One Day In Bratislava – An Easy Day Trip From Vienna

Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, is a city full of medieval grandeur. It’s cobblestone streets will have you falling in love with it at first sight. Unlike many other capital cities in Europe, Bratislava is small in comparison, and not the first place people head to when they think of European Cities. But don’t let that fool you. Just because it’s not on the same scale as London or Paris, doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your attention, quite the opposite in fact.

Central Europe has easily become one of my favourite places on earth. Most countries in this area have maintained their old world charm and aren’t as overrun by tourism as some western capitals. Bratislava does get its fair share of tourists, but if you plan right you can have most of the city to yourself!

Bratislava is an easy day trip from Vienna, accessible by several routes, including bus and riverboat. We decided to take a day trip from Vienna to Bratislava by train.

Wondering how to see Bratislava in one day? This 24-hour Bratislava itinerary will take you to the cities must do attractions, historical buildings and picture perfect locations.

Vienna To Bratislava By Train

The main station in Vienna for international journeys is the Haupfbahnof Station. This is the station you’ll be leaving from. Once you arrive, you’ll need to find the nearest ticket kiosks. The ticket machines are available in several languages to make purchasing a ticket easier. There were several options for a train to Bratislava. Two different lines that arrived at different train stations.

Upon getting to the train station, you’ll want to find the nearest ticket booths. They offer several languages to make purchasing a ticket easier. If you need assistant there are many employees in the area you can ask for help. For a return journey to Bratislava there is a special ticket on the machine for just €16. I couldn’t find this on the machine so I asked for assistance.

I couldn’t understand the differences on the ticket machines so asked one of the employees for assistance. The station offers a special ticket price of €16 return for a direct journey to Bratislava’s main train station – Bratislava Hlavnå Stanica.

{While there is another route you can take, the journey time was longer and arrived in a station further out from the city – which may not be ideal if you’re only doing a day trip}

The train times leave at 16 minutes past the hour – every hour, this will take you straight into the main train station at Bratislava. The total journey time takes approximately 1 hour and 7 minutes. The train journey there and back was incredibly easy, and the trains were super comfy and clean.

If a train’s not your style, why not take a boat trip?

Wien Hauptbahnof

Getting From Bratislava Train Station To Old Town

Once you arrive at Bratislava Hlavnå Stanica train station, you’ll head outside to the bus terminal. Your train ticket also includes all bus transport once you arrive in the city. Hop on bus number 93 and in ten minutes and two stops later, you’ll arrive in the beautiful section of Bratislava known as Old Town. The stop you’ll need is Hodžovo námestie. If you’re not sure where to get off – just look for the Presidential Palace!

Since we only had a day in Bratislava, I was ready to get my city-walk on and get things done in a hurry (What can I say, I’m from London) but I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet and how few people there were. It was nice, and I felt like I was in a place I didn’t need to rush or push through crowds (hello New York!)

Once you’ve arrived in the city center, you’re probably wondering what places to see in Bratislava in one day. I put on my tourist boots and hit up some of the cities must do attractions.

The Presidential Palace

Built in 1760, the Grassalkovich Palace was originally the summer residence of Count Anton Grassalkovič. The Palace became a place for socialites to gather, including Empress Maria-Theresa. The palace is guarded by gold and black gates, very similar to that of Buckingham Palace. Sitting in front of the palace is a fountain shaped like the Earth which symbolises freedom.

In 1996 the Palace became the official residence of the Slovakian President. This stunning building is a great introduction to Bratislava. Sitting just behind the palace is what was once the palace gardens, now open the public. Although the Palace itself isn’t open to the public, you can get to experience these open gardens for free.

Presidential Palace - Bratislava

Michael’s Gate

One of the most iconic and easily recognizable structures in Bratislava, Michael’s Gate was built in the 14th century as one of four gates into the city. It is the only city gate to be preserved of the original city fortification. The tower now houses the Exhibition Of Weapons museum as part of the Bratislava City Museum.

Directly under the Tower is a golden circle, showing the distance to several other capital cities.

Michaels Gate will lead you into the one of the main streets in Bratislava. Here you can find several souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.

Price: Entry to the Exhibition of Weapons museum is €4.30

Michael's Gate - Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava Old Town Hall

Upon entering the main square of the city, you’ll probably notice the striking yellow tower in front of you, This is the Bratislava Old Town Hall. Designed in the gothic style, the tower was completed around the year 1370, with the rest of the Town Hall following in 1599. The Old Town Hall is home to the cities oldest museum, The Bratislava City Museum, and features exhibits on torture devices and the history of the city. The museum also features incredible views of the city

The main square is a really nice area to spend a while relaxing and appreciating the Slovakian architecture.

The Maximillian fountain is located in the square, and is a stunning piece of artwork. Unfortunately due to visiting in the slow season, this was covered in scaffolding.

Price: Entry to the Bratislava City Museum is €5

Bratislava Old Town Hall
 

Man At Work Statue

Bratislava is famous for its array of unique statues. Possibly the most famous statue in Bratislava is the Man at Work statue or “Cumil”. The literal translation of the word “Cumil” is The Watcher. To find this unique statue you’ll want to head to the corner of Laurinska and Pranska streets. Many cars in the area would often drive over or bump into this statue, that there is now a sign just above him stating “Man at work”

Man At Work Statue - Slovakia
Old Town Bratislava

Wander The Old Town Streets

While the Old Town itself can be walked in 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll want to spend some time wandering through the charming little streets. It’s practically impossible to get lost here, so throw away the google maps and just go where you heart takes you. You’ll find that you see far more of the city and stumble upon some of the prettiest buildings.

