One Day in Bratislava: A Day Trip from Vienna

One day is Bratislava, is it enough time? Well the first time we visited it we spent two hours in the city having cycled there from Austria. The second time we took a day trip from Vienna.  Two hours for our first visit was too short, the day trip from Vienna a just about perfect duration.

Bratislava: A Day Trip from Vienna

As soon as we started to plan our Austrian holiday I factored in a day trip to Bratislava from Vienna.  The two hours that we had spent whilst on our cycling holiday down the Danube had whetted our appetite for more.  What we didn’t check was when the Slovak National Uprising Anniversary holiday was and ended up visiting on it, that meant lots of things were closed! Here is a handy list of all the Slovak public holidays, so you don’t make the same mistake! https://www.mzv.sk/en/web/en/slovakia/public-holidays

Pink Primate's Palace in Bratislava, Slovakia
Primate’s Palace

How to get to Bratislava from Vienna

Bus, train or boat are your choices for travel between Vienna and Bratislava.  Initially I thought that boat was the way to go, but on close examination it was both the slowest and most expensive way to travel.  Catching the Flixbus is the cheapest option, takes about an hour and half.  We plumped for the train.  Trains leave the central station in Vienna every half an hour and take just under an hour and cost €22 return.   You can buy a Bratislava ticket or Euregio Slovaki ticket for €18 which also covers public transport in Bratislava. I didn’t realise about this until after we made the trip as the ticket is not obvious on the OBB website … follow this link for the Bratislava ticket

Arriving by Train at Bratislava

Bratislava train station is an 18 minute walk downhill to the centre.  There are numerous buses immediately outside the station but tickets are sold only from ancient machines that only accept cash.  We walked!  Once you are in the centre everything is within easy walking distance.

What to see in one day in Bratislava

The first time we visited Bratislava we cycled in.  Approaching from the Hungarian side of the river and at first glance we saw a mass of Soviet era apartment blocks.  Then we saw the castle.  From then on everything was chocolate box pretty.  Cute streets, lots and lots of cafes with people sat outside, blue churches and pink palaces.  

Presidential Palace

Presidential Palace in Bratislava
Presidential Palace

Walking down from the station the first place you come to is the Presidential Palace.  You can’t go in but at noon when the President is in residence you can watch the changing of the guard.  Unfortunately we chose a day when the President was elsewhere but enjoyed looking through the railings anyway.

St Michael’s Gate

St Michael's Gate, Bratislava
St Michael’s Gate

Once upon time Bratislava had four gates into the city, now only St Michael’s Gate remains.  Your walking route from the station takes you right under gate.  There is a small museum in the gate and you can climb to the top for views across the city, entry costs €6.

Cute Medieval Streets

As soon as you pass through St Michael’s Gate you are in a maze of cute medieval streets.  As you descend further into the city the buildings become newer and bigger but still incredibly pretty.  It is the city with the most appealing cafes that I have ever been to.  The first time we visited at the end of a long day cycling through three different countries, it was hard to resist the lure of sitting under a shady umbrella and having a drink.

Main Square or Hlávne Námestie

Those medieval streets meander down to the main square Hlávne Námestie.  Handsome buildings line the square.  One side is taken up with the 14th and 15th century gothic Stará Radnica or old town hall and another with the Neo-baroque Palugyayov Palace.  In the centre is Roland’s fountain with a statue of that reputedly bows once a year, on New Year and Good Friday.  Only native Bratislavans with a pure heart who has never harmed anyone can see this occur.  Anyway there are three fine cafes in the square in which to sit and watch for movement.

Old Town Hall

Old Town Hall Bratislava
Old Town Hall

The Old Town Hall is actually a collection of buildings  ranging from the 14th to the 20th centuries. Inside you will find a museum dedicated to the history of Bratislava and the opportunity to clamber up the tower for views across the city.  Entry is €8.

Primate’s Palace

Hall of Mirrors, Primate's Palace Bratislava
History was made here … the Hall of Mirrors

Stand outside an marvel at the pink prettiness of the Primate’s Palace.  This is the building that I most wanted to see inside in Bratislava.  Mercifully it was actually open on the Slovak National Uprising Anniversary.  Why did I want to visit?  Well because it was here, in the Hall of Mirrors, that the Treaty of Pressburg was signed by Napoleon that effectively meant the end of the Holy Roman Empire. As well as the hall of mirrors there is a glorious enfilade of rooms filled with rare and beautiful Mortlake tapestries.  Entry costs €3.

