When researching my trip to Europe I became intrigued by some photos I saw of Bratislava – a town in Slovakia. It looked like a lovely little town and its geography between Vienna and Budapest, as well as the ease of using the euro made it a natural stop for me. First impression was this town deserved more time on my itinerary. It has all charm one expects of Europe and has most spots tucked nicely in a small, walkable centre.
Note: since it is only 1 hour from Vienna and 2.5 from Budapest, consider this a day trip if spending any period of time in those main cities.
I could have taken boat from Vienna but poor reviews and cost had me choose the Flixbus, despite the inconvenience of bus station on the outskirts of Vienna vs. boat leaving from Vienna city centre (€7,99 last minute, book in advance for cheaper options). There were multiple stations to choose from in Bratislava and I went with the Most SNP station as it is right at the edge of old town. I ended up carrying my bags the 25 min. walk to store them at the main terminal (travel fail!) on the other side of town. Pro tip: If you’re only somewhere for a day, arrive and depart from the same place.
As soon as I arrived in the dungey little bus station at Most SNP, I looked around for a washroom. I peeked in the cafe and inhaled enough second hand smoke to ensure I’d develop cancer (why do they still allow smoking indoors?!?) and was pointed to a sketchy little cabin like structure with a sign that said “WC”. I paid the man smoking a cigarette my €.50 and grabbed toilet paper. There is no toilet paper in the stalls so you only get one shot at this, make sure you grab enough toilet paper the first time.
If you don’t have a large backpack, it would make sense to climb up to the castle right away while it is still early as the steps to the Bratislava castle are right at the Most SNP terminal.
Instead, I wandered to check out the Danube river and then through old town to the main Bratislava bus station Mlynske Nivy. This station is brand new, and still under construction (2018) meaning it had all the amenities one could want… free secure luggage lockers (yep, free), USB charging ports (in case your adapter was stolen like mine), plenty of food options and free bathrooms. A world of difference from the Most SNP station.
From the main terminal you’re a short 10-15 min walk from the old town. You could take a bus but on a beautiful sunny day, why bother?
It turns out I was visiting on a national holiday Feast of our Lady of Sorrows (September 15) so most shops and businesses were closed. Fine with me, I wasn’t there to shop and all the tourist spots were open.
I had no real plans but wandered the streets and found a fantastic little Sunday market in the old market hall. (https://staratrznica.sk/en/trh-piac-markt) In addition to all the food vendors they had some tables with various social justice warriors where you can learn a bit about the social issues in Slovakia.
After the market I set out to see all the historic tourist sites including:
– Bratislava castle – the gardens and views of the town and the Danube make the climb up here worthwhile!
– City walls – this was really cool find I stumbled on, definitely check this out.
– Michael’s gate
– St. Martin’s cathedral
– Old town hall
– Primates Palace
– City museum & square square
– UFO – offers views of the Danube, I didn’t go up the tower.
Most of these places allow you to wander in and around the grounds without paying admission for full entry. The gardens tucked away in the Bratislava castle were a favourite free find, as well as the architecture just inside the gates of the city museum.
Places I didn’t check out but on the regular tourist trail:
– Devin castle
– Blue church
– Slavin war memorial
Bratislava wasn’t amazing because of these different sites. The real amazing part of Bratislava was the vibe and European charm you feel in the old town streets while wandering from place to place. The streets are filled with music, statues, tables from nearby cafes and people just chillin and taking in the energy this this town has to offer.
There are so many cafes to choose from but you MUST check out the gelato at i Nonni creameria (http://inonni.sk) The dark chocolate is the best vegan gelato I have ever had. Actually, it is the best gelato I’ve ever had period. Trust me when I say it is worth going to Bratislava just to taste this gelato!
I headed back to the bus station to catch my Regiojet bus to Budapest (€6.50 last minute). This bus company blew Flixbus out of the water. Flexible free cancellation policy, seatback entertainment, seat service including free drinks – it was basically like being on an airplane but with extra comfortable seats. If you need to get around Europe, consider taking Regiojet whenever possible. Did I mention they’re also usually the cheapest?
Sadly I only had 5 hours to enjoy this town but I left knowing I’ll be back, especially when I need one of those European holidays that involves sitting at a cafe on the street for hours without moving just soaking in the charm.
Next stop: Budapest