One Day in Bratislava – A Day Trip Bratislava Itinerary
When traveling around Central Europe we decided to take a spontaneous day trip to Bratislava from Vienna. This brief day in Bratislava was enough to make me want to plan a future trip to see more of Slovakia! Bratislava has stunning castles, historical buildings, fantastic food, and many quaint neighborhoods to explore. During one day in Bratislava, you can see the iconic Bratislava Castle, explore the streets of Old Town, and enjoy Slovak cuisine.
Where is Bratislava?
Bratislava is the capital city of Slovakia and is situated along the Danube River near the border of Austria and Hungary.
How to Get to Bratislava
Because Vienna is close to Bratislava the most popular way to visit is to take a day trip to Bratislava from Vienna by train. You can take the direct train from Vienna Central Station (Wien Südbahnhof) to Bratislava Station (Bratislava – Hlavná Stanica) which takes just a little over an hour with a few stops along the way. You can purchase tickets in advance on the OBB website or app or purchase once you are at the Vienna Central Station.
How to Get Around Bratislava
Bratislava is a very walkable city and so we spent most of our time walking to the places you’ll find in this Bratislava itinerary. However, buses and trams operate frequently from Bratislava’s main train station to Old Town and many other locations in Bratislava. If taking a bus or tram to Old Town look for either Novy Most or Kapucinska, the closest stops to many Old Town destinations.
The easiest way to buy a ticket for the bus, tram, or trolleybus is by using the IMHD.SK Transportation App. This app also tells you timetable information for all public transportation. However, you can also purchase a ticket from one of the yellow coin-operated ticket machines located at most stops and tourist information offices. You cannot purchase tickets from the driver when boarding.
Tickets can be used for any of Bratislava’s public transportation options but they have different validity depending on the ticket purchased.
- 15 minutes (0.70€) – no transfers are allowed, only used on the bus, tram, or trolley you originally validated on.
- 30 minutes (0.90€) – transfers are allowed, during weekends this ticket is valid for 90 minutes.
- 60 minutes (1.20€) – transfers are allowed, during weekends this ticket is valid for 90 minutes.
- 24-hour (3.50€), 72-hours (8.00€), or 168-hours (11.40€) – transfers allowed, this is a good option for those who are planning to use public transportation frequently in Bratislava.
Before entering the bus or tram make sure you validate your ticket on the ticket marker at the station stop or on your mobile device if purchased digitally. If you do not validate your ticket you are subject to a hefty fine that you will most likely be asked to pay on the spot or the ticket inspector will take you to the nearest ATM to get cash to pay with.
Places to Eat in Bratislava
Five Points Bistro
When we first arrived in Bratislava we wanted to get a jump start the day by stopping at a local cafe so we headed to Five Points Bistro. Five Points Bistro is a great place to get a cappuccino and breakfast. We ordered two of their bagel breakfast sandwiches and both were terrific!
The goat cheese marmalade bagel sandwich had a large portion of goat cheese, caramelized onions, and tangy sweet cranberry marmalade. The bacon, egg, and cheese bagel was more simple but still a classic option. Both came with a small side salad. If you are looking for a cafe to visit in Old Town, Five Points Bistro is a great choice.
Location: Panská 23, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia // MAP
We couldn’t visit Bratislava without trying some traditional foods so we made a reservation at Modrá Hviezda which in my opinion, is one of the best places to try traditional Slovakian cuisine. Modrá Hviezda has a cozy, homey atmosphere with dim lighting, rustic wood tables, red checkered curtains, and service that made us feel like family.
We started off by ordering some drinks, first Kofola, a Czech and Slovakian soda that was created due to the high prices of Coca-Cola and Pepsi products during the Communist era. We always love trying new sodas when traveling and really enjoyed Kofola. Although it has some similar flavors to Coke and Pepsi, it has more complexity of flavors.
When we looked up more information about Kofola we found out that Kofo syrup, the main ingredient in Kofola, has 14 herbal and fruit ingredients such as extracts from cherries, currant, and apples. It also contains 30% less sugar than Pepsi or Coca-Cola and 56% more caffeine. Next, we ordered some Zlatý Bažant, a Slovak lager that was founded in 1969.
Now onto the food! Whatever you do, order at least one order of bryndzové halušky, which is one of the national dishes of Slovakia. Bryndzové halušky is potato dumplings with sheep cheese and bacon and it is downright delicious. I still can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this dish prior to our trip to Bratislava!
Logan and I ate these little dumplings so quickly that we almost ordered another but then we remembered Logan ordered the pork tenderloin that came with the same dumplings except with sauerkraut and bacon. We both agreed that while we like sauerkraut, we liked the dumplings without it a little better.
