Bratislava has a very pleasant medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets and a hill-top castle next to the Danube. It has many beautiful and historic churches and buildings to visit, including the Blue Church, one of my favourites. Located only 55km from Vienna, but separated by the Iron Curtain, Bratislava and Vienna had very different experiences during the cold war Communist-era. Emerging from the cold war era as the capital of the Slovak Republic, today Bratislava is a relatively prosperous city and has the second highest GDP per capita in Central and Eastern Europe behind Prague.
Downtown Backpackers hostel is in a historical part of the Bratislava old town. It is very centrally located and a short walk from everything that Bratislava has to offer. There is a bar attached to the ground floor of the hostel which is a great place to try some local spirits and beer. The Tatratea is highly recommended. As a guest of the hostel you get 10% off for food and drinks. There is also a large common room that serves as a decent place to meet other travellers. A fully equipped kitchen and free laundry is a big bonus.
Another great hostel located closer to the middle of the town then the other options. Wild Elephants really excels with the events that they organise for their guests. They run free walking tours, pub crawls, night swims, bunker tours, bridge jumps, movie night and cooking lessons. Perfect for solo travellers.
Sights and Highlights
This massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava. Because of its size and location, it has been a dominant feature of the city for millenia. The castles history is as varied and dramatic as any other in Europe and worth reading. The location provides excellent views of Bratislava, Austria and, in clear weather, parts of Hungary.
Bratislava Castle is home to the Museum of History of the Slovak National Museum. Entrance fee is 7€. The museum opening times are:
- Winter season: 1st November-31st March - daily except Mondays from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
- Summer Season: 1st April 31st October - daily except Mondays from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm
Free Walking Tour
A really good free walking tour is available in Bratislava with befreetours.com. The meeting point is by the Statue of Hviezdoslav on Hviezdoslavovo namestie. Tours are run in English twice daily at 11am and 3pm. The same group runs pub crawls twice a week and a communist and bunker tour as well.
Bratislava has a lot of cheap street food available. One fast food you will see is the richman, which is a big bread roll filled with cabbage and cheese and/or meat with mayonnaise. A popular richman stand can be found at Kamenné námestie,
A really good brewpub that serves some delicious and authentic Slovak food and has a great atmosphere. A 0.5L of their home-made beer is 1.70€ and a full meal can be purchased for less than 5€. A very good deal.
A slightly more upmarket place than the Slovak Pub, but also very popular. It is also a brewpub, so they make their own beer. A 0.5L of their lager will cost you 2.10€. The food is again slightly more expensive than the Slovak Pub, but given the popularity of the place, it seems like it is worth the extra. Still, there are plenty of food options for under 10€ and a bowl of soup can be bought for as little as 4€.
This is one of my favourite places in Bratislava. They make really great coffee and food, fantastic beer and some good nightlife. I really liked the craft beer they had on tap here. The decor is very eclectic making it an interesting place to just sit and chat for a while or read a book. During the day it is a really relaxing café, worth a visit.
Bratislava is small and relatively dense city, it is unlikely you will need to use public transport to get around. You can walk to all the places you are likely to visit. If you want to use a tram, a journey planner can be found at imhd.sk/ba/journey-planner. It works best if you already know the name of the tram stop you want to depart from and arrive at. They can be found on google maps. Enter the names of these stops into the journey planner.
Getting In and Out
Buses run all day everyday between Vienna and Bratislava. The easiest option is with Flixbus. Purchase tickets online starting at 5€. Journey takes about an hour.
Trains are also available several times an hour through the day. Just turn up at the Bratislava Hlavna buy a ticket at the station for a fixed price of €15 and hop on.
The first train to Budapest leaves Bratislava at 07:53 and then about every 2 hours after that. The trip to Budapest takes 2.5 hours from Bratislava. You can search for timetables at slovakrail.sk/en. Tickets cost €17.50 but can only be bought on the day at the station. No tickets are available online. The train arrives in Budapest at Keleti Station.
The first train passes through Bratislava at 06:10 and then about every 2 hours after that. The trip to Prague takes 4 hours from Bratislava. Tickets cost 15€ for a Europa Expres ticket bought online from slovakrail.sk/en. These tickets are for a particular time and particular train. A 24 hour open ticket costs 17.50€. Make sure you select the appropriate ticket during checkout. Searching for buses is not easy. Some cheap tickets can be found but a lot of them are about the same cost as the train and less convenient. The train is your best bet.
A night train departs Bratislava each evening at 23:01 for Krakow. It arrives in Krakow at 07:05 in the morning. Tickets can not be booked for this train online and must be purchased at the station. Departure point is the Bratislava hl.st. Pricing online is only for a return journey, but expect to pay somewhere around 50€.