Imagine old world charm and medieval neighbourhoods meeting Communist-era monuments and modern day architecture. This is Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Straddling the Danube River, this historic city is filled with plenty of sights to see and experiences to be had. If you’re looking for the perfect way to experience Bratislava in one day, you’ll find some suggestions below.
This underrated destination in Europe is well connected to its neighbouring cities Vienna, Budapest and the rest of Europe making Bratislava a popular choice for a quick breakaway often as a day trip. The region has a long history that has been greatly influenced by many cultures and traditions over the centuries resulting is an extensive mix that is worth checking out.
Best Time to Visit Bratislava
You can visit Bratislava at any time during the year, but some periods are more enjoyable and suitable than others. The weather and the number of tourists are two important considerations.
During summer, the city moves outdoors with an increase in the number of events and activities available. It becomes a delight to stroll and relax along the banks of the Danube River. Summer can be fairly hot and this is also peak tourist season when Europe goes on vacation and peak cruise activity along the Danube, so prepare for crowds.
The shoulder season from April to June and September – November provide a nice balance between smaller crowds and good weather. It is also a good time to experience the blossom or fall foliage season.
During December and the beginning of January, the entire city is brought to life with the festivities of the Christmas markets bringing a level of cheers despite the cold winter weather.
Getting to Bratislava
Conveniently located it is possible to reach the capital of Slovakia by bus, train, or flight.
The cheapest option is to take a bus from nearby cities such as Vienna, Budapest or Prague using FlixBus, Eurolines or RegioJet arriving in over an hour.
There are hourly buses from Vienna Airport that connect to the Bratislava bus station.
Another option is the use of the train with connections to nearby cities including Vienna, Budapest, and Zurich up to twice a day. For schedules and fare, check the OEBB website.
How to Get Around Bratislava
A big part of the reason why visiting Bratislava in one day is a feasible option is because it’s an easy city to navigate and the best way to see the city is by walking. It’s a small city so everything you’d want to do in a day is most likely found within easy walking distance
There are times when taking public transport may be the better option. In this case, the transport system is easy, cheap, and usually on time to the minute.
The city’s network of trams and buses are sufficient and reliable. The city’s trams mainly encircle the Old Town and are a good option for getting across the city centre. The buses coverage extends to greater Bratislava. The same ticket can be used for trams, trolleybuses, and buses. Tickets can be bought from the yellow machines at stations or from any of the newspaper kiosks, but not from the drivers themselves.
There are bus services that run throughout the city though, and taxi ranks can be easily found.
The cheapest ticket is a 15-minute trip with no transfers at a cost of €0.70.
My recommendation: Purchase the 24-hour public transportation ticket for €3,50. This allow access to all forms of transportation on the same ticket during your entire 24 hours in the Bratislava.
How to get from the train station in Bratislava to the city centre
If you’re traveling to Bratislava by train, the final stop will be the main train station, “Hlavná stanica,” a 15-minute walk from the old city.
To get to the city centre take:
– tram line 93, exit at either Hodzovo nám or Zochova station.
– tram line X13, exit at “Namestie SNP”
How to get from the airport in Bratislava (BTS) to the city centre
Bratislava Airport is 9 km out of the city and if you’re arriving by air, the city centre can be reached in 40 minutes.
To get to the Old Town:
– Take bus number 61 to the main train station.
– connect to the tramline (93 or X13) from here to reach the city centre.
The easiest and cheapest way at a cost of just €0.70 per adult.
The bus station at the airport is located just outside of the main terminal building in front of the arrivals hall. Line 61 is available from 4:45 until 23:30.
Alternatively, a taxi from the airport to the city centre will cost you €20, taking 15 minutes.
Note that there are luggage lockers at the station providing the convenience of storing your belongings while you go about the business of sightseeing.
Related: The top things to do in Riga Latvia
Where to Stay in Bratislava
Following my recommendations on the best things to do in Bratislava in one day below, it is highly likely that you would be spending most of your time in and around the city centre.
The best places to find would be the ones within walking distance of the Old Town. The best options budget wise are likely to be found near the train station, while many of the apartment options located east of the city centre.
