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top five guide: bratislava, slovakia

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Row of Colorful Buildings in Bratislava Slovakia

There is a solid chance that you have never heard of Slovakia’s tiny capital city, Bratislava. If that is the case, then I am thrilled to be the one to introduce it to you! I will admit that I knew extremely little about this city before visiting it myself, and it certainly wasn’t the first destination to come to mind when scouting out places to visit in Europe during our travel year.

That said, while we were visiting Budapest, I discovered that Bratislava was a mere two hour train ride away. My FOMO kicked in and naturally I couldn’t help but add it to our itinerary. This charming little city is a wonderful day or weekend trip from neighboring Austria or Hungary and provides a cheery introduction to Slovakian culture.

here are my top five tips for a trip to BRATISLAVA:

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1: where to stay

Bratislava is a small city set along the Danube with a compact and car-free old town that I recommend staying as close to as possible. We used points to book a stay at the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel. This 4-star property is set in a restored historic building that dates back to the 13th century. Just steps from old town, it is an ideal location and I highly recommend staying here!

Pedestrian Street in Old Town Bratislava Slovakia

2: explore old town

The charm of Bratislava is similar to that of many other smaller European cities: a walkable old town with local shops, colorful buildings, and quirky buskers that all add to a convivial and pleasant atmosphere. Spend some time wandering aimlessly (you can't get too lost here) and be sure to check out Michael's Gate and the cheeky sculptures scattered throughout the district.

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3: castle hill

Looming over the town is Bratislava Castle, the main landmark of Bratislava which is set atop a (manageable) hill. Take a short hike up to the hill just before sunset, which offers sweeping views of Bratislava's old town, New Town, and the Danube River. You can check out the interior of the castle if you wish (we didn’t go inside), but definitely don’t miss the gardens, which are free to explore but note that they do close at sundown.

Pierogies and Gnocchi Slovakian Food at Koliba Kamzik Bratislava Slovakia

4: eats and drinks

Like many other Eastern European countries, Slovakian food emphasizes hearty, carb-heavy dishes like potato gnocchi and pierogis. It's particularly satisfying if you happen to be visiting during cold weather. You can try it for yourself at the traditional restaurant Koliba Kamzik (pictured). For dinner, we loved the more modern vibes and Italian food at Gatto Matto Panska. For drinks and apps head to trendy and faux-edgy Brixton House. We were particularly impressed with the quality of coffee in town, and would recommend Black Coffee and Fach.

Blue Church St. Elizabeth's Church Facade Bratislava Slovakia

5: the blue church

St. Elizabeth’s Church, also known as the “Blue Church” (for…obvious reasons), is one of the more unique places of worship that I have seen in Europe. Relatively modest in scale, this church was constructed at the turn of the 20th century in Art Nouveau style. Definitely peek inside as well, as the interior is just as vibrant at the exterior!

You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn't do that I WISH we had:

Visit the Holocaust memorial. Slovakia as a nation was particularly devastated during WWII, and nearly 80% of Slovakian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. We saw a few plaques in the old town that acknowledged this history, but sadly only learned of the existence of a memorial after we had left.


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