11 must-see things to do in Bratislava

Visiter Bratislava

Visiting Bratislava: what are the best things to see and do in Slovakia’s capital?

Slovakia ‘s capital since 1993, Bratislava is also the country’s largest city with 415,000 inhabitants. Situated 1 hour’s drive from Vienna and 2 hours from Budapest, it’s a must on any trip to Eastern Europe. Its main advantage: you can visit Bratislava in a day or two. Much less well-known than the other capitals on the Danube, Bratislava (formerly Presburg) will enchant you with its small size and castles. Budget travelers will appreciate the many free tours on offer. If you’re planning a trip to Slovakia, here are the top things to do in Bratislava that you shouldn’t miss.

1. Bratislava Castle (Hrad)

Château de Bratislava en Slovaquie

Flickr – Larry Myhre

Bratislava Castle, or Hrad, stands on a hill overlooking the city. Originally a Roman frontier post, there has been a castle on this site since the 9th century. In 1881, it was burnt to the ground and not rebuilt until the mid-1900s. Despite the castle’s drab exterior, it’s well worth a visit for the museums housed inside and the panoramic views over the city and the Danube.

2. Devín Castle

Château de Devin, Bratislava

Flickr – Vegard Ryan

Devín Castle, overlooking the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, is one of the three oldest historically recognized castles in Slovakia. The village of Devin is now part of Bratislava. The oldest traces of settlement date back to the 5th century BC. Thanks to its advantageous geographical position, it was able to control the most important trade routes along the Danube, as well as part of the amber route. In the 1st century BC, the territory was settled by the Celts. It was destroyed by Napoleon’s troops in 1809. Today, the castle ruins can be visited as a museum, and the view from the castle is superb.

3. Porte Saint-Michel and rue Saint-Michel

Porte Saint-Michel, Bratislava

Flickr – Chris Pinnock

St. Michael’s Gate and Street is one of Bratislava’s most famous landmarks. It’s a small street lined with numerous stores and restaurants. In summer, Michalska Ulica teems with tourists, street artists and locals enjoying the cool Slovak summer nights. Most of the buildings on Michalska Ulica date back to the 18th century and have survived several wars, occupations and the Communist regime. At the end of this street stands the Porte Saint Michel (or « Michel Gate »), the only surviving gate from the city’s medieval fortifications. At 51 meters high, it now houses the Museum of Arms and Municipal Fortifications. A visit to the museum offers a view of the Bratislavian skyline from the top of the tower.

4. Saint Elisabeth Church

Eglise Saint-Elisabeth, église bleue, Bratislava

Wikimedia – Carlos Delgado

It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of Art Nouveau architecture in the world. It’s also known as the Blue Church, because of its exterior and interior cladding. It was completed in 1908 by Hungarian architect Odon Lechner. It can also be recognized by its 36-metre cylindrical tower. It is easily reached on foot from Brastislava’s central square, the church being located on Bezrucova Street.

5. Town hall and main square (Hlavné námestie)

Hlavné námestie, place principale de Bratislava

Flickr – Jorge Láscar

Originally a tower house in the 14th century, the old town hall came into being in the 15th century by connecting several bourgeois houses, then went through several reconstructions over the centuries. After the earthquake of 1599, it was rebuilt in Renaissance style, while the town hall tower was rebuilt in Baroque style in the 18th century. In 1912, the rear wing was built in neo-Renaissance style on the courtyard side, and in neo-Gothic style on the Primaciálne square side. This square is home to a number of beautiful buildings with colorful facades, as well as the Bratislava Municipal Museum, which exhibits the city’s history, a retrospective on feudal justice and a floor devoted to wines.

6. Picturesque bronze statues

Statue paparazzi Bratislava

Wikimedia – Benmil222

While Bratislava inspired few tourists due to the Communist era, many buildings have been repainted and renovated. To brighten up the old town, a number of picturesque statues were added. Following their popularity with tourists, new statues were installed, which you can trace as you stroll through the center. You’ll find the Cumil, the most famous statue of a man emerging from a sewer, a soldier from Napoleon’s army, Schone Naci and a paparazzi.

7. Slovak National Uprising Bridge (Nový Most)

Novy Most, pont de Bratislava

Wikimedia – Ondrejk

If you’d like a panoramic view of Bratislava and its castle, why not climb up to the bridge’s observation platform? This 85-meter-high « saucer » houses the expensive UFO restaurant. The observation deck offers great views. It’s the longest cable-stayed bridge in the single-pylon category.

8. Lake Zlaté Piesky

Zlaté Piesky Bratislava

Source – intersportbenefit.sk

Zlaté Piesky is the ideal place to escape the summer heat and enjoy water sports. The lake is a place of recreation and relaxation close to the city center, and is very popular with those who want to get away from it all. You can swim, practice water sports, etc…

9. Grassalkovich Palace (presidential palace)

palais Grassalkovitch Bratislava

Wikimedia – Juan Ramon Rodriguez Sosa

Now the home of the Slovak president, the Grassalkovich Palace was once the residence and meeting place for several members of the Austro-Hungarian and Habsburg aristocracy.

10. Bratislava’s museums

There are many museums in Bratislava, which is one of the reasons why you should stay in the Slovak capital and visit some of them. We’ve seen them in Bratislava Castle, Devin Castle, St. Michael’s Tower and the Old Town Hall, but there are many others:

  • Slovak National Museum (Vjanskeho Nabrezie 2)
  • Museum of Archaeology (Zizkova 12)
  • Museum of Jewish Culture (Zidovska 17)
  • Musée des Arts et des Métiers (Beblaveho 1)
  • Clock Museum (Zidovska 1)
  • Police Museum (Gundulicova 2)
  • Gas Industry Museum (Mlynske Nivy 44/a)
  • and the many art galleries

11. Nightlife

vie nocturne Bratislava

Source – stag-bratislava.com

Bratislava may be a small capital, but its nightlife is lively, with many bars hidden away in the alleys of the old town and nightclubs to suit all tastes. It’s usually free to get into a Bratislava club, although some of the best places may charge a few euros for entry. Consos are relatively inexpensive, and people generally go out before midnight and stay in the club until 3 or 4 in the morning.

Where to stay in Bratislava?

Bratislava has small hotels in the city center and youth hostels on the outskirts. As we’ve said, Bratislava isn’t a huge city, so there aren’t many areas to stay in the capital. To find a hotel in Bratislava, consult our hotel comparator.

How to get to Bratislava

Bratislava can be easily visited in a day or two from Vienna, for example. You can get there by train or car. From France, it’s best to fly, as Bratislava is served by low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Smart Wings. To find a cheap flight to Bratislava, check the best prices on Skyscanner.

Avez-vous visité Bratislava ?

Carte des hôtels et logements – Bratislava,sk