During the summer I worked with Nomago as Nomago ambassador on Instagram and as a reward I was gifted with two return bus tickets to one of their InterCity destinations. Because we have never been to Slovakia and it is still quite close to Ljubljana we decided to visit their capital Bratislava for a weekend trip.
HOW TO GET THERE AND AROUND?
As said we used bus to get to Bratislava and I think that most people who visit this capital also come with some kind of public transport. Bratislava has such a great location, it is over an hour away from Vienna, few hours away from Budapest, Brno and Prague. You can make a great central European trip between these cities with either bus or train, and if you like cruise I think it is also possible to visit Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest by boat on the Danube river. Bratislava also has an airport, but it might be cheaper to fly to Vienna and take a bus to Bratislava from there.
Bratislava is very walkable city, it is also quite small so you will be able to see most of the sights on foot. But in case you want to venture out of the city for a while (like visiting Devin Castle) or weather is not on your side and would still like to see lots you can use their city buses or trams. At bus stations you will find yellow boxes where you can buy tickets for bus and tram. Price vary from depending on how long you need your ticket to last (if you only need one ride you can take 15 min ticket for 0,70 EUR or if you need to switch buses or want to go back you can take one that lasts an hour or hour and half). You will need coins to buy these tickets so save them for this occasion or just buy something small in the nearby kiosk to get back some change, as some will be very reluctant to just change your notes to coins. For more information on ticket system in Bratislava click here.
WHERE TO STAY?
For a short city break I always like to stay very central so I don’t need to use much of the public transportation and it is easy to get around, find restaurants, shops, being near all the sights.
In Bratislava we decided to stay in a hostel, but not just any kind of hostel. CHORS hostel is an art boutique capsule hostel located on Obchodná street which is pedestrian street with lots of restaurants, bars, shops, and it is close to the old city center, there are tram stations along the street and it is just a lovely street to stay if you want to explore the city. Check my Hostel review: CHORS, Bratislava.
You can also find lots of rooms and apartments on Airbnb. If you haven’t tried it yet, you can use my link to get 30 EUR off of your first booking, while I receive 15 EUR at no additional costs to you.
WHAT TO DO?
We arrived at noon to the Bratislava bus station and we went for lunch, as we still had some time before being able to check in our hostel. We later went on a free walking tour with Be Free Tours to learn more about the communist times in Bratislava and we saw some of the most important monuments from these times.
- Slovak Radio Building: shaped like an upside down pyramid and it is considered as one of the 41 most ugly buildings in the world (which I absolutely don’t agree with).
- Hotel Kyiev: once grand hotel for Soviet government officials now kind of abandoned in the middle of the city. Just last year it turned into the biggest street art piece in the city.
- Most SNP: or Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising or just simply UFO Bridge is the bridge over Danube river and connects Petržalka with the rest of the city. Because of the construction of this bridge a huge part of the Old Town below Bratislava Castle and almost all Jewish Quarter was torn down. Today you can enjoy the panoramic view all around from the observation desk, but during communism the windows facing Austria were covered so people couldn’t see. Government was afraid that it would encourage people to plan escape, even though they could still see across from Bratislava Castle and a bit further north from the Devin Castle.
- Námestie Slobody: (Freedom Square in English) is the centerpiece of communist architecture in Bratislava. In the center is the biggest fountain in Slovakia called Fountain of Union, but it unfortunately doesn’t work. On sides you will see the Post Office palace and Slovak Technical University. It was also one of the first squares in Bratislava that were renamed after the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
Beside these important monuments of communist architecture we also saw their first shopping center called Dunaj (which means Danube in English and in Slovene it means Vienna) , presidential palace Grassalkovich Palace which is currently under renovation and some other places, but for more you will just have to take the tour.
We finished out day with delicious dinner at Meštiansky Pivovar. (Special post dedicated to food and restaurants we visited during our time in Bratislava will follow.)
After an amazing sleep in our capsules and delicious breakfast we were ready to hit the old city center and luckily it was weekend and most people sleep in so we had such a calm morning wandering the streets and taking photos without too many people photo bombing them. The Old Town is so charming. You will probably enter it through Michael’s Gate, which is the only gate that was preserved from the medieval fortifications and is one of the oldest buildings in the Old Town, dating back to 1300. You can enjoy the view from the Michael’s Gate for 4,5 EUR.
Best thing to do in city centers as charming as this one is to just wander around and trying to find lovely details, admire the architecture and enjoy the morning calmness. That is how we stumbled upon this lovely courtyard inside Old Town Hall where you can actually play chess.
I wanted to visit the Old Market where I immediately regretted eating too much in the hostel because everything looked so yummy and it was all local and there was so many pastries and cakes. I strongly recommend visiting the Old Market, beside being a normal market, they sometimes have some other events in there so it is worth checking out their website. I really loved that someone played the piano and it went so well with the chit chats of bustling market. We did buy dessert there to eat it later.
Our path was then leading us to UFO Bridge because we wanted to visit Devin Castle and you will find a station for bus no. 29 under the bridge. Definitely recommend taking a trip there, because it is really lovely and you will get some stunning views. We had cloudy and foggy weather and still had some great views. Check Little trip from Bratislava: Devin Castle for more details on this trip.
After lunch we visited Bratislava Castle. It is a lovely walk a bit uphill but in the end we were rewarded with some stunning views, especially because the weather has cleared and sun started to shine. We enjoyed in the park for a while and then on our way to cross the UFO Bridge we once again saw the beautiful corner building that is now Museum of Clocks and one of the only buildings under the Bratislava Castle still in its original state.
As we were crossing the bridge the sun was slowly setting at painting the sky and Danube river in beautiful colours.
In the evening we finally went hunting down statues in the Old Town. In Bratislava you will find so many amazing statues all around the city and also in the shopping center Eurovea, but we discovered those on our last day.
Some fun facts about some the statues:
- Čumil might be a typical worker from communist times not bothered about the work he’s supposed to be doing or he is just looking under the women’s skirt. Which theory do you prefer?
- Schöne Náci statue is inspired by the real person named Ignác Lamár who was greeting women, giving them flowers and just bringing happiness to the city.
- Two girls resting on a post box are not located in the Old Town, but on Obchodná Street. I’ve read that this is an official post box. 🙂
We only until around noon before our bus back to Ljubljana so we took advantage of that and visited few other sights that we had on our list. First one being the Blue Church, or Church of St. Elizabeth, which is not blue only from the outside but also in the inside.
In Eurovea shopping center you wil find few other really fun statues that are definitely worth checking out. Aren’t they just the cutest?
Before taking a long bus ride home we stocked up on some pastries to get us through the ride. There are quite a few places at the bus station to get something to eat and something for the road.
This is it. Our weekend trip to Bratislava. We just scratched the surface, as there are so many things still to see and do, foods to try and if the rest of Slovakia is half as charming as Bratislava is then we would really need to go back to see more of it.
Also see: Tasty weekend in Bratislava for some food, restaurants and cafés recommendations.
Have you been to Bratislava? Is it on your list? What would be the first sight you would like to see there?
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