24 Hours in Bratislava: The Ultimate City Guide
I did not expect to fall in love with Bratislava. It’s not a European hotspot like Paris or Rome but its small-town charm did not fail to impress me. If you’re like me and didn’t really know much about the city, Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and it lies on the River Danube, within easy reach of the borders with Austria and Hungary. So why visit Bratislava? Well, it’s a great city to visit during your interrail travels if you’re a fan of history and a plethora of cute churches, palaces and castles. There are just so many things to do in Bratislava!
Although you can cover most of Bratislava within one day, we stayed for two nights as our flight got in at midnight. However, there are so many things to do in Bratislava that you could easily stay in the city for longer if you wanted. We missed out on seeing two main attractions, the Slavin Memorial and Devin Castle, the latter of which is a bit out of the city. Since Slovakia really took me by surprise, I’d also love to return to the country one day to see the natural beauty of the Tatra Mountains and Slovak Paradise National Park! We didn’t have enough time there to work out the public transport system but it’s a pretty small city so you can walk everywhere (though your legs and feet will pay for it at the end of the day).
So without further ado, here is my whirlwind guide to Bratislava, including things to do in Bratislava, how to get there, where to stay, and where to eat and drink. Let’s go!
How to Get To Bratislava
Bratislava is only about two hours away from the UK by plane and you can find some very cheap flights. In fact, that’s the only reason we visited Bratislava in the first place: because the flights were cheap. Jess and I each paid £45 for a return from Birmingham to Bratislava with Ryanair. I would have never even thought of visiting the city otherwise, but boy am I glad I did.
It’s also the perfect place to visit by train whilst interrailing as it is so close to its neighbouring countries. We flew into Bratislava, spent two nights in the city and then got a train to Vienna to spend two nights there as well. Bratislava and Vienna are the two closest capital cities in Europe and it’s only a one hour £12 return train journey to Vienna, making it ideal to visit both cities at the same time!
Where to Stay in Bratislava
Freddie Next to Mercury Hostel and Apartments
When looking for somewhere to stay, all Jess and I were after was something cheap and cheerful. Somewhere to rest our heads for the night but not much else. The cheapest place we could find (that didn’t look completely grim) was Freddie Next to Mercury Hostel and Apartments. We thought we had just booked a private room but we ended up having a whole apartment to ourselves instead. And we paid less than £15 a night each! Bargain central.
Each apartment has 3 single beds, toilet and shower, sideboard with basin stove and fridge, kettle, dishes, glasses and cutlery, TV, lockable cabinets and a huge balcony. The apartment spreads itself over 3 floors.
Although the apartment does the job well (and you really shouldn’t expect any more for the price you are paying), there were definitely some downsides to it. First off, and this may just be us Brits being pathetic, but the apartment was bloody boiling and it was only March, and as there was no air con we had to leave the windows open the entire time. I was sleeping up the ladder on a mattress on the floor and because heat rises it was even hotter where I was sleeping. It was also pretty claustrophobic up there if that’s something you struggle with. I banged my head on the ceiling countless times… The shower was also pathetic so neither of us properly showered until we got to our luxurious hotel in Vienna.
The location of the hostel also wasn’t great, at a 25 minute walk away from the Old Town. However, it was only a 5 minute walk from the main train station which was so ideal as we had to catch a train to Vienna on our final morning.
Regardless, I’d definitely stay there again if I ever returned to Bratislava. It served its purpose nicely and did the job well.
Things to Do in Bratislava
What Is It? Grassalkovich Palace is the residence of the president of Slovakia. The building is gorgeous and is surrounded by French gardens that are open to the public.
Price: Free – but you can’t go inside the palace!
Michael’s Gate and the Museum of Arms
What Is It? Michael’s Gate is the only city gate that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications and is one of the oldest buildings in the city, dating back to the early 1300s. Climbing to the top of the tower, through the Museum of Arms (exhibiting the history of Bratislava’s fortifications and many weapons), gives you amazing views of the city and when we were up there we had the entire thing to ourselves! From here you can see three of Bratislava’s main attractions: the castle, St. Martin’s cathedral and the UFO.
Price: To enter the Museum of Arms and get up to the lookout point, you have to pay £2 with a City Card or £3.80 without. Your ticket also grants you entry into the Museum of Pharmacy, but we didn’t have time to visit there.
What Is It? The Blue Church, officially known as the Church of St. Elisabeth, is Bratislava’s most appealing art nouveau building. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why it was given the nickname “Blue Church”. It’s a beautiful lil’ Instagrammable building and one I’d definitely recommend placing near the top of your list of things to do in Bratislava!
Old Town Hall and Tower
What Is It? At the heart of Bratislava’s Old Town, you will find the Old Town Hall and Tower, the oldest city hall in the whole of Slovakia. The hall houses the Bratislava City Museum which, to nobody’s surprise, documents the city’s history. Once you’ve had a browse around the museum, you can then head up the tower for another amazing viewpoint offering views across the main square and the rest of the city. The City Hall’s courtyard is really cute as well… Here you can find the famous fountain of St. George and the Dragon (which is v. relevant because I’m publishing this on St. George’s Day!).
