24 Hours in Bratislava

Are you looking for an easy, walkable weekend trip with amazing food that’s relatively inexpensive? Bratislava, Slovakia wasn’t initially on my radar, but it sure is now! Recently, my friends and I were looking for a last minute weekend Girl’s Trip, as one of our friends was moving. We narrowed our search to Eastern Europe, and found decent flights to Bratislava. It was the perfect turn and burn trip, and now I want to go back with my husband!

Bratislava is small, particularly for a capital city. The city lies on the banks of the Danube River, and can easily be explored in a weekend. It borders both Hungary and Austria. In fact, you can get from Vienna to Bratislava in an hour, making it the perfect day trip from Vienna. The city (and country) have a diverse history, with influence from many of the surrounding nations. Historically, Slovakia was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ruled by Hungary for 1,000 years, Slovakia was known as “Upper Hungary” until 1918. After World War I, Slovakia because part of Czechoslovakia until World War II when it was known as the Slovak State. In fact, during WWII the Slovak State was an Axis Power, and was part of the invasion of Poland. After the war, the lost their independence and became part of Czechoslovakia again, but under Soviet control. In 1993, Slovakia became independent again when Czechoslovakia separated into two separate nations. The country’s long history is evident in the food and culture, with a variety of European influences.

We stayed at The Loft Hotel, just outside the city center. It was the perfect place for a trip with friends and the decor was very rustic/trendy. They even had a free minibar in each room! We learned from the concierge that uber is the best way to travel to and from the airport. We took a taxi when we arrived, but our Uber on the way out was 1/3 of the price! Also helpful to know, Bratislava uses the Euro. Several Eastern European countries in the EU such as Poland, Romania, and Czech Republic, use their own currency, but Slovakia does not.

On our walk from the hotel to city center, we pass by the Presidential Palace. Named Grassalkovich Palace, it’s the official seat of the President of Slovakia. However, the President doesn’t live there, it’s just used as a ceremonial place and to welcome foreign dignitaries. The beautiful white palace is in a Baroque style. The famous composer Haydn held some of his concerts at the palace! The gardens are free to visit, but visitors are not allowed inside the palace. It’s worth walking by to check out on your way to the city center.

The Old Town city center is charming, but small. Just off the main square is a street filled with shops, restaurants, and bars. It leads to Michael’s Gate. The gate is the only remaining Medieval fortification in the city. It was built in the 14th century. At one point, you could climb the 51 meter tower for a view of the city, but it’s been closed for over a year. Michael’s Gate makes a great backdrop for photos.

The main site to see in Bratislava is the beautiful castle on the hill. (Does anyone else sing Ed Sheeran in their head, when they hear the words “castle on the hill”, or is it just me?). The castle is breathtaking, standing above the city. It’s built on a location that has been inhabited since 2,500 BC, with the Celts being the first known settlement. Bratislava Castle is open to tour from Wednesday to Monday from 10-6. We walked all the way to the top of the hill, but did not pay to go in the castle. We loved the view of the city from the castle, as well as seeing the bright white castle up close. Definitely put this on your list of things to do. If I ever go back to Bratislava, I’d cross the river and view the castle from the other side.

Our main reason for going to Bratislava was to eat amazing Slovakian food! Eastern Europe is a gem when it comes to comfort food and regional cuisine. We wanted to try as much Slovakian food as we could! Traditional foods including dumplings, pierogies, goulash, cabbage dishes, a cheese named Bryndza, potato pancakes, schnitzel, and more! We overate on this trip, and it was worth every bite! The food is also reasonably priced for a European capital city. We ate lunch in Old Town City Centre (very close to Michael’s Gate) at a cute restaurant called Koliba Kamzik. The inside is rustic with traditional Slovakian decor. We all ordered something different and shared (the best way to try different things!).

We wandered the city streets in Old Town and visited some shops after lunch. When it was time to warm up from the cold, we stopped at Urban Bistro for a drink. This place was modern and charming; it was a mix of a coffee shop and bar, so there is something for everyone! For dinner, we enjoyed was Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivobar. They have a couple locations in the city, and we thought it was a delicious place for dinner. We didn’t have a booking and lucked because we were able to get a table quickly. Not only is the food great, but it’s a small brewery as well! My schnitzel was really good, and we also shared the potato pastries filled with bryndza cheese and bacon, as well as the potato dumplings with meat and sauerkraut. We left happy and full.

Bratislava was just a quick destination for us, and I wish we had more time to explore. We went in winter when it was cold, but I imagine it’s a beautiful city break destination in spring! If you’re in Vienna and looking for a day trip, this is the perfect place to go – an hour on the train and you’re there!

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