I ordered the roasted duck which was tender and had a nice flavor. It came with a heaping portion of braised red cabbage, and two lokše (potato pancakes). Then we washed down the hearty meal with a few more beers before we made our way to the last few stops on our Bratislava day trip.
Location: Beblavého 292/14, 811 01 Staré Mesto-Hrad, Slovakia // MAP
Wanting to stop for something sweet? Pollito Cheesecake has delectable cheesecakes with several different flavors baked daily. Because Pollito Cheesecake only uses the freshest ingredients in their cheesecakes, their menu changes by the season so you’ll find different fresh fruits and nuts throughout the year. Unlike most cheesecake in America that has a graham cracker crust, the crust of their cheesecake is made with mouth-watering butter cookies which adds a delicate, yet rich flavor. Stop in for a coffee and slice of cheesecake while browsing the streets of Old Town.
Location: Námestie SNP 19, 811 01 Staré Mesto, Slovakia // MAP
Things to Do in Bratislava in One Day
Presidential Palace (Grassalkovich Palace)
After hopping off the train head over to Bratislava’s Presidential Palace, also known as Grassalkovich Palace. Grassalkovich Palace was built in 1760 by architect Anton Mayerhofer for Hungarian aristocrat Antal Grassalkovich. Soon after it became a cultural center for Baroque musical life and royal balls.
Over the years the palace housed many people. From 1939-1945 the place became the seat of the President of the First Slovak Republic. During the Communist era after 1945, it was the seat of the Council of Commissioners. Then in 1950, it was turned into an activity center for the Klement Gottwald House of Pioneers and Youth. Unfortunately, the palace suffered extensive damage during this time and restoration efforts were later made starting in 1989 during the Velvet Revolution.
After its restoration, the palace became the home of the Slovakian President and today you can take the grandeur of this regal building from the front courtyard. While you cannot enter the Presidential Palace you can browse the palace gardens which were transitioned into a public park. They are a lovely place to walk around and admire the many flowers, fountains, and sculptures.
Location: Hodžovo námestie 2978/1, 811 06 Bratislava, Slovakia // MAP
The Church of St. Elizabeth (The Blue Church)
If you are traveling around Europe for a while you might start to develop church fatigue. Basically, church fatigue is when it feels like all of the churches you visit start to look the same because you’ve been to so many. I’m happy to report that there is a unique church in Bratislava that will break you from the cycle of endless brown stone and al frescos.
The Church of St. Elizabeth is a small, art nouveau-style church that was completed in 1913 and is still a place of worship today. The exterior is a stunning baby blue color with many ornate details. Inside the church, many of the details and even the pews are painted the same pastel blue. The Blue Church is a great place to stop by for a few minutes to see the unique façade.
Location: Alžbety, Bezručova 2, 811 09 Bratislava, Slovakia // MAP
Cost: Free to visit
Walk Around the Center of Old Town & Michael’s Gate
Spending a few hours walking around Old Town is an absolute must for one day in Bratislava. Of course, there are many unique things to do in Old Town but I also recommend you just take time to browse the streets, shops, and neat little corners of this historic medieval center.
When walking through Old Town you’ll most likely walk right under Michael’s Gate, which is the last remaining gate in the city. But did you know you could climb up the tower stairs?
The original Gothic tower was built during the 14th century but was later modified to a baroque style sometime between 1753 and 1758. The tower stands 51 meters tall (around 167 ft) and has seven floors. You can enter the stairs for Michael’s Gate inside the Museum of Arms near the replica cannon. Once you reach the top of the tower you’ll get a spectacular view of Old Town that can simply not be missed!
The viewpoint for Michael’s Gate is currently closed for renovation but is expected to be completed sometime in 2023-2024.
Location: Michalská ulica 22 806/24, 811 03 Staré Mesto, Slovakia // MAP
Look for the Statues Around Old Town
If you walk around Old Town Bratislava long enough you’ll begin to notice a number of bronze statues. While there is some speculation regarding their backstories, many of them were installed in the late 1990s as part of an effort to add warmth and interest to an area that once had a harsh and drab tone during the Communist era.
Here are a few of the statues in Bratislava to look for:
- Čumil: Statue of sewer worker resting at the top of a manhole.
- Schöne Náci: Statue in honor of a beloved street performer.
- Hans Christian Anderson: Statue commemorating the Danish writer.
- Napoleon’s Army Soldier: Recalls the two occasions when Napoleon’s army entered the city and the soldier who stayed behind after falling in love with a local girl who later started a new career in making sparkling wine.
Primate’s Palace was built in 1781 for Archbishop József Batthyány on the former property of the Archbishop of Esztergom. It is one of the most beautiful classicist buildings in Slovakia and is often referred to as the Pink Palace because of its light pink exterior.
Today, Primate’s Palace serves as the seat of the Mayor of Bratislava and is an impressive museum with rare 17th-century English tapestries that were discovered behind a wall in 1903 during castle reconstruction. These six tapestries depict the legend of Hero and Leander and their tragic love story.
