Bratislava is the capital and largest city of Slovakia. However, it is often overshadowed by Vienna or Budapest which are just a few kilometers away. Usually many people wonder, is it worth visiting Bratislava? Although the Slovak capital may be small compared to others in Europe, it also make it a great city to visit in one day. The advantages of visiting this city are several. The places to see in Bratislava are accessible on foot. Bratislava’s currency is the euro but the city is quite cheap. And you can also visit Bratislava in a day trip from Vienna or Budapest.
In my opinion you should not spend more than one day in Bratislava. Maybe you could spend just one night to enjoy the city with lights. However, if you aren’t in a hurry, you can dedicate two days tops to enjoy the city more relaxed.
In conclusion, the city has its charm, its vibe, and above all, it has a very interesting story to tell us. Perhaps, visiting Bratislava with a guide will allow you to understand more of what you are going to see. But, you definitely should visit Bratislava. And as I said before, there is no need to assign more than one day when making your travel plans.
To help you in the task, below I listed the top 10 activities that you must see in Bratislava in one day:
1. What to see in Bratislava: Visit the old town.
The old town seems like a medieval tale. Its meandering streets made of cobblestone and the secret squares that we find without meaning to, create an atmosphere from another era.
This area is always full of life where you can find all kind of shops, restaurants to taste Slovakian food and bars to have good beers (beer is the national drink). Usually full of people walking through its streets, although not as many as in Prague or Krakow, the old town is always full of movement.
Whether you want it or not, even if you visit Bratislava in one day, the old town is where you will move most of the time. Almost all of the top attractions of Bratislava are in this area, making it a great place to start touring.
If you have the opportunity to spend the night in Bratislava, as in many other European capitals, the city covered in lights transforms the atmosphere into a magical and beautiful tale that invites you to get lost in the streets of the old town.
2. What to see in Bratislava: Bratislava Castle.
The Bratislava Castle, located on the top of the hill next to the Danube, is a place you cannot miss in the city. It can be easily reached on foot from the center, it only takes 15 minutes. The path has a small climb reaching the Castle but it is worth the effort.
The history of this place can be traced back to the stone age since historians have found traces of settlements since prehistory. For instance, Romans, Celts and Slavs have lived in the castle, so it has a long history.
During the 10th century, the King Stephan I from Hungary started to build the fortress although a large fire in 1811 destroyed much of it. However, the current version of the Castle is a result of a reconstruction program started in 1950 after great debates about its architecture and its later use.
Currently, part of the castle is the official residence of the President of the Slovak Republic. The rest of the Castle have different collections of the National Museum and the National Parliament of Slovakia.
If the Castle’s History, walls and gardens aren’t enough reasons for climbing the hill and visiting the fortress, at the top of the hill you can also access one of the best views of Bratislava along the Danube. In short: it is a must see in Bratislava.
3. What to see in Bratislava: St. Martin’s Cathedral.
The Cathedral is very close to the Bratislava Castle and is on the way to the center of the old town. It is the largest and oldest church in the city, its construction was completed in the 14th century. Also its history and the importance of the events that took place there are good reasons to visit it.
For 300 years the coronations of the Hungarian kings were held in the Cathedral. Coronations such as that of Leopold I of Habsburg or Maria Teresa I of Asturias occurred in this place. In fact, the cathedral is placed where the royal road ends. Nowadays, you can still find the road throughout the city of Bratislava (look for the golden crown plates on the ground of the streets).
In addition, the Cathedral was built on an old cemetery, so below the church there are catacombs with crypts of great ecclesiastical personalities that can be accessed.
Both the interior and the exterior of the Cathedral are very beautiful to see. In its Gothic-style facade, its 85 m high tower stands out, ending with a golden crown (weighs more than 300 kg) instead of a cross, a symbol coronations that took place there. Inside we can find gothic stained glass windows, large altars, various statues and the chapel with the remains of “Juan el Limosnero”.
