Bratislava, with its compact old town, charming city streets, and outdoor café culture, is a wonderful place to visit. This city may not be as popular as other central European cities such as Vienna or Prague, but don’t let that fool you. Bratislava is underrated as a European destination, as we just learned.
If you are visiting Europe during the busy summer months and want a break from the crowds of the more popular cities, put Bratislava on your list. Even in mid-July, its streets felt less crowded and we never waited in line for anything. It was a very refreshing experience.
So, if you are looking for a very cool European city but want a quieter experience, Bratislava is well worth the visit!
Here are our top ten things to do in Bratislava, with a few more ideas of how to spend your time at the end of this article.
Top Ten Things to Do in Bratislava
Wander the Old Town
Small and compact, you can walk from one side of the old town to the other in less than ten minutes. But you can spend several hours exploring the cobblestoned streets, shopping, and searching for your favorite café along the way.
Built in 1300, Michael’s Gate is the only surviving medieval gate in Bratislava. You can simply walk up to it and take a photo (it is one of the iconic views of Bratislava) or, for a better experience, you can climb to the top of the tower for a view over the city.
The door to get into the tower is easily missed. If we hadn’t known that it as possible to climb the tower, we would have totally missed this. It took a little bit of searching to find the entrance.
If you are looking at Michael’s Gate from the southern side (inside of the old town), there is big, heavy, wooden door to the right of the archway. Not knowing if I was in the right spot, I pulled the door open, and yes, it lead up into a ticket office for the tower. It costs just a few euros to climb the tower. And since it is so easily overlooked, we only shared the view with two other people.
WALKING TOUR OF BRATISLAVA: On this one hour walking tour of the old town of Bratislava, visit the Old Town Hall, Michael’s Gate, St. Martin’s Cathedral, and House of the Opera.
Even though this is just a few blocks from the heart of the old town, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Kapitulska Street is a quiet, medieval street lined with a mix of colorful buildings and buildings that have seen better times. It only takes a few minutes to walk the length of the street and this was one of our favorite experiences in Bratislava.
Dominating the hillside next to the old town is Bratislava Castle. Recently renovated, it feels modern and somewhat empty on the inside. Many people who visit recommend skipping the castle tour and instead, just enjoy the view over the city.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
This gothic cathedral is another popular landmark in Bratislava. It’s interesting to see on the inside and out.
Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall is one of the oldest buildings in Bratislava. Built in 1370, this civic hall was also used as a prison and a mint.
For another view over Bratislava, climb the tower. You get a great view of the main square below.
You can also tour the Bratislava City Museum and learn a little about the city, if you are interested.
See the Statues of Bratislava
For such a small city center there sure are a lot of quirky, interesting statues to see.
Cumil (aka “Man at Work”). This is the most popular of the bunch and the statue with the longest line of people waiting to take their selfies. Located on the corner of Panska and Rybarska brana.
Schone Naci. Schone Naci was a beloved character in Bratislava. Located on the corner of the main square.
Napolean’s Army Soldier. Located in the main square, this is another popular photo spot.
Hans Christian Andersen. This statue commemorates the life and work of this famous children’s author. You can find the statue of Hans Christian Andersen in Hviezdoslavovo Square.
The Paparazzi. This was another popular statue located in the town square. The Paparazzi was taken down when the restaurant with the same name closed. You can now find the Paparazzi at the UFO restaurant.
The View from the UFO Tower
Have you see the movie “War of the Worlds?” Do you think the UFO Tower looks like one of the alien ships from this movie?
Located on the southern bank of the Danube River, you have panoramic views of Bratislava from the top of the UFO Tower. On a clear day, you can also see Hungary and Austria.
The UFO Tower feels a bit run down. The elevator is small and creaky and hot in the summertime. If you are claustrophobic, this may be an attraction to skip.
However, the view over the old town is awesome and well worth the strange elevator ride to get here. There is also a restaurant and bar at the top of the tower.
