Is Bratislava Worth Visiting? 15 Reasons to Visit Bratislava, Slovakia
Is Bratislava worth Visiting? If you’re looking for an exciting and less visited destination to explore in central Europe then consider a visit to Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava is often overlooked by travelers in favor of other more well-known European cities. This is a huge shame because Bratislava has so much to offer.
Ideal for a day trip or even for a weekend city break, this charming city is full of history and culture just waiting to be explored. Here are the top reasons to visit Bratislava, and all the best things things to do in Bratislava once you get there!
We visited Bratislava as a day trip from Vienna, and spent a lovely, if misty day there exploring. We asked our friends Callie and Guido at Counting Our Footsteps who spent more time there to share with us all the amazing reasons to visit Bratislava and why they fell in love with this city.
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Where is Bratislava?
Bratislava is the capital city of Slovakia. The country of Slovakia is located in Central Europe between Austria and Ukraine. They also have borders with Poland and the Czech Republic to the north and Hungary to the south.
The city of Bratislava is situated in the far west of the country, right on the border with Austria. It is only about a one-hour drive away from Vienna. All of this means it is easy to get to and an ideal location to visit whilst on a vacation in Europe.
Prior to gaining its independence, Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia. In January 1993, Czechoslovakia split into the two independent nations of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Bratislava is currently a city of just under 500,000 residents.
Is Bratislava Close to Ukraine?
While Slovakia does share a small land border with Ukraine in the East, Bratislava is quite far from Ukraine. In fact, it is over 1,000 km from Bratislava to the Ukrainian border!
Is Bratislava Worth Visiting?
So you’re wondering, is Bratislava worth visiting? Well, I can safely say that yes, it absolutely is! We spent just a few days in this wonderful city and fell in love with its old-world charms and historic buildings.
You can spend hours wandering the streets in search of the unique street statues that the city is known for, browsing local shops, or visiting one of the many museums to learn more about Slovakia.
There is so much to see and do that you will wish you could stay longer. Not to mention this is one of the cheaper cities we have visited in Europe, making it great for anyone traveling on a budget.
If this is your first time in Bratislava, consider taking a tour of the city! This private, 3 hour tour will take you to the hightlights of the city, including Old Town, Bratislava Castle, the Presidential Palace, and Slavin Monument. This is a great way to get aclimated to the city, and learn about Slovak culture and history.
Book Now: Bratislava Grand City Tour
15 Reasons Bratislava is Worth Visiting
Here are our 15 top reasons to visit Bratislava- from how charming it is, to the delicious local food, and of course the inexpensive prices!
1. The Charming and Quaint Old Town
One of the main reasons to visit Bratislava is the old historical center of the city. It is the most visited part of the city and it’s not hard to see why. It is so easy to spend a day exploring the beautiful architecture, unique old churches, and fountains around every corner.
Michael’s Gate is the only remaining gate from the city’s Medieval fortifications. From here you’ll enter the heart of the old city. Hlavne Namestie is the main town square, where you’ll find the Town Hall, as well as Maximillian’s Fountain which is rumored to come alive on certain days of the year. Many of the streets around here are pedestrian-only, you’ll find them packed with shops and cafes.
2. Bratislava is Very Affordable
Compared to many other destinations within Europe it is fair to say that Bratislava is one of the more affordable cities to visit. This makes it the perfect destination for more budget-conscious travelers.
For this reason, it is a cheap and convenient place to base yourself to explore further into central Europe. Cost of living statistics shows that Bratislava is less expensive than Prague, Budapest, and Vienna.
3. Friendly and Welcoming Locals
One thing we noticed right away was the happy, smiling nature of the local people. Whether at your hotel reception or taking your order in a restaurant, everyone seemed truly happy to have tourists visit their home city.
4. City Center is Walkable
When you visit Bratislava you don’t have to worry about figuring out public transport or finding taxis because everywhere is within walking distance, more or less. At least in the city center all of the main attractions and things to do can be reached on foot.
You can easily walk from the main train station to the city center, though buses and taxis are also available.
