This is a Bratislava first-timer’s guide by locals. After a year of living in this beautiful cultural city, we want to give you the ultimate travel guide on the best places to see in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. It’s a fast-evolving beacon of Central Europe with a lot of punch for a small city!
It’s the only capital city in the world that borders two countries (Austria and Hungary). It’s abundant in forests with 47 square kilometres of green space per inhabitant and the Danube River runs through its city centre and old town.
Bratislava is easily accessible from Vienna for the day. The journey time is just one hour and there are lots of regular trains, buses and even ferries to bring you here.
There are no affiliated links in our articles, these are purely our own recommendations and any links are just there to help you!
A short history of Bratislava – When was Bratislava founded?
Bratislava started as a Neolithic settlement who were expert potters, then the Slavs arrived in the 5th and 6th centuries. It was the legislative centre of The Kingdom of Hungary where it was called Pressburg during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Finally it became the capital of the Slovak Republic under various communist regimes (Czechoslovakia). In 1993 it officially became what it is today – the capital of Slovakia after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
Helpful tips before arriving in Bratislava
Bratislava Currency: Does Bratislava use the Euro? Yes!!
Bratislava Language: Slovak (English is widely spoken in the capital)
Cash or Card? Bring some cash but most places take card and even Bitcoin!
Bratislava Population: 424,428 (2016)
How much does food and drink cost in Bratislava? It really does vary, cheap food can be found easily or you can go fine dining. You can get food for less than 10 EUR in pubs and average restaurants. Beer price ranges from 1 to 3 EUR, a glass of wine can cost you from 1.90 to 10 EUR, cocktails are usually around 5-9 EUR.
Bratislava first-timer’s guide to getting around + where is Bratislava?
As a small city, it’s very easy to navigate, even for Bratislava first-timers and day-trippers! A popular route is from Vienna (one hour away) to Budapest (two and a half hours away) or vice versa. Bratislava offers another capital city to explore on your journey.
Train – Does Bratislava Have a Metro?
The most convenient train station is Bratislava Hlavná Stanica (Bratislava Hl St) which is centrally based. It’s a fifteen-minute walk from the historical old town. There are lots of buses and trams outside that will take you to the city centre.
There’s no metro system in Bratislava but the trams and buses are very regular and on time.
There are yellow machines at every bus/tram stop and inside the main train station. They mostly just take cash but the ones inside the station take card.
You buy a timed ticket – 15 minutes will suffice as it’s a small city centre and stamp it on the machines inside the bus to validate. There are conductors like ninjas waiting to pounce so please be ticketed at all times just in case!
Buses to the city centre – no. 80, 91, 93
Local bus and tram ticket prices:
15 Minutes – 0.70
90 Minutes – 0.90
24 Hours – 3.50
Hoopla Tip: On the yellow machines at the bus stop you need to PRESS the button FIRST then put in your money and it does give you change.
Most likely you will use Slovak Lines, Flixbus or Regiojet to get here by bus. They will all take you to the main bus station, but if you’re staying in the historical town centre or just in Bratislava for the day then we suggest you get off at the UFO Bridge. You can’t miss it!
The main bus station at the time of writing this is still in the midst of construction. It’s a little out of the way and local buses into town are situated about a five-minute walk from the main station.
Main bus station – AS Mlynské Nivy/Autobusová stanica
Historical City Centre – Most SNP (UFO Bridge)
Most SNP is the most (see what we did there?!) central bus station and there are lots of local buses from here that will take you all over the city. Walk for 30 seconds and you’re in the city centre!
Hoopla Tip: Regiojet are our favourite, they stop at Vienna Airport just 45 mins from Bratislava, they have TV’s on each seat for entertainment AND they give you a free hot drink!
Bratislava Airport – Does Bratislava Have an Airport?
Bratislava also has an airport which is officially named M. R. Štefánik Airport. It’s really modern and you can take international flights from here, and flying from here has always been super easy and stress-free for us!
