I recently came back from a three days holiday with my two best friends in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, and I am now here to share a (almost) complete guide on its main attractions, all the most trendy cafes and restaurants plus practical suggestions on where to stay and how to move around the city.
Ours was a last minute trip and I have to admit our first choice wasn’t Bratislava – we hadn’t consider it at all! We were travelling from both Italy and the UK, we only had three days and didn’t want to spend a lot of money: Skyscanner was our best friend to plan the perfect holiday! Bratislava came out to be one of the cheapest destinations for all of us during this period (beginning of March) and, after a quick search on Pinterest, Instagram and a few travel blogs, we decided to take a shot and pick it as our final destination.
For a few days we were asked “why?” by literally everyone every time we mentioned we were going to Bratislava and, although our answer was always “we don’t really know”, I am here to give you a few good reasons why you should go to Bratislava too. It’s a small city, and yet it offers tons of activities; you don’t have to be in a rush to visit it all so you can really enjoy your time in the most relaxed way, but you will not feel bored; you can spend a couple hours on a brunch, go out at night or even take a small detour almost out of town without worrying you won’t have time to see everything. It has a pretty good night life and, if all of this still isn’t enough, it is one hour distance from Vienna. Sounds to me like a good choice for a weekend escape, right?
Let’s start with all the important information you will need before buying that flight ticket.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Flight tickets to Bratislava are fairly cheap both from Italy and the UK, and it’s gonna take around 2 hours to get there. Once you arrive at the airport you will have to get a taxi to the city centre that is at around 10 minutes distance. Buses operate too but are not very well connected and most drivers don’t speak English. DON’T make the same mistake as us and take the first taxi you see coming out of the airport: taxies there will ask you for €20/25 and totally rip you off. Instead try and download the app Taxify before you travel, it’s similar to Uber and will only ask you €7/8 for a ride to the city. If you don’t want to download any apps and put your credit card details on it (it is the only way you are allowed to pay) you can choose another taxi company called Easy Taxi, I have travelled with them on my way back to the airport and they only took €10 for my ride.
WHERE TO STAY:
We were three girls and this apartment was perfect for our weekend in Bratislava: situated right in the city centre, clean and at a totally affordable price. Its host, Boris, is a lovely person who truly cares about his guests: he came to clean the apartment himself before our arrival even if he was sick! Couldn’t recommend it enough.
If, for any reason, you will decide not to go for this apartment, I would still suggest you to find your accommodation in Stare Mesto, Bratislava Old Town. This way you will have everything you need at your doorstep!
WHAT TO SEE:
The capital of Slovakia is a small city, but still full of history and attractions. Three days in Bratislava are enough to visit the main sites, although it’s got enough to offer if you were to stay a couple days more. I am about to list a few attractions BUT for me the main attraction was the city itself: wandering around its streets was such a pleasure, we were looking for a relaxing holiday and Bratislava allowed us to do just so.
Michael’s Gate will be the first thing you encounter stepping out of the apartment. It is probably the most famous symbol of Bratislava, the one you will most likely to see in every Bratislava picture on your google search. Built in the 14th century and modified in 1753, it is as of today the only city gate left out of their previous medieval fortifications. Coming from outside the Old Town you will walk on a bridge and enter the gate, passing on the so called “zero kilometre” plate that shows you Bratislava’s distance from 29 world capitals (including the South Pole, even if it can’t be considered a capital). Entering the tower you will have to pay a ticket to get to the top and enjoy a panoramic view of the city: we only paid €2.50 each for students. The tower consists of 7 floors accommodating the Museums of Arms, not one of the main attractions but a must if you want to get to the top.
Primate’s Palace is, hands down, the most beautiful building in Bratislava. At least according to me! Wandering around Stare Mesto you will notice that every single building is pastel coloured, one of the aspects of this city that made me like it so much. The Palace now hosts the City Council and serves as the Mayor’s seat, but it’s best known to be the place where Napoleon signed the Peace of Pressburg (peace treaty between Austria and France) in 1805. We didn’t get to see the inside of the building but if you happen to go in you will be able to see the Hall of Mirrors and also the fountain of St George slaying the dragon in the courtyard. Bratislava is also known for its numerous street statues, the most famous one being the Cumil (man at work), but just in front of the Primate Palace you will find a bike rack with two 19th century bike fixtures: definitely a tourist attraction, but also a perfect for pictures one!
Blue Church. This is something you definitely need to know if you decide to visit Bratislava: the city is FULL of all kind of churches. Like literally there are churches almost everywhere. We are not big fans of them so it sure wasn’t on the top of our list to visit all of them, but we couldn’t miss out on this one. Designed by a Hungarian architect in the 20th century, the Blue Church has its name for a very obvious – yet magical – reason: everything about it is blue. From the exterior to the interior, this church will remind you of a mixture between a Gaudi building and a real life princess castle; you really can’t say it doesn’t seem like coming straight out of a fairytale! The Blue Church is often close to visits so make sure you check the opening times before you go there and you will be able to see the interiors as well.
Bonus of places we would have liked to see but didn’t:
- Bratislava castle
- UFO tower
On a clear day, you should be able to see not only Bratislava but also Vienna and Budapest from the top of the castle!
WHERE TO EAT:
We finally got to the fun part: it’s no secret that I simply L O V E going out for breakfast / brunch. Before leaving for Bratislava I actually spent lots of my time looking for any cute spot I could find on the internet and then narrowed my list down to what to me were the best breakfast places in Bratislava. Here’s for you the list of the ones we visited and a couple extra suggestions if you run out of places before your holiday is over. You’re welcome!