Another famous area at Primate’s Palace is the Hall of Mirrors which is where the fourth Peace of Pressburg was signed in 1805, ending the War of the Third Coalition. The Hall of Mirrors still acts as a meeting place for the Bratislava City Council.
On the palace grounds, you’ll find the Fountain of St. George, which depicts the heroic efforts of George, a Roman army officer, who came upon a town being terrorized by a dragon. George killed the dragon with a spear saving the town and the King’s daughter becoming a legendary story and a symbolic figure. Each year on St. George’s Day, it is said the stone statue comes to life, turns around on his horse, and bows to the city.
Location: Primaciálne námestie 2, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia // MAP
The Nedbalka Gallery, located in Old Town, is a dignified art gallery featuring over 160 paintings and sculptures following the birth and progress of Slovak modern art from the 19th century to the early 20th century.
Although many of the artworks in the Nedbalka Gallery are interesting conversation starters, something else we found intriguing was the design of the art museum which is comprised of four floors in a circular atrium.
Starting on the fourth floor you’ll first walk through the origin of modern fine art in Slovakia followed by the fine art and interwar period on the 3rd floor. The second floor features many works from the Mikuláš Galanda Group and how it shaped Slovak art. Finishing on the first floor, you’ll find works from prominent artists during the second half of the 20th century.
Don’t forget to stop by the gallery cafe to get a tea or coffee which is included in your admission price!
Location: Nedbalova 17, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia // MAP
Cost: €6 adults, €5 seniors, €3 students
While in Bratislava make sure you don’t miss Bratislava Castle. This reconstructed Baroque castle has a history dating back to prehistoric times and sits on a rocky hill above the Danube River in the middle of the city. The walk to get to Bratislava Castle has a gradual slope with many stunning viewpoints and places to stop along the way so you don’t have to worry about rushing to get to the top.
Once you’ve arrived make sure you check out the view of the city from the top before entering inside the castle to the corridor by a large staircase with red carpets leading to the Slovak National Museum. The Slovak National Museum has a number of exhibitions including archaeological finds in Slovakia, the history of Slovakia, and the former Baroque chapel which now houses a music hall where concerts are held.
In addition to having a cultural-historical museum, there are also a number of art galleries within Bratislava Palace featuring sculptures, paintings, and other works of contemporary and modern art.
After visiting the museum and galleries inside Bratislava Castle walk behind the castle to the French-style baroque garden. This garden is exceptionally beautiful and well worth a few minutes of your time to stroll through before heading back down to the city.
Location: Hrad, 811 06 Bratislava, Slovakia // MAP
St. Martin’s Cathedral
Located below Bratislava Castle is St. Martin’s Cathedral a Gothic/Romanesque cathedral that was consecrated in 1452. Other than its significance to Bratislava Castle, it is also held as one of the most important structures in the city because it is one of the oldest churches in Bratislava and the largest. Its history dates back to the 13th century and is known for being the coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1563 and 1830.
Although the church is still active today, it has been under extensive preservation repairs after deteriorating over time due to the vibrations caused by traffic to the nearby Nový Most bridge. Regardless you can still step inside St. Martin’s Cathedral to see the Gothic stained-glass windows and catacombs.
Location: Rudnayovo námestie 1, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia // MAP
Cost: Free to visit
Most SNP (UFO Tower)
One of Bratislava’s most epic viewpoints is the UFO Tower located on the Most SNP bridge which opened in 1972 and still holds the record as the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge to have only one pylon and a single set of cables.
At the UFO observation tower, you’ll take a 45-second elevator ride to the top of the flying-saucer-shaped tower to an observation area where you can enjoy panoramic views of Bratislava over the Danube River.
Also in the UFO tower are a restaurant and two bars that are located in the dome of the tower. Reservations are highly recommended to dine at the UFO restaurant because they tend to book up quickly!
Slovak Radio Building
For those interested in architecture, the Slovak Radio Building is a fascinating piece of experimental architecture that is shaped like an upside-down pyramid. Construction on this building started in 1967 and wasn’t completed until 1983 with regular broadcasting starting in 1985.
Over the years the Slovak Radio Building has been highly criticized. Some architects consider it to be one of the most important buildings of its time whereas others see it as a hideous eyesore. Regardless, it still stands as one of the most interesting buildings in Bratislava. Inside there is a 522-seat concert hall with a large organ that still hosts many concerts and it currently serves as the radio headquarters of Radio and Television of Slovakia.
Location: Mýtna 2826, 811 07 Bratislava, Slovakia // MAP
Bratislava is a vastly underrated city to visit when traveling through Europe and I’m really glad we decided to take a spontaneous day trip to Bratislava so we could experience a few of the highlights!