In the centre of Europe lies Bratislava, a regal city spread across both banks of the mighty Danube. The Slovak capital is located on the western border of the country. It borders Austria and Hungary, making it the only national capital that borders two countries. It is nicknamed the Beauty on the Danube because it is full of castles, cobblestone streets and classical architecture. It is also known as the Little Big City because it is one of the smallest capitals of Europe.
The weather is typical of continental Europe with warm summers and cold winters. The average daily temperature in summer is 21 °C and in winter –1 °C.
Despite its size, Bratislava is full of character, split by one of Europe’s arterial rivers and surrounded by forests and mountains. All of these factors contribute to the feeling of peace and quiet wonder that the city radiates.
Table of Contents
Getting to Bratislava
Being in the centre of Europe makes Bratislava an easy place to visit. The Danube connects the Slovak capital to the rest of the continent, as well as the many highways and railways that crisscross the country.
Bratislava has direct flights to many European destinations which are provided by various airlines. The city’s airport – M. R. Štefanik Airport is located right outside of the capital, about a 20-minute drive from the city centre.
If you are coming from somewhere that doesn’t happen to have direct flights to Bratislava, there is a convenient solution. Across the border, Vienna Airport is only 40 kilometres west of Bratislava. It happens to also be one of the main ways to get to Slovakia.
It’s possible to take a train from Bratislava directly to Vienna, Prague, Budapest and various parts of Slovakia and Europe.
There are two railway stations in the Slovak Capital, the Main Station and Petržalka. The Main Station is interlinked with the rest of the city through busses and trams. From the Main Station, it only takes 15 minutes on foot to get to the city centre. To get to and from the train station in Petržalka, take buses no. 80, 91, 93.
Thanks to being situated on the Danube, Bratislava has regular boat connections with Vienna. Schwedenplatz, the centre of Vienna, is connected to Bratislava by a regular catamaran, The Twin City liner, and other tour operators.
Bratislava is connected to many European cities via a continent-wide network of bus lines. There are frequent rides to the surrounding countries and other regions of Slovakia, such as Prague, Budapest and Krakow. The main bus station of Bratislava is the Mlynské Nivy bus station. Buses from Bratislava to Vienna operate every hour.
Several major motorways intersect in Bratislava. The distance to Vienna is only 65 km. To Budapest, it’s 200 km and to get to Prague you need to cross 330 km. An important detail to remember is, if you are bringing your personal car, you must display a valid motorway tax sticker. These are available at border crossings and petrol stations. It is valid for a minimum of ten days (priced at around €10).
Slovakia Visa Requirements
Slovakia is a member of the Schengen Area, meaning that all EU visitors can enter the country without applying for a visa. If you’re a citizen of a country which is not a member of the Schengen Area, you will need to apply for a visa regarding the purpose of your trip. If travelling as a tourist you can apply for a short-term Schengen visa up to 90 days. For all other travelling purposes for non-Schengen Area citizens read the visa requirements.
Getting around Bratislava
Bratislava is relatively compact and its public transport is well developed, efficient and boasts a long tradition. There are a lot of ways to get around and transport is inexpensive.
The Ticket System
Tickets for public transport are valid for a certain period of time and are only available from ticket-machines or kiosks. They must be validated once inside the transport. The tickets are valid for all manner of public transport in the city and remain valid when changing from one type of transport to another.
The Little Big city also offers its guests a special way to explore the city, the Bratislava Card. The card grants guests free use of urban transport, a guided tour of the Old Town, and discounts on admission to museums and galleries. It also grants discounts of up to 50% for taxis and car hire. You can buy a card for 1, 2, or 3 days at any tourist information centre.
Trams are the most popular and fastest form of public transport in the city. They are reliable and on time, generally running from 5 a.m to 11:30 p.m. Here are the routes.
Some routes in the hilly parts of the city centre are electrified and serviced by trolleybuses. They have a long tradition and have been operating in the city for more than 100 years.
Driving around the city is possible, and safe, but it can be a hassle as there are a lot of vehicles on the road.
- Parking – The main roads of the city have digital information displays which show the number of vacant places in underground garages or car parks. If you want to park your car in the city centre you will have to pay. You can do this by purchasing a parking ticket at a machine. Paying for parking is obligatory from 8:00 am to 6 pm.
Ordering a taxi over the phone is cheaper than hiring one from a stand or stopping a taxi on the street. The minimum fee for a short-distance trip is around € 5. Every taxi must have a price list displayed in a visible location, and a fare meter must be used. Taxi drivers are obliged to issue receipts on request.
