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Centrally located between the more well-known cities of Budapest and Vienna, visitors to Central Europe should not miss the often-overlooked town of Bratislava. This charming city is vibrant and full of history. And bring your camera since there are so many fabulous things to see and do! Keep reading for a complete 48 hr Bratislava travel guide!
Maintaining its small-town feeling and charm, Bratislava greets its visitors with open arms. The city is immaculate. And the residents — incredibly welcoming and willing to help visitors! Here are some of my favorite things to do in Bratislava.
Bratislava Travel Guide: the Best Things to Do and See
1. Old Town Bratislava
This well-preserved medieval city center is the main attraction of Bratislava. This is the starting point for many tours, as well as some of the attractions listed below. While the Communist Regime destroyed many areas of Slovakia after World War II, the center has remained relatively unscathed.
One of the most famous tourist attractions in town is Bratislava Castle. There is even a sign from the train station directing visitors in the right direction. Located on a hill with a view of the River Danube, the castle was mentioned in writings as early as 907 C.E. In 1811, a fire destroyed the castle and became a ruin. However, the building’s restoration makes it appear as it did during the reign of Maria Theresa, in the late 1700s.
Don’t miss the magnificent views from the gardens!
Known as the “New Bridge” or “Most SNP Bridge,” most people know what you mean when referring to the UFO Bridge. There is an observation deck and restaurant, which should be explored if you have time. You’ll have a fantastic view of three countries: Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia.
About a 10-15 minute walk from the center of Old Town is the beautiful art nouveau Blue Church. Opening hours are limited, so check ahead of time. While it was closed when I visited, visitors could still get a view of the beautiful inside.
Consecrated in 1452, this still active Catholic Cathedral has withstood the test of time. Spend some time inside admiring the Gothic stained-glass windows and organ. The crowning of eleven Hungarian kings and eight Hungarian queens happened here. Then, follow the bronze crowns along the streets of Bratislava to do your processional walk.
The best views of Old Town can be seen from the upper terrace of this seven-story tower. Walking through the gate, look for the “Zero Kilometer” plate, which lists the distance from Bratislava to 29 world capitals. Finally, find your nation’s capital! (The museum will be closed for renovation until approximately December 2022.)
7. Man at Work
This quirky statue depicts Čumil, who no one is 100% sure what he depicts. Installed in 1997, there are a few theories of what he represents. Is he looking under the skirts of ladies passing by? Is he taking a break from cleaning the sewer? Either way, make a wish and rub his head to make it come true – though you must never tell anyone your desire. Others say that scratching his head will lead to pregnancy!
You can’t miss him since there is a sign saying “Man at Work” over him. And you’ll find the crowd at the corner of Panská and Laurinská streets.
Celebrating over 100 years in business, the Old Market Hall is home to a farmer’s market every Saturday morning. Schedule a visit and enjoy breakfast. You can find some local goodies to enjoy by yourself or as something to take back with you. If you time your visit right, a monthly food truck night is a great way to see and be seen.
9. Ride a bike through three countries
Outdoor lovers should rent a bike near the UFO bridge and cycle along the Danube. You can quickly cycle into Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria, all converging near this spot.
10. Umbrella street
These popular Instagram locations are popping up all over the place, and Bratislava is no exception. You can find the umbrella street in front of the Nedbalka Gallery on Nedbalova Street. Fortunately, most people just call it Umbrella Street. Ask someone if you need help.
And two more if you have time:
With a design reminiscent of a wine bottle, the tower pays homage to the region’s Little Carpathian Wine Area. As the city’s tallest building, the TV tower is used by radio and television and includes an observation deck and restaurant open to the public.
12. Devín Castle (Hrad Devín)
The ruins of Devin’s Castle were first mentioned in manuscripts in 863 C.E. Napoleon ordered its destruction in 1809. Nevertheless, the ruins are a popular area to visit and can be reached easily via local bus or a ferry from Bratislava.
Bratislava Travel Guide: the Best Tours
I took two free walking tours with Discover Bratislava. I had such a great experience that I highly recommend them.
- Free City & Castle Tour: This is a great way to introduce the city and its landmarks. Be prepared for walking on cobbled streets and climbing the stairs up to the castle!
- Spooky Legends Tour: This evening tour introduces different stories surrounding the people and locations in Old Town. You’ll see another side of Bratislava!
Don’t feel like walking? Keep in mind that vehicles are not permitted in the Old Town area, meaning that you will still end up walking the portions of Old Town on any tour. However, there are a few tours that will transport you to Bratislava Castle (so you don’t have to walk up all the steps) and even take you to further away places, such as the TV tower and
Where to Stay in Bratislava
I recommend staying in Old Town since most attractions are easily walkable from this location.
- Central Apartmany Biela Street: This was my top choice! The building features five apartments available for rent. These are an excellent option for families or travelers who enjoy having a kitchen and washer in their unit.
- Arcadia Boutique Hotel: Prefer a few amenities? Also located in Old Town, the Arcadia Boutique Hotel is steps from many of the main sights. The 13th Century Building features lots of historical touches while maintaining an elegant atmosphere at an affordable price.
- Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel: Looking for a more familiar chain hotel? Stay at the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel, located on the waterfront in Old Town.
Where to Eat in Bratislava
If you’re looking for local food options, here are my top recommendations based on both input from fellow travelers and my own experiences:
- Bratislava Flagship: This restaurant is located in the original Monastery of the Merciful Brothers, on the SNP Square. Belonging to the same group that owns the Slovak Pub, you will find locally crafted beer and locally sourced food items. The prices are not touristy, and you’ll find authentic Slovak options.
- 1 Slovak Pub: Located on Obchodná, Bratislava’s shopping street, the Slovak Pub caters to tourists and locals. With special pricing for students from the nearby university, this is a fun place to hang out while enjoying a pint of their beer.
- Meanto: Located on Biela Street, this restaurant was directly underneath my apartment. They offer a sampler plate including three typical Slovak dishes at an affordable (i.e., non-tourist) price.
- UFO Restaurant: This one was on my list to try, but my budget did not accommodate the pricey menu. I do highly recommend visiting and grabbing a drink as a lower-budget option rather than eating here.
- Underground Tea Room: I did not try this one but the idea of having a drink in a former bomb shelter located underground sounds different.
Bratislava Travel Guide: the Best Foods and Drinks to Try
One of the best parts of traveling is trying new foods. You can learn a lot about the country’s culture through its most popular foods and drinks. Slovakia was no exception! Here are some favorite Slovak foods and beverages to try while in Bratislava:
- Bryndzové Halušky (dumplings with sheep’s cheese)
- Bryndzové Pirohy (pierogies filled with sheep’s cheese)
- Cesnaková polievka v bochníku (garlic cream soup, served in bread bowl)
- Domáca kapustnica so smotanou, údeným mäskom a klobásou (cabbage soup with sausage and pork meat)
- Burčák (fermented young Moravian wine) (only available at the beginning of the harvest season in August-October)
- Bratislavké rožky (Bratislava rolls) (small croissant looking pastries filled with poppy seed or walnuts)
Any Central Europe itinerary should include Bratislava. While day trips from Vienna and Budapest are available, this charming historic town is worth spending at least one overnight, if not more.
Don’t forget to pick up souvenirs while you’re here!
Have you visited Bratislava? What was your favorite thing about it?
Annick, The Common Traveler