Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, has been picking up popularity in recent years as a good place to visit as part of a longer European trip. Whereas there is arguably not enough of a draw here to warrant a long stay, the charm of its small size is that you can see all the city highlights in just a day. It’s just a short journey from both Vienna, Budapest and Prague so it’s a great place to stop and see the sites on a trip to these other popular cities. Here’s how to see the best of Bratislava in a day.
The first thing to note is that Bratislava is incredibly compact so you can see the whole thing on foot easily, in fact, it’s the only real way to see the city. The old town is beautiful and takes only an hour or so to get around all the sights. Here are my highlights from the beautiful old town:
- The Museum of Music, which not only covers the history of music in the city but is the birthplace of the composer Karol Elbert
- Primate’s Palace, a beautiful, historic building with an entirely pink-walled courtyard making a great stop for an insta snap or two!
- Franciscan church, the oldest church in Bratislava
- Michael’s Gate, one of the oldest buildings in the city and completely stunning with its uniquely shaped roof.
- Mirchback Palace, the exterior of this yellow building is beautiful is now home to an art gallery
- The Jesuit Church, which has a beautiful, gothic interior
- The main square, an open area surrounded by beautiful architecture that was once a market hub, some touristy market stalls are often still available and there are plenty of restaurants nearby. Make sure you check out the Marina Column while you are here.
- The famous statues of the old town, some of the most famous of which are ‘man at work’, a man peeping out of a manhole on the floor, the Hans Christian Anderson statue and the Schone Naci Statue. The various statues are peppered throughout the whole town are full of character and charm and as such are a real hit with tourists. Sadly the once-popular ‘Napoleon on a bench’ statue has now been missing for a few years after it was stolen, but hopefully it will return in the future
Leaving the old town behind there are a few must-visits that are just outside of this area. Head to the St Martin’s Cathedral for a chance to view the stunning 13th-century gothic interiors and its beautiful green roof decor.
From here cross through the underpass before heading up the hill towards what must be the most photographed building in Bratislava, the Bratislava castle. Standing on top of the hill its the first thing I saw when I arrived by boat from Vienna. Walking up the winding path you pass through the small garden area before reaching the castle itself. It might look historic but the castle was actually only built in the 1950s following a fire. You can go inside the courtyard but it is very plain and there’s not much to see, however there is the Slovak National Museum inside which was sadly closed on our visit.
The other structure you can’t miss when entering Bratislava, and it just so happens to be directly opposite the castle, is the unique UFO observation deck, named as such for a pretty obvious reason… It’s just a short walk over the bridge from the castle and you’ll soon be in a lift whizzing your way to the top. You get great views of the castle from here but bear in mind the platform is open air and not the biggest so if the weather is too bad it’s possibly worth skipping. It’s €7.40 per person and it’s such a uniquely designed structure it’s hard to not pay it a visit, and you get a great view over the city.
Heading back towards the old town make sure you check out the beautiful Slovak National Theatre before heading eastwards to the insta-famous Church of St Elizabeth, most commonly known as the blue church. It’s a must-see if checking out Bratislava in a day. It only opens for a couple of hours each day but is the exterior of the church that is the real draw. It’s unique white and bright blue decor make it a hit for Instagrammers visiting the city.
If you are looking for food the old town is where it’s at. As well as lots of restaurants serving food from around the world there are plenty of trendy ice cream and sweet shops and even an Ice bar if you are looking for something more hipster to try whilst in the city.
Bratislava is just 8o minutes by train from Vienna or 90 minutes by boat, 4 hours by train from Prague and just under 2 and a half hours by train from Budapest, so it’s totally worth a stop off for a day if you want to see Bratislava in a day. Here’s a map to show you all my favourite locations to check out:
What’s your favourite city that you can see in just one day?