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When you think of European capital city destinations, you’re probably thinking of London, Paris, and Rome – maybe Bonn, Stockholm, Prague, and Vienna.
They’re all great cities and stand on their own merits as places to visit and absorb. But numerous smaller capitals, too, deserve greater attention and can stand tall with their own attractions. Bratislava, bisected by the great Danube River, is one of those places.
Bratislava is an hour from Vienna by train and continuously stands as one of the top places to visit in Slovakia. Vienna and Bratislava are the two closest national capitals in the world, sitting less than 50 miles apart.
“Blava,” as locals sometimes call it, is two-and-a-half hours from Budapest or a scenic three-hour drive from Prague, so it may very well be an easy stop between destinations if you’re looking for the right places for a European party experience or a quiet place to explore more of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Visiting Bratislava for a single day or a longer stay is worth your time and attention. Public transportation is cheap and relatively easy to navigate.
If you arrive by train, take a tram or bus around the city. Taxi drivers at the train station are notorious for inflating prices for tourists. Think 70 cents vs. 15-20 euros, and you’ll have the idea. You need a ticket before you board, and you need to validate your ticket in one of the automated machines on board the tram or bus.
This is a typical routine for public transportation across Europe. Buy your tickets at tobacco stores and remember to validate them. Transit inspectors often ride near transportation hubs, and fines run about 50 euros. Hlavna Stanica, the central train station, has lockers for your luggage if you prefer a layover visit and won’t stay overnight.
- Things to Do in Bratislava, Slovakia
- 1. Bratislava Castle (Hrad)
- 2. Devin Castle
- 3. Old Town
- 4. Museum of City History
- 5. Slovak National Gallery
- 6. Slovak Philharmonic
- 7. Slovak National Theatre
- 8. Statues in the Old Town
- 9. St Martin’s Cathedral
- 10. Fountain of Maximilian
- 11. Michalska Brana
- 12. Cruise on the Danube and Morava Rivers
- 13. UFO Bridge
- 14. Kamzík TV Tower
- 15. Kapitulska Street
- 16. Slavín War Memorial
- 17. St. Elizabeth Church (Blue Church)
- 18. Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum
- 19. Grassalkovich Palace
- 20. Bratislava Hidden Bunkers
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Is Bratislava worth visiting?
- How can I spend two days in Bratislava?
- Is Bratislava safe for tourists?
Things to Do in Bratislava, Slovakia
Once you have left the train station, here are some local attractions you won’t want to miss in Bratislava, Slovakia.
1. Bratislava Castle (Hrad)
Address: Hrad, 811 06 Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava Castle is probably the city’s most visible symbol and is approximately 55,000 square meters. The fastest way to reach the castle during the day is by taking the 203 or 207 trolley buses, but walking is also a great experience. The castle is located on a high bluff above the Danube River and offers excellent views of the banks, water, and parts of the city.
Touring the castle complex takes you around the huge rectangle built from the 9th through 18th centuries and rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s. It has been part of the Moravian, Czech-Slovak, and Austro-Hungarian empires. Today, you might catch a food festival or classical music concert that decorates the grounds, if you time your visit right.
The greater castle complex hosts a baroque garden, a history museum, and an upscale restaurant. The history museum has fascinating exhibits, including one featuring rare historic coins. Its position on the hill also gives you a great view over the city for optimal sightlines to the UFO Bridge and Danube River, even if you prefer not to visit the exhibitions on display.
2. Devin Castle
Address: 10, Muránská 1050, 841 10 Bratislava-Devín, Slovakia
As lovely as Bratislava Castle is, Devin Castle can be better, making it one of the best castles to visit in Slovakia. Built on a promontory above the Danube River, a visit to Devin Castle immediately reveals the medieval look leading to the fantastic views of the confluence of the Morava and Danube rivers.
A free walking tour or a grand customized guided tour is an excellent way to see the castle grounds for context around the castle’s history and heritage and Slovakia’s connection to Austria.
It is possible to take a city bus to the grounds, castle ruins, museum, and restaurants. The castle dates to the 9th Century A.D. and has hosted Roman soldiers, Moravian princes, and even Napoleon. Climbing and hiking opportunities are available here, but it’s also a good place just to have a picnic.
