Wondering if Bratislava is worth visiting?
Absolutely! In fact, it ended up being our favourite city when we spent two weeks visiting Prague and Vienna.
While it’s not as fairy-tale pretty as Prague or as grand as Vienna, Bratislava is interesting and charming and has a more authentic feel to it.
The capital city full of history, culture, and interesting attractions. Whether it’s exploring the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, admiring the architecture at St. Martin Cathedral or visiting Bratislava Castle, there are plenty of things to do in this Slovakian capital.
But if you’re still wondering is Bratislava worth visiting, this post will highlight everything you need to know about visiting the city, including the best things to do, how to get around and how many days to spend there, so you can make your own decision.
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Bratislava is the capital of the Slovak Republic, also commonly known as Slovakia. It’s one of the smallest capital cities in Europe, with a population of less than half a million people.
The currency in Bratislava is the Euro and the language is Slovak, although German is also understood and we found many people spoke, or at least understood English.
And as it’s part of the Schengen area, you won’t need to show your passport when entering the country.
Things to Do in Bratislava
Bratislava is a charming city, with plenty of things to do.
The Old Town is full of narrow cobblestone streets, interesting architecture and lots of cafés.
There are plenty of historical sites to explore too, like the Bratislava Castle, St Martin’s Cathedral and the Slavín Monument. Here’s our top suggestions on what to see and the best things to do in Bratislava.
1. Walk around the Old Town
Bratislava’s Old Town is an absolute delight and one of the best things about visiting this city.
The historic centre is small and walkable, with boutique shops and cafes, as well as attractions such as the Old Town Hall, Michael’s Gate and Primate’s Palace. It’s great to wander through the streets and take in the atmosphere.
2. Visit St. Martin’s Cathedral
This beautiful Gothic-style church dates back to the 15th century. It’s one of Bratislava’s oldest churches and is free to enter.
Formerly this was the church where coronations of the Hungarian Empire took place and you can see a replica of the coronation crown on top of the cathedral tower. It weighs an impressive 150kg!
3. See Old Town Hall
As the name suggests, this historic building was formerly the Town Hall and is now home to Bratislava City Museum, the oldest museum in Slovakia.
Narrow stairs lead to a 45-metre-high tower where you’ll have an impressive panoramic view of the Old Town, Bratislava Castle and the UFO Bridge.
In December, the square in front of Old Town Hall is where you’ll find the main Christmas Market in Bratislava.
4. Explore the Primate’s Palace
Next to Old Town Hall, the 18th century Primate’s Palace is an interesting shade of pink and was originally the residence of the Slovakian president.
Now open to visitors, you can tour the inside where the Hall of Mirrors might remind you of Versailles!
5. Walk Under Michael’s Gate
Michael’s Gate is the only surviving city gate from the medieval walls that used to surround the old town.
Now the tower is home to the Museum of Arms, where you’ll see everything from swords to catapults and suits of armour.
Climb to the upper terrace for a view of the castle and Old Town. There is an entrance fee to enter the museum and climb the tower.
6. See Grassalkovich Palace
Originally built in the 18th century as a summer palace for a Hungarian aristocrat, Grassalkovich Palace is now the official residence of the President of the Slovak Republic. In the summer, the large French garden is one of the most popular parks in Bratislava and worth a visit.
Fun fact: Famous composer Joseph Haydn once performed here,
In front of the palace, there’s a large fountain which represents freedom and if you’re there at noon on weekdays, you’ll see the changing of the guards.
7. Visit the Blue Church
Actually called St. Elizabeth’s Church, but known as the Blue Church for it’s unusual colour, this is definitely one of the things to see in Bratislava.
In fact, the whole church is blue, even inside! It’s a few blocks from the Old Town Hall and Hviezdoslavovo Námestie, but worth the walk!
8. Look for the Statues
Bratislava is full of interesting statues, from the statue of Čumil (the man who pops out of a manhole) to figures on street corners, like Schöne Naci, the guy with top hat and cane.
There’s also a soldier leaning on a bench and a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, which unfortunately we missed.
And at Bratislava Castle, there’s ‘the witch‘, or bosorka in Slovak, which is a monument to all women who were accused of witchcraft in medieval times, but my kids like it because of the crows!
9. Enjoy the Views from UFO Observation Deck
Actually called the SNP Bridge, it’s commonly known as the UFO Bridge (even on Bratislava’s tourist map) since the restaurant at the top looks like a UFO.
The bridge is the 7th largest hanging bridge in the world, and at 95 metres high, it offers some incredible views over the city.
If you are dining at the UFO restaurant, the entrance fee to the observation deck is included, but even if you’re not visiting the restaurant, it’s still worth going up just to take in the views, especially at sunset!
10. Take a Stroll Along the Danube River
Bratislava is located on the Danube River and there’s a walkway along the banks where you can watch the boats and admire the city skyline.
Take a walk along the waterfront, then cross the Old Bridge and return along the banks on the other side. The views from here are particularly impressive at night, when all of Bratislava is illuminated!
11. Visit Bratislava Castle
Last on our list, but definitely not least, a visit to Bratislava Castle is one of the most popular things to do in Bratislava.
Interestingly, or maybe just to me, this castle was the seat of the Hungarian Empire for over 200 years. Bratislava is strategically located, right on the Danube River and protected by mountains on either direction, so it makes sense why Bratislava was chosen as the seat of power.
The castle, which is now open to visitors, has been renovated and now houses the Museum of History.
There’s also a fantastic view of the city from the 47 metre high tower, where the royal coronation jewels used to be stored. If you don’t feel like climbing the tower, there’s also impressive views of the Danube RIver and UFO Bridge from the front courtyard.
Like Prague Castle, the grounds and gardens are free to walk through, and there’s plenty of room for kids to get some energy out, as well as fun playground with deck chairs in the summer for parents to relax on.
