Conveniently located on the route from Vienna to Budapest, the capital of Slovakia is easily accessible by road or train from any of those capitals. It takes one hour road trip to go from Vienna to Bratislava. Situated on the banks of Danube River, Bratislava offers heritage, culture and buzzing night life, making it an attractive destination for travelers! 2 days is all you need to cover the tiny city.
Interesting things to do in Bratislava!
1) Explore the old town square and narrow lanes by foot
Celts, Romans, Germans, Slavs and Hungarians have ruled around the area for centuries leaving their footprints in the historical center of Bratislava. Narrow lanes of the old town can be best negotiated by foot. Small Medieval city center is filled with rich past and historical monuments. While meandering the alleyways, you will come across gothic and baroque treasures as well as modern candy colored houses. A narrow lane which passes under the St Michael’s Gate is marked with crown plates which lead you to Bratislava Castle. Walking the other way will bring you to a medieval bridge leading to Danube promenade. Pass by St Martin’s Cathedral, Primate’s Palace, Old Town Hall and Grassalkovich Palace located in the the historical center. You will encounter statue of CUMIL- a man at work at the junction of Laurinská and Panská streets. Other famous statues include a Napolean Soldier and Paparazzi In the main square. Stroll around the narrow cobbled streets and learn about the history, traditions, culture and heritage of Bratislava, when It became the political center in 16th century after the invasion of Hungary by Turks!
2) Walk around Hviezdoslav Square
The Square in the old town of of Bratislava has existed for more than 1000 since the kingdom of Hungary. Hviezdoslav Square is more of an elongated boulevard. It is named after a famous 19th century slovak poet Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, whose statue can be found in the middle of the walkway. Slovak National Theatre, Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel and German and American embassies adorn the sides of the scenic square. The Ganymede’s fountain in front of the theater creates a beautiful setting for picture taking. You can not miss beautiful floral mosaic patterns on the floor while strolling around the square. The square is a popular hangout place for tourists as well as locals. During summer the boulevard becomes an open air museum displaying works of prominent local artists. The cafes and restaurants around the square are buzzing with people. Relax on one of the benches on this pedestrian square shaded by large trees. It is fun to hang out by the water fountains and watch the world go by!
3) Visit Bratislava Castle
Bratislava Castle dominates the skyline of Bratislava. The iconic white building with red roofs tower over the capital. Earlier stone palace was constructed on the castle hill in 5th century. Perched on top of the hill, the castle has served as a residence for many kings and queens for over 1000 years. Starting from 11th century, under the Kingdom of Hungary, it served as the main castle, due to its strategic hilltop location. Reconstructions in 17th century gave the castle its current baroque facade. An equestrian statue of King Svätopluk I stands in the courtyard of the castle. A visit to the Museum of History inside the castle is a great way to get acquainted with the history of Slovakia. The castle can be approached by a little walk up the hill. The scenic walk gives opportunity to soak in the views of Danube and UFO bridge which connects with the urban center. Climb on top of the castle wall and you will be rewarded with great panorama of the old town dotted with red roofs. It is a perfect place to click stunning panorama of Bratislava!
4) Visit St. Martin’s Cathedral on the way back from Bratislava Castle
As you walk down from the Bratislava Castle, you can not miss the Gothic facade of Saint Martin’s Cathedral. Built in 13th century, it is the largest and the oldest church in Bratislava. Between 16th to 19th century, Saint Martin’s Cathedral served as the coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary. Many of the kings and queens were coronated here including Maria Theresa of Austria. The bluish green spire of the church is the most prominent feature which towers over the old town. It is adorned with the replica of the Holy crown of Kingdom of Hungary on the top. Bright and colorful stained glass window mosaics will grab your attention while visiting the interior of the church. Take a tour inside and feel the history of the old kingdom. Walk around the cobbled stone pathways and you can not fail to notice the contrast of the medieval structure against the modern development of the capital. Each September every year, the church hosts Coronation Feasts. Be part of the procession which enacts the coronation of the royalty with the costume drama, pomp and grandeur!
5) Walk down St. Michael’s Street up to St. Michael’s gate
Built in 14th century, St Michael’s Gate is the only surviving city gate from the original fortification surrounding the old town. Standing tall at the end of Michalska street, the striking bulbous copper roof of St Michael’s Gate is a symbol of Bratislava. The current baroque structure was given during the reconstruction in 1758. The tower is adorned with a statue of the archangel Michael slaying a dragon. Whenever you are in Bratislava, you will invariably pass under the gate. Check out the historical crown path which passes under the St Michael’s Gate, leading to Bratislava Castle. A shiny plate is marked on the floor of the gate, which indicates the distances to 29 world capitals from Bratislava. The shops inside tower houses luxury brands like Christian Dior and Swarovski. It is worth to climb upto the top of the gate tower, the balcony on the sixth floor offers spectacular views of Bratislava’s historical quarter! Stunning pictures of the old town will make your friends jealous back home.
