How To Explore Bratislava in a Day
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
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Bratislava may not be at the top of everyone's bucket list, but it's a charming historical city to explore, especially if you're on a budget. But can you see Bratislava in a day? My answer is yes. We hopped on a train and took a day trip from Vienna to Bratislava, and had more than enough time to explore the old town and its surrounding area. Since most of the main attractions are within walking distance of one another, it's very easy to navigate between them during a day in Bratislava.
We spent our day in Bratislava immersing ourselves in the Slovakian culture, and of course trying out some of its cuisine. It's a city largely influenced by different cultures, and the area has a rich history dating back thousands of years. One of my favourite facts is that Bratislava is the only capital in the world that borders two different countries (Austria and Hungary), meaning it's perfectly located for day trips, either to or from it. Before you visit Bratislava, there are some important things to know about visiting Slovakia, so make sure you do some research beforehand and arrive prepared.
Arriving to Bratislava by Train
The main train station in Bratislava is called Bratislava hlavná stanica, and is located a 15 minute walk from the old town, ideal if you're only spending a day in the city. There is also a bus you can catch if you don't feel like walking, but we had lovely weather when we visited in February, so we decided to go on foot.
We loved spending a day in Bratislava, and it was a nice change from the larger, busier capital cities in Europe. In my opinion, Bratislava is a very calm, laid back city that's a joy to visit at any time of the year. Before visiting, I'd recommend checking out Visit Bratislava for some helpful tips and recommendations. If you're wondering if Bratislava is worth visiting, and what the best things to do in 24 hours are, keep reading this post to find out.
Things To Do in Bratislava
One of the main things to see in Bratislava is the castle. The castle site itself dates back to the 9th century, but it was completely rebuilt and renovated following World War II. It sits on top of a hill, so you get stunning views of the Danube River on one side, and Bratislava's old town on the other. You can go inside the castle if you want, which now houses the Historical Museum, but you will need to pay an entry fee of €10. It's completely free to walk around the outside part of it though, which is what we did during our one day in Bratislava.
There are a couple of great viewpoints from Bratislava castle, but we found one right next to Reštaurácia Hrad on our way back down towards the old town which was picture perfect. You're probably supposed to pay for the view, but if you walk around the right hand side of the restaurant you can get access to a section of their outdoor patio that they don't use. And it's an amazing place for a photo!
If you're looking for a unique place to eat in Bratislava during your day trip, why not eat at the top of a bridge? Most SNP (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising) is also known as the UFO Bridge, due to its round shaped restaurant and observation deck at the top. It draws visitors from all over the world, and offers a different perspective of Bratislava. We didn't have a chance to go there during our one day in Bratislava, but it's on our list for when we return.
The great thing about Bratislava is that it sits right along the Danube River, so you can go for a lovely leisurely stroll along it or hop on one of the many river cruises. If you're in Vienna, instead of taking the train you can travel on a boat to Bratislava if you want. Although we only spent a day in Bratislava, we managed to walk along here on our way from the Blue Church to the old town.
The Blue Church (officially the Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary), is a major tourist attraction in Bratislava. I would recommend visiting it on your way from the train station to the old town, because it's not near any other key attractions. This is a must see, especially if you're only in Bratislava for a day, and it's a completely free attraction too. We didn't go inside of it, because we spent too much time trying to get the perfect photo outside, but the interior is also decorated in the same shade of blue and looks very pretty too based on photos I've seen.
Bratislava's old town is one of my favourite old towns in Europe. It's very picturesque and doesn't seem as busy as other capital cities. One of the main attractions in the old town is Michael's Gate. The tower is made up of seven floors, and the view from the top is one of the best in the city. To get to the tower you need to purchase a ticket for the Museum of Arms for €5. This is a very inexpensive attraction, so if you're travelling to Bratislava for one day on a budget, this is something to add to your list. Or you can just browse the street leading up to it like we did.
The main square in Bratislava's old town (Hlavné námestie), is something you'll definitely pass by during your day trip to the city. It used to be where monarchs were welcomed as well as a place of execution. The main building in this square is Bratislava's Old Town Hall, which dates back to the 14th century and is the oldest city hall in all of Slovakia. When we walked past the square there was a musician playing the violin which added to its charm. We ended up walking past here a number of times throughout our day in Bratislava, and couldn't help but take more photos each time.
Just before crossing the road to get to Bratislava Castle you'll find St Martin's Cathedral. It was consecrated in 1452, and was once the coronation place for Hungarian kings, which is marked by a crown sitting at the very top of the tower. It's a must see in Bratislava, even if you don't go inside, and is one of the most historical places in the city.
Sitting just around the corner from the main square in the old town is the Slovak National Theatre, which was built in the late 19th century and is the second oldest theatre in the country. Chances are if you're only in Bratislava for a day, you won't have time to catch a performance here, but it's worth visiting for a photo outside.
Primate's Palace is one of the most beautiful classicist buildings in the country, and costs just €3 to get into. There are a number of unique things to see inside the palace such as rare 17th century English tapestries, a picture gallery showing Hungarian rulers, and the Hall of Mirrors. It's just around the corner from the main square, so well worth a visit during a day trip to Bratislava. It's also a very budget friendly attraction too.
There are a number of unique cafes and shops to visit in Bratislava, but when I was doing some research I kept coming across Zeppelin Cafe and Souvenirs, so we decided to take a look. It sits on the street between the main square and Michael's Gate, and sells mostly Slovak made products and their menu items are all homemade. It's a unique combination of a souvenir shop and a cafe, and gets very busy during peak season, so if you can squeeze this into your one day in Bratislava, I applaud you.
If you're walking around the old town, chances are you'll notice that there are a lot of statues in Bratislava. Some of them are traditional, but others are more unique. Take Čumil for example, also known as the Man at Work. There's a lot of debate as to what he's actually doing down there, but this sewer worker should definitely be on your list of things to see in Bratislava during your day trip. Just make sure you don't fall over him!
What better way to end a day in Bratislava than with some traditional Slovakian food? We tend to stay away from the touristy areas in terms of restaurant, and like to research places where the locals go.The best restaurant in Bratislava is hands down 1 Slovak Pub, and is great for any budget. We ordered 4 dishes, and it cost us around €12 each in total. It isn't too far from the old town, and is easy to find using Google Maps if you're walking back towards the train station. It's the largest bar in Bratislava, and is divided into a maze of 11 rooms, each decorated in their own Slovakian era. I would recommend trying bryndzové halušky, which is potato dumplings served with sheep's milk cheese.
There are so many fantastic things to do in Bratislava, that it can be difficult to fit them all into a day trip, especially if it's your first visit to Bratislava. Whether you're visiting Bratislava on a budget, or have some extra money to spare, there's something for everyone, and many of the main attractions are actually free or relatively cheap. It's one of the best places to visit in Slovakia, and if you only have time for a day in Bratislava, don't worry it's easily doable.
If you're planning on staying in Bratislava but want to do a day trip to Vienna, check out one of my older blog posts Stay in Bratislava, With a Day Trip to Vienna. Vienna is one of my favourite cities in Europe, so don't forget to read my recommendations on where to stay and what to do in A One Week Stay in Vienna, Austria as well. And if you're thinking of planning a trip to southern Spain, you can read about some of my tips on where to visit in my latest blog post 10 Unique Places to Visit in Andalusia. Remember to follow me on Instagram too and keep up to date with my latest travel adventures!