Who flies to Bratislava? You’ll find flights with Ryanair, Wizz Air, flydubai, Air Cairo, Cyprus Airways and Pobeda.
The airport is very close to the city. To get to the city centre we recommend the airport bus.
61 – Goes to the city centre with its final stop being the main train station. From here get a quick bus into the city centre or walk.
96 – Goes to Petržalka, Prokofievova (a large borough over the Danube River).
Hoopla Tip: Just one stop from the airport on the bus is Avion Shopping Centre and a host of hotels!
Taxis – Does Bratislava Have Uber?
Bratislava is a very walkable city but for those that need extra support or if you want to forego the bus from the airport download Uber, Bolt or HopIn Taxi to your phone for the best prices.
Hailing a taxi on the street will incur massive prices, so if you’re savvy download these apps.
Bratislava first-timer’s guide – One Day Itinerary
Fortunately being a small city, it’s easy to get around in a day and still experience a little Slovak culture. This is where to go and what to see in Bratislava if you have just one day.
Start your Bratislava sightseeing in Stare Mesto. The historical city is small but there are some major sights to factor in when visiting the old town Bratislava. It boggles our minds why people think there’s not much to do here, there are plenty of Bratislava attractions with all its museums, galleries, Soviet-era architecture, parks, lakes and even hikes!
St Martin’s Cathedral & Michael’s Gate
The gate is the only preserved gate of the city from the 14th-century fortifications. You can climb up 51 metres for a view of the old town. The cathedral is just around the corner, so super easy to go to both in quick succession.
Walk along the Kapitulska Street – one of the oldest streets in the city and go inside the cathedral and look around. Gothic in style, this active church’s tower is a symbol of old Bratislava and visible from many viewpoints across the city.
Address: Michalská ulica 22 806/24, 811 03 Bratislava
You can’t miss this regal bad boy. It sits proudly on high, above the Danube River with a view across the city. Make your way up the hill through gorgeous side streets and a park to get to Bratislava Castle.
Nobody lives inside Bratislava Castle! There’s exhibition space inside and a museum, and beautiful grandiose gardens that are free to walk around. Also, the perfect spot to take in the views across the river and spot the UFO.
On the first Sunday of every month, the castle is free to enter. Just get a ticket from the ticket office outside and go in.
The museum is open 9 am – 6 pm and closed on Mondays.
Tickets – 10 € for an adult, 4 € for seniors/students
Address: 811 06 Bratislava
Bratislava first-timer’s guide to lunch spots and cafes
Walk back down into the historical city centre and there are a host of cafes and restaurants, we have an extensive guide of Bratislava’s BEST coffee shops in a previous post.
Tourists and locals alike love Urban House, it does globally inspired food and pizzas plus it’s a great working space. Orbis Street Food is also nearby, come here for take-out wraps, Paninis and fries – it always has a queue for a reason and you won’t be disappointed!
Bratislava first-timer’s guide to the BEST gelato!
We’ll give you not just one but TWO options for the best ice cream in the city because it’s always good to have a choice!
You’ll find Luculus on Hviezdoslavovom námestí which is one of two main squares in the old town next to the UFO Bridge. This family-run business has been here since 1954, and with 170 rotating flavours, there’s always plenty of choices!
Meanwhile, not far from this square you’ll find Koun (pronounced cone) on Paulínyho. This place is more contemporary and its owner Barbara Szalai went to a gelato school in Italy, her shop has also been ranked as one of the best in Europe plus the vegan options are really inventive!
Hoopla Tip: On your way from Hviezdoslavovom námestí don’t miss the hilarious Man At Work statue in his manhole.
Bratislava first-timer’s guide to sightseeing – Hlavné Námestie (Main Square)
The main square is easy to locate, as it’s a small city centre. The Old Town is made up of Baroque buildings with lots of cafes, bars, eateries, shops and galleries/museums. In the middle just before Primate’s Palace is Hlavné Námestie.