Although the cathedral is very beautiful, compared to other cathedrals in Europe, it is far behind. Therefore, do not visit it with expectations placed on its architecture but for the history and relevance of its events.
You can enter for free every day. However, make sure to check the timetable on their website.
4. What to see in Bratislava: Hlavne Namestie Square.
Hlavne Namestie Square is one of the main squares in Bratislava. Located in the old town, it is informally known as the city center.
The square Hlavne Namestie is a meeting place for locals and tourists which gives it a nice lively atmosphere. It is surrounded by embassies, restaurants, cafes and shops where you can buy all kind of souvenirs. At the center of the Hlavne Namestie square is the Maximilian´s fountain, also known as the Rolando fountain. It’s a 16th century fountain with a statue of Maximilian II, governor of the Holy Roman Empire. According to the legend, the figure moves at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
It is usual for different types of shows to be organized in the square, such as plays, music concerts, gastronomic festivals and at Christmas a picturesque market.
As I mentioned before, if you are going to visit Bratislava in one day, it is convenient to start at Hlavne Namestie Square as it is the heart of the old town.
5. What to see in Bratislava: The old town hall.
The old town hall (Stara Radnica) is located in one of the corners of Hlavne Namestie Square. This 14th century building is very beautiful and very well preserved. Although it does not stand out for its architecture, it is easy to recognize when you see its cream-colored facade, the green roof and its clock tower.
The town hall is made up of the combination of three buildings like the one in Prague. The section where the clock tower is located is the oldest, and although at first it was thought have been a church, actually its function was for defense.
Two details of the tower can be seen easily notices. First, the cannonball embedded in the wall next to the Gothic window, a memento of the Napoleonic wars. Second, the mark that reached the Danube water in the flood of the year 1850.
You can climb the 45 meters high tower to appreciate a very nice view of the square, the old town, and even the Bratislava Castle next to the tower of the St. Martin Cathedral.
Also, there is the possibility of entering the charming inner courtyard of the old town hall, with its long galleries and pronounced arcades, where the entrance to the Bratislava History Museum is located. It opens every day except for Mondays. Admission is € 5 for adults and € 2.50 for children and retirees.
6. What to see in Bratislava: Statues of the city. The typical thing to do in Bratislava in one day.
If there is something iconic about the city, they are its statues and sculptures. We can have fun on our day trip to Bratislava discovering the different statuettes throughout our tour.
I am going to detail the most iconic and must-see statues in Bratislava:
Rubberneck: Also called Cumil is probably one of the best known Bratislava statues. It is the figure of a man emerging from a sewer just at the corner of Panská and Sedlarská streets. Since the poor man has lost his head twice to reckless drivers, authorities have placed aside the “Man at work” traffic sign.
Resting Soldier: We will find a very friendly Napoleonic soldier (some believe it is Napoleon himself) leaning on the only bench in the Hlavne Namestie square.
Guard Soldier: It is a soldier formed inside his sentry box guarding. Supposedly he was the former market guard of the Main Square Hlavne Namestie.
Schöne Náci: It is the statue of a particular character of Bratislava named Ignacio Lamar, born in 1897. They say that this man wore his best tailcoat to walk around the city and greeted the ladies with a huge smile while taking off his hat. The statue is located on Rybarska Bran Street just as it reaches Hlavne Namestie Square.
Hans Christian Andersen: It is the statue of the famous Danish writer (author of the fables “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Mermaid”) along with some of its characters. It is located in the Hviezdoslavovo námestie square near the SNP bridge.
Paparazzi: It is a particular statue representing a Paparazzi. The statue leans against the wall, pretending to take a photograph of someone famous at the old Paparazzi café. Formerly the statue was located on the corner of Laurinská and Radnicná streets but since the café closed, they moved the statue and sent it to the UFO tower in Bratislava.