5. Delicious Traditional Food (in large portions)
Slovakian cuisine is hearty, delicious and easy to find. Unlike many tourist hot spots where finding local food to try is a mission in itself, Slovakians are proud of their cuisine and proudly serve it everywhere.
Some of the more popular local dishes are Bryndzové halušky (potato dumplings) and Kapustnica (cabbage soup). You’ll also find many local beers, often served in .5 or even full liter mugs!
A great way to try lots of local specialties is with a food tour! This Bratislava food tour is a private 3 hour tour that includes tastings of foods like saurkraut soup, and traditional dumplings, as well as locally made drinks including black currant wine and honey wine.
Travelers consistently rate this tour 5 stars, and report leaving feeling very full! You will also get lots of tips on where to eat during the rest of your time in Bratislava.
Book Now: Bratislava Traditional Food Tour
6. Bratislava is Not Crowded
Due to Slovakia not yet being on the tourist radar, Bratislava is one of the more peaceful and uncrowded cities in Europe. There is no need to book seats at restaurants in advance or worry about getting up at the crack of dawn to see the place before all the tourists arrive. Wandering through Bratislava is a pleasant experience no matter what time of day.
7. There are Plenty of Green Spaces
If you enjoy parks and nature then you will be glad to know that Bratislava has plenty of big, green open spaces to enjoy. Take a picnic or simply go for a stroll and admire the views. Check out the Koliba neighborhood which is known for it’s walking paths, or head to the Botanical Garden.
8. Lots of Family-friendly Activities
Bratislava Is a great destination for families too with there being plenty of fun activities to do. You can enjoy a morning of Mini Golf or take to the river in Kayaks for a mini adventure.
Kids will also love watching the Changing of the Guard at the Presidential Palace, which generally happens at noon each day. Grassalkovich Palace also has wonderful gardens behind it that are open for the public to walk through.
9. Easy Access to Vienna
Being able to take a day trip to Austria’s capital city, Vienna is another brilliant reason why Bratislava is worth visiting. Vienna is only around one hours drive or train ride away.
Full of palaces and museums from the Habsburg Empire, Vienna is a walkable city, that is known for being extremely safe. So whether you have your own car or rent one for the day, or take the train, this is another great thing to do while visiting Bratislava.
10. The Castle on the Hill
This was perhaps our favorite reason to visit Bratislava. From the old town, you can walk up to Bratislava Castle which sits on top of a hill on the edge of the city. The Castle was built in the 9th century but has an oddly modern feel to it. The large white castle is a beautiful sight to see but so are the views from the top of the hill overlooking the city.
11. Wonderful Museum and Galleries
Bratislava is home to many great Museums and art galleries. Some of the best ones to visit include the Slovak National Gallery, the Nedbalka Gallery, Bratislava City Museum and the Natural History Museum.
12. Vineyards and Wine Culture
Slovakia is home to some really great wine regions and vineyards. This makes Bratislava the perfect place to try a glass or two of the local vintages.
If you feel like a day trip out of the city then you can opt for a wine tour of nearby vineyards. This private tour takes you out to the Small Carpathian Wine Region to taste local Slovak varieties. In the small village of Senkvice you’ll try 6 different wines, as well as some local cheeses.
Book Now: Winery Tour from Bratislava
13. Unique and Fun Statues
A great way to keep both adults and children entertained while in Bratislava is to wander the streets in search of the unique and quirky statues dotted around the city.
The most famous of these quirky statues is the “Man at Work” statue by Slovak sculptor Viktor Hulík. The statue was unveiled in 1997 when the pedestrian zone in the city center was opened. You can find out more about him and some of the other statues that make Bratislava unique.
14. Local Handicrafts
Wander the streets of Bratislava’s historic old town and you will find many small independent shops to browse. Local hand-made crafts include glassware, ceramics and even traditional folk costumes.
15. Festival Season
Bratislava is a cultural hot spot when it comes to festivals and local events. Some of the most popular include the Long Night of Museums each year in May where one ticket allows you to enter all museums and galleries until midnight.
