Often caught in the shadow of near neighbour Vienna, Bratislava deserves so much more attention from travellers than it currently receives.
For many travellers, it’s a choice between the two and Vienna almost always wins. But with only only 55km (34 miles) of pasture between the two cities and fast, frequent and inexpensive travel options aplenty, we say, do both!
In this post, we’ll run through 14 things to see and do in the Slovak capital. Think of each item in our list as a reason to visit and you’ll soon realise that Bratislava doesn’t deserve to be bypassed.
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At a Glance
Use this table of contents to jump ahead in this travel guide to the sections that interest you the most.
Our recommended things to see & do in Bratislava
Let’s now discover why Bratislava is worthy of a place in your travel itinerary by exploring some of things to see and do.
Stroll aimlessly through the pedestrianised Old Town
Bratislava’s Old Town is compact and very easy to explore on foot. One of its highlights is simply wandering the pedestrianised lanes and admiring the architectural mix. The city has had a large number of cultural influences over the centuries, leading to an eclectic blend of baroque palaces, gothic churches and adventurous 20th century constructions.
You can see pretty much all of the Old Town and the surrounding area in a day, so put on some comfortable shoes and get walking.
Get your bearings at the Old Town Hall
A good way to start your time in Bratislava is to go up the 13th century clock tower at the Old Town Hall and get an overview of the city. The 70m (230ft) high tower offers a 360° view over the old town and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
From the tower, it’s possible to see many of Bratislava’s main tourism spots, including Bratislava Castle, the UFO bridge and the main square.
Stay somewhere local
Whenever we travel, we always like to live like a local and stay in houses and apartments. Airbnb is a great place to track these kind of places down.
The apartment we chose to stay in during our visit to Bratislava was right in the heart of the old town, a minute or two from the main attractions. Inside, the apartment was modern, spacious and quiet.
Click below to discover a great place to stay during your visit.
Visit the City History Museum
The Museum of the City History (sic) is housed inside the Old Town Hall and has a series of themed exhibitions that give a good initial overview of Bratislava. As well as artefacts from as old as the neolithic era, there is also an exhibition of torture equipment inside the former dungeons. Visitors can also tour the former meeting and administrative rooms of the Old Town Hall, some of which contain intricate ceiling decoration.
Seek out street art and statues
For a small city, Bratislava has plenty of street art and statues. The statues in particular are often situated in unusual locations. The most famous of these statues is Rubberneck, a bronze bust of a worker emerging from a drain. It’s a popular draw for tourists, so wait your turn in order to get a photo.
As you stroll around, be on the lookout for artwork on the sides of buildings, sticker clusters and statues.
Enjoy Bratislava’s Cafe Culture
Nearby Vienna is highly and rightly regarded for its cafe culture. Bratislava though is seemingly undaunted by the reputation of its nearby neighbour, providing those seeking cake and coffee plenty to get excited about.
Our favourite cafes were Five Points, a cosy and contemporary coffee house and Dobre&Dobré, a bohemian cafe with Parisian-style decor. There are though plenty more to choose from, each offering its own style and character.
One bonus the Bratislava has over Vienna is that prices in Slovakia are often cheaper than those in Austria. So sip your coffee smugly, as those just across the border will be paying a bit more than you are.
Visit the UFO Bridge
Since 1972, a UFO has dominated the skyline of Bratislava. Officially named Most SNP (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising), the bridge would otherwise be just another way of crossing the Danube if it wasn’t for the extra-terrestrial inspired pod at the top of the single pylon.
As well as an observation deck that provides a panoramic view of the entire city, there’s a restaurant at the top. If you’re booked in at the restaurant, you get the observation deck entry cost deducted from your final bill.
Visit an repurposed abandoned department store
KC Dunaj is a cultural and social venue for Bratislava’s millennials and hipsters housed in a former communist-era department store. A somewhat dilapidated and graffiti-strewn stairwell leads to the 4th floor where you’ll find the bar, an outdoor terrace and a series of rooms that host all kinds of social events throughout the week. Live music, themed parties, film screenings and talks are all on the events programme. On our visit, a language learning event was taking place. Drinks are local and inexpensive and there’s a general friendly vibe that reminded us of Budapest’s ruin pubs.
Visit Bratislava Castle
A dominant landmark of the city, it’s not easy to ignore the white-walled and terracotta-roofed might of Bratislava Castle. Much of the castle that stands today has been restored, though there are still original Gothic and Renaissance elements to be seen. Dedicated at least a few hours to exploring the castle and its grounds as there’s plenty to see.
The Slovak National Museum can be found on the second floor, which maps the history of the country from its inception to the present through a series of engaging displays. To get there, you’ll climb an elegant Baroque staircase that is perfect for some luxurious selfies. Stop for cake and a bottle of Kofola (Czechia’s answer to Coca-Cola) in the cafe and sit by the window for views of the Danube.
