If you’re looking for the best things to do in Bratislava, this list should help guide you on your trip to this awesome capital city.
Located only an hour east of Vienna, Bratislava is an easy day trip by bus, boat, or train. But it’s worth visiting and hanging around for a little bit longer if you have the time.
How to Get to Bratislava
You have quite a few options when it comes to getting to Bratislava.
If you are arriving from major hubs like Dublin or London, you can fly directly to Bratislava Airport (code: BTS) with Ryanair. Check flights and book with Kiwi.com here.
I arrived in Bratislava like many people do, via Vienna. Vienna is a much larger airport and hub for other European and international carriers and you can then very easily and quickly get from Vienna to Bratislava.
The most pleasant way to arrive is by train. You can check train times and book with Trainline here. It takes one hour and costs just under $12 USD to get there.
If you would prefer to take the absolute cheapest option, you can get a bus to Bratislava for about $5 USD with Regiobus or Flixbus. Compare prices on Trainline here.
How Many Days in Bratislava?
Bratislava is a very small city. Even if you do absolutely every single thing on this list of 20 things to do in Bratislava, you will have time left over at the end of your second full day here.
Two days in Bratislava is a good amount of time. If you only have one day in Bratislava, you can still quite a lot of the main things to do in Bratislava. You can definitely explore a lot of the city in 24 hours.
Where to Stay in Bratislava
Bratislava is one of the most affordable capital cities in Europe. They use the Euro in Slovakia and when compared to other cities like Vienna, Madrid, Athens, or Berlin, you can expect to pay much less in Bratislava.
These are my top picks for budget, mid-range, and luxury in Bratislava.
- Patio Hostel is a fantastic budget option for staying in Bratislava. It has rave reviews, the rooms are impeccably clean, the location is fantastic right in the old town, and it’s a nice place to meet other travelers if you’re traveling solo. Beds in dorm rooms start at $15 USD. Book a stay at Patio Hostel here.
- Petit Dependance is a cute locally-run apartment hotel. The rooms don’t have kitchens, but you have your own bedroom and bathroom in what feels like an apartment setup. The beds are comfortable, the building is very quiet at night, staff are friendly, and you can’t beat the location for the price. Rooms start as low as $45 USD per night. Book a stay at Petit Dependance here.
- Penzion Berg is the perfect example of how much value for money you can get in Bratislava. This hotel would cost at least double in other European capitals, but in Bratislava, you can get a room here for under $80 USD per night. The rooms are luxuriously decorated and every stay includes a fantastic breakfast each morning. Book a stay at Penzion Berg here.
- Marrol’s Boutique Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in Bratislava. It is a five-star hotel with excellent service, beautiful and comfortable rooms, and a great breakfast included each morning. It’s located close to the downtown as well as close to the Danube River. Rooms start as low as $115 USD per night. Book a stay at Marrol’s Boutique Hotel here.
Map of Bratislava Things to Do
Fun Things to Do in Bratislava
If want to know what to do in Bratislava, then I hope you’ll love some of the things on this list of things to do in Bratislava.
We cover everything from history to art and culture to food and great beer. What more do you need from a wonderful trip to Bratislava?
1. Bratislava Castle
If you only visit one of the Bratislava things to do on this list, it should be Bratislava Castle.
Bratislava Castle is perched atop a hill that looks out over the entire city. It’s very easy to access on foot (like pretty much all of the Bratislava attractions around the downtown area).
Bratislava Castle is situated in an area that has been inhabited for over 4,000 years. Thanks to its location along the Danube as well as its central location in Europe, it has long been a center for trade in the region.
There were settlements on this hill as early as 2000 BC, but a true castle wasn’t put on the hill until around the 10th century.
From the old town area, it takes about 10-15 minutes to walk to the entrance of the castle. On a clear day, you can see Bratislava, Austria, and Hungary from up here.
You can walk around the garden, the exterior, and into the courtyard of the castle for free. However, if you want to visit the Slovak National Museum which is housed inside the museum, you’ll need a ticket.
Tickets to the Slovak National Museum cost €12. Inside, you’ll be able to learn about the history of the castle as well as the country as a whole. There is also an area of the museum that has been set up to replicate the inside of the castle from the 16th century including furniture and artifacts.
2. UFO Tower
The UFO Tower is one of the more modern pieces of the Bratislava skyline that you can see from just about everywhere in the city. The best view of the tower is from Bratislava Castle.
However, the best view of the entire city and far into Austria is from the UFO Tower. If you want to visit the best Bratislava attraction, this viewpoint is up there (see what I did there?).
There are two ticket options for visiting the UFO Tower. You can either go during the day when you can see far and wide. Or opt for the day and night ticket which allows you, as the name suggests, to visit during the day and return at night to see the city and the Danube all lit up.
