Weekend in Bratislava
A tastefully restored, vibrant old town, countless modern building projects, the Danube right in the city center, good food, friendly people, are a few of the reasons why everybody falls in love with Bratislava at first sight. While most people aim to visit Slovakia’s capital on a day trip from either Vienna or Budapest, we believe such an undertaking does not do it justice. We advise spending a weekend in Bratislava and we have therefore put together this two days itinerary. It covers Bratislava’s main sights and cultural attractions and it is suitable for families, couples, and solo travelers alike.
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Day 1/Weekend in Bratislava
Bratislava castle is rightfully the city’s most prominent landmark and it’s here that every tour should start.
It is perched on a rocky hill above the Danube, offering magnificent views of the city itself, Austria, and Hungary. It is a testimony to Bratislava’s unique position as the only capital in the world that borders two countries. Even better vistas are to be enjoyed from the highest of the four towers, the “Crown Tower” in the Castle History Museum. Historically, Bratislava was the seat of the Hungarian monarchy after the defeat of the Hungarians by the Turks at Mohacs and the capture of Buda in 1526. The Crown Tower is where the crown jewels of the Hungarian Monarchy were stored. The castle was beautifully restored and it also hosts several interesting exhibitions from the Slovak National Museum.
Outdoor lovers can simply enjoy the green park that surrounds it, the newly opened Baroque garden, and the panoramic views from the “Yard of Honor”.
For those bringing kids along, it is worthwhile to dig out some castle legends to share here. There’s one about a local princess imprisoned for falling in love with a Turkish warrior, one about a giant that used the castle as his breakfast table, and one about a white eagle, to name just a few.
As you descend towards the center, do not miss the House at the Good Shepherd at the foot of the castle hill, the narrowest building in Europe and one of the few original houses in the area. It nowadays houses the Museum of Clocks that displays masterpieces of local clockmakers starting from the 17th century.The pub downstairs, together with its neighboring bars, is part of Bratislava’s “Bermuda Triangle”, worth a visit late in the evening especially during the summer months when outside seating is possible.
Across the street from the castle is Saint Martin’s Cathedral, a gothic edifice where eleven kings and eight queens of Hungary have been crowned after the capture of Buda by the Turks in the 16th century. Interestingly, its tower was actually part of the old town’s defensive walls (to be seen ascending up the street to the right) and the cathedral was originally built over a cemetery. It thus houses catacombs and crypts of unknown length underneath the church. The tower of St Martin’s cathedral is topped by a 150 kg replica of the Crown of St. Stephen, the holy crown of the Kingdom of Hungary, to recall the cathedral’s role as a coronation church between 1536 and 1830.
You can actually walk the former coronation route from the cathedral by following a series of golden crowns embedded in the pavement throughout the old town. We wholeheartedly recommend doing that, as described in detail here.
A fantastic place to stop for lunch/brunch or/and coffee is FACH BISTRO that serves freshly baked bread, healthy snacks, and signature specialty coffee drinks in a modern, warm atmosphere.
Whether you decide to follow the old coronation route or not, take the afternoon to explore the city’s pedestrian area and walk the cobblestoned streets at leisure. It’s why we recommended spending a whole weekend in Bratislava in the first place! For those that decide to take our advice, there are many great places to stay in Bratislava!
Make sure to check out the Main Square with the Old Town Hall, the Primate’s Palace – now seat of the town’s mayor – and the life-size statues scattered throughout town, as you walk your way towards Michael’s Gate (Michalska Brana). We recommend to only consider going up the tower of the gate if you are into narrow spaces, otherwise, simply throw in the towel and enjoy the small, authentic souvenir shops and another nice afternoon coffee break. Your best options are both on Michalska street: Nata Lisboa and Enjoy Coffee. Nata Lisboa is a Portuguese coffee shop where you can find deserts like the famous pastel de nata that pairs perfectly with a glass of galao (café latte) or a cup or bica (espresso). Enjoy Coffee has an atmosphere that reminds of a country house, the fresh décor with flowers and great coffee is for sure an ideal way to boost your energy in the afternoon.
