Bratislava is definitely not one of Europe’s bustling metropolises. Really, for a capital city in Europe it is pretty small. There are only 425,000 people living here! Still, this is bigger than Ljubljana, so it isn’t that small. Regardless of its size, Bratislava has a lot going on and this city is definitely not one that you want to overlook while planning your next European getaway. As it is conveniently positioned on the road between Budapest and Vienna, it makes the perfect stopover for a day if you are traveling between these two cities. This post is going to lay out all that you need to know about visiting Bratislava so that you can plan the perfect trip.
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Best Things to Do in Bratislava
Bratislava has a lot to do for such a medium sized city, and you can fill up an itinerary very quickly. From cappuccinos with your face printed on them to the coronation site of Hungarian kings, there are some really unique things to do and see in Bratislava. Here is my list of the five best things to do in Bratislava.
1. Wander Around the Historic Center of Bratislava
Bratislava’s historic center, or old town, is absolutely marvelous. The streets are quaint and filled with lovely shops and restaurants, ranging from boutiques to international brands and from cafes to wine bars. There are also some fun and quirky aspects that you’ll find throughout the city, like bronze statues of men peeping out of potholes and similar other things. I love walking, and Bratislava has one of the cutest, most walkable city centers of any capital in Europe. In the city center, I recommend checking out each of these things:
2. Visit Bratislava Castle and St. Martin’s Cathedral
Bratislava Castle is, as you might expect, the city’s fortress. This castle has been standing for a very long time and the grounds themselves have been fortified for thousands of years. This castle’s main claim to fame is that it was the seat of the Hungarian Empire for over 200 years. The city is located in a very strategically important spot, as it is protected by mountains in each direction and sits right on the Danube River, which is one of Europe’s most important rivers. Nowadays the castle has been turned into a museum and is worth visiting for a couple of hours, no doubt.
St. Martin’s Cathedral is worth visiting on its own, but I think that these two sites tie in very well together. They are only a short walk from one another, and they are both massively important in Slovakian and Hungarian history. St. Martin’s Cathedral, other than being the center of Catholicism in Slovakia, is also the sight of many Hungarian coronations over the years.
3. Explore the Primate’s Palace
This Neoclassical gem of a building was built in 1770 to be the residence of an Archbishop, and eventually it become the residence of the Slovakian president. This tradition ended in 1996, and now the Primate’s Palace is open to visitors. The decor on the inside is simply beautiful, and it’s hard to pass up a tour of a presidential palace, right? One of the coolest rooms is the picture gallery, which houses portraits of many Hungarian rulers. Another area worth checking out is the Hall of Mirrors, which includes 5 salons decorated with period furniture, each a different color theme.
4. Admire St. Elizabeth’s Church
If you are looking for a real-life fairytale, be sure to stop in at St. Elizabeth’s Church. This church, also referred to as the Blue Church, was raised to be part of a local elementary school in the early 1900s. It is beautifully ornate, decorated in gold and blue, and offers a completely different take on expression of faith than St. Martin’s Cathedral.
While this church wasn’t the site of coronations, it is still beautiful and important, and it was designed by one of Hungary’s most famous architects.
5. Grab Dinner at the Top of Kamzik TV Tower or SNP Bridge
Kamzik TV Tower is a really cool spot to check out right outside of the center of the city. This tower offers observation decks, cafes, smoking rooms, and restaurants at a height of 70 meters, which is high enough to see into Austria, Hungary, and even parts of the Czech Republic. Additionally, the SNP bridge is the 7th biggest suspended bridge in the world, and there is a great restaurant at the top of it, too.
These are both extremely popular venues, so if you want to eat in one of the restaurants (which I recommend) be sure to book your table well in advance. The views are fantastic, and the food is just as good! The Kamzik TV Tower has more to offer, but it is a little further away from downtown than the SNP Bridge. The restaurants in both towers are great and you can’t go wrong! Also, the SNP Bridge is also known as the UFO Bridge, as the restaurant up top looks like a UFO.
How to Get to Bratislava
Bratislava does have its own international airport, but I only recommend flying into Bratislava if you are already in Europe. Otherwise, you will have a really hard time finding an affordable and convenient flight, as the airport is very small. There are plenty of routes from Bratislava to other places in Europe, but you will not find a direct flight from anywhere outside of Europe to Bratislava.
