Over the last couple of years city breaks have become my go-to escape. I love snapping up a cheap flight and hopping over to explore another corner of Europe. The places I enjoy the most are often the ones that don’t receive as many visitors.
Bratislava was one of those places. I didn’t know a lot about Slovakia’s capital before I arrived, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, partly because we managed to see and do so many things.
So here’s my round-up of some of the best bits of Bratislava and advice for anyone planning a visit.
Where to stay
Accommodation in Bratislava is reasonably priced but you should definitely consider booking the 4* LOFT Hotel, which was the base for our three night stay.
As soon as we walked in, I knew the hotel was a good choice. It’s located mid-way between the train station and the city centre, which makes it the perfect location for getting around.
We booked a comfort room as it was the cheapest option and not only was the room beautiful and clean, it was also much bigger than I expected. The hotel features modern décor and is home to Fabrika restaurant and beer pub, which even has its own mini brewery. The food and drink are delicious, the interior is industrial chic and there’s a lovely outdoor area that is perfect for relaxing in the sunshine with a drink. The restaurant was buzzing whenever we walked by and it seemed like it was popular with the locals as well as hotel guests, which is always a good sign.
Štefánikova 4, 811 05 Bratislava
Visit the hotel website
Bratislava is a relatively small city and it’s easy to get around by foot, as most of the main attractions are within a 15 minute walk.
The airport is about a 20 minute drive from the city centre but it can be expensive to make the journey by taxi.
The best way to reach the city is by taking the number 61 bus, which goes from a bus stop outside the terminal building every 20 minutes. Tickets cost around €1. The ticket machine takes a bit of figuring out, but pay attention to the instructions on the left hand side and you’ll be fine. Basically, you need to select the type of ticket you want (adult/child etc. and the duration of time the ticket will need to be valid), press the button and then put your money in. And don’t forget to validate the ticket once you get on the bus – this is really important if you don’t want to get a fine. There are little orange boxes next to all the doors, just pop your ticket in when you board and you’ll get a time stamp to prove its been validated.
Remember: you can’t buy tickets from the driver; you need to get them from the machine at the bus stop.
The bus does get cramped as it’s a main transport route for locals too.
We decided to make the return journey by taxi to avoid the crush. I’d read online that taxis in Bratislava are much cheaper if you book by phone, but this wasn’t the case for us. In fact, our taxi back to the airport cost over €20 when the going rate is apparently €8-10. Annoyingly, we were 10 cents short so my friend had to find a cash machine in the terminal before we could pay the driver. Avoid travelling by taxi if you can.
Places to visit
This beautiful gallery is tucked away on a side-street and is full of Slovakian art from a number of different periods. It’s a good place to spend a couple of hours enjoying the paintings and sculptures and they also offer a complimentary coffee with your ticket.
Nedbalova ulica 17, 811 01 Bratislava
Visit the gallery website
UFO Restaurant and Bar
One of the newest bridges across the River Danube is the Most SNP Bridge, also known as the UFO Bridge, thanks to the observations tower located at one end that is built in the shape of a UFO.
For €7.40 you can hop in the lift up to the top of the tower and take in the impressive views of the city and beyond.
There’s also a restaurant and bar where you can spend a bit more time enjoying the view. And yes, even the toilets have panoramic windows!
Just beware the wind, we went up on a very windy day and it took a while to get used to the feel of the tower moving around beneath you.
SNP Bridge, 851 01 Bratislava
Opening hours: 10am – 11pm
Visit the website
Bratislava (or Hrad) Castle is a beautiful building that sits on top of a hill looking over the Danube. The original building was all but destroyed by a fire in 1811 and was renovated after WWII. Today it’s a stunning place to visit and is surrounded by immaculate gardens.
Bratislava Castle, 08001 Bratislava
The Church of St. Elizabeth in Bratislava’s Old Town is a common spot for tourists to stop with their cameras, thanks to its cute pastel blue exterior. It looks a bit like a fondant fancy, if Mr Kipling made blue icing!
It’s commonly known as the Blue Church, for obvious reasons!
Bezručova 2534/2, 811 09 Bratislava
Food and drink
One of the areas of the trip that we struggled a bit with was food and drink. I got the impression that Bratislava doesn’t have a huge food scene and if the locals eat out regularly, they do so at different times of day to the tourists.
We often found it hard to find somewhere to eat later on in the evening, as many places seem to be bistros that are open during the day. And on Sunday evening the town was all but deserted, with even the rowdy bars we’d passed earlier in the trip shut for the night. Bear that in mind if you’re visiting on a stag or hen do!
Of course, I’m sure there are livelier pockets of nightlife in the city; we just didn’t come across them. Although we were told that there is a buzzing nightclub in an old bunker across the river from the UFO Bridge, which is open Friday and Saturday nights.
In terms of food, many of the restaurants serve traditional Slovakian dishes, which are heavy on meat and dumplings. We tried a couple of different things and they were very tasty. Most of these restaurants use photos on their menus, which actually don’t look that appetising, but the food is good.
A couple of places that I would recommend visiting are listed below:
I mentioned earlier that our hotel was home to a trendy restaurant and bar called Fabrika. This was probably the best place we ate on the trip. The menu was large and had a good variety of food, including plenty of different types of burger, soups, pasta and Slovakian dishes. They also make their own beer and do gorgeous cocktails.
Štefánikova 4, 811 05 Bratislava
Visit the website
Another place we really enjoyed was Urban Bistro. After walking past several times and commenting on how cute it looked, we finally stopped in for lunch.
I had the pulled pork burger which was delicious, as was the elderflower lemonade, and my friend enjoyed the pulled pork tacos.
Michalská 5, 811 03 Bratislava
Visit the website
Bratislava is a great starting point for venturing a bit further afield. It’s only an hour by train to Vienna and the two cities are apparently the closest of Europe’s capital cities. You can also take the train to Budapest in under three hours, or you can travel to both cities by ferry on the Danube.
Further along the river is another popular tourist attraction, the ruined Devin Castle. Over the summer months you can take a river cruise to the ruins, but it was a little early in the year for that for us. Alternatively, you can catch a bus there.
And a high point of our trip was a tour we took with Authentic Slovakia, which took us to see some of the city’s communist legacy.
So that’s my round up of things to do in Bratislava. If you’ve visited the city, I’d love to hear what your favourite places to visit were!