During the run-up to Christmas, the markets are located here and throughout the year you’ll find a smaller permanent market. All year round there are food festivals and live performances held here too.
The famed Roland Fountain is here alongside the Old Town Hall, which also has an impressive city history museum and a gorgeous old tower to climb up if you want more city views.
Just off to the side of the square, you’ll find The Oldest Shop in Bratislava which is worth a visit. There’s a family-run honey shop and an amazing cheap Vintage clothes shop if you’ve got space in your luggage.
Address: Hlavné námestie, 811 01 Staré Mesto
Museum of Viticulture – National Collection of Wines (Slovak Republic)
One thing that seems to surprise people is the variety and quality of Slovak wine, it’s fantastic and such great value for your money!
Located inside the Museum of Viticulture is a cellar with 100 award-winning wines from Slovakia. You can turn up or pre-book a wine tasting. These can be guided by a professional sommelier OR you can try 72 wines in 100 minutes making your way through the various grape varieties.
We’ve yet to try the latter option but we know it will be a good day! If you try one wine (aside from their famous fruit wine) go for a Frankovka Modra. This is a rich red wine, packed with stone fruit flavours and it’s something unique.
Address: Pražská 15, 811 04, Bratislava
Primate’s Palace (The Pink Palace)
Located in the middle of the old town, this 1778 neoclassical palace is pink perfection. Famed for its tapestries, paintings of Hungarian rulers, a statue of St George and the exquisite Hall of Mirrors.
Primate’s Palace is just behind Hlavné námestie, you can’t miss it. For free you can go inside its beautiful courtyard where there is a cafe and statues.
Open 10 am – 5 pm and closed on Mondays
Tickets: 3 € per person
Address: Primaciálne námestie 2
811 01 Bratislava
Nedbalka Art Museum
We would refer to this as the Guggenheim of Slovakia! Nedbalka has an internal design feature much like the gallery in New York and it’s dedicated to works by Slovak artists.
Over four floors you will discover Slovak Modernism and the history of painting and sculpture in Slovakia. You really get a sense of what it was to live through wars and communism.
Open: daily except Mondays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Tickets: Adult – 4€ (ticket price includes coffee or tea at the gallery cafe), Concession – 1-2€
The Blue Church
Hidden just outside of the old town, is the Church of St Elisabeth or ‘Blue Church’. Its marshmallow-Esque, art nouveau appearance is striking.
It is, in fact, a Hungarian Secessionist Catholic church and inside is even prettier. It’s an active church so please check before you enter – don’t interrupt a wedding!
Address: Bezručova 2
No admission fee
Eurovea Shopping Centre on the Danube River
A shopping centre might be an odd place to direct visitors to but this is a beautiful feat of modern architecture, and it’s close to the Blue Church.
We would say shopping is a lot easier in Bratislava’s swanky shopping centres than going to Vienna. It’s not just the shops though, at Eurovea there are delightful circus-themed statues by an English sculptor Colin Spofforth at every turn. It also brings you out to the waterfront along the Danube.
All year round you’ll find markets and events set up here – even an ice rink in the winter! Sit on the grassy banks of the Danube or go to the many bars and restaurants, (there’s even a Wagamama) and soak in the views across the river.
Address: Pribinova 8
Open – 10-9pm (bars later)
Bratislava first-timer’s guide to Slovak food
If you want to try a bit of everything Flagship is the place to go. It’s cheap and dare we say it…touristy! However, the food is decent and it’s a fantastic place to try Slovak food.
Within walking distance of Eurovea, back in the old town near SNP Namestie, it’s easy to get to and in the summer we recommend eating al fresco, but do check out the microbrewery inside!
A great idea is to go for the platter selections and try halusky (gnocchi in sheep’s cheese), pierogi dumplings and cabbage (sauerkraut) with ham. The garlic soup with cheese in a bread bowl is also divine!