Slavin is a memorial to the almost 7,000 Soviet troops who were killed while liberating Bratislava from the Germans in April 1945. The main building is the memorial. Located around the building is the cemetery, the final resting place for these Soviet soldiers.
I had heard that the view over Bratislava from the Slavin Memorial was amazing. Maybe we missed something, but this is what we saw from the memorial. So, make the trip up here to see the memorial but I would not expect a great view of the city. You can get that from Bratislava Castle or the crazy UFO Tower.
Dinner with a View
How about lunch or dinner with a view? The Lemontree & Sky Bar serves Asian food with a view over the old town. The food is delicious, the cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks are creative, and we loved the view over St. Martin’s Cathedral.
See their menu here.
With More Time
Here are a few more things to do in Bratislava. Most of the places on this list are located outside of the old town. To get to these places, you will need a car or you will need to use public transportation.
Just around the corner from the Old Town Hall is the pink Primatial Palace. This palace is the office of Bratislava’s mayor but you can also take a tour of the rooms, the highlight being the Hall of Mirrors.
The Blue Church
The Blue Church, also known as the Church of St. Elizabeth, looks exactly like it’s name implies. It’s a fanciful, Art Noveau church that was completed in 1913. From the old town, it takes between 10 to 15 minutes to walk.
Worth it? We thought it was just ok, not really worth the walk from the old town.
Sitting on a cliff overlooking the Danube River are the ruins of Devin Castle. Built over 1000 years ago, the castle was blown up by Napolean’s army. The ruins remain and are now a tourist attraction. To get here, take bus 29 from Most SNP or take a taxi (about 20 minutes one way). You can also visit Devin Castle on a 3-hour tour that includes your transportation, a guide, and a local wine tasting.
Museum B-S 4
At this museum, tour a Czechoslovak fortification that dates to pre-World War II. Learn more here.
Danubiana Muelensteen Art Museum
This relatively new, modern art museum features paintings and sculptures by renowned artists from around the world. The museum is located on a small peninsula on the Danube River.
To get here, take bus 90 (about 4o minutes one way) or drive, if you have a car.
Should You Buy the Bratislava Card?
The Bratislava Card is a tourist card that gives you free admission into 14 museums, unlimited use of public transportation, a one-hour walking tour of the old town, and discounts on other attractions.
The card is worth it if you plan to visit the more expensive attractions, such as Devin Castle, Danubiana Art Museum, and take a walking tour and use public transportation.
However, if you only plan on visiting Bratislava for one day and simply visiting the top attractions in the old town, then the Bratislava Card is not worth it.
You can purchase the card online and then print a voucher, which you will turn in for the card. The card can be picked up at Tourist information booths, public transportation hubs, and several hotels. Learn more here.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Hotel Avance, a modern, 4-star hotel located in the old town. In just 5 minutes, we could walk into the center of the old town. The hotel was clean, quiet, and comfortable, the WiFi worked well, and the included breakfast was pretty good. They offer parking in a small garage located under the hotel.
Are you planning a trip to Bratislava? Comment below if you have any questions!
More Information about Slovakia and Central Europe:
SLOVAKIA: Learn how to visit the High Tatras in Slovakia, how to visit Slovak Paradise, and how to hike to Vel’ká Svišt’ovka, a beautiful alpine lake in the High Tatras.
POLAND: Learn about the best things to do in Krakow, how to spend 2 days in Warsaw, and the best things to do in Gdansk. Put this all together with our 10 Day Poland Itinerary.
SAXONY, GERMANY: In Saxony, visit the fairytale bridge called Rakotzbrücke and the amazing Bastei Bridge. Put both of these together, plus the town of Görlitz, into a big day trip from Berlin.
AUSTRIA: Learn how to spend one day in Hallstatt, one day in Salzburg, and get a list of the top 10 things to do in Vienna. We also have a guide to the best things to do in Innsbruck.
CENTRAL EUROPE ITINERARY: Learn how to put together Budapest, Vienna, and Prague together in our 10 day Central Europe Itinerary.
Read all of our articles about Slovakia in our Slovakia Travel Guide.
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