining or if you want to check out some Slovakian art.
From the gallery there are great views of the UFO Bridge. There are also some vegetarian options available at the gallery restaurant if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat.
For some reason many travellers seemingly avoid or skip over Bratislava during their European trip. While nearby Vienna has so much to offer it’s definitely worth checking out Bratislava even if you’ve only got a few hours.
It’s easy to reach from any of the surrounding tourist hubs and it uses the Euro, which makes it simple for those travelling the region.
Whether you’re backpacking across central Europe and you’re looking for a cheap place to rest for a few days or you’re taking a European River Cruise and you’re on your way to Budapest, be sure to make time for a stop at Bratislava so you can experience everything it has to offer.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Bratislava?