5 Things to Do in Bratislava
Tourism is on the rise in Slovakia’s picturesque capital Bratislava. Maybe because of the laid-back atmosphere at the Danube shore or the cobblestone alleys that you can easily get lost in. Or because each building, whether it’s a Viennese-style palace or a functionalist concrete block, tells a story. Here are a few things you shouldn’t miss when you visit Bratislava.
1. Take a Walk of the Old Town
Bratislava looks like a wrongly-assembled jigsaw puzzle: There’s architecture that goes back as far as the 15th century such as St. Martin’s Cathedral and there’s the Primate’s Palace, which was built in the Viennese palatial style of the late 1700s. And here and there, within a row of old buildings, one or two have been torn down to replace them with functionalist architecture from socialist times. There’s no stylistic uniformity within the city’s districts—you’ll find a pick ‘n’ mix of styles telling the story of the city’s past.
2. Enjoy Great Views
On the top of a hill, in the old town of Bratislava lies Bratislava Castle. This is a great place to get a beautiful view of the city and beyond. For more great views from above, you can visit the famous UFO bridge. It’s actually called the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising—but thanks to the flying-saucer-shaped structure at its top nobody ever calls it that.
3. Have Dinner on a Boat
The Danube crosses Bratislava from west to southeast. It’s a place to hang out with friends and have a beer, especially in summertime, when the city gets its own artificial sand beach with a beach bar. To enjoy the special atmosphere at the river all year long, you can visit one of the restaurants that are located on boats along the banks of the Danube. We had dinner at Dunajský pivovar, which is not only a restaurant, but also a brewery on a boat.
4. Travel to the Past at Bratislava’s Castles
Bratislava Castle, located on a hill in the historic center of the city, is not only a great viewpoint, but also a nice place to visit for its own sake. With its beautiful gardens and the Castle Museum of History inside, there’s a lot to see. Devín Castle or, more accurately, its ruins, can be found in the Devín borough of Bratislava. Devín used to be a village until the late 1950s and it still feels like it with its green pastures and quiet atmosphere. The site has been fortified since the bronze age and remnants from these times can still be seen here.
Right underneath Devín castle the river Morava meets the Danube. Both rivers mark the border to Austria here in Devín. In Cold War times, many people tried to flee to Austria here by crossing the rivers, but hundreds were shot trying. A memorial reminds visitors today of those who lost their lives.
5. Take a Boat to Vienna
As I mentioned before, Bratislava is on the Austrian border, and Vienna is only 60 km away. There’s a boat service connecting the old town of Bratislava and the city center of Vienna. It takes about 1.5 hours to go to Vienna from Bratislava (going back is even faster because it’s downstream). It’s a nice boat trip and a great chance to see Vienna, so don’t miss this opportunity!