Bratislava Flag Ship Restaurant, Námestie SNP č. 8, 811 02 Bratislava
Bratislava first-timer’s guide to nightlife in the city – SNP Namestie
If you don’t have to rush back then stay in the SNP Namestie area for drinks and enjoy the Bratislava nightlife!
We often get asked does Bratislava have a good nightlife? We say yes if you avoid the tourist traps in the old town.
To fit in with the locals go to Stara Trznica and sit in the square with all the bunting. From here grab your drinks in family-run Pivovar Shenk – their beer is unfiltered and unpasteurised, and especially lovely!
Next door is Dunaj, a very cheap artisans bar and behind that there is KC Dunaj a hipster nightclub which is an old communist shopping mall with alternative music nights.
Ever wanted to drink in a former underground public toilet? Well, you’re in luck! Check out Steinplatz bar for cheap beers and wine and also take time to check out the surrounding street art and Hotel Kyjev art installation.
Bratislava first-timer’s guide – Day Two Itinerary
For those with more time, this a second day’s worth of city sightseeing in Bratislava. For an alternative guide to using the Bratislava City Card, we also have a three-day itinerary!
Brunch in Bratislava
We take brunch very seriously and it’s something that’s slowly taking hold here, so on day two in Bratislava start the day right!
Our favourite Pan Cakes serves up crepe style pancakes (palacinky) properly packed with both savoury and sweet options, like camembert, cranberry, rocket and honey mustard or Nutella and dark fruits. They also have alternative breakfast choices and can do everything gluten-free. Don’t miss their homemade ice lollies or iced coffees made with ice cream.
The prices are also amazingly cheap (€1.60 for a pancake) making this the perfect all-round brunch stop!
New contender every second Saturday is Makan Indonesian who do a €10 brunch with an Indonesian flair plus prosecco and juice (August 2019 – please check before booking). Stara Trznica also has a huge market every Saturday with local food stalls and coffee roasters. Meanwhile, a fry up or eggs benny can be found in Urban Bistro.
Although a palace, it is in fact the Bratislava City Art Centre.
Owned by the Palffy family, several of whom worked for the Habsburg Monarchy, this impressive house in the old town city centre hosts several expositions with paintings by the Dutch, Flemish and Italian Masters.
Most notable is the contemporary installation by Matej Krén, consisting of almost 15,000 books, which, together with mirrors, create an illusion of endless space and infinity of human knowledge.
The Villa of Mysteries is also something you don’t want to miss! We won’t give away the surprise inside but it’s not for anyone offended by a bit of nakedness!
Address: Panská 19 81101 Bratislava
Open: 11 – 6pm (Closed Mondays)
Adults: 3,50 €
Walk to see the Presidential Palace (by Obchodna Street), Freedom Square and Slovak Radio Building
Then walk up and behind the street to see the Presidential Palace – at certain times of the day, you can see the changing of the guard from here.
Next head to the right to get to Námestie slobody (Freedom Square), which houses a park, the Presidential gardens, university buildings and the biggest fountain in Slovakia!
Fontána Družby was built in 1979 and it even has a tunnel and machine room underneath the base of it for secret activities we presume, although it’s out of order now.
From here head up to the Slovak Radio Building, a striking piece of communist-era architecture. It’s an upside-down pyramid that now hosts shows and performances.
Blumental Church and Medical Gardens
The gardens are another beautiful spot with interesting communist-era sculptures and fountains. Hidden away at the top there’s a cafe in a rather cute cottage with a quintessentially English charm serving food and drinks!
Slavin Memorial and Horsky Park
After a refuelling session look for the 212 bus to SAV and cross the bridge to the other side and climb the hill to Horsky Park.
At the top of the hill go to FUNUS bar, it’s an old pub that’s survived from communist times and it’s interesting because it was were famous actors, the wealthy and the working classes all got together in troubled times.
Further up don’t miss the outdoor exhibition which is dedicated to Slovak abstract art and look at the plaque to see a famous composer who once played here – none other than Mozart!
