We had high hopes for Bratislava after seeing such good things in Eastern Europe so far. Sadly, we were let down. I mean, Euro Trip was a little off and we didn’t see any dogs running around holding human hands, but there just isn’t much to do here as an adventurous backpacker.
We tried very hard to find fun things away from the crowds and really struggled. The real fun in Slovakia is in the hiking and seeing the castles of the Tatra mountains, but we’ll save that for a seperate post soon. However, if you do end up coming to Bratislava to break up your trip between Poland and Hungary or for a day trip from Vienna, these were the best things we found to do.
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The Best Touristy Things To Do In Bratislava
Old town Bratislava is where it’s at for the package tourist. You’ll have to push your way through massive tour groups when you wander the winding cobble stoned streets. This is also where you’ll see almost all the must-see tourist spots, so there is no avoiding it!
Hlavné Námestie or the main square is worth a look, but not because of the old town hall or the Roland Fountain. Instead, take a look at the plaque in front of town hall. It’s not really a plaque, but more of a white square that shows the level of a flood in 1815 made by an iceberg! That’s right, an iceberg.
Michael’s Gate is the last surviving medieval gate from the original city fortifications. There is a good view of old town if you want to pay €5 for entry into the museum of arms. You can’t just go to the top, so if you don’t want to learn about old-school weapons I would save my money and go to one of the other free lookouts.
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St. Martin’s Cathedral is the biggest and baddest church in old town. Pretty standard in church terms, except at the top of the spire there is a gold-plated pillow and crown the size of a VW car! Hats off to you if you’re able to climb to the top and pocket yourself a nice souvenir.
After you’ve seen if the Slovak National Theatre has anything cheap playing wander down the tree-lined Hviezdoslav Square to start statue spotting! I don’t know why, but Bratislava seems to have an unnaturally high number of strange statues dotted around its old town. There are at least 10 scattered around town with the man at work being my personal favourite.
The UFO bridge is another glorious Soviet era construction. By the time the bridge was inaugurated in 1972, almost all of the Jewish district next to old town had been destroyed. This was done in order to get better access to the Petržalka district and to facilitate the planned growth over the Danube. The bridge isn’t the ugliest part. A far greater blight to the horizon is Europe’s largest concentration of the very ugly Panelák block buildings.
Bratislava Castle is a big ass palace right next to old town. It has been around for a few thousand years in one form or another, although it was lying in ruins from 1811 to 1953 after a soldier burnt the palace down. The rebuilding of the palace only finished in 2010 and it now serves as the swanky Slovak National Museum. I have to say that the major draw card here isn’t the palace itself but rather the view. A great panorama of old town, the Danube river, the UFO bridge and the ugly Panelák Soviet block buildings.
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The last stop on the tourist trail is the Grassalkovich Palace which houses the Slovakian Presidential Palace nowadays. Before becoming the presidential digs it was home to a bunch of aristocrats. They were nice enough to leave a French garden next door that is now open to the public. A perfect place to relax after admiring the palace!
Things To Do In Bratislava Away From The Crowds
The blue church of Bratislava is just that, a blue church. Not really much else to say. It’s only a short walk from old town and worth a look even though it’s only open for people who go there to pray, aka not most tourists.
Want some fresh food while you’re in Bratislava? Then check out Trhovisko Miletičova (Central Market). It’s one of Bratislava’s oldest open air markets with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products. It’s a great place for people watching and getting away from the tourist droves in old town.
Welcome to the huge Slavin War Memorial. It’s home to a WWII memorial and a cemetery for around 7,000 Soviet soldiers. It’s another great example of Soviet architecture. It was completed in 1960 standing almost 50 m tall and on a hill, making it visible from almost everywhere in town. This was no mistake as it had the secondary task of always reminding the citizens of Bratislava who saved them from German occupation. It also means you get a great panoramic view of the city from here.
Bratislava Travel Guide
Getting to Bratislava By Bus
There are frequent buses to Bratislava from throughout central and eastern Europe. We used the cheapest option, Polski Bus, who were as good and cheap as always.
Getting to Bratislava By Train
There are frequent connections to Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow and Budapest.
There are two main stations in town; the Bratislava hlavná stanica which is near old town and Bratislava-Petržalka over the Danube in a residential area. Both stations have easy bus connections into old town.
Getting to Bratislava By Air
Bratislava Milan Rastislav Štefánik Airport is 9 km from the city and has all the regular connections around Europe. There is a public bus that connects the airport to the city for €1.
Don’t take the taxi’s out front of either the bus station, train stations or airports unless you speak Slovakian! You will get ripped off and charged triple the normal price.
Walking Around Bratislava
All the main sights are within walking distance in the city. The market and Slavin monument are a little bit of a walk from the city center at around 30 min, but they are pleasant walks.
As mentioned above there isn’t really a need to ever catch a bus or tram if you’re staying in the city, but if you need to get out to the suburbs they are everywhere. Ticket prices are very affordable at less than €0.50 cents for a 40 min ticket.
There isn’t too much cheap street food in Bratislava apart from the normal kebabs and langos. One new thing Mariana was able to sniff out was the cinnamon cone that was filled with ice cream and berries. It didn’t really fit the cheap criteria, but how could you say no to this smile…
If you want something a little cheaper then you should head to either Flagship restaurant or Slovak Pub. They are both run by the same people and serve the same cheap, massive portions of Slovakian food. The only downer is that they are quite touristy.
We had a great time at this beer garden. They brew their own beer and the food is pretty damn good. Be careful as they have two locations. Make sure you go to the one outside of old town.
While you’re in town make sure you try some Slovakian food.
- Garlic soup
- Sheep cheese dumplings
The prices or drinks is pretty good in town with beer (0.5L) between €1.5-€3
This place is on the edge of town and a little hidden since it used to be a public toilet! The bar is quite cramped downstairs, but the outside terrace is a great spot to people watch with some cheap beers.
If you’ve a got a bit of a bigger budget or want to splurge then head to this rooftop bar. It has an amazing view of old town and the Bratislava Castle.
Hostels in Bratislava
All the hostels in town range between €10-€15 for the cheapest dorm. There are heaps in town, but these are our favourites;
A great choice if you want to meet some fellow travellers and have some nice conversations. It is also the only hostel in old town.
Another good choice and it’s part of the HI group. This means it comes with all the bells and whistles at a low price. You get FREE laundry, breakfast, welcome drink and a 10% discount at their restaurant.
And of course their is always Air bnb if you want to have a break from the hostel world.
- Hello = Ahoj
- Litteraly like what a sailor would say
- Thank you = Dakujem
- Please = Prosim
- Good day = Dobry den
- Good night = Dobru noc
- Welcome = Vitaj
- My name is = Volam sa
- What is your name? = Ako sa volas
- Enjoy your meal = Dobru chut