Blue Church of Bratislava or St Elizabeth

Art Nouveau Blue Church in Bratislava
St Elizabeth, the Blue Church Bratislava

St Elizabeth Catholic Church is the proper name of the blue church in Bratislava.  Edmund Lechner designed the church and neighbouring grammar school in the early 20th century.  It is a symphony of blue inside and out.  Visiting hours are extremely short but the doors were open when we visited allow a glimpse inside.  In the evenings the church is open from 5.30pm – 7pm and in the morning 6.30am – 7.30am (noon on Sunday), there are regular Catholic masses during the day.

UFO Bridge

UFO Bridge Bratislava
UFO Bridge

So called because it looks like a UFO hovering above the Danube.   Built in the 70s it offers great views across the river.  Lifts to the observation deck take less than a minute and cost €9.  It is a great place to enjoy a sundowner drink with views across the city, drinks are pricey but then you are paying for the view too.

Stroll along the banks of the Danube

The Danube is one of the great European rivers, rising in Switzerland and meandering to the Black Sea in Romania.  Stroll along the river front in Bratislava to see the many cruise ships moored up.  Maybe even have a drink on one of the restaurant boats.  

St Martin’s Cathedral

Bratislava Cathedral
Bratislava Cathedral

St Martin’s Cathedral was the place where Hungarian Kings were crowned from 16th to 18th centuries.  On their way to their coronation the monarch’s followed a set route, you can follow in their footsteps.  Look for crowns embedded in the streets of Bratislava, click here for a handy map to point you in the right direction. Inside the Cathedral is quite humdrum as Cathedral’s go (and I say that as a Cathedral enthusiast).  Entry is free.

Bratislava Sculptures

Bratislava

Modern sculpture is dotted around the centre of Bratislava.  Mast famous of all is Čumil, who appears to be emerging from a manhole.  Then there is a Napoleonic era soldier resting on a bench in the main square.  Our favourite was two old fashioned bicycles, perfect for twins who are cycling down the Danube as we were on our first visit.

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle overlooks the city.  It is a white fortress.  If you are only visiting for the day it probably isn’t worth the steep climb up to the top. Should you clamber up the hill there is a museum inside.

Eating in Bratislava

Cafe in Bratislava
Shokocafe Maximilian

Everywhere you look in Bratislava there are cafes, in the summer people are sat outside enjoying the sunshine.  Both times that we have visited we went to Schokocafe Maximilian on the main square, the first time because Mr CW is called Max and it seemed rude not to.  The second time because the hot chocolate and chocolate ice cream from there are the among the best that we have had anywhere.  For lunch we ate at Pod Kamennym Stromom, which is hidden away in a courtyard, through an archway off Sedlárska which leads to the main square. In the winter there is a cellar bar.  

Pozsony, Pressburg or Bratislava?

Bronze sculpture of a man climbing out of a manhole in Bratislava
Čumic

I am a keen reader of novels and histories and was a little puzzled that Bratislava had not featured in any of them.  A little delving reveals that that is because Bratislava is the Slovak name for the city, only now that the Slovaks are in charge of their own country does it proudly present the name to the world.  Before it has been known by the Hungarian Pozsony or the German Pressburg.

Where is Bratislava?

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and in the top right hand corner of the country.  Fun fact: Bratislava is the only capital city that shares a boundary with two other nation states, Hungary and Austria.  It is equidistant from Vienna and Budapest with both about an hour away by train.

Is the Bratislava Card worth it for a day trip?

Bratislava seen from the distance with fields in front
Bratislava seen from Hungary as we cycled in

First of all what is the Bratislava Card?  It comes in two versions with and without transport.  For one person with transport it costs €23 and without €21.  For that you get free entry into the Old Town Hall and St Michael’s Gate plus a discount on entry to the UFO bridge.  There are many other free entry and discounts but they are not mentioned in the this post.  We decided not to get the pass as the major draw of Bratislava is wandering around the extremely cute city centre and that is free. If you do decide to buy the Bratislava card buy it before you go and download it to your phone.