Want to see the city like a local? Take a walking tour!

Old Town Bratislava
Old Town Bratislava

St. Martins Church

Dating back to 1452, St Martin’s Church was built in the gothic style. It served as the coronation place for the Hungarian Empire’s Kings and Queens between 1563 and 1830, even the famous Maria Theresa was crowned in this church. Once inside the church you can explore it’s crypts and catacombs.

St. Martin's Church Bratislava

Primate’s Palace

Just behind the Old Town Hall you’ll notice the beautiful pink neoclassical façade of the Primatial Palace. Built between from 1778 to 1781 for Archbishop József Batthyány, the palace holds an important place in Slovakian history. It was the signing location of the fourth peace of Pressburg, ending the War of the Third Coalition. It now serves as the office of the mayor of Bratislava and is open to the public for tours.

Price: Entry to the Palace itself is €3

Primate's Palace

The Blue Church

Built between 1909 and 1913, the Church of St. Elisabeth is a rather famous church in Bratislava. Designed by Budapest architect Edmund Lechner, its striking blue exterior and nouveau style attracts tourists from all over. It was by far one of the most beautiful and unique churches I’ve ever laid eyes on. The church is a short walk from the city centre and an easy 15-minute walk.

Church Of St. Elisabeth - The Blue Church

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle sits on a hill looking over the city of Bratislava. Climbing to the top is more than worth it for the views alone. From the castle grounds are views across the Danube River, and the boarders of Austria & Hungary.

The history of the castle stems back to 907 when it was first referenced in the Annals of Salzburg. The castle has had several re-designs from Gothic, to Renaissance, to Baroque.

The Castle now houses collections of the Slovak National Museum, including exhibitions featuring Slovakians artists.

While I enjoyed touring the museum, a lot of rooms were under renovation and empty. It was more of a museum for fine art than a museum that showcases the history of the castle.

Price:  Entry to Bratislava Castle is €10

View from Bratislava Castle
Bratislava Castle - Slovakia
Bratislava Castle - Slovakia

Cafe Mayer

I ended my day trip to Bratislava with a visit to Cafe Mayer. After the long hard walk (it’s not really, promise) up to Bratislava castle, I thought I’d reward myself with a sweet treat!

Cafe Mayer first started in Vienna. Its Bratislava counterpart opened in 1913 by founder Julius Mayer, a famous confectioner. In the front of the cafe sits a statue of “Schone Naci” who was a regular visitor to the cafe.  My cake of choice was a pistachio mousse – so good!

 

Cafe Mayer - Bratislava
Pistachio Mousse from Bratislava

Other Things To Do In Bratislava

Have more time in Bratislava? The city has far more on offer!

  • The UFO Observation Deck – The UFO bridge connects the Old Town and Petrzalka neighbourhood, which are separated by the Danube. Overlooking the bridge is a UFO-looking structure featuring a fine dining establishment and panoramic views of the city.
  • Slavin War Memorial – The largest war memorial in central Europe. The Slavin Memorial is the burial ground for 6845 Soviet Soldiers who died during the liberation of Bratislava in WWII.

Self-Guided Or Bus Tour?

I usually love bus tours, but on this particular trip I opted to take a self-guided day trip and just wing it. This was mostly due to cost as it was far cheaper. While a self-guided tour let’s you check out whatever part of the city you like and go where your heart pleases, you also miss out on having a tour guide teach about a cities history. If you miss having the insider knowledge, you could always choose to take a walking tour within a self-guided tour – you’ll get the best of both worlds!

The Bratislava Card includes entry to 15 museums and galleries (including everything mentioned in this post!) as well as a free walking tour and unlimited travel on public transport

Our return train journey left around 6:38pm and arrived back in Vienna just over an hour later. My entire day trip to Bratislava cost €65 which was around €20 cheaper than booking a bus tour. Here’s a breakdown of what I spent:

€16 – return train journey

€25 – lunch including tip (this was at a very touristy restaurant, do your research and you’ll find better and cheaper!)

€10 – entry to Bratislava Castle

€10 – Coffee and cake

€8 – souvenirs

Had I done more of the attractions (Michael’s Gate, City Museum, Primatial Palace etc) it would have been on average an extra €15. Bratislava is a very affordable city to visit, and while I do love my bus tours in this case I’d highly recommend doing your own day trip. Or even better staying a weekend and venturing past the Old Town.

Looking to stay for longer? Bratislava is full of amazing hotels!

Booking.com

Is Bratislava Worth Visiting?

100%! It’s unlike anywhere else, isn’t completely overrun by tourism, cute, quaint and quiet. What’s not to love about Bratislava? A smaller city means you’ll have more time to really experience the place instead of rushing from one big attraction to the next.

Although more than 1 day in Bratislava is recommended, the city is compact enough that most of it’s attractions are close together. It also happens to be one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities I’ve visited, which makes exploring even easier!

If you’re staying in Vienna (Or Prague or Budapest!) and want to explore somewhere new then Bratislava is the perfect day trip to do so.

I’d really love to return to Bratislava one day (in the summer!) and see more of what this incredible city has to offer.

 

Have you ever been to Bratislava? Ever thought of doing a day trip while in a neighbouring country? 

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