Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and has always been a country at the top of my bucket list. I was headquartered in Budapest, Hungary for two months and as such, I have quick and easy access to both Western and Eastern European excursions. The train ride from Budapest to Bratislava is only 4.5-hours, and my research says it’s a small city compared to Budapest.
The city isn’t a sprawling metropolis like Budapest, perfectly fine with me since I prefer smaller cities or towns. Unlike Hungary which still uses its currency the Forinth, Slovakia uses only the Euro. There’re a few ATMs in the city, and most restaurants take credit cards, so you’re never lost without a way to pay.
A Background On Bratislava, Slovakia
I know little about Slovakia so looking for things to do and see in Bratislava required a little research. From what I understand, in the early 90s, there used to be a nation called Czechoslovakia and that it split to form what is now two independent nations The Czech Republic and Slovakia.
I’ve been to Prague, and it’s one of the most impressive cities I’ve ever seen in Europe regarding architecture. Bratislava doesn’t have the same visual impact as Prague, but it’s still a beautiful city in its own right and worth a visit. The city is compact, and most sights are within walking distance of the main square. You will notice the intricate Austro-Hungarian influence in its architecture prevalent in Hungary and Romania’s Transylvania.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, a construction boom has spawned new public structures. One notable edifice is the Most Apollo (Apollo Bridge), which stands in contrast to its 20th counterpart, the Novy Most. The New Slovak National Theater, another notable building, was constructed near the Danube. Other private real estates, as well as modern shopping malls, have started construction around the time Slovakia joined the European Union in 2004.
The Not So Blue Danube
The Danube river, which seems to be the base for most Eastern European capitals like Vienna and Budapest is also the base for Bratislava. Its water is murky and brown with dirt, not blue like in an opera song or pages in a poem or even the title of this article.
The Danube is not the prettiest river, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, The Danube is home to a few amazing castles and structures that seem to light up after dark like the great Buda and Pest divide. In Bratislava, it’s the New Bridge (Novy Most), especially when you go up to the UFO observation deck, or the Bratislava Castle fortifications.
Those ugly communist-era buildings, which never seems to go out of style in Eastern Europe, are all over the city. But they never get in the way of the views. They are separated from the old town and where you want to spend most of your time anyway. Colorful houses and medieval cobblestoned streets, typical of European fairy-tale style awaits you.
What To See in Bratislava?
Statues seem to be a big thing in this city. There’s one with a firefighter crawling out of a sewage duct, and a bunch of tourists was surrounding it while taking selfies. That seems to be the meme with tourists these days when they’re not taking selfies with tigers they’re taking it with statues. Whatever floats your boat!
The main purpose of my visits to medieval cities like Bratislava is to take epic pictures. More often than not, I won’t go to castles or museums because I’m more interested in capturing the intricacies of the architecture outside bathed in natural sunlight. So on this trip, I didn’t go up to the Bratislava Castle but instead went to the opposite side of the river bank to shoot it. It’s probably got nice things to look at in there, but I’ll leave that up to you to discover when, or if, you visit Bratislava.
Where To Eat In Bratislava?
You can’t go wrong anywhere in Old Town. There’s a bunch of restaurants in the town square where you can try the traditional Slovakian food. But you if venture out just a little further from the center it becomes less touristy and prices get cheaper. The food is similar to Hungarian or most other Eastern European cuisines. It’s okay, but if you’ve been in Eastern Europe for over a half a year like me, it becomes less exciting.
The beer on the other hand never gets old and is always good. Several Slovak beer names have a numbered percentage written on the bottle; it doesn’t mean the alcohol content. I think it means the barley vs. wheat content; I could be wrong.
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Below is a list of things see and do in Bratislava I’ve collated so you can check it out yourself, all possible in day’s visit.
A DAY IN BRATISLAVA:
- CHURCH OF ST. ELISABETH IN BRATISLAVA – A bright blue church that sticks out like a sore thumb.
- ČUMIL – A weird statue that tourist loves taking selfies with.
- MAIN SQUARE – Main square of the old town. Great place to appreciate architecture.
- OLD TOWN – This is where you want to start your Bratislava adventure.
- MICHAEL’S GATE – A gate to the old town.
- BRATISLAVA CASTLE – Another castle on the Danube. I think it’s best viewed on the other side of the river.
- ST. MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL – Another gothic cathedral.
- UFO OBSERVATION DECK – 6 Euros to get in. Great bird’s eye view of the city.
- REFER TO THIS MAP
A DAY IN BREAKDOWN:
- Train from Budapest to Bratislava – $20 (per person)
- Hostel in the city – $15 (per person, double bed private $30)
- Drinks (coffee & beer) – $10 (mostly me)
- Meals (lunch and dinner) – $20 (per person)
- Entrance to the UFO deck – $7
- Flavored Shisha and fun the lounge – $12
- TOTAL: $84
HAVE MORE THAN A DAY? Refer to this guide for a more Comprehensive List: Things to do in Bratislava.