One visit costs €9.90 and the day and night ticket costs €12.90.
If you want to visit and see the views while sitting down for a meal, you can go to the observation deck restaurant. If you visit the restaurant, you don’t need to pay for a ticket (but you do need to make a reservation).
The restaurant is probably the most expensive restaurant in Bratislava, but if you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion while visiting the city, this is the spot.
The final option for exploring the UFO Tower is something reserved for adrenaline junkies.
You can go on a skywalk around the outside of the tower. Of course, you are strapped in and taken by a guide. This option is only available during the warmer months (April-September). You can check that out here.
3. Oldest Shop in Town
While this isn’t the actual name of the shop, this is what it’s called on Google and this is the name you will see all over town and the internet. In Slovak, the name is Obchod v múzeu, which translates to “shop in the museum.”
The Oldest Shop in Town is both a souvenir shop and a museum, as the Slovak name suggests. The inside of the shop has not changed for about 100 years including the early 20th-century shelves that line the store.
You can find all kinds of Slovak goodies here like local beer, wine, cheese, locally made pottery, and cute handpainted postcards.
If you only buy one thing, I recommend their homemade Bratislavský rožok, the u-shaped pastries that you find at the front counter. You can buy a pack of five or just one or two to sample. They are very traditional Slovak pastries and come filled with poppy seeds or nuts, both are delicious.
Keep walking further into the shop and you’ll discover the museum side of the store. There is an entire room full of old cash registers and the second room is a mixture of other old machinery that was used to make ice cream, as a refrigerator, to weigh out products, and several more worth reading about.
4. The Blue Church
One of the most famous Bratislava attractions has to be the Blue Church. The church’s actual name is the Church of St. Elizabeth, but when you see it in person, you’ll understand exactly why it’s usually referred to as the Blue Church.
The church was built between 1908 and 1913 as a chapel for the neighboring school. It’s well worth walking past this school as well when you visit the blue church. Although the color isn’t as exciting, the Art Nouveau architecture is equally as interesting.
The exterior of the church looks something like an ornate wedding cake and if you can get a peek inside (it’s not often open unless there is a service), you’ll be able to see that the inside is also covered in blue.
5. Galéria NEDBALKA
This is one of my favorite things to do in Bratislava. I was surprised to find such a funky and unique art gallery in the center of Bratislava.
If you’ve ever been to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, you might feel a little deja vu when you walk into Galéria NEDBALKA. The stairs wind upward and the best way to see the museum is to start at the top and work your way down.
The museum focuses on fine art from Slovakia, something that you probably won’t find much of outside of Bratislava, which makes these even more of a must for Bratislava things to do.
The library is open Tuesday to Sunday from 1pm until 7pm and entrance costs €5. If you want to delve deeper into the history of the Slovak art and artists on display here, you can call ahead and book an English tour which costs €20 per person.
6. The Old Market Hall
The Old Market Hall was a highlight of my trip to Bratislava because it was one of those things to do in Bratislava that, as a visitor, really made the city feel like a community.
The market is only open on Saturdays from 9am until 3pm. So if you aren’t visiting on a Saturday, the best you can do is come by and take a photo of the exterior of the building. However, if you get the chance to visit on a Saturday, don’t miss out on visiting this beautiful space.
The market works to promote sustainable, local farmers and producers. You’ll find natural wine, locally made honey, sourdough bread, fresh produce, and a few artists on the bottom floor of the market.
Head to the second floor for a huge selection of new and used books.
There are a few stalls selling breakfast and lunch and you can take it to sit outside in the courtyard or head to one of the many tables in the back of the market hall.
There are a few restaurants and a brewery that shares the building which are open both during market hours as well as throughout the week.
7. St. Martin’s Cathedral
The city’s main cathedral, St. Martin’s Cathedral, is located close to Bratislava Castle. It’s a good idea to head to the castle and then visit the cathedral on the way back to the city.
It tends not to be open to the public in the mornings, especially on the weekends, when they hold mass each morning.
St. Martin’s Cathedral was originally constructed in 1452. Over the centuries, it suffered fires and was even once struck by lightning. The current church which stands there today was finished in 1877.
If you are interested in the history of the Hapsburg Empire, this church is of real significance because this is where the coronations were held between the 16th and 19th centuries. Amongst those that received their crowns in this church were Maria Theresa, Ferdinand (the II, III, IV, and V!), and Leopold II.
Be sure to walk to the other side of the cathedral and visit the memorial to the Jewish synagogue that once stood here. It’s packed with information about the construction of the synagogue as well as the Jewish people that were huge influences in the success of Pressburg in its heyday.