6) Visit the ruins of Devin Castle
Devin castle stands on a hilltop, strategically located on the confluence of Danube and Morava rivers. Believed to have been present since 8th century, the castle was fortified several times during the Kingdom of Hungary. The castle withstood the events of the history before being brought to ruins by Napoleon’s army in 1809. Visit to Devin Castle will take you out of the hustle bustle of Bratislava and into the scenic countryside. The long uphill walk from the parking lot will bring you to the ruins containing chambers, towers and passageways. Walk around the ruins and marvel the medieval history of the castle. Climbing up the Maiden Tower offers commanding view of the confluence of the rivers. The trail alongside the Morava river is great for walking, biking and exploring, You can sail across in a boat to spot scenic beauty of Austria across the river. A visit to Devin Castle is a great way to acquaint yourself with the Slovak history while soaking up great vistas along its borders!
7) Visit The Blue Church
Built in 1907, Church of St. Elizabeth is relatively a new building in the old part of Bratislava. The church gets its popular name of The Little Blue Church, because of its external facade which is painted in candy blue and the rooftop which is covered with Blue tiles. It was designed by an architect Edmund Lechner in Hungarian Art Nouveau style. The catholic church is dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The church’s tiny interior is richly decorated with altarpieces. Blue mosaics and majolika adorn the walls highlighting the blue color. It is a functional church and on a quiet afternoon you can spot locals praying inside the church. The Church of St. Elizabeth is oval in shape and its tall round tower is uniquely designed. The area around the church houses a school building portraying similar architecture. Walk around the church and admire its fairy tale beauty!
8) Visit Grassalkovich Palace
Located in the Hodzovo Namestie (Hodza Square), Grassalkovich Palace is also known as Slovakian White House. The palace is now an official resident of the Slovak president. The Baroque garden situated behind the palace contains statues and fountains created by some of the avant-garde artists from 17th century.
9) Walk over bridges on Danube
The Most SNP or Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising is one of the two important bridges that connect the old town of Bratislava with the urban quarters. The bridge was open to public in 1972. Popularly called Nový Most, it is It is the world’s longest bridge balanced with a single pylon. Suspended over Danube river, this asymmetrical suspension bridge is also known as UFO bridge. The flying saucer structure on top of the pylon is a landmark in Bratislava. It houses a famous restaurant named UFO, which can be accessed by a high speed elevator tucked inside one of the pillars. You can get excellent view of the bridge hanging over Danube while approaching the Bratislava Castle. Dedicate an evening to UFO over a coffee and it will be an evening to remember. The view from the the height of 90 meters above the water is simply breathtaking. Soak in the panorama of Bratislava with Danube in the forefront. You will end up capturing stunning images of the scenic backdrop filled with the historic landmarks of Bratislava and its hilly suburbs.
10) Take a cruise on Danube to visit Devin Castle
Danube River passes through many of Central European capitals including Bratislava. Vast expanse of the river dividing the city is lined by beautiful promenades. One of the most beautiful promenade is on the bank touching the old town. End your tour of the historical city center with a relaxing walk along the flower gardens by the bank, gazing at the Most SNP and the river traffic underneath. Or you can spend an evening over a glass of wine at one of the floating restaurants on either side of the river banks entertaining the tourists as well as locals. Bratislava has been an important stop over on the river trade route from Vienna to Budapest. You can spend few hours on a boat sailing to one of the capitals while reminiscing over the history of powerful Kingdom of Hungary. There are floating luxurious hotels parked along the bank close to the old town. Spending a night into a Botel ( boat+hotel) will certainly make it a memorable trip to Bratislava!
11) Visit the pretty pink building of Primate’s Palace
Primate’s Palace is located in the old town of Bratislava, just a stone’s throw away from the old square. Built in late 18th century, the palace has served as a historical location in the Austro Hungarian empire. The allegorical statues line the rooftop of this pretty pink palace. The hallway to the palace leads into the open air inner courtyard. The fountain of St George, depicting the legendary knight slaying three headed dragon, stands in the center of inner courtyard. The highlight of the Primate Palace is the Hall of Mirrors. This large hall has been where famous peace treaty was signed between France and Austria in 1805. The palace now serves a s seat of the Mayor of Bratislava. Walk around this royal edifice and admire The roofs decorated with sparkling crystal chandeliers. Stare at the walls of the palace adorned with portraits of Habsburg royalty and get acquainted with the history of Austro Hungarian empire.
