On a winter trip traversing Europe, we needed to travel to Budapest from Vienna. Stopping in Bratislava for a day seemed like an obvious choice, only an hour from Vienna and an easy two hour bus ride onto Budapest.
We arrived in Bratislava on Christmas Day early evening. Instead of heading out to explore the city like I normally would, we decided to stay in, relax at our hotel, binge on Netflix and enjoy room service. We knew everything in the city would be closed and were tired from a week of travelling. Plus, we knew an early bedtime would make it easier to get going in the morning and see the city before our late afternoon bus to Budapest.
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, located on the River Danube, bordering Austria and Hungary. It’s a small city and totally doable to explore in one day, however, I’ve heard if you’re there for a few days, there’s plenty more to see in the city and surrounding Slovakia.
Even though we only had a day in Bratislava, Im so glad we got to see a small slice of Slovakia.
Bratislava feels worlds away from Vienna, even though it’s only a short journey by train. Visiting during the holiday season, we were surprised by the emptiness of the streets. As with so many eastern European countries, the city itself felt like a contrast of time periods- communist-era blocks intermingled with a medieval old town.
If you find yourself in Bratislava with time to explore, don’t miss these places:
St. Michael’s Gate: The only gate that’s been preserved from medieval fortifications of the city’s past. You can climb to the top for a great view over the entirety of Old Town
Old Town: Undeniably pretty, we loved wandering the narrow cobbled lanes and perusing the pastel buildings with ornate details. If you’re visiting during the holidays, in the main square you’ll find a Christmas tree and beautiful market
Church of St. Elizabeth: Also known as the blue church, it’s a place of worship so beautiful, you kind of have to see it to believe it
Bratislava Castle: Overlooking the Old Town, the castle offers spectacular views of Bratislava. It’s a good place to start your day to orient yourself if you plan to spend the rest of your time wandering on foot
Trinitarian Church of Bratislava: A beautiful church, one of many in the city, but not to be missed
Primate’s Palace: Considered to be the most beautiful palace in Bratislava, this pale pink gem was originally used by the primate of Hungary
Čumil: Said to be one of the most photographed things in Slovakia, this statue of a man at work is a guy peeping out from a manhole. There’s strong debate about what he’s actually doing- if he’s resting, working, etc. You wont miss him, crowds of tourists line up for a photo opp
We explored the city on Boxing Day (26 December), which meant a lot of cafes and restaurants were still closed for the holiday. We felt lucky to find Five Points for morning coffee, and discover Urban Bistro for a great brunch (bonus: they had cold brew!).
Before we knew it, it was time to head to Budapest. We enjoyed our time in Bratislava, but I’m glad we did it as a quick stop-over vs. spending an entire weekend there.
Have you ever been to Bratislava or another part of Slovakia?