8. Museum of Jewish Culture
The Museum of Jewish Culture shares the history of the Jewish people in Slovakia. It was opened shortly after the country’s independence in 1993 and is part of the Slovak National Museum (housed in the Bratislava Castle).
Bratislava, which used to be known as Pressburg, was at the center of Jewish life in this region. The museum is housed in a building that was once part of the historic Jewish neighborhood in Bratislava.
If you want to explore the history of the Jewish people of Europe on your travels, this is an absolute must-visit. I found it an especially powerful place to start before I headed over to Prague and learned more from the museums in the city’s Jewish Quarter.
9. Bratislava Medieval City Wall
The ancient city fortifications line the west side of the city and are a nice place to walk and to read a little bit more about the history of the city.
I recommend starting here right next to St. Martin’s Cathedral and walking north to the other end of the path. Along the walls, you’ll be able to read about the kings who lived in the Bratislava castle and who were coronated in the cathedral.
There isn’t a lot of the fortification wall left. Maria Theresa had it torn down in 1775. However, you can still enjoy a small part of this very historical place.
10. Michael’s Gate
Michael’s Gate is the only city gate that has been preserved from the Medieval fortification mentioned above. You can’t miss it if you are entering the city from the north, because you’ll walk right under it to get to the Old Town.
On my most recent visit to the city (November 2022), the gate was covered in scaffolding and being repaired. It is likely to be under construction until early-mid 2023.
The tower is likely to have been first built back in the year 1300, but many changes were made to the gate in the 18th century, which gives it the baroque style we see now.
When the gate is open to the public, there is a small museum inside and you can actually go up into the tower that sits above the city gate. It offers a very interesting view out over the cobbled pedestrian streets of the old town.
11. Presidential Palace
Officially called the Grassalkovich Palace, this grand building is the home of the president of the Slovak Republic and has been since 1996.
The palace was originally built in 1760 for the Hungarian aristocrat and friend of Maria Theresa, Antal Grassalkovich. During those years, it was a popular place for the Hapsburgs to come and enjoy orchestra music or for Grassalkovich to throw elegant balls.
The palace is closed to the public as you might imagine, but you can enjoy views from the front, including the gilded gates and the honor guards standing out front.
12. Explore the Local Bookstores
One of the best things to do in Bratislava for bibliophiles is to explore the different bookshops around Bratislava. For such a small city, there are tons of great local and slightly larger chain bookstores. All of them are packed with books in Slovak and English.
Here are a few not to miss:
- Cafe Next Apache is a cute coffee shop and a secondhand bookshop with a really wonderful selection of different books. It’s the sort of place you pop into for a few minutes and accidentally spend an hour enjoying.
- Art Forum is one of the last independent bookshops in the city, which means it’s small and doesn’t have a ton of English books. But it’s still worth checking out to see what they’ve got on offer and to support a local business if you can.
- Martinus Bookstore has the largest selection of English books that I found while exploring Bratislava. Head towards the back and to the right, there is a whole area with literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
- Kníhkupectvo Panta Rhei is a huge bookshop with not only a nice English book selection but a wonderful selection of notebooks and beautiful stationery. There’s also a nice cafe upstairs.
13. Take a Walking Tour
There are so many different tour options available depending on what Bratislava attractions you want to learn more about.
For a budget option, you can buy this detailed audioguide that you download onto your phone and it takes you around the city. It’s a fun way to learn more about the history of Bratislava, but at your own pace. And it costs less than $15 USD. Purchase that walking tour here.
This tour is a fascinating one that covers the Soviet era as well as the post-communist years in Bratislava and much of Slovakia. If you are a history buff, this tour is an absolute must. You’ll even get to take a ride in an old 1970s Škoda. Book that tour here.
For a traditional walking tour of the city, this is your best option. You’ll tour the whole of the historic center with a knowledgeable guide and learn about the architecture, history, and culture, both old and new, of this fast-growing capital city. It’s a bargain at only $20 USD per person. Book that walking tour here.
14. See a Show at Slovak National Theater
If you enjoy seeing concerts, ballets, or operas, this will be one of the best things to do in Bratislava for you. This is an especially fun thing to do in the evenings to avoid the hostel pub crawls that tend to take over the city on Friday and Saturday nights.
The most common shows are either ballet or opera and both are exceptional at this stunning theater. This is ideal considering the other performances are usually in Slovak, so these others don’t require much language knowledge to enjoy them to their fullest.
If you don’t have time or the tickets are out of your budget, the exterior of the building is worth visiting just to see it up close.
15. Slovak National Gallery
Second only to the Galéria NEDBALKA, this is one of the most wonderful Bratislava attractions for art lovers.
The museum has a large collection of Slovak artists as well as a small collection of other international artists as well. This museum also tends to have more modern art on display, especially with the exhibits that change throughout the year.