12) Visit to Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum
Innovatively designed Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum is one of the most beautiful museums in the world. Founded in 2000, the museum houses contemporary art from across Europe and the world. Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum is situated on the borders with Austria and Hungary and holds regular exhibitions for well known artists of international fame from Slovakia and Europe. The sculpture park adjacent to the museum building is adorned with works of Vladimír Kompánek, Joseph Jankovič and many more renowned artists. For art aficionados visiting Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum will bring sheer delight. The museum is worth visiting not only for its daring modern art collection but also for the beautiful location on Danube River. Located 20 kms outside Bratislava, it can be accessed by road or by a boat trip. Take an early evening trip to the museum and you will be rewarded with stunning sunset over Danube upon your return!
13) Experience Bratislava nightlife in the old square
Though small, the capital of Slovakia boasts of a cool night scene. The charming city center in the old town is a happening party place in Bratislava. The best spots can be found on Židovská and Beblavého streets for outdoor drinking. Located right under the Bratislava castle, Elektricka is one of the popular party places. The Dubliner Irish Pub is one of the most famous, crowded and the loudest clubs in the old square. You can not miss the crowd from the club pouring onto the cobbled street outside. Slovak beers of Zlaty Bazant or Kelt are a must try during a night out. Subclub also known as Ucko, is another iconic nightclub worth trying. This cool club attracts international Djs throughout the year, making it a must visit for hardcore party goers! Cocoloco Cocktail Bar located in the historical center is one of the finest clubs for exotic cocktails. Besides these there are many clubs and bars across the old and the urban quarters. No wonder Bratislava’s has earned quite a reputation for its club scene in Europe, now being fondly referred as Partyslava!
14) Enjoy the panorama of Bratislava from Kamzík Tower
Kamzík Tower or Bratislava TV Tower stands 470 meters above the city. The tower can be accessed by a cable car which passes through the surrounding forest and hills known as Koliba. Being in a secluded spot the tower isn’t a great crowd puller. And that is the precise reason to visit it. The area also offers great hiking and biking opportunities into the surrounding hills. Well laid out trails are great for outdoor activities. If you prefer to spend more time in the green expanse, carry a picnic basket along. The highlight of visit to the Kamzík Tower is the cable car. Hiking up in the cable car to Koliba will reward you with stunning view of the countryside. Once you are at the bottom of the tower, take a high speed elevator to get to the top. This can be considered the highest point in the region. Escape from the hustle bustle of the city and marvel the panorama of Bratislava. There is nothing better than sipping on a cup of coffee with a view!
15) Indulge in Slovak cuisine
Slovak cuisine derives its influence from the neighboring regions of Austria and Hungary. Typical Slovak food is heavy and hearty consisting of main ingredients of pork, potatoes and cabbage. Bryndzové halušky – gnocchi style potato dumplings served with bacon and sheep yogurt is a national dish of Slovakia. Kapustnica – a soup made from sauerkraut and sausage makes a staple dish in Slovakian cuisine. Milk products of sheep cheese and sheep’s curd are another favorites of locals. Walking down from St Michael’s Gate on Michalska street, you will come across many restaurants offering Slovak food. Try traditional Slovak dishes at any of these restaurants to get acquainted with the local cuisine, where every meal starts with a bowl of soup and dumplings. You can also go for a fine dining experience in the historical quarter. Enjoy an evening with Zemiakové Placki – Potato pancakes and Segedin Goulash over a glass of wine at Modrá Hviezda. The rustic decor, a location close to Bratislava Castle and a terrace overlooking Danube will make the Slovak gastronomy experience extra special!
16) Experience Slovak culture in Slovak National Theater
Slovak National Theater is the oldest theater building in Slovakia. Built in 1885, the theater was earlier known as the City Theater. Prominent Hungarian opera played here before the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1920. The name changed to Slovak National Theater in 1920, with the foundation of Slovak ensemble of Opera, Ballet and Drama. This Neo-Renaissance building stands prominently on Hviezdoslav Square in the old town. The theater was designed by Viennese architects who also designed theaters in 10 other cities across Europe. If you have visited Vienna, you will be able to spot the similarities in design. Busts of several famous musical composers and other statues line the front façade. The Ganymede’s Fountain designed by V. Tilgner stands in front of the entrance of Slovak National Theater. Enjoy the walk around and admire the setting of the theater in the old town square. The repertoires of famous Opera and Ballet are a treat for aficionados, though they only have Slovak or German subtitles. So ballet would be the best bet if you are looking for a cultural evening!
- Try Slovak version of Hungarian goulash, this delicious thick spicy stew is as popular as the Hungarian one.
- It is easier to visit Bratislava, when planned along with other capitals in the region. It is worth looking at an option of visiting 4 capitals in 8 days under Central Europe on a shoestring!
- Danube River Cruise gives an opportunity to pass by some of the attractions in Bratislava