The Bratislava Cultural Summer festival runs throughout the summer months and includes Coronation Day festivities, music performances, and more. The Bratislava Film Festival runs from July to September. There are also music festivities that run in September and then the famous Christmas markets which are definitely worth exploring during the winter months.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bratislava?
Many will argue that the best time to visit Bratislava is during the warmer summer months to make the most out of the city’s green spaces and outdoor terraces. We visited in May and this was perfect. It wasn’t too hot or too crowded.
Get the Bratislava Card
If you plan to spend more than a day in Bratislava then you should check out the Bratislava Card. This is a great initiative aimed at saving you time and money while allowing you to see more and access different parts of the city much easier.
The card is valid for either 24, 48, or 72 hours, so it is perfect for a day trip or a long weekend visit. The prices start from as little as 21€.
The card will give you free access to 23 different museums, a free walking tour of the city, free public transport, and extra discounts on many more activities. The card is only valid for travelers over 16 years of age, as below that age they get free admission at most sites.
Visiting Bratislava: Practical information
Some useful information to know before you visit Bratislava, Slovakia;
Language: The official language of Slovakia is Slovak, but we also found most people in Bratislava spoke very good English. Slovak is similar to Czech, but not the same.
Currency: Slovakia uses the Euro, as they are part of the EU.
Visas: Slovakia is part of the Schengen zone and this means that when you visit you will need a Schengen visa. For US travelers it means your time in Slovakia will count toward your 90 Schengen days.
Where to Stay in Bratislava
Bratislava has many great options for where to stay in and around the city- you’ll want to choose something within easy walking distance of the city center. To save you some time here are our top picks for each level of budget.
Luxury Pick: Arcadia Boutique Hotel
This boutique hotel has an amazing location in the heart of the city center, just meters from St. Michaels Gate. Some rooms even have views of the castle. Located in a 13th century buildling, you’ll find a spa, heated floors, and antique furniture at this 4-star hotel. You’ll also enjoy an onsite restaurant and the Library Bar complete with fireplace.
Check Availability: Arcadia Boutique Hotel
Mid-range Pick: Rastlinky.sk Greenhouse Guestrooms
This is where we stayed when we visited Bratislava and it was one of the most fun and unique places we have ever stayed. The whole guesthouse is inside a large working greenhouse. The front of the greenhouse is the guest rooms and shared kitchen area and out the back are all of the growing plants. This is a great option for Eco conscious travelers.
Check Availability: Rastlinky.sk Greenhouse Guestrooms
Budget Pick: Hostel Old Town
This unique hostel is really popular among budget travelers and anyone using public transport due to its prime location right by the castle in the old town. The hostel is very modern and has no staff but works with an online check-in system and unique pin codes for guests to access the building and rooms. Families will find private rooms available with one large bed and a bunk bed.
Check Availability: Hostel Old Town
How to Get to Bratislava
Luckily, there are a few different ways you can get to Bratislava, whether you are flying in from North America, or travelling overland from somewhere else in Europe.
Getting to Bratislava by Air
The best airport to fly to is Bratislava (BTS) Airport. The airport if around 7km from the city and there are regular buses connecting the two. Vienna International Airport is also located only 40 minutes away from Bratislava. You can check both airports to see which will give you the cheapest flights.
Getting to Bratislava by Train
Bratislava Hlavna train station is well connected to the rest of Slovakia and other European countries. Bratislava train station is an easy stop to add to the list when interrailing through Europe.
Getting to Bratislava by Car
We visited Bratislava while on a road trip through Europe and found the city’s roads to be easy to navigate, well signposted and in great condition. Fuel prices in Bratislava are also pretty low compared to other parts of Europe.
Getting to Bratislava by Boat
A more unique and exciting way to get to Bratislava is to take a boat along the river Danube from Vienna. If you are moving from Austria to Slovakia and don’t have a car then this is a fun option that takes around 75 minutes in total.
Getting to Bratislava by Bus
Perhaps the most affordable way to travel through Europe and get to Bratislava is by coach. Busbud has affordable tickets to Bratislava from nearly every country in Europe.