Cycle-paths generally run along the Danube or in the suburban areas of the city and they are not yet interconnected. In contrast to other European cities, it is rare to see many bicycles on the roads of Bratislava.
There are bicycles and throughout the city that can be rented through the city’s bike-sharing project. Electric scooters are an option too. Some planning needs to go into the renting of these as they are only available through local companies.
The great thing about the Little Big City is that it is walkable. The centre is relatively compact and the whole of the Old Town is a pedestrian zone. Most of the sights are clustered between these two locations and they are easy to reach on foot.
An underrated European destination that offers unique sights in a familiar setting. Bratislava’s friendly locals and artful architecture invite exploration.
On a hill above the old town, commanding the skyline lies Bratislava Castle. The castle hill has been inhabited since the late Stone Age, and the area has changed hands many times during history. The castle was built in the 9th century. The first Hungarian king, Stephen I made the castle his seat of governance around the year 1000. For centuries Bratislava served as the coronation city for Hungarian royalty. Over the course of history, the castle has been raided, razed, and rebuilt many times. Maria Theresa of Austria had the castle modelled in her image, but after she died, in 1811 a fire broke out that devastated the castle. Bratislavans rebuilt it after WW2 and it has since been used for state functions. In 1992, after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the constitution of independent Slovakia was signed here. The castle houses the Slovak National Museum and the Great-Moravian basilica on the eastern terrace. When you visit, take in the panoramic view of the city from the castle walls.
UFO Bridge and Tower
The SNP bridge is the 7th largest hanging bridge in the world. It connects Bratislava’s old town with the Petržalka district. The SNP stands for Slovak National Uprising, armed resistance to Axis occupation during WW2. The bridge is an architectural beauty but it is the tower that steals the show. On top of the tower is a UFO-shaped cupola. Within the cupola is a restaurant. On top is an open-air observation deck that provides its visitors panoramic views of the city. The deck sits at a lofty 95 meters above the ground. You can reach it by an elevator that is located in one of the tower’s legs. The ride takes 45 whole seconds. The entry fee for the UFO sighting deck is about €7,40.
The Blue Church of Bratislava is like something out of a fairy tale. The whole structure is painted in shades of blue, during the day it resembles the colour of the sky. The facade is mostly blue with white highlights and other decorative elements. All the lines and angles of the building are soft, making it very relaxing to look at. Even the insides have a lot of blue, the pews are pale blue and the walls are a mix of white and light blue. The Church was built in the 20th century in Art Nouveau style. It was dedicated to Saint Elizabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, who passed away in 1898. She used to give to the poor and a portrait of her is inside above the church’s portal. The Blue Church is a favourite for weddings and you might catch one if you’re lucky!
Devin Castle is one of the most important archaeological sites in Central Europe. It is one of the largest castles in the country. It is located on a high cliff overlooking the confluence of the Morava and Danube rivers. Standing on the border between Slovakia and Austria. It has been a border fortress for millennia. It was part of the Roman border, it witnessed the rise and fall of Great Moravia and was blown up by Napoleon’s army. In 1961 it was declared a National Historic Landmark and it has been untouched since. The castle is one of the most frequented tourist attractions in Slovakia, it has a long history with many stories to tell. It’s also the perfect vantage point to observe the lands of Austria stretching as far as the eye can see.
Old Town Hall
Dating back to the 13th century the Old Town Hall is one of the oldest stone buildings still standing in Bratislava. The Old Town Hall is beautiful inside and out. It is composed of a basement, the Museum of City History (which takes up most of the space) and a tower that provides a charming view of the city centre. The museum is full of cultural exhibitions and artefacts, well worth a visit. The basement features an exhibit of grisly medieval torture devices. The tower is lit up in and the colours change from blue to purple.
A memorial monument dedicated to Soviet soldiers who fell during the liberation of the city in World War II. Slavin is both a monument and a military cemetery, holding 6,845 fallen soldiers. The monument stands in the middle of the cemetery: a mausoleum with an 11-meter high sculpture of a Soviet soldier. Situated atop a hill above Bratislava castle surrounded by trees, Slavin is perfect for a quiet stroll.
Kamzik Radio Tower
A TV tower with a restaurant, bar and observation deck. At the top of a hill, surrounded by a forest park. There are two good reasons to visit Kamzik. Firstly, to take the scenic winding trails of the forest park that lead to the tower. This way you can enjoy the beauty of nature and do some light exercise. Secondly to explore the tower fully and take in the view of the city and forest around you. You can even enjoy a meal or a drink to top things off.
