This year I earned an extra week of vacation!!! So what better to do than to spend it on travelling.
Seriously. Did you think I was going to sit back and relax? Read a book, perhaps? Netflix & Chill? Wait, I think I’m using that term wrong.
Anyways, since Gordana heads to Croatia twice a year to visit her mom and Aunt in Zagreb, Croatia, I thought I’d tag along for the ride. Since it’s also my birthday what better than to celebrate in a wholly new city in a whole new Country. So, what to do in Bratislava, Slovakia you ask?
But before I get into some things to do in Bratislava in 1 day, here’s some brief history.
A Brief Bratislava History
- Bratislava is a small historical city, the largest in Slovakia and the youngest of Europe.
- The Linear Pottery Culture is said to be the first known permanent settlement in the area, which was about 5000 BC in the Neolithic era.
- The Celtic Boii tribe founded the first significant settlement around 200 BC
- In 1944 when German troops occupied, it was bombarded by the Allies and eventually taken by Soviet forces.
- On January 1, 1993, Bratislava became the capital of the Slovak Republic following the Velvet Divorce – which was a peaceful dissolution from the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia.
Where Is Bratislava & Getting There
When researching for this trip, I came across a lot of chatter on the interwebs asking is Bratislava safe, is Bratislava worth visiting, and what is the Bratislava currency.
Simply, the answer to the first two questions is yes on both accounts. By train, Bratislava is an hour and a change away from Vienna, which makes it ideal for a day trip. The city is safe and its currency is the Euro.
The Bratislava Airport (BTS) has direct flights to and from several other destinations in Europe. Ryanair, Pobeda, Flydubai, Cyprus Airways, Smartwings, Air Cairo & Wiz Air all operate direct routes to Bratislava. From Bratislava Airport the city centre can be reached in 15-20 minutes.
If you take a taxi, be sure to ask about the price upfront or use the HOPIN app. You can also take bus no. 61 to the central train station and walk to the city centre in about 15 minutes or take bus no 93 (exit Hodžovo námestie) or tram no 1 (exit Námestie SNP). Bus tickets are available from ticket machines at bus stops or in kiosks and cost around EUR 1, which must be validated on the bus.
The Vienna-Schwechat airport (VIE) is 40 kilometres west of Bratislava, which Slovaks use for long-haul flights. Buses to Bratislava depart at 30 to 60-minute intervals. Tickets can be bought on the bus (Bus lines: Eurolines.sk, regiojet.com, flixbus.com)
The city of Bratislava is connected to the main lines from Prague, Budapest, Vienna as well as other parts of Slovakia. Bratislava has two railway stations, Petržalka and Bratislava Main Station, which are connected to the rest of the city via trams, buses or trolley-buses. That said, it only takes about 15 minutes to walk to the city center from the train station. From Petržalka, you can take bus number 80, 91 or 93 to the city centre.
In addition to regular bus and train routes between Bratislava and Vienna, Bratislava has daily connections by boat to the centre of Vienna (Schwedenplatz).
Lastly, Bratislava is situated at the junction of several important highways. The distance to Bratislava from Prague is 330 km, Budapest 200 km and or course from Vienna 65 km.
Please note that if you are bringing your car, you’ll need to display a valid high tax sticker (known as ‘dialnicka znamka’). It’s available at borders or gas stations for 10 EUR and is valid for ten days.
Things To Do In Bratislava, Slovakia
Presidential Palace & Gardens (Grassalkovich Palace)
The Presidential Palace was built in 1760 in a Rococo/late Baroque style and it’s the official residence of the Slovak President. Unfortunately, you can’t visit inside, but you can freely walk around in the French-style gardens. It would otherwise be the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle but were just getting started with Bratislava attractions.
Bratislava Transport Museum
I didn’t realize this museum was so close to the Presidential Palace, but if you love cars, you might like the collection of more than 100 vehicles from the 1970s as well as several old motorcycles.
St. Stephen’s Church (St. Štefan Uhorský)
St. Stephen’s Church with the Capuchin Monastery is a collection of religious buildings located in Bratislava’s historic Old Town.
St. Michael’s Tower / Gate
St. Michael’s Tower is one of the most quintessential Bratislava attractions as it is the only gate that’s been preserved out of the four original four gates that were used for entering the fortified medieval city.
The Old Town is a maze of cobblestone streets mostly limited to pedestrians with an extensive selection of cafes, pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating designed for people watching.
Main Square & Maximilian’s Fountain
In the Main Square opposite the Old Town Hall is a fountain that was commissioned by the King of Hungary, Maximilian II in 1572.