How to spend One Day in Bratislava
Despite being one of the smaller capitals in Europe, the city is spread across a large area. Unfortunately, if you only have one day in Bratislava, you may be concerned about seeing and experiencing all that this city has to offer in your limited time.
A plan is what you need. A plan is what I have for you right here.
Bear in mind that most museums and galleries are closed on Mondays
Wander around Old Town Bratislava
Now I know what you may be thinking, “I only have one day in Bratislava! Are you really suggesting just wandering around without a plan?”
A huge draw card and major reason to visit Bratislava is because of the charm and delight of the Old Town where you will find winding alleyways, historic buildings and quirky sculptures complemented by a host of restaurants, cafes, and pubs. A large portion of Bratislava’s historic sights can be also found here.
The Old Town is relatively compact and easily accessible as a pedestrian-only zone. From the Main Square you can wander in any direction and enjoy the grand palaces in between the charming streets.
Admire Michael’s Gate
Most of my recommended things to see on one day in Bratislava is contained in the Old Town. The 51-meter high Michael’s Gate is your entry into this Old Town. Start your morning here before the crowds.
One of the oldest spots in all of Bratislava, built waaay back in the 14th century, it towers above the city and is one of the city’s most distinguished sights with it’s baroque architecture and green-copper spire.
In the medieval times, Bratislava (although, I’m sure it wasn’t called this name back then) was fortified with access only through one of four gates. Michael’s gate is the only remaining gate from that period now serving as the city’s Museum of Arms focusing on weaponry and defense.
Entry into the tower would set you back €4 and you gain access to a seven story tower that leads to a viewing platform at the very top with a birds eye view of the Bratislava Old Town and the surrounding city.
At the base of the tower, you’ll find a golden circle called Kilometer Zero. Now would be the perfect opportunity to see how far away from home you are as this circle marks the distances from Bratislava to various capital cities around the world.
The narrowest house in Europe is also found here measuring 130 cm. I was told that sometime in the 18th century when the town walls were being demolished, a tiny space was left between Michael’s gate and the tower called “zero point.” This is now a house and a kebab shop.
The paths neighbouring Michael’s Gate are particularly charming and also a good occasion to find breakfast at one of the bakeries or cafes nearby before continuing on to make the most of your time left in Bratislava.
Unwind at the Bratislava Main Square
Now that we’re in the Old Town, it’s time to head to its focal point – the historic Main Square. This public plaza, surrounded by historical buildings, cafés, and local shops, is one of Slovakia’s most famous and a worthy stop during your 1 day in Bratislava.
Within the square, you’ll find the Old Town Hall, the clock tower, the Renaissance-styled Rolands fountain, and other attractions including the leaning statue of s Napoleon soldier.
Being the centre of the city, it is also the place to find locals enjoying various outdoor events and relaxing in the summer or indulging in the many Christmas markets in Winter.
Be amused at the Old Town statues
I thought about not including this part of Bratislava in this list of attractions as part of the enjoyment of travel is in the surprise of stumbling upon a discovery. Nevertheless, for comprehensiveness I have included.
As you wander the Old Town, you will stumble across various statues that have sporadically been placed by locals around the centre. This after the fall of communism in 1997 in an attempt to liven up the place. This intention has been achieved as seen by the many tourists found amused and taking selfies beside the statues, making these figures one of the most photographed sights in the city and a symbol of Bratislava.
A firm favourite is Cumil better known as “the watcher” found on Panska Street. This worker peeping out of a manhole in the middle of the street is a representation of a Communist era Soviet spy sneaking up on people or others believe it represents a typical worker also of communist era avoiding work. Don’t be surprised if you find many touching his head as myth says whoever performs this action will have a wish come true.
Another figure you will find within the boundaries of the Old Town is Schone Naci, a figure of a man holding up his hat as if to politely signal passers-by.
Other quirky sculptures include Hans Christian Andersen, the Paparazzi, and Napoleon’s soldier.
During your one day in Bratislava see if you can come across all of these quirky finds.