Price: £2 with a City Card, £4.20 without a City Card
St. Martin’s Cathedral
What Is It? St. Martin’s Cathedral is the largest church in Bratislava and is pretty freakin’ beautiful, both on the outside and inside. On entering the cathedral we were given scarves to cover our bare shoulders, so be sure to dress appropriately when visiting.
What Is It? By far the most touristy pick on this list of things to do in Bratislava is Bratislava Castle. Bratislava Castle (Hrad) sits at the top of a hill overlooking the Old Town. Jess and I visited the castle at the end of the day so by the time we had walked up the hill we were absolutely knackered. We both just sat in the grounds taking in the view and the fresh spring air. The location provides some pretty spectacular views of Bratislava, Austria and, in clear weather, parts of Hungary. The castle has served as a venue for the Slovak Parliament and houses collections of the Slovak National Museum.
Price: Free to wander around. Entry to the Slovak National Museum costs £5.90. We didn’t bother to pay to go inside.
UFO Observation Deck
What Is It? The UFO (appropriately named because it looks like a spaceship) is a restaurant and observation deck 87 metres above Bratislava’s Most SNP bridge and the Danube river. Before I talk anymore more about the UFO, I must say that we didn’t actually get to go up it. We walked the entire length of the bridge only to be turned away because the UFO was closed for a private event. We were sooo gutted! But hey, there’s always a silver lining. More on that a bit later… Anyway, from what I’ve seen in photos, the views from the restaurant look incredible. It would be the perfect place to watch the sunset. The restaurant serves both traditional Slovak and international cuisine, however, it’s very pricey and not for the students among us unless you fancy treating yourself.
Price: Access to the lifts costs £5.40, but if you eat at the restaurant, the entry cost is deducted from the bill.
Where to Eat and Drink in Bratislava
It’s safe to say our day in Bratislava wasn’t a healthy one. But, in our defence, we did walk over 18km in one day so I think we deserved it.
Arthur’s Ice Cream
For breakfast I went to an ice cream shop. A good start, I know… I ordered 10 mini mini (they were so mini that the word had to be used twice) pancakes from Arthur’s Ice Cream which cost £2.90 and came with various sauces. I don’t have a very sweet tooth but these definitely hit the spot. You can find Arthur’s Ice Cream in the centre of the old town – you cannot miss it!
I ❤ Pizza
Everywhere you look in Bratislava Old Town you will see tourists and locals alike chowing down on a slice of pizza. Sometimes whilst travelling you don’t have time to sit down at a cafe or restaurant for lunch. You just need a quick energy fix to keep you going. And that’s what this pizza joint provides. We grabbed a couple of large slices of pizza for only £1.20 a slice. It was nothing extraordinary but tasty and what we needed. I ❤ Pizza is a solid 15 steps away from Arthur’s Ice Cream.
For dinner, after walking a silly amount, we were ready to settle for anywhere for dinner. We passed this very meaty restaurant, Carnevalle, on our way back from the castle and thought “why not” because the steak was cheap and I never order steak (I said this in another post recently, fuck am I repetitive…). We sat outside in the lively Hviezdoslav Square to make the most of the lovely spring weather, whilst they were packing away the rest of the tables and chairs #classicBrits. The food was just superb and we got complimentary bread which is always good in my books. The interior decor of the restaurant was really unconventional and modern too. So that’s two big ol’ thumbs up from me!
Sky Bar Bratislava
Ah, the highlight of our trip! The most amazing way to finish it off. The cherry on top of an already very tasty cake. This cocktail bar should be at the top of your list of things to do in Bratislava! We didn’t think we’d actually get a chance to go here as we were running out of time, but because we couldn’t go up the UFO we had plenty of time to spare. Now let me tell you: the UFO being closed was a real blessing in disguise…
If I was to recommend only one thing in Bratislava it would be THIS. COCKTAIL. BAR. Not only were the views across the city and castle mind-blowingly epic, but the atmosphere and cocktails were just as good. It was so serene and empty, with chill indie music playing in the background. We couldn’t wrap our heads around why it was so quiet, but we knew for sure that this bar was a gem.
Sky Bar Bratislava is a vodka bar, and if you know me you’ll know that vodka is
my favourite alcohol basically the only alcoholic drink I actually like, other than white wine. This bar and I were practically a match made in heaven. I ordered a Vodka Lychee for £5.80 which was comprised of vodka, sweet lychee, fresh lemon and lemonade. It was so refreshing and just what I needed after all our walking. Jess went down a slightly more exciting route ordering a Hey Bubble Mama, a concoction of bubblegum, forest fruits and fresh red grapes, for £6.60. Yum! An amazing end to a short but sweet visit, that’s for sure.
So have you ever visited Bratislava? What were your thoughts on the city? If you haven’t visited before, have I tempted you now? There are so many things to do in Bratislava, plus it’s such a cheap and friendly city! You really can’t go wrong.
I was given a complimentary city pass by Visit Bratislava for the purpose of this review of things to do in Bratislava but as always all opinions are my own.
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