One of the many joys of travelling in Europe is how quick and easy it is to hop from one country to the next. It’s even better when two capital cities are a stone’s throw from one another, just like those of Austria and Slovakia.
It only takes an hour to reach Bratislava from Vienna, and a quick trip across the border is a great way to experience a whole new country in a matter of hours (at any time of year!)
Here’s an idea of how to make the most of a day in Bratislava.
Take the train from Simmering to Bratislava
The journey from Vienna to Bratislava is incredibly easy. From the city centre, take the U3 subway line to Simmering and head up to the REX platform. You can buy a train ticket from a bright red machine there.
The return tickets cost €16 each and also entitle you to free public transport in Bratislava – what a steal!
After just about an hour on the train, you’ll arrive in a (hopefully) sunny Bratislava. And thanks to the wonderful EU, there’s no border security or passport control to worry about.
Mooch down to the historic centre and start exploring
The journey from the train station into the Old Town takes about 20 minutes on foot. If, like me, you’re very lazy and are dissuaded by some light drizzle, you can hop on a tram or bus for a couple of minutes instead.
When you get there, have a wander through the colourful, cobbled streets and get a feel for the unique city. On your way around, look out for Michael’s Gate, Primatial Palace, St. Martin’s Cathedral, and any other hidden gems in and around Bratislava’s bustling squares.
Bonus points if you comes across one of Bratislava’s more unusual tourist spots: the “Man at Work” statue!
Enjoy a traditional Slovak lunch with plenty of local beer
Hungry yet? While in Bratislava, you can’t miss the opportunity to try some of the tasty, cheap and very filling local cuisine.
We ended up eating at an uber-cool pub with a huge selection of Slovak food, as well as some other classic dishes (all for a great price). The atmosphere was great, and while the service was a little unfriendly, it felt like an authentic restaurant experience. And the portions were huge!
As if that wasn’t enough, half a litre of the pub’s home-brewed lager was just €2.10. Take a look at our meals below and try to tell me your mouth isn’t already watering.
The pub was called Meštiansky pivovar, and it was just a few minutes away from the Old Town. Well worth a trip, in my opinion.
Work off that hearty meal with an uphill climb to Bratislava Castle
The impressive, isolated Bratislava Castle sits on top of a large hill, looking out across the whole city. It’s the perfect spot to hike to after a wholesome meal (if only to burn a few calories…).
The route up to the castle is pretty interesting, taking you along and outside the city walls, through quiet streets and under old bridges. Once you’ve made it to the top, you’re treated to some stunning views of the city. Well, unless it’s a grey day, in which case you can soak up the spooky, misty atmosphere like we did!
Inside the castle, you have the opportunity to learn all about Slovak history by visiting its museum, which houses collections of the Slovak National Museum. This is also a great place to find shelter if the weather’s looking a bit dodgy.
Venture up the mysterious UFO bridge
The so-called UFO bridge is one of Bratislava’s most iconic tourist hotspots. Officially named the SNP bridge, it is a monument to the 1944 Slovak National Uprising. However, its uniquely extraterrestrial architecture has led to its unusual nickname.
At the top there’s a restaurant and viewing platform from which you can enjoy an impressive view of the city. On a clear day, it’s well worth a trip up there.
Relax in one of Bratislava’s cozy cafes
After all that exploring, you’ll be longing for somewhere to take the weight off your feet. Why not spend your last couple of hours in Bratislava making the most of the city’s thriving cafe scene?
Coffee is hugely popular across the whole of Slovakia, and new coffee shops pop up regularly across its capital. From the uber-traditional to the hipster hotspots, you’re sure to find somewhere to sit back and reflect on your day.
I only spent a day in Bratislava, so I don’t know about the coolest cafes to visit. But this lady does. Check out her article on the best cafes in the city.
Gosh, what a day! You must be exhausted.
The trains back to Vienna are fairly regular, but it’s best to check the times before you head over to the station. I hope you’ve enjoyed your busy day in Bratislava!