Chill at Maximilian’s Fountain
This fountain is located right in the middle of Bratislava’s main square across from the Town Hall so its hard to miss and worth a photo op during your day in the city.
Often referred to as Roland’s fountain, it was built in 1572 as a way to honour a former Hungarian king. If you look closely enough, you’ll find a statue of Maximilian the knight in full armour on top of the fountain structure.
This fountain is not only well known in the city, but also for its legends. Legend has it that once a year at the stroke of midnight the knight at the top of the fountain turns and bows in the direction of the Old Town Hall in honour of those who gave their lives to save the city. Another legend is that the knight waves his sword around on Good Friday to show protection towards the city.
Taste some Slovak snacks
As you stroll around town be sure to try local Slovakian snacks along the way.
Some of the favourites include:
- bratislavsky rozok A traditional Bratislavan sweet roll filled with poppy seed or nuts.
- kofola The Slovak version of Coca Cola or Zlatý bažant Slovak beer
- roasted chestnuts
- the traditional meal of bryndzové halušky and garlic soup for lunch
Check out the Presidential Palace
Known historically as the Grassalkovich Palace, this building in Hodzovo Namestie serves Slovak politics as the official residence of the President of Slovakia.
That’s fine and all, but what’s that got to do with you? Ami-right?!
Yeah, unfortunately as this is an active official residence, the interior of the palace is only open once a year to the public. You can however, walk around outside admiring the 18th century Rocco-late Baroque styled architecture and try to imagine its glory days as the chosen place in the country to hold parties and balls.
There is also a central fountain designed in the shape of the Earth that is illuminated at night.
While wandering around in the pleasant French styled palace gardens keep an eye out on numerous artworks scattered around the estate.
Picnic at Medická záhrada
Just pass the palace grounds is the main park of the city, Medická záhrada.
Should you have the time and be so inclined, this park serves as the perfect spot for a picnic on a beautiful day.
Explore St Martin’s Cathedral and the catacombs
You do know it’s not possible to travel a day in Europe without passing a cathedral (I tried) and Bratislava is no different.
The Gothic Cathedral of Katedrála svätého Martina is Slovakia’s largest, oldest and most important church and should be viewed during your one day in Bratislava.
This cathedral has been a part of many historical events including the coronation of various Hungarian Royalty when this region was a part of the Hungarian empire. If you look close enough you’d spot a gold-plated replica of the Hungarian Royal crown at the top of the 279-foot spire that towers over the Old Town
While the cathedral was originally part of the city’s defenses and built into the walls, it now stands alone at the base of Castle Hill. Built on a cemetery, it contains an underground tomb with catacombs open to the public.
The main reason to visit the cathedral is the catacombs. Located under the church, walking the narrow passageways between crypts is both creepy and necessary for any Slovakia itinerary.
If you’re really bored with life, it is possible to walk the former coronation route through the Old Town by following a series of golden crowns implanted in the pavement.
Mon-Fri: 09:00 – 18:00
Sat: 09:00 – 11:30
Sun: 13:30 – 16:30
Entry: Free of charge
Discover the Old Town Hall
This stone building, one of the oldest in Bratislava, dating back to the 14th century, is not much to look at, but it does offer an easily accessible vantage point of the prominent Old Town and its red rooftops from the walkway built on the outside balcony of the tower. It’s ornamentally designed green tile roof is hard to miss.
The Old Town Hall is a historic collection of 14th century buildings lined up next to each other. Here you’ll find some intriguing places, like the Main Square and Primate’s Palace.
The Old Town Hall is located in the heart of the main square and houses the Bratislava City Museum highlighting the history of the city. Other exhibits include the Museum of Clocks, the city’s old torture chamber, and many galleries dedicated to Slovakian artists.
Opening hours: Weekdays (closed Mondays): 10:00 – 17:00
Weekend: 11:00 – 18:00
Stroll along the Danube River
Somewhere in between all the sightseeing, I would highly recommend including a stroll along the banks of the Danube River
A big part of feeling the charm of Bratislava comes from slowing down and getting a feel for the city and everyday life. A stroll along the river will give you exactly that.
Comprehend if The Blue Church really is blue
Yes, another church. Don’t tell me you’re surprised.