The gardens surrounding the castle are worth a visit, especially in the summer.
From the Old Town, it’s a short walk up to the castle, or you can take bus 203 or 207.
Other Things to See in Bratislava
Slovak National Theatre
The Slovak National Theater, also known as Bratislava’s opera house is one of Bratislava’s most elegant buildings.
It’s a building worth seeing, whether or not you’re attending a show here!
Slavín is an impressive war memorial located on a hill above Bratislava’s Old Town.
One of the largest war memorials in Europe, Slavín is a moving reminder of the heroism of Slovakia’s soldiers during World War II.
Slovak Radio Building
The Slovak Radio Building is one of Bratislava’s most interesting buildings.
Shaped like an upside down pyramid, the building was built in 1983, during Slovakia’s communist era and is the home of Slovak Radio, as well as featuring an excellent concert hall.
A short drive from Bratislava, Devin Castle was built high on a rock tower where the Danube and Morava Rivers meet.
It’s an important historical and archaeological spot, and although the castle is now in ruins, it’s interesting to wander through and you’ll be rewarded with some fantastic views of the Danube River.
How Many Days to Spend in Bratislava
While it’s the capital city of Slovakia, it’s possible to visit Bratislava in one day and still see all the main attractions.
Many people visit Bratislava on a day trip from Vienna or even Budapest.
But if you have the time, spending 2 days in Bratislava would be our recommendation.
Where to Stay in Bratislava?
The best area to stay in Bratislava is the Old Town. Staying in the heart of the city, you will have easy access to all the main sights and attractions.
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Bratislava, directly across from the Presidential Palace. The location was excellent, and it was only a few minutes walk to Bratislava Castle and Old Town Hall and a 15 minute walk to the train station.
Rooms were clean and spacious, and had some of the best pillows I’ve ever slept on! An excellent breakfast was included and the Plaza Bar also serves meals during lunch and dinner.
The Radisson Blu is also an excellent choice, located in a historic building in the city centre. Just steps from the Slovak National Theatre and a few blocks from Old Town Hall, it’s easy walking distance to all the main sights. Free WiFi, family rooms and inlcuded breakfast make this a good choice for families.
How to Get to Bratislava
Bratislava is easily accessed from Vienna, Prague and Budapest via trains or buses, or from Vienna, even by boat!
By boat: From Vienna to Bratislava by boat is the most expensive option, and outside of the summer season, it only runs on the weekends, but is definitely a unique way to travel between the two cities. There is a direct ferry from Vienna, which takes just over an hour, or you can book a day trip with Viator that includes high speed ferry to Bratislava, as well as a walking tour in the city.
By train: The train from Vienna takes about an hour and runs quite frequently throughout the day, with departures every hour during the day. Children six and under travel for free on the train, and discounted tickets are available for children over 6.
By Bus: Buses run every hour from Vienna to Bratislava on either Regiojet or Flixbus and the journey takes around 1.5 hours. There are also buses and trains running daily from Prague, as well as connections to Budapest, Graz, Austria and Zagreb, Croatia.
By air: Bratislava also has an international airport, but it is small and offers flights within Europe. Alternatively, Vienna International Airport is just under an hour away and has more flight options.
Regular buses run from Vienna Airport to Bratislava’s City center and the main bus station (not the train station where the city buses are! Don’t make my mistake!).
Flixbus runs an hourly shuttle to Vienna airport, taking between 35 – 55 minutes, depending where you board the bus in Bratislava.
How to Get to the City Centre
From the Mlynské nivy Bus Station, take tram 202 or 205 or bus 70 to city center.
From the Petržalka Train Station, it’s a 15 minute walk to the Grassalkovich Palace and a block or two more to the Old Town. Buses 80 and 93 run regularly from the train station to the City Centre
How to Get Around Bratislava
The Old Town of Bratislava is a very walkable, but public transport is also great.
Buses, trams and trolleybuses run throughout the city. Tickets can be purchased for 15, 30 or 60 minutes, or day tickets for 24, 48 or 72 hours. Children under 6 travel free.
Tickets can be purchased from the ticket machines at stops and must be stamped/validated in the machine as soon as you board. Drivers don’t take the ticket, you must validate it in the machine and you may be fined if you’re found without a validated ticket.
Taxis are also available, and the minimum charge is around 5 Euro for a short trip.
There’s also a Bratislava CARD, which might be a good deal if you’re planning to spend 2 days in Bratislava or longer. The card gives you free unlimited travel on public transport, as well as free admission to 12 museums and galleries and a free walking tours, plus other discounts up to 50%.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bratislava
While summer is definitely a good time to visit, as the weather will be best, I don’t think you can go wrong with visiting Bratislava throughout the rest of the year.
Sure, Bratislava in the winter will be a bit chilly, but the Christmas Markets in Bratislava throughout December are a good reason to visit!
Conclusion: Is Bratislava Worth Visiting?
We hope we’ve helped you decide if Bratislava is worth visiting.
It may not be as well known as other European cities like Prague or Vienna, but there are plenty of reasons to visit Bratislava.
It’s a charming city, full of history and culture, and I found there was a good mix of things to see, as well as fun things to do with kids.
It’s also an affordable destination and a great family-friendly city to explore. If you find yourself in Central Europe, Bratislava is worth a visit!
I really enjoyed exploring the city and found there was a good mix of things to see, as well as plenty of fun things to do in Bratislava for kids. It’s a great family-friendly city to explore in Central Europe!
For more ideas and inspiration on travel in Central Europe, be sure to check out these posts:
- Bratislava Christmas Markets
- Things to Do in Bratislava with Kids
- 2 Days in Bratislava
- Best Playgrounds in Prague
- 4 Days in Vienna