Once your energy levels are restored, it is time to discover the Hviezdoslav’s Square in front of the Slovak National Theater. It actually resembles a boulevard more than a square with its tree-shaded pedestrian area and it features souvenir stalls, outdoor restaurants, bars, and cafés.
Continue walking towards the popular riverside promenade nearby that invariably leads you to the UFO BRIDGE/TOWER. This is the 7th largest hanging bridge in the world and you can go to the open-air observation deck on top for breathtaking sunset views over the entire Danube basin. .Whether you decide to end the day with dinner/drinks at the high-end establishments housed in the UFO tower is up to you, but do not pass on the opportunity to savor and relish the city’s gourmet scene. There are so many great places around that we simply enjoy discovering something new every time we spend a weekend in Bratislava. We compiled below a list for you, vetted and approved by a local.
For lunch/dinner in the city center consider Bistro Soho on Laurinska street, that serves modern style Asian cuisine which local love, so be sure to reserve in advance if you arrive at popular hours or in a big group. Sladovňa – House Of Beer on Venturska street is another good option to dine out or just stop by for some drinks. It is a big place in an old house in the city center, which also has an outside terrace during the summer. Here you can find some of the local specialties including bryndzove halusky (gnocchi with sheep cheese), spare ribs, burgers, vegetarian options and a large range of beers.
Punjabi Dhaba on Sancova street is an Indian bistro with authentic food and pleasant service.
Day 2/Weekend in Bratislava
Start the day at the altitude restaurant and bar up at Kamzik where you can pair your morning coffee with panoramic views of the surroundings that reach as far as Austria, Czech Republik, and Hungary. This is actually a television tower situated in a forest park and can thus be reached only by car/taxi or at the end of a short hike from the nearest bus stop.
The area offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor lovers, including a cable car ride to the Zelezna studnicka forest park from where you can take the trolley bus back to the city center.
Depending on your interests, there are two noteworthy attractions to factor into your morning itinerary. The Blue Church on Bezručova Street is the country’s most famous Art Nouveau building, reachable on foot from the Old Town. Instagram aficionados have your cameras ready! This is a sight to behold! The Slavin Memorial Monument is linked to a cemetery dedicated to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Bratislava at the end of World War II. It is situated on a hill that offers beautiful vistas of the whole city.
For lunch head back towards the center. We recommend either the Slovak pub or Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivovar, both on/around the Obchodna street. The city’s main shopping avenue is also worth a stroll and while you are in the area make sure to check out the amazing street art on buildings, as well as the Old Market Hall. While an actual produce market takes place here every Saturday, the location is also used for exhibitions/concerts/events.
Slowly make your way towards the Grassalkovich Palace, current residence of the president. It is here that the Austro-Hungarian crown prince Franz Ferdinand met his wife Zofia Chotek, a couple whose assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 led to the First World War. Used for a long time for official diplomatic and cultural events – even Joseph Haydn performed here on several occasions – the palace is not open to the public. You can, however, stroll through its large French garden, one of Bratislava’s most beloved and popular parks.
Across the street is Cafe Dias/Pantha Rei Bookshop – a coffee/booklover’s paradise all in one. Their English language selection is outstanding and so are the pastries, if you ask me :).
To end your second day, I’ll let you in on the final secret why we think a weekend in Bratislava is a totally worthwhile experience – Slovakia’s capital features amazing shopping opportunities (read shopping centers) that are open on Sundays! Eurovea and Aupark are our best recommendations; if you choose the first one, a wonderful riverside promenade awaits you with terraces, restaurants, and cafes to end the day in style.
For those who have more than a weekend to spend in Bratislava, do check out our list of amazing day trips around the city or contact us directly to get our personalized suggestions for your stay! We’d love to hear from you!