This gothic tower is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It is the last city gate that has been preserved since Medieval times, built in the mid 14th century. The tower has 7 floors and houses the small Museum of Weapons and City Fortifications. At the top is a statue of the archangel Michael, slaying a dragon. On the street that passes through the gate is a bronze plate listing the distances of 29 other capitals from Bratislava.
One of the most beautiful and well-preserved classicist buildings in the capital of Slovakia. Visitors can see St. George’s (the dragon slayer) Fountain in the courtyard, there are benches and free wifi available too. Inside the palace, you can see gobelins from the 1630s, furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the famous Hall of Mirrors. Napoleon himself signed the peace treaty ‘The Peace of Pressburg’ in that hall in 1805.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
The largest, as well as one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. St. Martin’s Cathedral was the coronation site of the Hungarian empire between 1563 and 1830. Queen Maria Theresa herself was crowned there as well as many other royals. The 85m tall tower dominates the Old Town’s skyline, with a replica of the Hungarian royal crown on top. There are also interesting underground crypts with catacombs beneath the cathedral.
There are plenty of things to do in Little Big City. From outdoor adventures to escape rooms and all kinds of indoor activities. The city will take your breath away.
The Carpathian Forest
The little Carpathian mountain range is right above the city. Forested and full of trails, this is a great destination for all things outdoors. Picnicking, hiking, casual sports, bird watching, exploring, you name it, and you can do it in this natural gem. A unique experience here is taking the open chairlift to the top of Koliba hill.
Yes, of course, Bratislava has beaches.
Magio Beach is a popular beach with great amenities. There are beach beds spread all around the place, as well as a bar and a volleyball field nearby. Sunsets are fun to watch as the city’s colours transition to night-time.
Zlatny Piesky is a lakeside beach, with plenty of open green space. The lake is 30m deep and in its middle is a small island, waiting to be explored. It can be reached by swimming or renting a water bicycle. There is a playground there too and the abundance of open space makes casual sports a simple endeavour. The entrance fee is €2 for adults, €1.50 for kids and €2 for parking.
Lafranconi Beach is a pebble beach on the left bank of the Danube under Lafranconi bridge. It is surrounded by forest making it the perfect place for a campfire and barbecue. It also isn’t very crowded because it’s not accessible by car.
The Bronze Statues
People love to take pictures with statues and sculptures, they really add to the flavour of every city. In Bratislava, there are a few photogenic bronze statues. The most famous three are Napoleónec – a statue of a Napoleonic soldier to commemorate the siege of the city, and poke some fun at the famous general. Next is Čumil, a bronze maintenance worker popping out of a manhole in the middle of a street. Installed in 1997 to enliven the city, he is probably the most photographed statue out of all. Last but not least is Schöner Náci. He was a local eccentric whose positive energy and kindness motivated his fellow citizens. He was so well-liked that they decided to honour him with his own statue. There are many more bronze statues in the city, see if you can find them!
Bratislava is mostly flat so it’s a perfect opportunity to explore the city with a bicycle. There are more than five bridges that you can cross. The Danube will make you appreciate how important water is, and how beautiful it can be. There are also many cycle trails in the parks and forests outside the city, for a real adrenaline-filled ride.
Bratislava Music Festival
All about classical music and one of the country’s most important festivals. International performances are held at the Slovak Philharmonic in October or November. The festival has been a Slovak tradition since 1964 and features premieres of composition by Slovak and international composers.
An accurate recreation of the old coronation ceremony of the Hungarian kings, this is one of the largest cultural events in the country. The show kicks off at Bratislava Castle and the procession walks all the way to the city centre. After that, there are medieval markets, wine and folk music aplenty. There are also music, dance and fighting performances, with everyone dressed in the attire of centuries past.
Cultural Summer & Castle Festival
Lasting from the start of July till the end of August, this is Bratislava’s longest and most feature-filled festival. It is full of classical, folk, pop and jazz music performances, as well as alternative theatre and brass bands. These take place in every major venue of the city, with special performances at bridges and fountains and various squares. International events, like theme days for specific countries also take place.
Slovakian cuisine is the Central European cuisine with various influences and long tradition. Restaurants and bars on every corner offer a wide selection of authentic Slovakian dishes and here are some of them we suggest you try.
Soup is an essential element of country cuisine. A common dish in Central Europe and Scandinavia is soup in a big bread roll. A Slovakian variation of this is krémová cesnaková polievka, a creamy garlic soup served in a bread roll. Then there is kapustnica (sauerkraut soup). A filling mixture of mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and sausage.