Old Town Hall & Bratislava City Museum
The Old Town Hall is the oldest city hall in the country and one of the oldest stone buildings in Bratislava. The tower was built in 1370. The Bratislava City Museum documents the history of Bratislava from the earliest periods all the way up to the 20th century. It is the oldest museum in continuous operation and was established in 1993.
Primatial Palace & Square
Considered one of Bratislava’s most beautiful squares, Primatial Square was built between 1778 and 1781 on the site of an old Archbishop palace. The front of the Primatial Palace features a Classicist-style facade.
Men At Work Statue
One of the most popular things to see in Bratislava is its statues. Bratislava is quite known for its statues all around the city, but the most photographed is the Man At Work Statue. At the junction of Laurinská and Panská Streets is a sewer worker poking out of a maintenance hole.
Some other famous statues include:
Located on Sedlárska Street is a statue of Ignac Lamar, who is said to of lost his mind because of love and love lost. Sound familiar?
In the main square beneath the Old Town Hall is the friendly Napoleonic soldier leaning over a bench.
Read more about Bratislava’s Statues HERE.
Historical Building Of The Slovak National Theatre
The Slovak National Theatre dated back to 1886 and was designed by Viennese architects in a Neo-Renaissance style, so naturally, it looks similar to performance halls in Vienna. There is a variety of reasonably priced tickets for performances available throughout the day.
St Elizabeth’s Church (Blue Church)
The Blue Church of Bratislava is, without a doubt, one of the most popular Bratislava attractions. It’s a playful Art Nouveau church just east of the old town on Bezručova Street. It was built in the 1910s by Ödön Lechner – often referred to as the Hungarian Gaudí, as the chapel for the Gamča gymnasium (grammar school). It has this cute Disney-esque mix of Romanesque, Baroque and Oriental design with white and pale blue stucco mouldings and a glazed blue-tiled roof. Inside, the pews are also painted blue with gold patterns, and there’s an oil painting of St Elizabeth above the altar.
Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of churches, basilicas, mosques and cathedrals but I’ve never seen a church painted in such a pretty blue!
Bratislava Flagship Restaurant
Located in SNP Square amongst the Baroque complex of the Monastery of the Merciful Brothers is Bratislava Flagship Restaurant. It was constructed in 2008-2009, which includes their very own brewery located in their baroque cellars Where their copper brewing tank brews their own, unpasteurized, bottom-brewed, honest pilsner-type beer, the Monastery Beer 11°.
Bratislava sits in a region well known for its beer – think Prague. But aside from their beer, we need to have a quick discussion about their food. From home-made cabbage soup with sausage and pork meat and bread bowls to home-made roasted sausage with mustard and horseradish and baked pork knuckle with garnish, a slice of our fresh home-made bread, horseradish and mustard.
These guys do amazing things with pork.
I opted for the roasted pork ribs with garnish, a slice of fresh bread, horseradish and mustard, which went nicely with a local Zlaty Bazant beer. Zlaty Bazant (Golden Pheasant) is the most exported Slovak beer and was founded in 1969.
St Martin’s Cathedral
St. Martin’s Cathedral is the largest and oldest church in Bratislava. It was built between 1563 and 1830 and was the place of the Hungarian empire’s coronations of kings and queens. Queen Maria Theresa whom you might remember from my entire 2 days in Vienna itinerary, was crowned here. The cathedral is a Gothic-style cathedral and features enormous stained glass windows. If you have some time you go beneath the cathedral to check out the crypt and ancient catacombs.
Bratislava Castle was a stronghold and lookout between the Alps and Carpathians, which defended an ancient ford (shallow river crossing) on the Danube. In the 16th century, it was the seat of the Kings of Royal Hungary, housing the Hungarian crown jewels for about 200 years. From the terrace, you can see over the Danube and the borders of Austria and Hungary. Inside you’ll find exhibitions for the National Museum, which covers Slovakian history from the middle ages to today.
UFO Bridge/SNP Bridge (UFO Bratislava)
Quite honestly, not sure what to make of this UFO Bratislava building, but you can see it from most parts of Bratislava. On one end of The SNP Bridge (Slovenské národné povstanie – Slovak National Uprising), otherwise known as UFO Bridge, is UFO Bratislava. You can take the elevator up to the top and have dinner in the restaurant section or grab a drink in the chill-out drink section. Alternatively, you can just go up to the viewing platform for some great views of the city.
Since it happened to be my birthday I opted for the chill-out spot and grabbed a drink – or two!