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24 Hours in Bratislava: What to See in Slovakia’s Capital

By: | May 30th, 2017 | 0 Comment

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During our visit to Eastern Europe, we rented a car in Budapest and took a road trip to Slovakia. We spent a leisurely 24 hours in Bratislava, the charming capital city, before traveling to Montenegro. This quaint medieval town is a great day trip from Vienna, Prague, and Budapest with affordable train routes. We recommend staying overnight since Old Town is full of life in the evenings with adorable cafes and pubs overflowing with people. It makes for a very romantic evening strolling hand-in-hand around the cobblestone streets of this medieval city.

I have to say that after 14 years together, 10 years of marriage, and 2 preschoolers later, we’ve still got it. This is one of the reasons we still have “it”- traveling together a few times every year, just the two of us while the kids spend time with family, to keep the passion burning. Bratislava is the perfect city for fanning the flames of romance, and we felt the love during our time exploring the enchanting little city;) 24 hours in Bratislava is not a lot of time, but we sure did enjoy it.

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Hviezdoslavovo Square seen from Raddison Blu Carlton Hotel In Bratislava

In Bratislava, we strayed from our typical action-packed travel agenda. Instead, we enjoyed a relaxing visit with no plan other than to meander the streets and see what we discovered. The great thing about Bratislava is that it is small enough to do exactly that and still feel like you didn’t miss anything.

The main highlights we found wandering around Bratislava were Bratislava Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Michael’s Gate, Historic Opera House, Main Square, Old Town Hall, UFO Bridge, and the quirky statues playfully placed throughout the city. We didn’t even pull out a map and managed to find these popular sights. It is a very small town and you can easily walk everywhere. Here’s our recommendations for a relaxing 24 hours in Bratislava, Slovakia’s beautiful capital city.

 

Bratislava By Night

 

Stroll the streets of Old Town
We arrived in the evening after spending much more of the day than anticipated in Budapest’s Gellert Bath. We checked in to our hotel, the beautiful and historic Radison Blu Carlton Hotel. It is situated in the heart of Old Town, which makes is a perfect place to stay in Bratislava. After admiring the great views of St. Martin’s Cathedral and Bratislava Castle from our hotel room, we headed out to check out the night life.

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View of Bratislava Castle and St. Martin’s Cathedral lit up at night from Raddison Blu Carlton Hotel

We instantly fell in love with the charismatic city that was bubbling with energy at night. We had already eaten dinner on the way from Budapest but enjoyed walking around exploring the bustling streets of the medieval city. The sidewalks were spilling over with people enjoying Slovakian food, beer and wine. We regretted having already eaten.

The fountain in the Main Square is lit up at night and is a good place to sit down and people-watch. We saw a guy who had a few too many drinks get in the fountain. We were feeling really chill that night and enjoyed a laid back evening strolling around Old Town. The more energetic crowd could try a pub crawl or one of the night clubs, but the only thing we wanted to crawl into was our bed after a relaxing stroll.

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Roland Fountain in the Main Square in Bratislava

Bratislava By Day

 

Take a free walking tour or make your own walking tour
The next morning we slept in and then fully indulged in the breakfast buffet at our hotel. Getting a late start on the day is not normally our style, but Bratislava is small enough that we felt confident about having enough time to discover its treasures in one day. While eating breakfast outside overlooking the Hviezdoslavovo square, we noticed someone holding a sign for a free walking tour. We didn’t want to rush through our breakfast so missed the tour, but this a great option for anyone wanting to get the highlights and history of the city in a few hours. We have taken some excellent free walking tours in other European cities and since the tour guides are working for tips, they are motivated to make the tours very interesting. Be Free Tours offers free walking tours daily at 10am, 11am, and 4pm from Hviezdoslavovo Square by the statue of Hvlezdoslav. They also do pub crawls on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights.

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Bratislava’s Opera House and Hveizdoslavovo Square seen from Raddison Blu Carlton Hotel

See the Historical Opera House
Bertaut and I decided on a relaxing day and threw our typically exhausting agenda to the wind. We headed out with our cameras to capture the beauty of Bratislava by day. Just outside of our hotel in the city center is the gorgeous old Opera House. My step-grandmother grew up in Bratislava and used to sing at this opera house. It was really special to stand there imagining her back in her youth performing operas in such a magnificent building. The neo-Renaissance theatre was constructed in 1886 and has been home to performances in Hungarian, Slovak, and Czech languages through the years.

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Bratislava’s Opera House is a magnificent building

Shop for souvenirs or sit at an outdoor cafe in Hveizdoslavovo Square

The opera house looks out onto Hveizdoslavovo Square, which is lined with cafes and stands selling souvenirs and local products. Take a walk through this beautiful tree-lined square to see what treasures are calling your name. Stop for a cup of coffee and savor the atmosphere along this charming promenade. Make sure to check out the traditional Slovakian souvenirs, some of which are giant freaky-looking dolls.

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Traditional Slovakian dolls make interesting souvenirs

24 hours in Bratislava, How to spend a day in Bratislava, What to see in Bratislava, Highlights of Bratislava

Hveizdoslavovo Square is lined with stands selling local products and souvenirs

Meander your way to the Main Square, Hlavne Namestie, and visit Old Town Hall

The Main Square of Bratislava is picture perfect.  You will want to spend some time snapping photos of the beautiful Roland Fountain and impressive architecture. Have a seat on a bench and soak in the scenery, or peruse the souvenir stands. The main landmark is Old Town Hall, a complex of buildings dating back to the 14th century. It is one of the oldest stone buildings still standing in Bratislava, and the oldest city hall in Slovakia. The tower was built around 1370 and then the town hall was created in the 15th century. For a small fee you can visit the outlook at the top of the tower for a nice view of the city. There is also an exhibit on the city history and torture devices.