Trek the maze of staircases that can feel like an M.C. Escher piece, or walk through the central courtyard to stand where hundreds of protesters demonstrated in 1989. The separation between East and West ran in front of the castle, and protestors gathered to be part of the historic event as the barbed wire was cut and the Iron Curtain fell.
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3. Old Town
Address: Old Town, Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava is a working city, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a pretty, pedestrian-only Old Town acting as the historic heart. A few of the attractions for which the city is famous are located within or extremely close to Old Town, and the overall area is a great place for a walking tour, fine dining, or to grab a drink and sit at an outdoor table and chat.
In autumn and winter, Old Town, Bratislava fills with kiosks selling roasted chestnuts that add an enticing aroma to the air. If you’re lucky enough to be in Bratislava between late November and December, make time to visit the Christmas Market.
You can find handmade Christmas gifts, specialty bakery items, delicious local alcohol, and food stalls featuring traditional Slovak dishes and hot mulled wine. The market can be crowded on weekend nights; you may want to visit during the week. Outside of winter, you can still find traditional Slovak food and contemporary takes on delicious customs with dishes like Bryndzové Halušky. Slovakia’s national dish consists of potato dumplings with bacon and sheep’s cheese.
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4. Museum of City History
Address: Radničná 577, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava has weathered foreign empires, world wars, Soviet occupation, and the tribulations that go with those social forces. The Museum of City History, housed in the old town hall, focuses on Bratislava’s history from the Neolithic Age through the 20th century.
Touch screens enhance the presentations, and a movie after the exhibits visually reinforces your tour. The contrast between historical artifacts and modern technology gives you a more engaging visitor experience.
Walk through and witness Bratislava’s history bit by bit before climbing to the top of the tower for a great view over the city’s rooftops. If you want the view, you will have to brave the narrow stairwell.
The Bratislava City Museum covers a wide range of human activities—archaeology, culture, history, the arts, pharmacy, and coins, so you’re sure to find something to interest you within a short walk from the heart of Bratislava’s Old Town and many of Slovakia’s national landmarks.
5. Slovak National Gallery
Address: Námestie Ľudovíta Štúra 4, 811 02 Bratislava, Slovakia
Near the Danube River in the Old Town, the National Gallery houses three floors of paintings, in addition to other forms of art, and is particularly known for its collections of religious paintings. The museum typically hosts a temporary exhibit in addition to its permanent displays, usually one with a more contemporary topic.
It’s a fascinating combination of new space and historic collection, with the architectural design almost competing with the artwork. The simple organization of the works provides a sleek and accessible gallery experience.
Most of the staff speaks English well, and in my experience, the docents may look mean but are, in fact, kind and ready to share their knowledge. The gallery building hosts a casual restaurant and a shop with some intriguing art-related gifts. You’re sure to enjoy your time at one of the best museums in Bratislava.
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6. Slovak Philharmonic
Address: Námestie Eugena Suchoňa 100/1, 816 01 Bratislava, Slovakia
Just down the street from the National Gallery is the Slovak Philharmonic, where you can attend classical concerts and operas that rival those in Vienna at a fraction of the price. Even if you’re not into classical music, the home of the Slovak Symphony Orchestra is a beautiful building worth visiting for the exterior design and the interior acoustics.
Dress up a little if you attend a performance, because most Slovaks do. Suits for men and nice dresses for women aren’t mandatory, but they might make you feel more comfortable and give you an excuse for a night of dress-up.
7. Slovak National Theatre
Address: Pribinova 17, 819 01 Staré Mesto, Slovakia
The Slovak National Theater is a modern construction built on the site of an earlier structure first erected in 1886. The building contains two distinct parts, and visiting is one of the most essential things to do in Bratislava.
The new theater is in a trendy residential area beside the Danube River, famous for its fashionable shops and restaurants. In recent years, theaters have blended foreign performers with local authors to produce well-known innovative programs.
The old theatre is located right on Hviezdoslavovo Square, a focal point for café activities. The new theatre is utilized for both performances and practice.
