In my humble opinion, the quiet and entirely unassuming city of Bratislava is one of the most underrated in central Europe.
Sandwiched between the tourist giants of Budapest and Vienna (check out this amazing bus / boat trip if you want to cruise down the river to Bratislava from the Austrian capital), the cute capital of the tiny nation of Slovakia really is an underrated gem.
Feeling more like a provincial town, than the centre of a nation, Bratislava is wonderfully relaxed and full of open spaces – a city where the greatest noise comes from the trams rattling over the cobbled streets.
And if you’re on a bit of a Euro city tour, it provides a welcome relief from the hectic city madness and heavy snapping crowds too!
So if you’re looking for the definition of an anti-capital, look no further than brilliant, beautiful Bratislava in Slovakia.
Here’s my list of the 13 best things to do there…
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My stay in Bratislava was kindly sponsored by Dream Hostel but, as always, all views are my own!
#1 Check out the Galley Spaces
There’s a heap of tiny galleries dotted around Bratislava and while you, unfortunately, do have to pay to enter most, there are a couple of free and excellent ones you should definitely put on your list of things to do in Bratislava.
2 of the best I checked out were the HIT Gallery (now sadly closed it seems from my latest research) and Medium.
Located almost next door to each other, they both featured some small, but lovely exhibitions when I was there and offer the perfect artsy fix in this city.
#2 Find all the Street Sculptures
And sticking with the art theme, you’ll soon realise that Bratislava is as famous for its quirkiness as much as anything else!
Probably why I liked this city so much!
Anyway, one of the main reasons why it gets this title is because of the many metal sculptures that dot the streets in interesting locations.
Most of them relate to some part of the city’s history and they are very popular selfie spots among tourists too!
Favourites include Paparazzi, Napoleon Soldier and Two Girls Leaning on Post Box (which are all in the main centre of the city and shouldn’t be missed.)
But the piece de resistance has to be Man at Work (pictured above).
I’m not going to give his location away, because finding this guy is half the fun, but if you only snap one selfie in Bratislava, let it be this!
#3 Snap the Old Town
So while we’re speaking about snapping and sculptures in Bratislava, it’s worth saying that the beautiful old town itself is also worth more than a few GB on your memory card!
As the main tourist hub of this city, the quaint streets, multiple churches, picturesque archways and charming atmosphere of this old town are truly delightful.
Exploring is absolutely one of the best things to do in Bratislava and is best enjoyed either early in the morning or later in the evening, when the many day trip groups from Vienna have all pushed off!
Highlights include the Old City Walls, St Martin’s Cathedral, Michael’s Gate, the Trinitarian Church and the Old Market Hall.
I also loved the sense of stepping back in time that many of the quiet streets of Bratislava provided, as nuns dressed in habits darted across the cobbles and children playing in the city’s fountains squeaked with joy.
#4 Take a City Tour
But if you don’t have the luxury of a couple of days to really get into the pace of Bratislava (read: unwind to the max!) then don’t fret, because this city is so small, it’s also quite easy to see in a day.
And a great way to become quickly acquainted with it is to jump onto a great walking tour.
This free city tour is a brilliantly cheap thing to do in Bratislava; otherwise, the tourism office in the capital have a free app you can easily use as your personal, offline guide to the city instead. Check it out here.
Alternatively, there’s a number of paid tours to choose from too – which generally offer smaller groups and something a bit special. Here’s my pick of the bunch…
#5 Hang in Parks, Squares and Fountains
One of the main things I loved about Bratislava – probably because I visited in the summer when it was about 2 million degrees! – were the number of parks, squares and public gardens you can find in this city.
And checking out at least a few of them is definitely one of the best things to do here.
My favs included the manicured Presidential Gardens, the huge City Park and the Gardens by the Slovak National Theatre, which even has a great fountain / mini pool that locals and tourists alike dip their toes in to cool down.
And, oh while you’re here, why not see what’s on at the theatre too!
#6 Wine Taste!
If you’d like something to sip on while you relax, then why not consider enjoying some wine tasting while you’re in Bratislava too?
Who knew that Slovakia had such a rich wine heritage? Not me!
But turns out, on the slopes of the Carpathian Mountains, this country produces some of this region’s best wines.
Full of a distinctive minerality and pleasant aroma (I’ll trust the experts on this one!), there’s a couple of ways to enjoy a tipple here along with some local wine info.
First up, tasting sessions run across the capital and enjoying one in the Slovakian National Collection of Wines is surely one of the top things to do in Bratislava.
Otherwise, a short 50 minute public transport trip out of the capital will lead to the nearby town of Modra, which is famed for its viticulture and its history.
Here you can enjoy a private wine tasting session in a boutique vineyard that includes a a tour by a friendly member of the family who own this lovely farm.
#7 Scale to the Castle
No list of the best things to do in Bratislava would be complete without mentioning the iconic castle that looms over this city in a fairytale kind of a way.
Dating back to the Romans (ok, well not this current castle, but some level of fortification has been here for thousands of years), records that show it’s been used by just about every empire that existed here since.
So if you do just one thing in the city, make it this!
If you don’t want to pay for an entrance ticket, it pays to know you can take the free stroll up the hill to the castle (making use of the exercise!) and then marvel at the views over the city from the top, before enjoying a pleasant siesta in the grassy gardens in the shadow of the ancient castle – delightful!
