Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is a city often overlooked by travellers who flock to its more famous neighbours like Vienna, Budapest, or Prague. But Bratislava has a lot to offer for those who are willing to explore its charms and secrets.
From its rich history and culture to its modern and vibrant nightlife, Bratislava is a destination that will surprise and delight you. Here are 10 must-sees and do in Bratislava that you should not miss.
The old town of Bratislava is a maze of narrow streets, colourful buildings, and charming squares that will transport you back in time. You can admire the architecture of the Gothic St. Martin's Cathedral, the Baroque Grassalkovich Palace, and the Rococo Mirbach Palace or visit the museums and galleries that showcase the city's cultural heritage. The old town also has cafes, restaurants, pubs, and shops where you can sample the local cuisine and drinks or buy souvenirs.
Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum
If you are a fan of contemporary art, you should not miss the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum. Located on a peninsula in the Danube River, about 20 km south of Bratislava, the museum features a collection of works by Slovak and international artists and temporary exhibitions and events. The museum building is a modern architectural masterpiece designed to blend with the natural environment. You can also enjoy the sculpture park and the botanical garden that surrounds the museum.
UFO Bridge and Observation Deck
One of the most distinctive features of Bratislava's skyline is the UFO Bridge, also known as the New Bridge or the SNP Bridge, which spans the Danube River and connects the old town with the newer districts. The bridge is futuristic, with a flying saucer-shaped structure on top of its pylon, which houses an observation deck and a restaurant. You can take an elevator to the observation deck, which offers a 360-degree view of the city and the river, or dine at the restaurant, which rotates slowly to give you a different perspective every few minutes.
Devin Castle is a ruined castle that stands on a cliff at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, about 10 km west of Bratislava. The castle dates back to the 9th century and was an important strategic and cultural centre for various kingdoms and empires that ruled the region. The castle was destroyed by Napoleon's troops in 1809 and now serves as a national cultural monument and a museum. You can explore the ruins of the castle or take a walk along the river banks and enjoy the scenic views.
Slavin Monument is a memorial and a cemetery for the Soviet soldiers who died during the liberation of Bratislava from the Nazi occupation in 1945. The monument is located on a hill above the city. It consists of a massive granite obelisk, a bronze statue of a soldier, and six sarcophagi that contain the remains of about 7,000 soldiers. The monument is also a place of pilgrimage and a symbol of gratitude for the Slovak people. You can visit the memorial and pay your respects or admire the view of the city from the hill.
The Blue Church, officially known as the Church of St. Elizabeth, is a Catholic church that stands out for its unique and colourful appearance. The church was built in the early 20th century in the Art Nouveau style and is decorated with blue tiles, mosaics, and paintings. The church is also known for its oval-shaped windows, 36-meter-high tower, and blue-glazed roof. The church is open to the public, and you can marvel at its interior, which is also predominantly blue.
Bratislava Forest Park
Bratislava Forest Park is a large green area that covers the hills and forests on the city's northern edge. The park is a popular destination for nature lovers, hikers, bikers, and skiers who can enjoy the trails, the wildlife, and the fresh air. The park also features attractions like the Bratislava Zoo, the Botanical Garden, the TV Tower, and the Kamzik Monument. You can also take a cable car to the top of the hill, where you can find a restaurant and a hotel.
Slovak National Theatre
Photo by Slovak Film Commision (top) and Pixabay
The Slovak National Theatre is Slovakia's oldest and most prestigious theatre and the main stage for opera, ballet, and drama performances. The theatre has two buildings: the historical building, which is located in the old town and was built in the Neo-Renaissance style in the late 19th century, and the new building, which is located near the Danube River and was opened in 2007. The theatre hosts a variety of shows, from classical to modern and from local to international. You can check the schedule and book your tickets online or just admire the theatre's architecture and atmosphere.
The most iconic landmark of Bratislava is the castle that sits on a hill overlooking the Danube River and the old town. The castle has been rebuilt and renovated several times over the centuries and now houses a museum of Slovak history and art. You can enjoy the panoramic views from the castle terrace or explore the surrounding gardens and courtyards. The castle is also a popular spot for concerts and festivals.
Slovak National Gallery
The Slovak National Gallery is Slovakia's largest and most important art museum, with collections of Slovak and European art from various periods and styles. The gallery is in two buildings: the Water Barracks, a former military complex on the Danube riverbank, and the Esterházy Palace, a former aristocratic residence in the old town. The gallery displays paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and other artworks, as well as temporary exhibitions and events.
How to get to Bratislava
Bratislava is easily accessible by various modes of transportation. You can fly to Bratislava Airport (BTS), 9 km from the city centre, with connections to many European destinations. Alternatively, you can fly to Vienna Airport (VIE), which is only 45 km from Bratislava and has more international flights. From Vienna Airport, you can take a bus, a train, or a taxi to Bratislava in about an hour.
If you prefer to travel by land, you can take a bus or a train to Bratislava from many European cities. You can reach Bratislava by bus from Vienna in 1.5 hours, from Budapest in 2.5-3 hours, and from Prague in 4-5 hours. You can also take a train from Vienna to Bratislava in 1 hour, from Budapest in 2.5 hours, and from Prague in 4 hours.
You can also travel to Bratislava by bicycle or by boat. Bratislava is part of the Eurovelo 6-cycle route, which follows the Danube River from France to Romania. You can cycle to Bratislava from Vienna (65 km), Gyor (75 km), or Budapest (260 km). You can also take a boat cruise along the Danube and enjoy the scenic views of the river and the countryside. There are regular boat services between Bratislava and Vienna and occasional cruises to Budapest and other destinations.