Visit a pub in a former public toilet
What was once an underground public toilet is now a cosy pub called Papichulo. If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive on beer pong night or when there’s a live DJ playing a set. It’s a popular place with locals, so arrive early or on a weeknight to ensure you get a seat. Smoking is unfortunately permitted inside, which ruins the ambiance somewhat. If you can’t stand the smell (and we can’t blame you), head outside to the ground-level terrace.
Staff were very welcoming on our visit, so if you can’t find a seat or you’re not sure what to order, ask. Bring some cash, as cards aren’t accepted.
Enjoy a beer on the Danube
Permanently moored to the banks of the Danube, Dunajský Pivovar offers beer from the on-board brewery and fantastic views of Bratislava’s Old Town. Jade and I popped aboard on a whim and found a warm welcome, polite service and great beer. If it’s a warm day, sit out on the narrow terrace facing the Old Town so that you can soak it all in and hear the waters of the Danube flowing past.
Try the local cakes
Slovakia is home to a large number of traditional cakes and you can try almost all of them at a small bakery called Spusta on Klobučnícka. The choice here is somewhat overwhelming and almost everything is €1 or less, so try to remain calm and maybe set a limit of how many cakes you’re going to buy before you go in.
We couldn’t identify many of the cakes on offer, so we couldn’t really recommend anything in particular. We just pointed at the cakes that looked the most interesting to us.
Blueberry Bublanina and Honey Cake are both staples of the Slovak cake scene, so those are safe bets. But seriously, go nuts! At these prices, you have nothing to lose (other than your dignity).
Take in some Slovak art
The Nedbalka Gallery is home to over 500 works of permanent and temporary art by Slovak artists from the late 19th century to the present. The gallery space is laid out beautifully across several circular floors, each with a central balcony where you can see all the floors all at once.
Entry is a maximum of €5 with various discounts available.
Go on a day trip to Devín Castle
Once you have explored Bratislava’s city centre, make sure you set aside a day to head out on a day trip to Devín Castle.
Perched on top of (and somewhat within) a 212 metre (605ft) high cliff at the confluence of the rivers Danube and Morava, the ruins of the castle are fun to explore. Actors in full costume bring the history of the ruins to life with spur of the moment demonstrations. Visitors are free to wander the turrets, staircases and gardens and are welcome to view artefacts on display in various exhibitions dotted around the site.
Before or after your visit to the castle, make sure you wander into the adjacent town of Devín for an insight into what life is like for ordinary Slovakians. Opposite the church, you’ll find a great pizza restaurant called Reštaurácia Valentian where prices are considerably lower than the restaurants nearer the castle itself.
Getting there: Devín Castle is 12km away from Bratislava city centre. Bus 29 from Most SNP bus station (underneath the UFO bridge) stops at the castle with a 20 minute journey time. Alternatively, you can get there by taxi or by boat.
Plan & Book your visit to Bratislava
Ready to start planning your visit to Bratislava? In this section, we’ll take you through the process of planning and book your trip.
There are multiple ways of getting to Bratislava and we’ll run through them in this section.
Going to Bratislava from Vienna? We have a separate post on the many ways in which you can travel from Vienna to Bratislava. Check it out now.
M. R. Štefánik Airport or Bratislava Airport serves Bratislava, and to some extent, nearby Vienna. The largest airline operating at the airport is Ryanair who operates budget flights all over Europe. There are also a number of other mostly budget airlines operating flights to other European destinations.
Use the search form below to search for flights from your nearest airport.
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Getting from the airport to the city centre isn’t as strait-forward as it could be. For simplicity and fare transparency, we used Uber. The Uber app will guide you to where you need to be upon arrival.
Public bus 61 will take you to Bratislava’s main railway station in around 25 minutes. Tickets must be purchased in advance from machines in the arrivals hall or at the bus stop outside. A €1.20 60-minute ticket will be sufficient and must be validated using the machines on board the bus.
You can of course hire a taxi from outside the arrivals area, but ensure you agree on the final fare before boarding. Fares will be considerably higher than by Uber or bus.
Getting to Bratislava by train from neighbouring countries is common, particularly from Vienna and Budapest. Services are frequent, fast, comfortable and inexpensive.
To find timetables and the cheapest train fares to Bratislava, head to Trainline*.
It’s possible to arrive in Bratislava along to Danube by boat from Vienna, Austria. Head to our separate post to find out more about this option.
Those on a budget who are travelling from Austria, Hungary and Czechia will find plenty of inexpensive bus routes on offer.
To find bus timetables and fares to Bratislava, we recommend Busbud*.
Find more things to do in Bratislava
Place to stay
Like most European cities, Bratislava has plenty of places to stay for any type of traveller.
For hotels, Tripadvisor is a great place to start your search*. Not only can you compare prices, you can view Tripadvisor’s huge database of reviews for each property.
For apartment rentals and local stays, we always use Airbnb*. To live like a local during your stay, there’s nothing better than Airbnb.
Send us your questions
Do you have any questions about visiting Bratislava? Drop them in the comments box below and we’ll see if we can help you out.