In 1886, it was first called City Theatre. The country’s ties to its neighbors meant only Hungarian and German theater shows were presented on stage at first.
8. Statues in the Old Town
Around Bratislava, there are many whimsical sculptures and quirky statues. One of the most photographed statues in the city is Cumil, a sewage worker. The figure wasn’t based on a historical person but represented hard work and urban life, while also offering visitors a playful representation of the city’s cultural landscape.
Another popular photo location is a statue of a French soldier leaning against a bench. Look for the Hans Christian Andersen statue in the park to commemorate the 200th birthday of his birth if you visit Hviezdok Square.
The statue of a Napoleonic soldier on the city’s main square is another of the tourist destinations, where visitors take photos with one another on the plaza.
The statues are stunning complements to the Communist-era structures that still dominate the city. Cruising around Old Town and adoring the beauty of the sculptures is one of the best things to do in Bratislava.
9. St Martin’s Cathedral
Address: Rudnayovo námestie 1, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia
The present-day church of Saint Martin was built on the site of a former Romanesque monastery in 1452 and is considered one of the most significant historic buildings in the city. The Church is regarded as one of the biggest, oldest, and most important in Slovakia.
The solid structure supports a huge tower soaring over the city at 112 meters tall and was once used as a lookout station. Its tall spire is topped with a replica of the glittering gold crown of St. Stephen, suggesting it was a coronation church for the kings of Hungary.
Nearby, you can find a section of the historic city walls. Inside are some magnificent stained glass windows, lovely chapels, and a statue of St. Stephen.
The Cathedral is located near the city center, on the border of the old town. It’s a short walk from Bratislava Castle, which sits on the edge of town.
See Related: Walking Tour of Prague, Czech Republic
10. Fountain of Maximilian
Address: Hlavné námestie, 811 01 Staré Mesto, Slovakia
The main square is Bratislava’s most famous monument and gathering spot, as well as the home of the city’s most iconic structure, the Fountain of Maximilian. Originally constructed as a water source for the citizens of Pressburg, the fountain was crafted by King Maximilian II in 1572 and is located opposite the old city hall.
A knight in battle gear tops the column at the center of the fountain. It’s debated whether the knight represents the legendary Roland, a defender of the city’s rights, or is meant to depict Maximilian II. The columns supporting the magnificent fountain are topped with statues representing Faith, Hope, and Love.
Normally facing Bratislava Town Hall, the knight crowning the fountain is said to bow to commemorate the 12 councilors who perished defending Pressburg at each new year’s midnight.
11. Michalska Brana
Address: Michalská ulica 22 806/24, 811 03 Staré Mesto, Slovakia
Michael’s Gate, the city’s oldest medieval gate, was constructed in the 12th century and is Bratislava’s oldest surviving fortification. The tower is 51 meters tall and has a unique copper dome. It also stands above Kilometre Zero, the point from which distance in Slovakia is measured.
The tower in the heart of Bratislava Old Town has beautiful views of the city and some fascinating art with historical exhibits focused on the fortifications of the city. It was previously located behind fortified walls, but the entrance now lines the antique structures found on the little alleyways around Bratislava. It is one of Slovakia’s oldest buildings illustrating its rich history, located just outside the capital.
12. Cruise on the Danube and Morava Rivers
An absolute must on your top things to do in Bratislava, Slovakia, is taking the river cruises throughout the country and crossing the borders into new destinations like Austria, the Czech Republic, or Hungary.
In the summer, riverboat trips to Vienna or Budapest are approximately two hours away. The most beautiful monument is the barbed-wire fence around a pole at each river’s entrance.
Every boat meets its expectations, and the staff is always helpful and pleasant. The port is close to Old Town, near the National Gallery, and surrounded by beautiful gardens, as well as magnificent buildings.
For more daring individuals eager for a water tour, downstream canoe trips to Budapest or Vienna are also available. The Danube is the second-largest river in Europe. It inspired Johann Strauss’ famous waltz, and boating along it is still one of the best ways to see central Europe.