7. What to see in Bratislava: The Gate and the Bridge of Saint Michael.
At the beginning of Michelaská street (Miguel street) there is a small bridge that passes over a false moat. The bridge is called San Miguel and there are two sculptures on it, the statue of San Juan and the statue of San Miguel.
At the end of the bridge you pass through the Puerta de San Miguel, one of the four access doors to the city that existed in ancient times. The gate is from the 14th century, at that time there was a medieval wall that surrounded the city.
The door, which is actually an arcade with a 51 m high tower above, was initially built in the Gothic style. However, after several reconstructions, it was given the baroque appearance that we see today. Including the statue of Archangel Michael was added to the ceiling.
Currently inside the tower there is a museum about medieval weapons that can be visited. You can even climb to the top of the tower to have a good views of the old town.
An interesting fact, when passing through the St. Michael’s Gate we will see on the ground the kilometer zero of Slovakia. From this point the distances to other capitals of the world are measured.
8. What to see in Bratislava: Hviezdoslavovo námestie Square.
It is a very nice square surrounded by beautiful buildings, bars and cafes. Unlike the Plaza Mayor, the Hviezdoslavovo square is much larger and elongated. It is located south of the old town and almost reaches the new bridge. It is named in commemoration of one of the best-known Slovak poets, Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav. A large statue of the poet can be seen in the same plaza located in front of the United States Embassy.
In addition to the statues of Pavol Hviezdoslav and Hans Christian Andersen, at the end of the square you can also find the plague column of the Holy Trinity. The column was built between the years 1712 and 1713 as a symbol of the end of the black plague epidemic.
At one of the corners of the square you will find the building of the Slovak National Theater, a Neo-Renaissance style building from the end of the 19th century where you can enjoy great opera, ballet and theater shows. On its facade you can see depicted busts of Shakespeare, Goethe and Mozart.
Surely in you tour of Bratislava in one day you will pass through this square and if not, you should include it on you agenda. It is also very nice to come back at night as the atmosphere and life of the square becomes even more festive.
9. What to see in Bratislava: The New Bridge and its Tower (UFO restaurant).
The New Bridge is the most famous bridge in Bratislava. It was built in the 1970s during when the communist ruled. The bridge crosses the Danube river from the and connects the old town with the Petrzalka neighborhood.
The peculiarity of this bridge is that in one of its ends it has a 95 m high tower and at the top there is a structure that resembles a UFO where there is a restaurant named UFO.
You can climb its 430 steps to the top or use the elevator (€ 7.50 value). Upstairs you can eat at the restaurant although the prices are not cheap compared to the ones you usually find in Bratislava (although the value of the elevator is discounted from the total). But the best is the view that can be seen of Bratislava from its viewpoint.
10. What to see in Bratislava: The Blue Church.
The blue church is located on the outskirts of the old town but not far away, only about a 10 minute walk. The truth is that the blue church is actually called the Modernist Church of Saint Elizabeth (Kostol svätej Alžbety), a princess from the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Elizabeth’s husband prohibited her from giving food to the poor. One day when Isabel was on her way to sneak food, her husband found her on the street, but miraculously the food turned into roses.
The peculiarity of this church is that it is painted in different shades of blue. It was built between 1909-1913 by the Hungarian architect Ödön Lechner, known as the ‘Hungarian Gaudí’. The style of the church is Art Nouveau, more specifically it is the Hungarian Secessionist Modernism style.
The interior is small. but very nice and cozy. Even the wooden benches are painted light blue, although white predominates on the walls with some inscriptions written in gold.
Although Bratislava can be visited in one day, below are other activities to do if you have more time.
11. Devín Castle in Bratislava (Slovakia).
Devín Castle is an ancient castle located on top of a 212 m high hill, right at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers. Historians found in this place traces of settlements since prehistory. First Celts, then the Romans and finally Slavs lived in this area.
During the 13th century, the Devín Castle was built initially as a fortress to protect the borders of the Kingdom of Hungary. After some time, in the 15th century, a palace was added to the castle, and its fortifications were reinforced during the wars against the Ottoman Empire. However, in 1809, the Napoleonic Wars destroyed completely the Castle.
