Let’s be honest – not everybody has the time to explore a place for weeks. Sometimes we just need to make the most of the time we have. In the fourth part of our “One Day” series, we’re looking at how to spend one day in Bratislava, Slovakia.
We had the chance to visit Bratislava on our last visit to Austria. We spent a few days in Vienna before going home to Graz and as we had seen plenty of Vienna, we decided to go from Vienna to Bratislava on a day trip instead. We took along my parents who loved it even more than the Austrian capital 😉
How to Get to Bratislava from Vienna
Bratislava lies a mere 60 km from Vienna surrounded by the Little Carpathian mountains in the north and farms, vineyards, and tiny villages in the east. We began our journey by bus at 10 am and it took a little over an hour to get there. It was a quick and comfortable bus ride. In our case, we were travelling with FlixBus, but there are also other operators in the area. Buses run several times a day, tickets are cheap, and there is free wifi on board. Win-win-win! 😉
Another option is to take the train from Vienna to Bratislava which runs about once an hour but may be a little more expensive than the bus. Check for schedules and prices on the OEBB website.
Lastly, you could certainly drive from Vienna to Bratislava, but seeing as trains and buses run frequently, it is certainly not necessary to rent a car just for that, especially as you will have to pay a toll on Austrian roads.
What to See in Bratislava
The bus dropped us off at the Most SNP, the New Bridge which straddles the mighty Danube river. We weren’t quite sure on what to see in Bratislava but decided to just proceed towards the Old Town. We were lucky with the weather that day as it was nice and sunny.
The first main sight we came across was the Gothic style St. Martin’s Cathedral which was formerly the coronation venue of several Hungarian monarchs. The Old Town of Bratislava is really small but oh so charming! It is a pedestrian-only zone where the only vehicle permitted is a tiny, bright red retro tourist train. The streets have been refurbished over the last decade which has made it more vibrant again. It’s a cinch to navigate, brimming with old world charm, colourful buildings, idiosyncratic sculptures and lovely inexpensive restaurants and cafes serving regional specialities at half the cost of Vienna.
The centre of Bratislava is a peculiar mix of architecture. The historic district has that distinct eastern feel of an Austro-Hungarian empire-era city. It is anchored by the beautiful neo-Renaissance style Primatial Palace at one end, and the Renaissance and Baroque style Town Hall and spacious main square at the other. In the middle lies the charming St. Michael’s street which leads to the St. Michael’s Gate and its 51 metre tower. On your way, you’ll undoubtedly pass the famous statue Man at Work. Good luck trying to get a photo during summer 😉
A couple of hundred metres away from the old district, and on the other side of St. Martin’s Cathedral, is Bratislava Castle. The castle lies perched on a rocky hill directly above the Danube river. It’s a rigorous little trek to the top. Since the Bronze Age, Celts, Romans, Slavs and Hungarians have built a succession of fortifications here and it naturally occupies an important piece in Bratislava’s history. The castle has been extensively renovated and looks very modern.
The gardens were very attractive and the views from the ramparts were very good and vast. We were all getting a little grumpy and feeling ravenous by then so we decided to return to the old town for some grub and drinks. We took a different route than the one we took to the castle and saw some other parts of the city. Scroll down and check the map if you would like to follow in our footsteps 🙂
Bratislava Food & Drink
The whole old town is full of tasty places for a full meal, a cold beer, or sweets and coffee even though most tourist brochures talk about the shops and eateries along St. Michael’s Street. In short, in Bratislava food is never far away! Prices are very reasonable, especially compared to Vienna. The cafes in the Main Square are perfect for people watching. We all heartily downed a plate of spare ribs each and a few pints of excellent local Slovak beer. Consider trying some of these traditional dishes while you’re in town:
- Dumplings with sheep cheese (Bryndzové halušky)
- Cabbage soup (Kapustnica)
- Slovak Pancakes (Slovenske palacinky)
Now, what do you think? Have you been to Bratislava before or would you like to visit? What do you think of Bratislava Castle compared to others you have seen? Share your thoughts and pictures with us! Let’s stay in touch!