Then you can take the path to the Slavin Memorial. This war memorial and military cemetery of almost 7000 WWII Soviet soldiers who fell liberating the city in 1945, sits on a hill behind Bratislava Castle with views across the city.
UFO and Sad Janka Kra’la Park
Bratislava’s most peculiar stop on the sightseeing roster is the UFO, a bar/restaurant and observation deck on the SNP Bridge. It was a symbol of communist oppression but has been transformed into what it is today.
A short walk over the bridge on the footpath next to St Martin’s Cathedral will bring you here. Get here from Horsky Park on the 203 or 207 at Budkova and get off at Bratislava Castle.
Inside is a fine dining restaurant which has the best view on the Danube. For adrenaline junkies, you can also opt to do a skywalk around the UFO.
Afterwards, you can head to neighbouring Sad Janka Krala, which is actually the oldest public park in Central Europe, set up in 1774.
Here there are interesting statues and monuments and in the summer you can enjoy Magio Beach – a man-made beach on the Danube River with bars, eateries and an outdoor cinema in the evening!
Address: Most SNP Bridge
Where to Eat and Drink in Bratislava (Including Hidden Cocktail Bars!)
Family-run Jasmin offers 5-star food and again it’s not very expensive and the helpings are huge but also beautifully presented. The skill that goes into making dishes such as their selection of dim sum, kimchi, ramen, hotpots and fried tofu is astounding.
Locally sourced food with inventive takes on traditional fare can be found at U Kubistu near the Blue Church. They do especially good socca bread with hummus and homemade lemonades, plus the best local Slovak wine.
If you want to fit in with the locals and the ex-pat community head to Kafe Scherz on Palisady (behind the castle) where there is so much entertainment to be found in live gigs, comedy nights and exhibitions.
For a cracking craft beer go to the city centre and try Žil Verne for its huge selection of craft beers, we recommend their IPA “Vynález skazy” (Invention of doom) or hit up one of their beer tastings!
Finally, explore Bratislava’s hidden cocktail bar scene! There are actually a few hidden bars, in true prohibition style, you’ll find them underground, through the doors of a wardrobe and behind curtains! Our favourite top-secret spots are Michalska above Urban Bistro and Old Fashioned on Laurinska Street.
Bratislava first-timer’s guide to easy day trips
If we’ve inspired a longer stay in Slovakia’s capital city, this is our guide to more things to do in Bratislava!
Koliba and Kamzik TV Tower
Kamzik marks the beginning of the Little Carpathians which are a low mountain range around 100km long. Perfect for hiking, cycling and cross country skiing or leisurely picnics. The TV Tower has a rotating restaurant and cafe to observe the view which you can enter for free.
Hoopla Tip: At weekends there are buses which bring you here (Bus no 203 or 44 then on to the 144). If you go on a weekday you need to walk ten minutes uphill from the 203/44 bus stop.
In terms of Bratislava things to do, this is a must if you’ve got the time!
If you follow the Danube, you’ll get to Devin village, a quaint borough of the city, with vineyards and a castle that sits on a high crag next to the river. Until 1989 the line of the Iron Curtain was drawn along this point, with settlements recorded here for centuries.
Devin Castle stands as a ruin destroyed by Napoleonic troops, with rotating art exhibitions and a view across to Austria. A stunning view and don’t miss the hot mulled wine in winter just before the entrance of the castle or wine garden in the summer.
Open all year but times are seasonally variable as is the price.
For a true insight into life here then head into this district of the city over the Danube River. Walk the streets and marvel at the unique designs and colours of Petržalka high rise apartments, reminiscent of the famous birdcage apartments in Hong Kong.
This communist era residential area is now a colourful and creative hub and it’s the most densely populated residential area in Central Europe.
Markets like Miletičova are a relic of a Bratislava before fancy shopping centres, hipster cafés and Tesco (albeit good for our Marmite & Irn Bru supplies).
With hundreds of permanent stalls, you’ll find fruit and veg vendors, butchers, florists, bakers, street food and wooden shack bars with cheap beer…hoorah!