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Main Square with Roland Fountain in Bratislava

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Old Town Hall in Bratislava

Go on a statue scavenger hunt

As you meander the streets of Bratislava, keep your eyes peeled for quirky bronze statues placed throughout the city. The most famous one is called Cumil,  which translates to “The Watcher”. There are 2 possible explanations for its name- he’s a typical communist era worker who is not too worried about doing his work, or he’s peaking under women’s skirts. Which explanation do you prefer? I didn’t learn this fun fact until doing my research for this blog post, which is a shame because I was wearing a dress that day and can think of a fun photo opportunity. You can find this statue at the junction of Laurinska and Panska Streets, so make sure to take an obligatory selfie with Cumil.

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Cumil, “The Watcher” is the most famous and photographed statue in Bratislava

Some of the other statues we found were Napoleon’s soldier, a silver one of a guy with a top hat, and one of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. They say that if you rub his fingers you will be successful in a writing and creative career. I’m not one for superstition, but just in case, I made sure to rub those fingers. During your time in Bratislava, go on a scavenger hunt and see how many statues you can find. For extra fun, see who can come up with the most creative photo with a statue. I gave Napoleon’s soldier a kiss because children were around and I didn’t want to do anything too crazy. What would you do?

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Statue of Napoleon’s Soldier in Bratislava Main Square

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Silver statue of a man who went crazy in Bratislava because of unrequited love

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Statue of Hans Christian Andersen with his fairy-tale characters in Bratislava

Walk through Michael’s Gate

Michael’s Gate is the only surviving medieval gate to Old Town, making it one of the oldest buildings in Bratislava. It was built around 1300 and then underwent baroque reconstructions in 1758. It’s tower is home to the Bratislava City Museum’s Exhibition of Weapons. Michael’s Gate looks beautiful in photos, especially on a sunny day with a perfect blue sky.

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Michael’s Gate in Old Town Bratislava

Visit St. Martin’s Cathedral

St. Martin’s Cathedral is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. It is the second most popular tourist destination in the city. The cathedral is famous for being the coronation place of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1563 and 1830. It held 19 coronations, one of which was for Queen Maria Theresa. For a small fee you can visit the crypt with the catacombs, where remains of archbishops and cardinals lie. Walk around the colorful streets surrounding the church and enjoy some wine in Rodney Square. From there you can take the walkway to Bratislava Castle and UFO Bridge.

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Inside St. Martin’s Cathedral during a service

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Colorful houses near St. Martin’s Cathedral in Bratislava

Take in the panoramic views from Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle has been the dominant feature of the city for centuries, situated high on a hill above the Danube. Most of the castle burned down in 1811 and much of what stands today was built in the 1960’s. Original parts of the castle remain, including the Sigismund Gate dating back to the 15th century. The castle’s architecture did not impress us much, except for the beautiful entrance gates. However, the views up there are phenomenal. You can see Bratislava, Austria, and part of Hungary in clear weather. Today the castle houses the Slovak National Museum.

Bertaut decided to fly his drone near the castle since the views up there are incredible. We had just come from Budapest, where there were no restrictions on flying drones. We mistakenly assumed Bratislava would have the same laid-back attitude and did not see any signs prohibiting drones. Just a few minutes after he launched his drone an angry man who worked for the castle came running over and told him to land it immediately. Fortunately he did not make us delete our video or photos from his quick flight. Check back soon on the blog and social media for footage from Bratislava Castle.

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Bratislava Castle overlooks the city of Bratislava on a hill above the Danube

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Entrance gates at Bratislava Castle

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Panoramic view of Danube and UFO Bridge from Bratislava Castle

Check out the UFO Bridge or dine at the UFO Restaurant

The UFO Bridge is visible throughout Bratislava thanks to a tower that looks just like a flying saucer. We opted to snap photos from Bratislava Castle, but there’s an observation deck for a small fee (around 7 Euros) with excellent views of the city. A fancy restaurant inside with floor to ceiling windows is perfect for a romantic sunset dinner in Bratislava. It serves both traditional Slovak food and international cuisine.

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UFO Bridge in Bratislava

Head out of town to see Devin Castle

Since we had a rental car, we made a stop at Devin Castle on our way out of town. It is just 9km from Bratislava and is also accessible by boat and bus. Devin Castle, one of the oldest castles in Slovakia, is situated on a high cliff above the Danube and Moravia Rivers. Many nations, including the Celts and Romans, used this strategic location as a military fortress. Devin Castle was once a huge medieval castle but Napoleon’s army destroyed it in 1809. The castle is open to visitors daily except Mondays for a small fee. Bertaut flew his drone nearby and captured gorgeous shots of the area.

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Devin Castle sits atop a cliff above the Danube and Moravia Rivers just 9km from Bratislava, Slovakia

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Devin Castle medieval gate entrance

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Picture-perfect hotel in Slovakia near entrance to Devin Castle

In conclusion, Bratislava is a charming medieval city that is definitely worth a visit. For us, 24 hours was enough time to get a feel for the town and visit its highlights. However, we could have enjoyed more time visiting museums, tasting Slovakian cuisine, and soaking up the sun at the outdoor cafes. If you’ve been to Bratislava and think we missed something cool, please let us know in the comments. If you liked this post, please share it on social media and pin it for later. Sign up for our email newsletter for more travel tips and inspiration to travel the world.

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About Bertaut & Alexis

24 Hours in Bratislava: What to See in Slovakia’s Capital
Travel addicts and proud parents of two young kids who make exploring the world a priority while working full time. Bertaut & Alexis enjoy traveling like millionaires without spending a fortune and share their tips on how to get luxury for less.
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