Following a brief rest, it’s time to continue towards the Church of St. Elizabeth, commonly known as The Blue Church. Why the name? Well, this Hungarian Art Nouveau-styled building features a pale blue façade, blue mosaics, blue interior, and even the tiles on the roof are in varying shades of blue.
The quirky church dates from early 20th century and is free of charge to enter. Only problem is the erratic opening hours and chances are more than likely that it would be closed when you arrive.
Mon-Sat: 07:00 – 07:30 & 17:30 – 19:30
Sun: 07:30 – 12:00 and 17:30 – 19:30.
Appreciate the Hall of Mirrors at Primate’s Palace
You need not walk far to reach the next destination as you try to see the best of Bratislava in one day. Adjacent to the Old Town Hall is a historic 18th century building Primaciálny palác featuring a neoclassical gold and pink exterior and an ornately decorated interior.
It was built for a former Archbishop and now serves as the office of the Mayor of Bratislava. It is however open to the public at a cost of €3 to wander the rooms on the first floor.
You don’t need a lot of time here as you make your way to the Hall of Mirrors. As the name suggests, it is a large reception hall lined with large ornately decorated mirrors. This hall is the only room where you are allowed to take photos and is well known in European history as the place where Peace Treaty of Pressburg between Austria and France was signed by Napoleon.
Observe the view from the UFO observation deck
If your consideration for the best things do in Bratislava in a day include great views, then a stop at SNP Bridge and going up to the observation deck is a must.
Most SNP translates to “old bridge” but is actually a recent addition to the city that extends across the Danube River as the longest single-pylon suspension bridge in the world.
Hovering 87m above the bridge, is a saucer-shaped structure that is both a restaurant and observation deck providing 360-degree panoramic views of the Danube, the Old Town, Petržalka, the rest of Bratislava, and even across the border to Austria.
The configuration dates back to 1967, when Bratislava was a part of Communist Czechoslovakia and UFO-looking structures were all the rage.
The observation deck is open every day from 10:00 – 23:00 at a cost of €8, unless you have a reservation for drinks and/or a meal at the restaurant located at the observation deck. As your time is limited in the city, I recommend going in the morning when the tower opens.
Once you’re done here, it’s time to head back across the Danube back into the city centre.
The UFO can be accessed through a lift in one of the pillars and to reach the lift take the pedestrian walkway beneath the bridge for almost half a kilometre leading to the lift entrance.
Be entertained at the Slovak National Theatre
The national theatre located in the city’s main square is an iconic building in Slovakia that is hard to miss with its Neo-Renaissance-styled features. Here you’ll be able to watch many unique performances through the year should you have more time in Bratislava.
Revel in some retail therapy
The city is one of the cheaper places in Europe and if you are so inclined, a little retail therapy could be added to your Bratislava in one day itinerary.
Eurovea and Aupark are the closest to the city centre staying open until 21:00.
Eurovea in particular, situated on the banks of the Danube River, offers great shopping prospects and its café-filled promenade is the perfect place for some late afternoon chilling.
Time for a refreshment break
Your schedule has been fast-paced as you try to see as much of Bratislava in 24 hours. It’s time to take a little breather.
My recommendation: Head for some divine gelato at my favourite spot in the city: KOUN.
1 Paulínyho, Staré Mesto
What I like is their innovate combination of flavours and a wide variety of vegan options. It is centrally located and so very easy to reach.
Climb up to Bratislava Castle for sunset
Sunset is almost upon us and my recommendation is to make your way to the massive rectangular white building that dominates the Bratislava’s skyline. This is Bratislavský Hrad or the Bratislava Castle that was built in the 9th century and has been a landmark ever since.
Getting to the castle entails a 20-minute uphill walk from the Old Town passing many cute houses, alleys, shops and cafes along the way. Alternatively, tram 203 or 207 will take you there, getting off at Zámocká stop. A single journey ticket is €0,70.