You’ll also find THE BEST place for Vietnamese food and a bowl of steamy Phô from family-run Phong Nam, which we included in our article on the city’s best foodie spots!
As well as plenty of cheap, fresh produce there are pubs with outdoor seating and beer for under a euro!
Does Bratislava have a beach? Bratislava may not have a coastline, but it does have several easily accessible lakes.
Translated as ‘golden sands’, this lake is one of the most popular lakes to go to in the city.
For a small fee of €4, you can spend all day here, pay to paddleboard, rent a boat, do water sports or just chill beachside with a few beers or cocktails from the cocktail bar behind the disused flume.
It does get busy at the weekend but what’s better than a swim in the lake to cool off in the summer sun?!
Grab your aqua shoes and dive in!
Getting here: The quickest way is to get the No 4 tram from the city centre towards Zlate Piesky and it’s the last stop!
Bratislava Region Wine Tour – Modra/Pezinok
The Modra wine region is famous across Slovakia and staying in nearby Bratislava means it’s easy to organise a tour here or go solo and book into the wine cellars.
There are local buses and trains to get to these two towns and they run all day. Pezinok has wine events throughout the year and vineyard open days, it also has a wine museum which is super interesting.
Modra is another beautiful town and there are companies like Get Your Guide who offer plenty of wine tours and wine tasting experiences.
Danubiana Art Museum
On the outskirts of the city is an island art museum on the Danube River. With modern art and a garden of sculptures, Danubiana is a uniquely placed gallery of wonders. A number 90 bus from Eurovea Shopping Centre will take you straight to the door.
Open: 10 – 6pm
Price: €10 Adults
Address: Vodné dielo Slovensko, 851 10 Bratislava-Čunovo
Bratislava first-timer’s guide: Where to stay in Bratislava
We haven’t stayed as tourists in the city but from friends and family that have visited, we have done our research on Bratislava accommodation.
Patio Hostel is central and close to Kamenné Namestie a square with a huge Tesco and lots of food stalls. The hostel itself has a bar with fun quiz nights and other events, and it’s a good cheap option.
We would use booking.com to find Bratislava hotels and because it’s a day-tripper city so there tends to be reasonably priced rooms available. The apartments in Bratislava are modern and comfortable with lots of options on Air BnB.
There are five districts and we recommend staying in the Old Town (Stare Mesto) to be close to the Bratislava tourism scene.
Bratislava first-timer’s guide: Useful Slovak phrases
You can get by on English but we guarantee you will get a nicer reception trying some Slovak.
Hello – Dobry Den (Do-bree den)
Goodbye – Dovidenia (dough vee den ya)
Please -Prosim (pro-seem)
Thank you – Ďakujem (d-yackwee-em)
Ordering a coffee – Prosim si na kava or just ‘prosim si + whatever you’re ordering’
Bill, please – Zaplatim Prosim (za pla teem, pro seem)
A glass of water, please – Prosim si pohar vody
Water – Voda
Tea – Caj (chai)
Beer – pivo
Wine – vino
Bratislava first-timer’s guide: Best time to visit
When to visit Bratislava is a good question! There are lots of Christmas markets in Bratislava from November to December, with ice rinks and local delicacies which you can read about here. Summer in Bratislava is also a fantastic option as you can hike, visit its many lakes, enjoy the many cafes and bars outside. Autumn offers lots of festivities including the wine harvest, Coronation festival and food festivals.
Bratislava first-timer’s guide: In conclusion is it worth the trip?
We hope we’ve changed your mind about Bratislava not having much to offer, it’s a fantastic, historically rich city with a lot of modern innovation and independent businesses. We’re sure it will soon become a tourist hotspot and its the perfect gateway to explore Slovakia!
We hope you enjoyed our Bratislava first-timer’s guide to the city! For more information on any of the above and a map to Bratislava, check out Visit Bratislava and leave us a comment if this guide was useful to you.