13. UFO Bridge
Address: Most SNP, Bratislava, Slovakia
The UFO Bridge is so-called because of the spaceship-shaped observation platform. The 308-meter bridge has two levels, one for automobile traffic and one for cyclists and pedestrians.
The observation desk is a restaurant as well that offers spectacular views of Bratislava. The elevator is the quickest method to reach the top but there is a stairwell for those who dislike enclosed spaces… or if you’re up for a challenge.
Viewing the castle and Old Town in the sky from vantage points such as the bridge or Old Town Hall is an excellent photography opportunity. The Danube River runs along the bridge’s banks, making it a great place to enjoy the scenery of this truly majestic medieval city.
14. Kamzík TV Tower
Address: Cesta na Kamzík 14, 831 01 Nové Mesto, Slovakia
The Kamzík TV Tower has become an icon of the skyline in Bratislava. It crowns Kamzík Hill inside Bratislava Forest Park standing 196 meters tall and providing you with great panoramic views of the city and surroundings.
It serves officially as a broadcasting facility but you can reach the top to enjoy the sweeping image of the city from above, enjoying the historic church spires, tracing the banks of the Danube River, and witnessing the surrounding Carpathian Mountains. On a clear day, you can even see into neighboring countries like Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
The Kamzík TV Tower is a symbol of modernity and progress, offset against the centuries-old buildings in the historic center. The distinctive design has a spherical observation deck and a sleek steel structure, making it easily distinguishable from the surrounding trees.
15. Kapitulska Street
Address: Kapitulská, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia
Kapitulska Street is one of the oldest streets in Slovakia’s capital city. As one of the main roads leading to St. Michael’s Tower, it’s hard to miss.
The colorful facades, cobblestone lanes, and narrow courtyards add to the relaxing neighborhood charm. Cozy cafes often fill the streets with the scent of potato pancakes or display traditional meringue cookies.
The street showcases typical historical architectural styles often in tandem, from Gothic to the Renaissance, and even Baroque aesthetics. The street’s placement is traditionally connected to the home of clergymen inside the Kapitulský dvor neighborhood, further feeding into the intricate details decorating the buildings, found in the ornate balconies, arched doorways, and elaborate facades.
Visit St. Martin’s Cathedral, relax in a quiet cafe, or visit the local boutique shops. It’s a quiet retreat that carries a sense of mystery among the cobblestone streets. Give yourself time to really understand the immersive qualities of Kapitulska Street, which even with the popularity of local landmarks, can feel like an overlooked corner of Bratislava.
16. Slavín War Memorial
Address: Pažického, 811 04 Staré Mesto, Slovakia
The Slavín War Memorial is a poignant tribute to the Soviet-era heroes who fought and perished during World War II and the liberation from the Nazis. Its centerpiece is an obelisk reaching 39.5 meters tall, crowned by a bronze statue of a Soviet soldier.
Visiting the memorial grounds will show you meticulously maintained and manicured gardens, in addition to rows of graves of soldiers who fell during the battle to free the city from occupation. Slavín holds deep historical significance and often evokes an ambiance of gratitude and reflection when visited by locals.
While the memorial stands as a testament to sacrifice and courage, it also serves as a reminder of the horrors of war, as well as offering a panoramic view that spreads across the city as though reminding soldiers what they fought to free.
17. St. Elizabeth Church (Blue Church)
Address: Alžbety, Bezručova 2, 811 09 Bratislava, Slovakia
Better known to locals as “the Blue Chruch,” St. Elizabeth Church, is a masterful display of Art Nouveau aesthetic. Nestled in the heart of Bratislava, the church can easily enchant you with its distinctive sky-blue facade and intricate detailing.
Built in the early 20th century, St. Elizabeth Church was decorated with delicate ceramic tiles that reflect the sun, giving the structure an ethereal appearance in the right light. The interior features elegant stained glass windows and the prevalent aromas of myrrh, which add to the serene atmosphere meant to invite contemplation, honesty, and devotion.
The Blue Church is normally opened on weekends and remains a beloved landmark for locals and a popular spot for weddings, with the colors and design offering a fairy-tale-like backdrop. The Blue Church is not large, but its unique color will leave you with a lasting impression.
18. Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum
Address: Vodné dielo Slovensko, 851 10 Bratislava-Čunovo, Slovakia
The Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum combines the unique viewpoints of nature and art to create a haven for enthusiasts of both worlds. The world-class gallery is situated on a peninsula in the Danube River for a setting that rivals the art on display and an architectural design meant to show off both the setting and collections.
The modern and spacious museum exhibits a diverse collection of contemporary art from Slovak and international artists, ranging in both mediums and styles. You can explore the galleries to view the thought-provoking and bold nudes of Viera Kraicova or the abstract mash-ups of Rudolf Fila. Outside, wander through the extensive outdoor sculpture park for an added dimension of artists like Arman and Milan Lkuáč standing out from the lush greenery and tranquil river views.
With its innovative exhibitions and picturesque location, the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum gives you a surprising and harmonious fusion of culture and nature.
See Related: Best River Cruises in Europe
19. Grassalkovich Palace
Address: Hodžovo námestie 2978/1, 811 06 Bratislava, Slovakia
Touring Grassalkovich Palace is an immediate immersioin into one of the grandest architectural features in Bratislava and Slovakia. Also referred to as the Presidential Palace, it offers a glimpse into the history and the country’s rich heritage shown in Baroque and Rococo designs.
It’s more than a spot for nice pictures, it’s a place to explore the lavish interior featuring exquisite frescoes, ornate chandeliers, and intricate woodwork. Ceremonial halls continue holding state receptions and the Presidential Garden has a French formal design offset by the oak trees on the eastern border and the chestnut trees to the west.
Modern statues are usually exhibited in the gardens, shifting annually or by season, with the exception of the statue of Empress Maria Theresa, who originally ordered the palace’s construction in the 18th century. It’s easy to take a leisurely walk along the meticulously manicured lawns and flowerbeds, but don’t expect to run into the president; they don’t actually live in the palace. The grounds are gorgeous but ceremonial.
20. Bratislava Hidden Bunkers
Hidden around the streets of Bratislava and beyond, lie the mysterious and intriguing hidden bunkers. The concrete defenses are remnants of the city’s tumultuous past that can reveal the struggles from the Second World War and deep into the communist era, during a tour. The underground shelters let you uncover the secret side of Bratislava’s history used to defend against Nazi invasion.
The bunkers etch into the landscape on the Danube’s western bank breaking up the fields and woods with an impressive border system. By the 1930s, Czechoslovakia had defended itself in so many skirmishes, they invested in a fortification line. 14 bunkers have survived history, including what is now the BS-8 museum, led by a team of local volunteers.
By reaching out in advance, you may be able to get a guided tour to take you through labyrinthine tunnels and show how close World War II came to Bratislava before the Munich Agreement, which forced Czechoslovakia to give up its borders. Encounter eerie remnants of the past and feel the palpable sense of history just by walking through the bunker’s doors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Bratislava worth visiting?
Bratislava is worth visiting for its history, architectural beauty, food, and culture. Every season is a great time to discover Bratislava! On a hill above the city, the castle ruins are one of the best things to see while in town. Historic structures, cafés with greenery, and don’t forget about the incredible cuisine!
How can I spend two days in Bratislava?
This is a difficult question because there is so much to do in Bratislava. We recommend you spend two days here, but if you’re looking for things that will provide you with the most bang for your buck, you should start at St. Martin’s Cathedral. It’s an incredible secular building, as well as the tallest building in Bratislava, and can help set the mood for your visit before moving on to other monuments, landmarks, or experiences.
It would be best if you also walked by or along the busy street of Zelezna ulica, which features many churches and paintings. You may want to stop by Janos Varga Museum for some Bratislava history, The Slovak National Gallery for a touch of European paintings from around 1900, or The Albertina Gallery to find the largest collection of modern art in Central Europe.
Is Bratislava safe for tourists?
Bratislava is a beautiful city and is incredibly safe for tourists. Like any city, you must be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to maintain routine safety. It’s always smart to take extra precautions before your trip with travel insurance, no matter where you are going.
- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.