Nowaday, part of the Castle was rebuilt and a Museum was opened there. In addition, you can also see the ruins of the Castle, the walls and where the church and Roman buildings were located. However, the best of the Castle is the view from the top, being able to walk outdoors and enjoy the tranquility of the place.
It is not difficult to get to the castle, it is only 15 km from the center of Bratislava. It can be reached by bus, boat, walking or by bicycle. The bus that goes to Devín Castle is the number 29, and you can get on the new Bridge. The boats depart twice a day from a special port also near the Bridge. Another option is to trek for about 2 hours or even arrive by bicycle, the route is beautiful.
12. The inverted pyramid.
The inverted pyramid is the headquarters of the Slovak public radio and one of the most famous buildings that you must see in Bratislava. It is located relatively close to the center, a 10-minute walk north of the old town, on 2826 Mýtna Street.
As its name indicates, the building is a great pyramid turned upside down. The architectural style is called brutalism although in Slovakia it is called technicality. Construction began in 1968 but was not completed until 1983, and the first transmission from the pyramid occurred in 1985.
Inside there is another inverted pyramid, “the inner pyramid”. In this smaller one there is studio, the sound recordings room, the archives and the library. Even more, in this particular building there is a concert hall suspended by large pillars with an incredible acoustic. So much so that the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra recorded their records there.
In 2001 The pyramid building become the 20th Century Construction in Slovakia. However, the British newspaper The Telegraph also included it in the list of the ugliest buildings in the world.
Take a day excursion to Vienna or Budapest.
it could be a good option to stay in Bratislava more than a day and explore other close cities (This is recommended given that Bratislava is a much cheaper city). For example, you can do a day trip to Vienna from Bratislava, it is only a distance of 60 kilometers or 1 hour by train.
The article what to see in Vienna may help you with the day trip organization.
And if you already know Vienna, you can also take a train that, in approximately 2 hours takes you to Budapest.
You can also read this article to know what to see in Budapest and what activities can be done.
Where to stay in Bratislava?
Bratislava is a relatively easy city to look for good accommodation. Slovakia itself is a cheap country in comparison with other countries in Europe. Also Bratislava isn´t a large city, so there are many well-located and affordable options.
The Staré Mesto neighborhood is the old town of the city. Here there are the most of the tourist attractions of Bratislava. So, staying in this area of the city is perfect to be close to everything. It also has all kinds of entertainment bars, restaurants, clubs, shops, etc.
The offer of accommodation in this area is abundant which also offers a wide range of prices to fit all budgets. However, this is one of the most expensive areas of the city. Perhaps, you can get better prices by resigning just a little location score.
On the way to Nové Mesto.
Another recommended neighborhood to stay in Bratislava is on the way to Nové Mesto or New Town. This area is located northeast of the old town, along Hodžovo námestie and Špitálska avenues.
In this neighborhood, a few minutes walk from the center, there are also plenty of accommodation options. In addition, the area is also full of bars, restaurants and shops at slightly cheaper prices. Also, the buses and tram passes through the avenues connecting the area with the city center.
During my last visit to Bratislava I chose to stay in this area at Patio Hostel. Certanly, one of the best hostel in Bratislava, modern, clean and good atmosphere, very close to the center.
In the New Town neighborhood, you will find good, modern, nice accommodation and even apartments at a good price.
As for the distance, Nové mesto is located a bit far from the center, approximately 3km. However, it is a fully walkable distance, about 40 minutes on foot. Although, the tram, bus and train also connect very well this area with the city center.
I hope I was able to answer your questions is it worth visiting Bratislava? In my opinion yes, it is worth visiting Bratislava. However, as I anticipated, Bratislava is a city that can be seen in a day or two. Of course, if you want to stay longer and be calmer, it is totally acceptable. Just go and enjoy this beautiful city.