When we went to Vienna for a week, we knew we would spend at least an afternoon in Bratislava. Slovakia’s capital and largest city is less than an hour away from Vienna. Since we needed to add another country to our ever-growing list of countries, we decided to visit it. You know how these things go.
But we must say that an afternoon in Bratislava wasn’t enough to see everything we wanted. The city may be small, but a lot is happening between the cobblestone streets of Old Town. At least, we saw a lot in those hours in Bratislava.
Below, you can see what we did in an afternoon in Bratislava.
But, first things first, what is the deal with Bratislava?
Bratislava is the largest city in Slovakia, and since 1993, it’s also the country’s capital. It has a population of a little over 400 thousand people, and you may ask yourself where those people are once you wander through the streets outside the city center. The city sometimes feels a little empty. We are unsure if it was the summer day, but this is how we felt.
The currency there has been the Euro since 2009, and we thought it would be a really cheap city to visit, but we were wrong. We are not saying it was expensive, but we were expecting Bratislava to be more affordable than it was. Something we learned while there.
Something else we learned there is that the Slovak language is everywhere, and it seems they don’t care much if you don’t understand it.
We didn’t have any issues with that. Still, we decided to avoid any museum after we couldn’t find anything at the Bratislava Castle that was written in anything other than Slovak. If we need to complain about anything, it is the lack of support for people who don’t get the Slovak language. But we had fun either way.
Five Things to Do in Bratislava in an Afternoon
The sightseeings below are mentioned in the order that we visited them. If you want to see Bratislava like we did, add the places below to Google Maps and walk from one to the other. Bratislava seems like it was made as a walking city, and you are going to see that while walking everywhere.
So, let’s tell you what you should see in Bratislava.
Michael’s Gate, Michalská brána, is the only city gate preserved from medieval Bratislava. It was built around 1300, and its present shape comes from the baroque reconstructions it underwent in 1758. It used to be the way to enter the city from the north, and it got its name from the St. Michael church that used to stand in front of it.
Nowadays, Michaels’ Gate is surrounded by luxury shops and restaurants. But inside, everything is a little different since it shows the history of this medieval fortification. You should go to the 6th floor for a beautiful view of the surrounding areas.
The tower looks displaced when you think about the shops around it. But, if you ignore that, you can close your eyes and imagine how Bratislava looked like a few hundred years ago.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
St. Martin’s Cathedral, also known as Katedrála svätého Martina, is one of Bratislava’s largest and oldest churches. The place is known for being the coronation church of the King of Hungary between 1563 and 1830, when Bratislava belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary. This was a long time ago, and this is how old this church is.
Together with the Bratislava Castle nearby, the church dominates the skyline of Old Bratislava.
Inside the church, you can see the gold-plated replica of the Crown of St. Stephen with more than 8 kilos of gold and the Chapel to St. John the Merciful, whose remains are at the church. Outside the church, you can see some picturesque remains of old buildings in the courtyard and the beautiful small cobblestone streets.
Today, St. Martin’s Cathedral is in a weird state of deterioration caused by the vibrations from the heavy traffic of the nearby Nový Most bridge. Restoration efforts began in 1998, and since it is a national cultural monument, we don’t think it will end soon.
After climbing many stairs up a hill, we managed to find our way onto the Bratislavský hrad. The Bratislava Castle is the main castle of Bratislava and the dominant feature of the city for centuries.
From the top of the hill, you can have a beautiful view of Bratislava, Slovakia, Austria, Nový Most bridge, the Danube, and, on clear days, parts of Hungary.
Since the castle looked like it was still under reconstruction and nobody wanted to talk to us in English there, we didn’t go inside the Bratislava Castle to see the Slovak National Museum, so we could not say anything about what was inside. Sorry about that.
But you can see it from your fantastic view of Bratislava Castle. Just that view makes the act of climbing up that hill worth it.
Slavín is a Soviet Memorial situated on a hill in a part of Bratislava surrounded by beautiful houses where almost 7 thousand soviet soldiers are buried. If this is your kind of thing, you should visit this place.
This memorial and military cemetery in Bratislava was built between 1957 and 1960 to remember the thousands of Soviet Army soldiers who fell during the Second World War while liberating the city from the occupying Nazi German troops.
If you don’t care about Second World War history, you should add this memorial to your list of things to see in Bratislava either way. Most people visit this memorial for the incredible views of the city, and you should do it too.
The Slovak Radio Building
And, now for something weird… Go to the Slovak Radio Building if you want to see something different in Bratislava.
This building is an inverted pyramid that many people consider one of the ugliest buildings in the world. We are unsure where we stand on this, but you can think about that by looking at the pictures below.
The building that hosts the Slovenský Rozhlas, stands 82 meters high and was built from 1967 to 1983; it was projected by Štefan Svetko, Štefan Ďurkovič, and Barnabáš Kissling.
Inside the building, you can see a concert hall with one of the most significant organs in Slovakia. But you have to find a way in, and we couldn’t. Nobody seemed to speak English, and we returned to Old Town without a tour of this weird-looking building.
If you still have time to see something else in Bratislava after all this, we would advise you to just stroll through the center of the city. Bratislava has one of the smallest old towns in Europe, which means all the historical charm is concentrated.
The streets have been renovated during the last 10 years, bringing a new life into the city. There are a lot of bars, cafés, and restaurants there, and we know you will love sitting in one of those and watching people go by.
How to get to Bratislava
We got to Bratislava from Vienna by bus via Slovak Lines, and it cost us something like €8. It takes less than an hour to get from Vienna to Bratislava, and there are buses from Vienna’s Main Train station to Bratislava’s Central Coach Terminal every hour.
After walking in Bratislava, we decided to go back to Vienna differently, so we took the train from Bratislava hlavná stanica to Wien Hauptbahnhof. They run in hourly intervals and are fast and comfortable. We didn’t know that, but if you get the EURegio ticket, you can use all the public transportation you may need in Bratislava for free.
If you want something different, you can go from Vienna to Bratislava by boat! It is a little more expensive than the bus and train, but it might be more fun. We still don’t know why we didn’t do this, but you should! Check the routes and schedules before you go crazy.
Things to Do in Bratislava: Unveiling the Charms of Slovakia’s Capital in a Day
We were in Bratislava in August 2014 for an afternoon, and we needed to go there again to explore the Slovakian capital more.