After a week in Vienna, we continued onward to Bratislava, a city that sits about 1 hour away by train.
For many visitors, Bratislava is just a quick day trip from Vienna, but we wanted to stick around a bit longer so we could sightsee around town, try lots of Slovak dishes, and venture off to some further attractions without feeling too rushed.
In the end, I’m really glad we visited Bratislava for more than just a day because this city has a lot to offer.
Bratislava is charming, walkable, and full of quirky statues to surprise you around each corner.
Technically, yes, you could tick off most of the major attractions in one busy day, but I think this destination is the perfect size for a 2-3 day weekend escape, and in this blog post I’m going to share a few of the highlights.
What to do in Bratislava
Wander the Old Town
One of our favourite things to do in Bratislava was to walk around the Old Town and see what sights we came across. I really liked that there was a nice mix of wide pedestrian streets as well as narrow, little, cobbled lanes.
A few of the attractions we managed to visit include:
St. Martin’s Cathedral – a Gothic cathedral that’s been the site of many coronations.
Michael’s Gate – the only city gate that has been preserved in the city.
Old Town Hall – the oldest city hall in Slovakia.
Bratislava Fortifications – the last remaining stretch of the medieval city walls.
Roland Fountain – a fountain topped by Knight Roland, a legendary defender of the city’s rights.
Slovak National Theatre – Opera or ballet, anyone?
Climb up to Bratislava Castle
Of course, while in town, we couldn’t miss Bratislava Castle!
Built in the 9th century and modified many times over, this 4-towered castle sits perched on a hill overlooking the Danube River.
It’s a beautiful walk to reach the castle, and while we personally preferred the ruins of Devin Castle outside the city (more on that later), Bratislava Castle is still a cool spot to visit; you get nice views over the Old Town, plus you also have the Slovak National Museum and the Baroque Gardens on the north side.
Visit the Blue Church
It’s not every day you come across a church that resembles a wedding cake, but the famous Blue Church reminded me of exactly that!
Located on Bezručova Street, which is about a 10-15 minute walk from the Old Town, this church (whose real name is the Church of St. Elizabeth!) is designed in the art nouveau style with lots of decorations that almost look like icing.
Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited, but we were still able to get a peek through the gates.
Track down all the quirky statues
Another thing we enjoyed about Bratislava were all the unusual statues scattered across the Old Town. It seemed that every time we turned a corner there was another one to catch our attention.
Here are a few to keep an eye out for:
Čumil “The Watcher” – a man looking up from a manhole. Cars kept hitting him so now there’s sign that says “man at work”.
Shone Naci – a former Bratislava resident who’d wear coattails and a top hat, while greeting and spreading cheer to locals.
The Soldier – a soldier standing guard on a busy square.
Napoleon’s Army Soldier – a man leaning over a bench with a typical Napoleon hat.
Hans Christian Andersen – a statue of the famous writer who said of Bratislava, “If you want a fairy tale, your city is a fairy tale itself“.
Visit nearby Devin Castle
One of the highlights of our visit to Bratislava was a day trip we took to Devin Castle just outside the city.
This castle is located 10 kilometres from the Old Town and it can be reached on bus #29 in just 30 minutes.
The castle itself sits in ruins, however, you can wander along the medieval walls, climb up to the viewing point, and check out an exhibition in a cave.
The views from the top of the castle are also pretty impressive. Devin Castle sits at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, so that means you can see Austria right across the river, and on a clear day, as far as Hungary.
Tip: During certain times of the year, there is a river cruise that goes from Bratislava to Devin Castle and back for 13 Euros round trip. You can check the schedule here to see if it coincides with your dates.
Where to eat in Bratislava
And for all you foodies out there, now let’s talk about food. Here are some restaurants we really enjoyed in Bratislava:
For Slovak food in an usual setting, you can’t go wrong with Modrá Hviezda!
This restaurant is located at the foot of the hill just as you begin the climb to Bratislava Castle. Half the restaurant is set in a cave, so ask to sit in the back if there’s availability. It’s super dim and cosy there.
As for the food, it was really tasty. Think hearty dishes with lots of meat on the menu.
I ordered a pork chop covered in crushed walnuts with a honey-mustard sauce and a side of roasted potatoes, and Sam ordered duck leg cooked in a wine sauce with forest mushroom and potato pancakes.
We paired this with a glass of red wine and a local beer.
And as filling as our mains were, we couldn’t resist ordering dessert. We went for dumplings with sesame powder and sugar, which was something completely unexpected. The dumplings were more like gnocchi in terms of their shape, but we polished them off in seconds.
For a more traditional restaurant with a local feel, we went to Prašná Bašta, right around the corner from Michael’s Gate.
This restaurant is located at split-basement level, so it had a cosy feel with low-vaulted ceilings, a wooden interior, and a few arched windows to let you know whether it was daytime or nighttime outside.
Again, the food here was hearty and we loved it! For our starter we got a pancake stuffed with shredded chicken in a red cream sauce, and that honestly could have been a main dish on its own, but we had more coming.
I went for potato dumplings, which looked like mini-gnocchi covered in sheep’s cheese with crispy bacon, and Sam ordered a potato and zucchini pancake stuffed with pork and beef tenderloin in a paprika sauce.
Needless to say, we left that restaurant feeling rather plump, but oh-so-satisfied!
So technically this place specializes in cakes, pastries and baked goods, but everything we had there was so good we have to mention it.
For my drink, I had a cafe latte macchiato with melted chocolate coating the interior of the glass, and it was so frothy that I felt like I was having a warm milkshake. Absolutely decadent!
I also ordered scrambled eggs with baby spinach and parmesan cheese on brown bread, while Sam ordered a beetroot hummus with pomegranate seeds as well as regular hummus on brown bread. And on top of that, we also got a classic cheesecake with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to share.This is a good spot if you’re craving an international breakfast!
Where to stay in Bratislava
As for where to stay in Bratislava, I would say, in or around the Old Town is best, so that you can get around on foot. Overall, accommodations are very affordable in Bratislava, so have a browse and see what suits your style and budget.
Have you been to Bratislava?
Did you visit on a day trip or stay a bit longer?