If you aren’t already in Europe, I highly recommend flying into Vienna International Airport (VIE), as you’ll get a much more affordable and possibly direct flight, depending where you are leaving from. A bus or train from Vienna to Bratislava only takes an hour, which is probably a lot less time than you’d waste with layovers and unnecessary flights. If there are no good options into Vienna, take a look at Budapest Airport (BUD), which is only a little over two hours away, too.
The best way to get from any of these airports to your hotel in Bratislava is by booking a private transfer with our partners at Welcome Pickups.
Welcome Pickups offers personalized, private, comfortable rides from the airport into the city for about the same price as a standard taxi. They monitor your flight status while you are in the air, and a driver will be waiting for you holding a sign with your name on it as soon as you arrive.
I touched on this above, but there is a good chance you will need to take a train or a bus to get to Bratislava – especially if you are arriving from somewhere outside of Europe. I am a big fan of Flixbus, which offers high quality, low price bus services around many different places in the world, including Europe. A bus from Vienna International Airport to Bratislava only takes about an hour and costs $6. Budapest is about 2.5 hours from Bratislava, Graz, Austria is about 3 hours, and Zagreb, Croatia is about 5 hours.
How to Get Around Bratislava
BY FOOT | UBER
Bratislava is an extremely walkable city for the most part. The entire old city can be explored by foot, and just about all of the attractions that made my list of the best things to do in Bratislava are within walking distance of one another. With that being said, not everybody wants to walk 10 miles in a day! If this is you, I highly recommend using Uber. I don’t use Uber much at home because I find it to be a bit expensive, but in many countries, like Slovakia, Uber is extremely affordable to use. You can Uber all around the city for very reasonable rates, and it works just like at home.
If you’re worried about using Uber abroad, be sure to check out this blog post on using Uber in foreign countries. If you’d prefer to use public transportation, Bratislava has a fairly robust system of buses, trams, and trolleybuses. Naturally, it is extremely cheap to use, but slightly less convenient than calling an Uber.
How Many Days Do You Need in Bratislava?
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that Bratislava is pretty small, and as a result, you can totally get away with making Bratislava a day trip from either Vienna or Budapest. I personally think that anywhere from 1-3 days is plenty of time to explore this beautiful city. One day is plenty of time to see all of the major attractions, and a weekend or 2-3 days is enough time to really soak in the ambiance and feel of the city. If you’re tight on time, one day is enough. If you have the time, consider staying for an extra day or two, but that is all I think this city calls for.
Bratislava makes a fantastic stopover between Vienna and Budapest, as it sits directly on the route. You can take an early morning bus in from one of those two cities, spend the full day exploring, and catch a late evening departure on your way out.
When Is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Bratislava?
If you look online, the internet will be quick to tell you that the best time to visit Bratislava is in the summer. While the weather is nice in the summer, I think people use that answer way too much. Bratislava is not extremely popular, so the summer is certainly a nice time to visit as the crowds are never too crazy and the weather is gorgeous. However, I visited in March and the peaceful ambiance around me was incredible.
The weather in March was very tolerable, as all I needed was a medium jacket. I think the fall and spring are equally great times to visit Bratislava, but I would probably steer away from visiting Bratislava in the winter, as it is going to be a little colder and less beautiful and enjoyable.
Is Bratislava Worth Visiting?
Bratislava packs a real punch for its size, and it is one of my favorite smaller cities in all of Europe. If you were to ask me “is Bratislava worth visiting?” I would answer with a resounding yes. This little city is so quaint, and it is the kind of European city I could easily see myself living in for a while. It has all that you need, is extremely walkable and friendly to foreigners, and is packed with fantastic restaurants and things to do. If you are debating whether or not to go to Bratislava, I would urge you to go 9 out of 10 times.
That’s all we have for you about Bratislava! I hope this post accomplished its goal of answering the question “Is Bratislava worth visiting?” If you have any more questions, be sure to drop a comment in the comment section or shoot us an email with the email icon link below.
If you’re planning a trip to Bratislava, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!