On my recent trip to Vienna, I really wanted to take a day trip somewhere, maybe I’d go to Halstatt or perhaps Salzburg? If you’ve read my previous blog posts you’ll probably know I enjoy the odd bus tour. I like having a tour guide, it’s a great way to learn about the history of a city and it’s surrounding areas. When searching for one day tours, I found prices from Vienna to be a little too expensive. Prices were averaging €95 without anything included. After a little research, I found out that you can easily do day trips from Vienna to other cities via train, including Bratislava.
Bratislava is a city full of medieval grandeur, it’s cobblestoned streets will have you falling in love with it at first sight. But where is Bratislava? Bratislava is the capital city of Slovakia and one of the most underrated cities in Europe. It may be one of the smaller cities in Europe, but don’t let that fool you, there is still plenty to see and do.
I’d seen Bratislava in travel photos plenty of times before. It looked absolutely stunning. But apart from the odd Instagram photo, I never ventured passed this, or did any real research into the city. In fact it was only when we boarded our train, that I searched for things to do. Google gave me an idea of what major sights to see and just how close everything was to each other. This was one of the cities that I’d visited where I’d had no plan and had done zero research. It was actually kind of nice to just wander the streets with no particular direction in mind.
Leave From The Vienna Hauptbahnof Station
I’d wanted to go to Bratislava for a long time, and this was the perfect opportunity! The hauptbahnof in Vienna has connections all over Europe, you can take trains to Salzburg, Munich and Cluj-Napoca, just to name a few.
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.
The train times leave at 16 minutes past the hour – every hour, this will take you straight into the main train station at Bratislava and the total journey time takes approximately 1 hour and 7 minutes. I think that is a fantastic price, when I consider that I used to commute into London for £30 for the same journey time!
Getting To The City Centre And Old Town
Once you arrive in Bratislava, there are buses that pick up immediately outside the station. Your ticket will also be valid for all bus transportation in Bratislava. The bus number you will need is 93, and is a ten minute journey into the city centre. I believe it is the second stop after the station, keep an eye out for the Presidential Palace.
Upon arriving in the city centre, we noticed how quiet the city was. And honestly, it was a nice change. We’d been used to the likes of Paris and Rome, and felt stressed at times with how big the crowds were. It was a nice feeling to just walk where we wanted without having a million people push by us. There were no groups trying to sell you selfie sticks and alcohol. I suppose it was dead season and would be far busier in the summer when most people choose to travel.
Once you’ve arrived in the city centre, what to do next? I put on my tourist boots and hit up some of Bratislava’s most beautiful sights and buildings.
The main tourist area and old town are fairly small, so you’ll be able to see quite a lot in a short amount of time. After getting off the bus, the first place you’ll notice is the Grassalkovich (Presidential) Palace. This is the home of the Slovakian President.
The main sights in the city are all relatively close to one another. I started with Michael’s Gate, built in 1300, this is the only city gate to be preserved of the city fortification. The tower now houses The Exhibition Of Weapons museum as part of the Bratislava City Museum. Entry to the museum is €4.30
Michaels Gate will lead you into the one of the main streets in Bratislava. Here you can find several souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.
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. Entry is €5
The main square is a really nice area to spend a while relaxing and appreciating the Slovakian architecture. I really wanted to see the Maximillian Fountain, but as is my luck with city trips, it was covered in scaffolding.
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. So many cars in the area would drive over or bump into this statue that here is now a sign just above him stating “Man at work’
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.
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.
This palace is situated just behind the Old Town Hall, it’s beautiful pink neoclassical facade is instantly noticeable. The Primatial Palace is currently the office of the mayor of Bratislava, but the inside is open to tours. Entry is €3
Church Of St. Elisabeth AKA The Blue Church
Built between 1909 and 1913, the Church of St. Elisabeth is a rather famous church in Bratislava, due to it’s striking bright blue exterior. The building itself was beautiful to see in person and just a short walk from the city centre, it’s well worth a visit!
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 are views across the Danube and the boarders of Austria and Hungary. The castle is currently undergoing several renovations and houses several art exhibitions featuring Slovakian artists.
While I enjoyed my time inside Bratislava Castle, I would have loved to have seen more information on it’s actual history, maybe even an audio guide.
Entry to the castle costs €10.
We ended our day in 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 with it’s Bratislava counterpart opening in 1913, by it’s 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!
Our return train journey left around 6:38pm and were 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. I’d really love to return to Bratislava one day (in the summer!) and see all of what it has to offer. I’m sold – I love this city!
Have you ever been to Bratislava? Ever thought of doing a day trip while in a neighbouring country?
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