The museum is housed inside the beautiful Esterházy Palace, which is well worth visiting simply to get a closer look.
The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:30am to 6pm and on Thursdays until 8pm. If it’s back open, be sure to visit Berlinka café and enjoy a delicious coffee and sweet pastry.
16. Go to the Beach
It might seem a strange idea to go to the beach while you’re visiting Bratislava, but if you’re here on a sweltering hot summer’s day, that’s exactly where all of the locals will be.
The Old Town Beach is located right on the edge of the old town along the Danube River. It’s a great place to come with friends for an afternoon in the sunshine.
There’s a little bar and restaurant on site where you can have beers, food, and even play volleyball if you want.
Another option is to cross over the bridge and visit the Sun Deck. This is a cool little restaurant that’s on a dock and has sunbeds, a bar, and a restaurant where you can hang out in the sunshine.
17. Devín Castle
If you have a little bit more time in Bratislava than just one day, I highly recommend hopping on the local bus to Devin Castle.
Taking the bus in Bratislava is pretty easy. At most of the bus stops you’ll see a ticket machine where you can purchase a ticket. If you don’t see these machines at the bus stop, you can also buy tickets at any tourist information center or at a local newsstand.
However, you cannot buy a bus ticket once you are on the bus.
I recommend getting a 24-hour ticket so that you can get to and from Devin Castle and perhaps enjoy a few other sites nearby all for a very reasonable €3.50 (just under $4 USD). Read more about the Bratislava public transport network here.
Devín is a borough or neighborhood in Bratislava that is located almost at the border with Austria. It takes about 30 minutes to get there by bus. The most direct route is to take bus 29 from the Most SNP bus stop.
Devín Castle was built in the 13th century and while much of it is now in ruins, you can explore the museum there which walks you through the history of this fascinating place.
This is a wonderful place to come to on a sunny day for incredible views. It’s also close to some fantastic hiking nearby (which I talk about in #20!).
18. Sample the Craft Beer Scene
One of my favorite things to sample when I visit a new city is a local beer. Whether it’s craft beer in Mexico City, pilsner in the Czech Republic, or local ales in the UK, it’s always interesting to learn more about a country or city’s culture this way.
In many ways, it can be as revealing or more about a culture than the food!
Before coming to Bratislava, I looked up the different beers that I might find while I was there and much of my research came back with the same information; most Slovakians drink Czech beer.
But I did find a few local spots that are brewing their own beer and trying to make it cool to drink Slovak beer.
Mešuge Craft Beer Pub is one of those places. They make their own beer as well as serve beer on draft from other Slovak breweries from around the country. It’s also a great restaurant for sampling some local food.
My personal favorite spot in Bratislava for beer, though, is Výčap u Ernőho. This little brewery bar is attached to the Old Market Hall, but don’t worry, it’s open all week and well into the wee hours on the weekends to enjoy their delicious beer. They have a nice selection of pale ales, a few lagers, a pilsner, and a few darker beers, too.
19. Enjoy Local Food
You can’t visit Slovakia and not try some of the local dishes!
There are tons of great restaurants around the city and I will soon be writing a guide to the ones I love the most. These are the foods you’ll want to try when you read the menus.
- Bryndzové halušky: If you only try one thing when you are in Slovakia, it should probably be Slovakia’s national dish, right? This dish is made up of dumplings coated in a beautiful rich goat cheese sauce. The dumplings are made of potato and are a sort of mix between gnocchi and a spaetzle. Chewy, salty, everything you want after a few craft beers.
- Zemiakové placky: These are potato pancakes that, as far as I can tell, are pretty regional to Slovakia. You may find pancakes that look like this in the Czech Republic or Poland, but these are made fried and made with potatoes and they taste utterly delectable. They’re usually served with sour cream or kefir.
- Segedin goulash: You’ll find goulash on menus all over central and eastern Europe and every country does it a little bit differently. This is the Slovak version and I like it a lot. It’s made with chunks of pork and sauerkraut and is usually served with a big dollop (or a bowl on the side) or sour cream.
For a more comprehensive guide to the best foods to try when visiting Slovakia, check out this helpful guide.
20. Go Hiking
If you are visiting in the spring, summer, or early autumn and you have nice weather (no rain or fog), then hiking is one of the best things to do in Bratislava for adventure lovers.
This is a great option to tack onto a morning visit to Devín Castle (#17).
There is a nice wooded area just next to Devín castle with several different hikes to choose from.
One of my personal favorites is to head up to this observation tower. You can easily hike in this hilly forest for a few hours. There are tons of different trails to follow. Check out AllTrails or Maps.me for the most detailed trail maps.
Once you’re done, you can use your 24-hour bus ticket to head back to the city center.