Another soothing dish, that visitors instantly fall in love with, are dumplings. Although there are numerous recipes of dumplings in the world, Slovakian ones are made of potato dough usually with minced meat and steamed cabbage topped with onions.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, try some of the Slovak desserts such as lokše or pancakes which resemble potato tortilla with various fillings, usually jam and poppy seeds with sugar.
Where to eat
If you are looking to truly eat like a local, here are some of the places in Bratislava worth visiting!
- Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar – This place offers great traditional dishes at quite cheap prices. So, if you are on a lower budget, be quick to make a reservation of the table. Main courses start at €5 and the ambient is modern with a hint of traditional decorations.
- Bratislava Flag Ship Restaurant – Only 4-minute walk from Primatial Palace is situated Bratislava Flag Ship, a well-known restaurant in the core of the city. This restaurant is one of the largest in Europe and it was built inside of an old theatre. If you are lucky enough, you might even catch their promotional three-course menu with a drink for less than €20.
- Hradna Hviezda – If you want to dine inside the Bratislava Castle, then head to Hradna Hviezda. Although a bit fancier restaurant, it is worth every penny since the dishes are truly exceptional. And you get to say you’ve actually had dinner in a castle!
- Slovak Pub – The largest bar in Bratislava is quite popular among the locals and tourists. If you are looking for something casual to chill with your friends, then Slovak Pub is for you. The bar offers a great selection of beers and traditional Slovak dishes. They also offer different daily menus with fresh food and ingredients!
- Prašná Bašta – If looking for an authentic Slovakian food, check out this restaurant in the heart of the Old Town. A wide selection of vegetarian dishes is on the menu, as well.
- Modra Hviezda – This restaurant might be small, but its charming interior will make you love it. Besides, the meat-based menu offers the best of the meat dishes, and vegetarians can find their options as well.
Although some other European cities such as Budapest or Prague have already earned the titles for the best nightlife of Central Europe, Slovakian capital is slowly but surely becoming part of that list. If you decide to get loose a little, here are some suggestions for the best night out in Bratislava.
For an easy start check out Uisce Beatha, a cosy pub where you can experience an authentic Czech atmosphere while drinking a beer and chatting with friends.
If you’re up for some splendid views while sipping a drink, go to UFO Bar and Restaurant for a 360° view of the entire Bratislava. Similar goes for Sky Bar which is located on the top of a building. Spend a luxurious night with friends and cocktails.
For a relaxed night out head to Nu Spirit Club with live music performances of all genres. To spice up the night, go to The Club, the biggest club in Bratislava that offers a great clubbing experience. Great cocktails and amazing vibes await in Rio Grande Club, and those seeking for the darkest techno sounds can visit Fuga and truly escape the reality. Hard rock lovers can find their kind of entertainment in Randal pub where they can enjoy all kinds of heavy metal sounds. If you’re still not tired after all the clubs close, head to Channels Club and dance till the sun comes out!
As a capital city located in Central Europe, Bratislava is obviously a great place for shopping as it offers all sorts of malls, markets and shops.
In the Old Town you will find plenty of stores, just stroll the main streets and discover what’s on offer. In the Old Town, you will easily find all sorts of souvenirs, from Tokaji wine to jewellery.
If looking for all-in-one shopping spots then go to shopping centres Central, Eurovea or Aupark. Central is the easiest to reach and it offers plenty of shops, as well as cafes to relax on the top of the building. If looking for the latest trends and modern brands, then Aupark has a good selection of stores for your taste. Eurovea is the newest shopping centre located very close to Old Town. There you can combine shopping with other relaxing and entertaining facilities.
You will also find a lot of outlets of various brands where you can buy things for discounted prices.
The Slovak capital is located on the border of three countries and is only a one to three hour flight time from most major European cities. Bratislava is full of all kinds of places to stay, thanks to this.
- Country dialing code: +421
- Tourist Info Bratislava: +421 2/544 194 10
- Emergency: + 421 112
- Police: +421 158
- Hospital: +421 2/572 901 11
- Emergency medical service: +421 155
- Pharmacy, open 24/7, Lekáreň Apoteka Alexandra: +421 917 721 925
Good to know
Free Public Wi-Fi
Like Vienna, Bratislava is known for its café culture. While visiting you have to try the Slovak café experience. Waiters will be happy to introduce you to all the different types of coffee they can make for you.
- Is tap water safe to drink?
Tap water is safe to consume across the country, the tap water in Bratislava is some of the cleanest in the world.
- What type of plug do they use in Slovakia?
The power plugs and sockets are of type E, the type C plug works with the type E socket.
- Is the city safe?
Yes, Slovakia as a whole is a safe country to visit.
- Is swimming in the Danube allowed?
No. It is prohibited by law and dangerous because of the strong current.