If you do want to go inside, then the castle is open daily from 10am-6pm (5pm in the winter) and your ticket includes entry to The Treasury Museum and The Slovak History Museum, which are located within the gates too.
During the summer months of July and August, free Saturday tours of the castle in English are also provided free with your entrance ticket. Learn more here.
Otherwise, you can pay for a castle tour with this top-rated company.
And from the castle grounds, you can also view another of Bratislava’s quintessential quirky features – its famous UFO bridge.
Just look across the water and you’ll spot it!
If you’ve got a few spare euros, you can even climb it.
Otherwise, why not head down to the castle and stroll along the bridge.
Walking here is a delightful way to take in the views of the city and definitely one of the best things to do in Bratislava.
Why not see if you can discover the mini-city beach nearby while you’re at it?
Great place for sunset drinks FYI!
#9 Marvel at the Views from Slavin
Another great vantage point and one of the best things to do in Bratislava is to walk up to Slavin – the huge war memorial that stands proudly on a hill above the city.
Paying homage to 7000 troops that were killed when liberating Slovakia from Nazi occupation at the end of World War II, around the monument is a cemetery where the wounded are buried.
It’s a hike up here and rather a sad spot given the history, but the positive takehome is that the views, especially at sunset time, are amazing.
#10 Get Out of the Old Town
Of course, the Old Town is nice, but it’s also super touristy and getting outside of it to discover some of the “real” Bratislava is a must if you have enough time.
Even wandering the streets just outside the historic centre will bring you in touch with everyday life here, as students bustle to class and older people savour their coffee on the street.
With a lively university population, as well as a growing tech industry and tourism quota, Bratislava is upbeat, progressive and positive… I like it!
Plus the Blue Church and the Slovak Radio Tower, both located outside of the Old Town, are well worth checking out!
Insta snappers be ready!
Hipsters, foodies and coffee lovers unite, there’s tons of fun cafes in Bratislava for you to enjoy and savouring some time in at least a couple of them is definitely one of the funnest things to do this city.
Here’s my pick of the best cafe spots…
- Lab Café
- Urban House
#12 Take a Day Trip
If you think Bratislava is cute, then wait until you see some of the gorgeous countryside surrounding this capital!
From hiking adventures to wine tastings, castle visits to Soviet history tours, it’s all for the taking!
Here’s my pick of the top Bratislava day trips to enjoy on day 2 of your itinerary.
- Fatra Mountains Hiking Trip
- Budapest City & Baths Tour
- Food & Walking Tour to Vienna
- Carpathian Wine Tasting
- Lesser Fatra Tour with Zilina
#13 Get Carried Away on Kapitulska Street
And last but not least, we come to my favourite thing to do in Bratislava, because this cute street really is snap happy heaven!
From its quaint and crumbling buildings down to the large cobbles and authentic charm, this was my favourite place in the city and the one that definitely best encapsulated what I enjoyed so much about my short stay here.
Don’t miss it!
Mini Travel Guide to Bratislava
How to Get to Bratislava?
Getting across from most parts of central or eastern Europe (such as Budapest or Vienna) to Bratislava is easy via bus or train.
I actually travelled there overnight from Budapest and found the journey easy and safe.
As always, I book all my train and coach travel across Europe using Omio.
I love the way they compare multiple journeys and use split-fare technology to get you the best prices.
Alternatively, you can also fly into Bratislava if you’re coming from further away.
As always, I recommend checking Skyscanner for the best prices.
Alternatively, you can also enjoy a tour of central Europe that includes Bratislava as a stop.
Check out these top options for more info.
How Long to Spend in Bratislava?
I think 2 days is a great amount of time to spend in Bratislava.
On day 1, I recommend exploring the Old Town area and then, on your second day, I suggest you head out of the city to enjoy some of the area’s other best attractions.
See my list of the top day trips I recommended earlier in this article for more ideas.
Where to Stay in Bratislava?
No question in my mind, the best budget place to stay in Bratislava is Dream Hostel.
In fact, this hostel boasts some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever met, a gorgeous little bar area and some beautiful aircon dorms and private rooms!
Plus its location is top-notch!
Otherwise, if you want something with self-catering facilities and a little more space, then this city centre apartment offers great facilities and gets top reviews.
4 Packing Essentials for Bratislava
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Bratislava and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous destination justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a fair amount of walking in Bratislava, so make sure your feet are comfortable with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish city strolling, I love mine!
#4 Good Water Bottle – All the city sightseeing is thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because Bratislava tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Backpack – And to carry your water bottle, camera and guidebook, you’re going to need a decent backpack that will help you balance the weight as you walk the city streets. In my opinion, you can’t go past the Bobby Anti Theft Backpack, which is also perfect for helping you avoid pickpockets too.
Travel Insurance for Slovakia
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Travel Money for Slovakia
When it comes to paying for things in Slovakia, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise Card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card here… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold!
Get your Wise card here.
SAVE THIS TO PINTEREST!
And there they are, my 13 best things to do in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
Have you visited this cute, characterful city?
Did you love it too?
What was your favourite thing to do there?
Tell me all in the comments box below…