Entry is through Vienna gate passing the information office and restaurant. In the large square stands a statue of King Svatopluk I before the high walls of the castle. A little further ahead is the Nicolas Gate accessed through a flight of stairs. The castle is notorious for its striking white towers. Of the four towers flanking the building, the tallest one is the Crown Tower which once housed the Hungarian Royal crown jewels. These days the tower can be climbed for amazing views over the city.
Speaking of amazing views, the castle stands on the hill above the Danube and the sight from the baroque garden at the rear of the castle is fantastic with one of the best vantage points to observe the sunset. Expect views of the Old Town, St Martin’s Cathedral, the UFO Bridge and views of the rest of the city.
With just one day in Bratislava, my guess is that you will not have much time to go inside the castle and view the Slovak National Museum of History. However, if you are so inclined tickets can be purchased on entry for €7. Passing the central courtyard will take you to the museums, the castle and photo gallery with exhibits and archaeological finds on the history of Slovakia.
Entry to the castle and its gardens grounds are free and open 7 days a week. The castle interior and museum are closed on Mondays.
Experience the Old Market
Every Saturday, the marketplace is filled with local and seasonal produce from local sources including farmers, butchers, and bakers. If your day in Bratislava falls on a Saturday, be sure to check the Old Market out inside the large historic hall.
Where to eat in Bratislava
For dinner, a couple restaurants come highly recommended:
- Offering traditional Bratislavian cuisine in good quantity at a central location in the city centre at Hviezdoslavovo namestie
- Bratislavský meštiansky pivovar. Another one serving traditional food in a good location. Dunajská 21
- A hipster joint with great food in the city centre. Ventúrska 274/10
There are also a wide variety on Obchodna street – everything from fast-food chains to local five-star restaurants.
Indulge in the festivities on a Slovak night out
Bratislava feels unhurried and now that you’re sightseeing is complete with seeing everything you wanted to during your one day here, it’s time to enjoy a night out.
After dark, the city Old Town comes alive with the sights and sounds of locals and tourist having a good time at one of the multitude of lively restaurants and bars lining the streets. Find a good spot to slow down, people watch, and take it all in or join in the festivities.
More than one day in Bratislava?
It’s great that it is possible to see the very best of Bratislava in one day, but if you have more time in the city, you may want to check out some attractions further out. Sights that are worth considering include:
- Slavin Memorial
- Devin Castle
- Horsky Park
Bonus: All these options are fairly easy to reach by public transport.
- Slavín Memorial
This is a monument, memorial, and burial ground dedicated to the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives during the liberation of the region in World War II. The main structure of this memorial is a 40-metre obelisk with a flag-bearing bronze Red Army soldier.
Located on a hill in an affluent area, around 3km from the city centre, this huge memorial offers pretty views of the entire city of Bratislava, the Danube, and the castle, amongst others.
It is a 30-minute walk from the Old Town to get to the Slavin memorial. Alternatively, make use of the local transport such as the bus or tram. A taxi should not cost you more than €5.
- Devin Castle
Devin castle, or Hrad Devin, found on a hill at the meeting of the Danube and Morava Rivers, is an important element in Slovakian history and one of the oldest in the country. Here you will find ruins of the Gothic castle that has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. Today it is a popular area for walking by the locals and features a tower, a square, and a museum showcasing the castle’s past and other relics found in the area.
Devin Castle offers fantastic views that on a good day exceed the landscapes on either side of the Austrian and Slovakian border.
How to get to Davin Castle.
The castle is located about 10km away from the Bratislava city centre and can be reached using either taxi or public transport. It is a 25-minute bus ride from the centre taking bus 29 or 129 from Most SNP or Grassalkovich Palace at a cost of €0,9.
How long to spend at Davin castle.
To get from the city centre to the main station is 20 minutes followed by another 40 minutes to Devin. So, that’s an hour on travel. To see the ruins, the museum, and the view would take another hour or two.
Carnuntum is often visited as a day trip from Vienna, but it can just as easily be reached from Bratislava.
The ancient Roman sight encompasses ruins of a Roman City Quarter, an amphitheatre, a treasury museum and other minor ruins spread around Carnuntum highlighting the history of the region.
By following this guide, you’ll confidently and comfortably see the best of Bratislava in one day.
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