Urban Bistro. This was JUST outside our house, so obviously it had to be our first stop. It’s part of probably the most famous restaurants in Bratislava, the Urbans. They all have an industrial and modern look but the atmosphere is also super warm and cosy it could easily compete with all my favourite London coffeeshops. The food was good (I mean, they had my avo on toast which is everything I look for in every place I go, to be honest) and the service was very friendly. We also tried a couple of their homemade cakes that were delicious, I would totally recommend it.
FIVE Points. Okay so for this place I only need to say one word: selfieccino. Yes, it’s a cappuccino with your selfie printed on it. How cool is that? Now I’m not gonna lie this is the reason why we went there, but the fact that its interiors were spot on and the food was great were definitely a huge plus! Still situated in the centre of Bratislava, it is very accessible and easy to find. So even if you are not interested in drinking a coffee with your face (or anyone else’s) on it, I still think you should pay a visit to FIVE Points when in Bratislava: you know how they say Italians are very fussy with their coffee, but the cappuccino we drank here was so lovely anybody would give it five points.
Bistro St Germain. So here’s another interesting fact: most of the cafes and restaurants in Bratislava seem to have endless bookshelves, which to be honest was pretty great for us. This cute place is a true hidden gem because it’s not on the main street and you have to look for it a bit: thankfully it made our list even before landing in Slovakia so that we had to find it at all costs. This time we didn’t go for breakfast (if only one could have that many breakfasts in a day!) but for lunch: the plate I chose was a bit disappointing because it ended up being a lot more simple than what it sounded on the menu, but I guess this is my fault as I should have chosen a bit more carefully. All in all it was a pleasant visit, with its chilled vibe and the cosiness only the best libraries can give you. Their cakes were delicious (I know, we ate lots of cakes but in our defence this is what holiday’s for) so I would probably suggest to go there for an afternoon tea.
Slovak Pub. To be honest, this was our biggest disappointment and I wouldn’t suggest going here. The reason why we chose to eat here (for dinner, this time) was because it is known to be the oldest pub in Bratislava and the one that serves the most authentic Slovakian food. We had no clue of what Slovakian food would be so we made it our priority to try it at least once during this holiday. Well, let me tell you Slovakian food consists in tons of meat (that I haven’t touched in ages) and this super famous sheep cheese called Bryndza. Now, if you have dairy allergies, Slovakia is NOT the place for you. Every single dish they have is fully covered in cheese! Although we all like cheese so we went for the potato dumplings with cheese (my friends had bacon and sausages with it too). The dish itself wasn’t bad but the cheese is so creamy and has such a strong taste that your stomach simply cannot ingest a big quantity of it.
The reason why I don’t feel like suggesting this place tough is not because of the food – as I said before, you have to try traditional food of the country you’re visiting and this certainly felt authentic – but because of the service. The waiter we had was very rude, didn’t speak a great English (not so common as luckily we didn’t have any language problem anywhere else) and you could see he was almost annoyed by the fact he had to serve people that didn’t speak Slovakian; they didn’t have half of the menu available that we really had no choice but go for that one dish we had, the place was HUGE and there were lots of people working and standing behind the counter and yet he was the only one approaching ours and all the tables around us (making the service a bit slow), plus he told us in a not so friendly manner that we had to pay our bill because his shift was over even if the place wouldn’t have close in another hour.
Even if this was definitely not on the top of our favourite places we probably were out of luck that night: this place has got hundreds of recommendations and even locals always mention it as one of the best places to go for dinner. It’s up to you if you decide to give it a shot, you might get luckier than us and have a wonderful experience there!
Urban House. The second one of the Urbans we visited, then again for dinner this time (I’m telling you the day you’re gonna be allowed to have breakfast even at lunch and dinner time it will be a very happy day for me). Like Urban Bistro, this one didn’t disappoint either. Industrial interiors and a great vibe overall, but while Urban Bistro is the perfect brunch spot this one is perfect for a pre night out: it’s got a vibrant atmosphere and it’s just the right amount of trendy. The menu was once again modern and catchy, food was pretty good and the cocktails were tasty – even though a bit more alcohol inside wouldn’t have hurt anyone. While it was the perfect spot to start our night, I feel like recommending this place even for a study/work day, where you can just sit there with your laptop while sipping on a cup of coffee.
BarOn. I don’t have one single picture of the BarOn and trust me, it is absolutely for the best, but boy if I recommend this place. Keep in mind, if getting drunk and meeting people on a night out is not something you’re interested in then you can just skip to the end, because this is all this place is about. It is situated in the same street of the Slovak Pub, right in the centre of the city, and it is one of the most infamous bars I’ve been to in my life. As soon as you enter it though, you can definitely get in the mood and feel all the hype that surrounds it: it is known to be the place where all Erasmus (and non) students hang out so the atmosphere is super friendly and the drinks are super cheap. Now if this isn’t the best combination I don’t know what is.
These are the places we got to see during our visit, but if you know me just a little you also know I have got thousands of other recommendations that I JUST didn’t have time to check out. I will leave them here for you to treasure and maybe pay a visit for me.
- Travel café Dobrodruh
- Funki Punki
- Pan Cakes
- Stur Cafe
- Konditorei Kormuth
- U Kubistu
- SoHo Laurinska
- La Donuteria
This was our visit to the capital of Slovakia that, even though it’s been picked so randomly out of dozens of other more popular cities, it ended up being the perfect choice for our last minute weekend escape. Have you been to Bratislava and have more places to recommend or tips to give? Let me know in the comments!