Last Updated on August 7, 2020 by Nina Ahmedow
I fell in LOVE with Bratislava, Slovakia this spring. Here’s my guide with all the essential things to do in Bratislava.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know that I was in Bratislava, Slovakia for three days in May and had the best time.
If I had to sum up my trip to Bratislava in one word it would be surprising. But that wouldn’t be fair – a single word can’t do the city justice.
Because Bratislava is so much more.
Bratislava is colorful: There are many souvenir shops with bright traditional costumes and accessories.
It’s quiet: Because it’s not the most popular tourist destination in the region you never feel overwhelmed by the number of people around.
It’s modern: The city has been through a huge transformation since the days of communism. All over the city, you can feel people’s thirst for a lifestyle they were so long deprived of.
And this is exactly what is most interesting about it. The contrast between the old and the new is very vivid in this historically relevant Slovak city.
Why You Should Visit Bratislava, Slovakia
I’ve been told by people that Bratislava can be seen in a day, but I disagree. You have to give the city a chance to unfold its full potential, as it’s so much more than people expect of it. I thought three days might be too much, but, in the end, I still haven’t seen enough of Bratislava.
Because I expected so little I was all the more astonished by Bratislava’s beauty. After all, the city’s nickname is Beauty on the Danube.
Why else should you visit Bratislava? Well, it’s a very budget-friendly destination. Accommodation, as well as food and drinks, are much cheaper than in nearby Vienna. Its location is another major advantage. Bratislava is only an hour from Vienna, 2.5 hours from Budapest, and 4 hours from Prague – all by train. This makes Bratislava an excellent destination even for an extended stay as you can make it your base for exploring these exciting nearby cities.
And Bratislava is such an underrated city that people here are not used to tourists yet and will leave you alone instead of trying to get you to buy something. This also makes it a perfect destination for solo travelers who want their peace of mind.
I digress, but, in essence, I fell in LOVE with Bratislava. Without further ado, here’s my guide for things to do in Bratislava, Slovakia.
What to See and Do in Bratislava, Slovakia
Explore the Area Around Bratislava Castle
This is the main castle of Bratislava so a visit the obvious way to start a list of things to do in Bratislava. It stands on a hill, and while you can visit the actual castle, the area surrounding it is much more charming. The reconstructed castle makes for lovely photos, but there are the gardens right behind it as well as an eerie view of the Petrzalka neighborhood. I don’t actually recommend entering the castle itself as it was quite underwhelming, but don’t miss the opportunity to have a beautiful view of the city and the Danube.
Do a Free Walking Tour with Be Free Tours
This was so informative. The tour was about 2.5 hours and took our group to all the important spots in Bratislava. We even saw a few things I would have not found on my own, which is why I’m such a fan of walking tours. The tour is organized by Be Free Tours and, as the same suggests it is entirely free of charge. However, it’s always nice to leave a tip depending on how much you enjoyed the tour.
Visit the Presidential Palace
The palace was originally built for Croatian aristocrat Antal Grassalkovich (who was close friends with Maria Theresa). The palace played an important role in music with Joseph Haydn premiering some of his work here. In the French garden behind the palace, you can see a row of trees painted by famous people. You cannot enter the actual palace as it’s not open to the public, but the garden is a source of calm and quiet in the city center.
Take a Stroll Through the Historic Center
I think this is one of the best things to do in Bratislava and did this every day because the old town so charming. Even though the center is so small it’s full of life with all the cafés, souvenir shops, and restaurants. Souvenirs in Bratislava are not expensive at all so you might find something nice here for your loved ones (and yourself! I got a pair of traditional earrings here).
Visit the Church of St. Elisabeth (Blue Church)
This beautiful Art Nouveau church was my highlight of the trip. It’s exactly as beautiful as you imagine from the pictures, and you can definitely see how this type of architecture later influenced Gaudí. A visit here is easily one of the top things to do in Bratislava. A trigger warning though: There is an anti-abortion monument outside the church which you may not agree with.
Go for a Walk by the Danube
There is a park by the Danube river if you cross the bridge. It’s such a nice way to be in nature while at the same time being in the middle of the city. When I was in Bratislava the weather was absolutely perfect for this. I had met a fellow solo traveler during the walking tour so we decided to take advantage of this greenery and went for a walk. If you like nature this is going to be one of your favorite things to do in Bratislava.