How to Get Around Bratislava
Once in Bratislava, it is super easy to get around. You will find most of the main attractions are easy to get to on foot. If you need to get further out of the city centre then you have a few different options.
Bratislava has both Uber and Bolt for cheap short rides around the city and for getting to and from the airport.
Public transport in Bratislava is also very safe and reliable. Buses and Trams connect most of the city and surrounding areas, even late into the night. Don’t forget that public transport is free to use when you buy a Bratislava card!
Renting a Car in Bratislava
You won’t need a car in the city center of Bratislava, but a rental car allows you to explore the surrounding area, from vineyards, to castles, without worrying about public transportation schedules.
If you decide to rent a car whilst in Bratislava, you can get a car from as little as 35 EUR a day from the airport. Companies such as Europe car, Avis and SIXT all offer rental cars in Bratislava so you can rent from reputable and trustworthy companies.
We always use Discover Cars to find the best deals on car rentals. Their pricing is clear and upfront, so there are no last minute surprises.
Book a Rental Car with Discover Cars
Easy Day Trips from Bratislava
Bratislava is the ideal place to base yourself for your adventures in central Europe. Here are ideas for fun day trips you can do from Bratislava, either deeper into Slovakia, or to surrounding countries.
Explore Bojnice Castle
Two hours east of Bratislava, is the beautiful Bojnice Castle. A true fairytale castle set in a wonderful traditional Slovakian village.
A full day tour of this castle includes visiting the ornate interior, strolling along the lake, and tasting the local plum spirits. You’ll then go to the village of Cicmany where you’ll learn about traditional Slovak life and explore original wooden houses.
Book Now: Bojnice Castle and Cicmany Village Day Trip
Wine Tasting in the Carpathian Mountains
Take a tour or drive yourself east and into the Carpathian Mountains to enjoy the vineyards and tastings of the local wines.
Top Pick: Winery Tour from Bratislava
Visit Vienna, Austria
At just an hour’s drive away Vienna is one of the easiest nearby cities to visit from Bratislava. Vienna has a wonderful cafe culture, is considered the home of classical music, and is filled with palaces and museums from the Habsburg Empire.
Head to Budapest, Hungary
Just a short 2 hour drive south and you will find yourself in the capital of Hungary, Budapest. Split between the cities of Buda and Pest, you’ll find the beautiful architecture, and world renowned spas.
FAQ: Is Bratislava Worth Visiting
Bratislava is most famous for its impressive Castle on the hill, over looking the mighty Danube River. It’s also known for it’s cobblestone streets, quirkly scultures, and food and beer culture.
Yes, Bratislava is a very beautiful and charming city. Its mixture of modern flare and classic Baroque architecture make it a wonderful city to explore. Outside of the town center you’ll find more block-style buildings from the Soviet era, but the city center is lovely.
Bratislava can absolutely be explored in a day trip, but if you have 2-3 days in Bratislava you’ll be able to explore all the best that the city has to offer.
Absolutely! If you stay in the city centre then all of the best attractions will be within walking distance. The streets are not crowded, and some parts of the city center are pedestrian-only.
Bratislava is just as safe for tourists as visiting any other main European capital city. You should have absolutely no problems at all just keep your belongings close and be wary of pickpockets.
Yes, Euros are the currency used in Bratislava and all of Slovakia, as they are part of the EU. No other currencies are generally accepted in Slovakia.
Bratislava and Prague are comparable when it comes to hotel pricing. A budget room in the centre of the city is roughly the same price in each. Overall, statistics show that Bratislava is about 20% cheaper than Prague according to cost of living studies.
If you are in Vienna and have time for a day trip, then visiting Bratislava is an absolute must! The train trip from Vienna to Bratislava is only one hour, so you can easily travel back and forth in one day.
There You Have it: Is Bratislava Worth Visiting
Hopefully, now you can see some of the things to do in Bratislava, and how any trip to Europe would be incomplete without a visit to Bratislava. So to answer the burning question, is Bratislava worth visiting? YES! It absolutely is and we know you will love it when you get there.