Our first visit to Bratislava was part of our cycling holiday down the Danube, one of our most enjoyable holidays of the teenage years, you can read about our cycle and cruise down the Danube here.

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25 Comments

  1. January 24, 2017 / 12:03 pm

    I was only talking about going to Bratislava the other day as someone recommended. Lovely photos, making me think I should look again 😀

    • January 24, 2017 / 12:18 pm

      It is beautiful, not what I was expecting and would make a fine weekend destination

  2. January 26, 2017 / 8:28 pm

    Two hours definitely wasnt enough! Hope you get the chance to go back! We’ll be going soon too as our last stop on our honeymoon road trip! #FarawayFiles

    • January 26, 2017 / 8:48 pm

      Lucky you, such a lovely place

  3. Ruth
    January 26, 2017 / 8:43 pm

    So glad you had some time to explore Bratislava! I saw all those cafes during my visit and was surprised at how lively the atmosphere was. Would like to visit again one day. #farawayfiles

    • January 26, 2017 / 8:49 pm

      Those cafes were buzzing, definitely worth a longer visit

  4. January 28, 2017 / 11:11 am

    You managed to pack a lot into a whistle-stop tour. Glad Max got his chocolate fix a the most appropriately named place! Thanks for sharing with us on #farawayfiles

    • January 28, 2017 / 4:43 pm

      Odd how we always seem to manage to find chocolate on our travels!

  5. Clare Thomson
    January 30, 2017 / 4:16 pm

    Bratislava looks stunning – that architecture is just beautiful and finding the best chocolate ice-cream ever is quite some recommendation! Thanks for sharing with us on #FarawayFiles

    • January 30, 2017 / 4:18 pm

      I don’t know what I was expecting but certainly not the laid back beauty that we found!

  6. March 1, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    Wow you made the most of your two hours. Think I would have needed a two hour bath after doing that cycle!

    Thanks for linking to #fearlessfamtrav

  7. March 1, 2017 / 1:16 pm

    We are heading to Budapest in a couple months. Would you recommend it as a day trip if takes us a couple hours one way with small kids? #fearlessfamtrav

    • March 1, 2017 / 2:01 pm

      How would you be travelling boat, train or car? We whizzed round using public transport day pass seeing the outside of all the big sites. Our teens loved it

      • March 1, 2017 / 2:09 pm

        Probably train then walk around. I’m just debating if it is worth the cost of the train and the time. Don’t really know anything about the city. Also thinking about Vienna as a day trip.

        • March 1, 2017 / 2:10 pm

          We visited Vienna for a few hours too, I would say that for the younger child Vienna has more to hold the attention. Bratislava is in between the two ……

  8. March 1, 2017 / 9:13 pm

    Been to Vienna many times; never made it to Bratislava. For a flying visit, you seem to have captured the essence of the place brilliantly, and have left me pondering why I’ve never hopped across the border before (nor cycled, for that matter…). #FearlessFamTrav

  9. March 1, 2017 / 9:57 pm

    Looks a beautiful place. We havent been but it is on the list. We are cycling Passau to Vienna in July…very excited to try it out with our boys. #fearlessfamtrav

  10. March 6, 2017 / 2:41 pm

    We’ve been to Bratislava twice and love it. Once was just a day tip from Vienna but the 2nd time we stayed in the wackiest hotel I’ve ever been to. It’s definitely worth more than 2 hours. Next time look up the Blue Church (which you can read about on my blog too!!) We had hot chocolate in that same café as our weather wasn’t as warm as yours by the looks of things. #FarawayFiles

  11. March 6, 2017 / 10:13 pm

    Its been years since i was last there but your photos brought back loads of memories! #fearlessfamtrav

  12. March 8, 2017 / 10:04 am

    Great post! I’ve been in Bratislava 3 years ago I love that city. The architecture in your photos looks beautiful!

  13. March 15, 2017 / 8:41 am

    I never knew Bratislava was so beautiful. I really love the architecture #citytripping

  14. March 15, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    Amazing buildings and yum to the best ever chocolate icecream #citytripping

  15. March 17, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    I wanted to see Bratislava the last time I was in Vienna but didn’t have enough time. Now I’m sorry I didn’t, it looks beautiful! Next time I’ll go for sure! #citytripping

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