Where to Find Vegan Food in Bratislava
Let me tell you that I had some of the most exciting vegan food ever in Slovakia’s capital. So if you’re not interested in any of the other things to do in Bratislava you might simply enjoy the amazing vegan food scene!
Check out my guide to vegan food in Bratislava for all the details. These were some of my highlights of vegan food in Bratislava:
- My favorite vegan place in Bratislava. I had an amazing burger with fries here as well as a very refreshing lemonade. As they’re very busy you might be better off making a reservation.
Fach Juice Shop
- This is THE place in the city center for a quick bite. I got the most amazing sandwich of my life here. Don’t miss out on this place!
- Another place right in the heart of the historical center. If you crave Asian food, this is the place for you. Very flavorful and filling food to keep you energized while exploring Bratislava.
Made with Laf
- Have you ever had your mind completely blown away by a vegan dish? Although Bratislava is not the home of Fish and Chips I decided to order their version one evening, and wow, did they deliver! They make the “fish” with celery, and it was absolutely fantastic. The location I went to has since closed down, but there’s a second location in Bratislava.
The Best Area to Stay in Bratislava
I stayed in two different Airbnbs in Bratislava and was a bit worried that the first one was too far from the center. But I shouldn’t have been. Bratislava is so small and well-connected that even if you stay a bit further from the center it will take you no more than 20 minutes to get downtown. Because the weather was good I even walked home a few times which only helped me see even more of Slovakia’s capital.
More Things to Do in Bratislava and Its Vicinity
Despite the fact that I had three days in Bratislava I didn’t quite manage to see everything I wanted to. Here’s what I didn’t do but would love to go back for:
Go to Červený Kameň
This castle is only 30km from Bratislava and is one of the best-preserved Slovak castles. I didn’t make it there as I already went to Vienna for some days and didn’t fit this in my schedule.
Visit Slavín Monument
You’re supposed to have the most amazing view over the city from here, but I was simply too tired to go there.
See the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
I love classical music, so I would love to go back another time for this.
See the Museum of City History
I like to know the history of the places I go to, but their opening hours conflicted with my schedule, so I didn’t make it here.
How to Get Around Bratislava
Bratislava is an extremely walkable city. I usually prefer to get around new destinations by walking because it allows me to see as much of a place as possible.
If you ever don’t feel like walking the public transport system is excellent, and you can easily take a bus everywhere.
Is Bratislava Safe for Female Solo Travelers?
Safety is one of the major concerns women have when traveling somewhere on their own. I have found Bratislava to be very safe and comfortable to walk around alone. It does not have the large drunk crowds that you see in Budapest, although I will say that I don’t know what the weekends are like.
In general, how safe you will feel depends on many different factors. Anyone who can easily blend in will usually feel safer. If people can tell that you are not from a specific location you can more easily become the target of unwanted attention. I’m always careful about making generalized statements about safety because I can only give you my personal experience. For instance, I can in no way confirm if Bratislava is safe for Black women or women who wear hijab.
A Few More Tips for Bratislava
Learn a Few Words of Slovak (Or Hungarian or German)
With my limited knowledge of Bulgarian and Russian, it was definitely a bit easier to get around Bratislava as I casually picked up daily phrases. While it may not be that simple for you, locals always appreciate it if you learn a word or two in their language. However, Bratislava has for centuries been a trilingual city, and Hungarian and German will also serve you well.
Give the City a Chance
Many people simply fly into Bratislava to travel off to the nearby cities, but this isn’t fair to this gem of a city. And as you can see there are definitely enough things to do in Bratislava to spend some time there.
Slovakia Uses the Euro
Most former Communist countries that are in the EU don’t use the Euro, but Slovakia does so make sure you take the right currency with you.
In Conclusion, Bratislava Will Surprise You
I have seen quite a few European cities, but not many made me feel as comfortable as Bratislava did. Something about the city made me feel at ease. I really enjoyed the Slovak capital, and this really surprised me because I didn’t expect that much of it.
Have you ever spent time in Bratislava or the rest of Slovakia? What are your favorite things to do in Bratislava? If you haven’t been would you be interested in going?