Nestled along the Danube, just an hour from Vienna, is Bratislava. One of the smallest and, in our opinion, most perfectly formed capital cities in Europe.
It’s home to what is claimed to be the narrowest house in Europe and a UFO bridge, amongst its many other delights. It’s also fabulously well connected – just an hour from Vienna and a couple of hours drive from Brno, Prague, Budapest and many other European tourist hot spots.
In recent years Bratislava’s reputation has been a little tarnished by the hoards of stag parties arriving to take advantage of the admittedly very cheap beer and attractive residents, but luckily it’s by no means spoilt. Just try to avoid the English, Irish and Scottish pubs that line one particular street and head for the far superior Slovak Pub around the corner.
As mentioned, it is small, so whilst we opted to spend several nights here, 36 hours in Bratislava should be enough to see the main sights – making it the perfect choice for a weekend city break.
Most of the sights are located around the historic city centre, and it’s very walkable so no need to worry about transport. There are also tons of fab cafes and restaurants to check out, so be sure to arrive with a good appetite.
Here’s what to do with 36 hours in Bratislava…
For starters, head to the main gateway to the historic city – St Michael’s Gate. Close to this you’ll find the narrowest building, which is now a kebab shop. It’s a short wander through the pretty medieval streets to the main square, from where it’s easy to take in the Old Town Hall, Maximillian’s Fountain and the Primatial Palace.
There are a surprising number of museums in the city but if you only have 36 hours in Bratislava we’d recommend checking out the Bratislava City museum in the Old Town Hall. It’s well curated and gives an interesting overview of the city, as well as having a slightly creepy exhibition on medieval torture instruments and methods in the basement. Great value at only around 5 Euros per person.
After you’ve seen these, it’s worth the detour to see the ‘instafamous’ Blue Church – a really beautiful building just outside the centre. It’s pretty unusual and well worth seeing. When we visited it was closed to the public but even just the exterior is an impressive sight. You can then make your way back into the heart of the city via the ‘Man At Work’ sculpture, which is another small attraction that you should check out while you’re there.
The following day, start at Bratislava Castle, one of the main sights in the city. From here not only can you enjoy the various exhibitions, but you’ll get great views over both the city and the riverside with its UFO bridge. Finish your trip to Bratislava off with a visit to the cathedral and a wander around the old city walls.
Whilst all of these are awesome things to do in Bratislava, honestly, we just loved the atmosphere of the city and really enjoyed walking around the old streets. There’s plenty of picturesque side streets and pretty buildings, and we definitely fantasised about buying and renovating one of the more run down properties and living there happily ever after.
What & Where To Eat In Bratislava
Another big surprise for us was figuring out just how much we enjoyed Slovak food, as well as taking advantage of the extremely cheap price of alcohol. It’s less than 2 Euros for a large beer in many places – even in the centre!
There’s a post coming up soon all about how to eat your way around central Europe (as that’s basically what we did for three weeks) and Slovakia was one of the best spots for this. I guess the food isn’t to everyone’s taste but we loved the dumplings, sheep cheese dishes and various pork dishes that were on offer.
If you’re spending 36 hours in Bratislava, or even longer – you must try to fit in trips to these two spots, which were our favourites.
Konditorei Kormuth – a beautifully restored old building that now houses a very indulgent and fairly pricy patisserie shop, this is right in the city centre and serves one of the best selections of cake I’ve ever seen. They also have speciality coffees including a marzipan variety which was particularly tasty.
Slovak Pub – more on the cheap and cheerful side, this is great for traditional Slovak platters and local beers. We had an absolute feast with plenty of beer for less than 15 Euros.
So Why Spend 36 Hours in Bratislava…?
Well hopefully it’s pretty obvious after you’ve read this post, but we’ll say it again because we really can’t emphasise enough how much we loved this little city. It’s received huge levels of investment over recent years, and due to low living costs and great quality of life it’s known as one of the best cities for freelancers to live in.
We loved the combination of old rustic buildings and a fairly unspoilt historic centre, combined with good infrastructure and great restaurants and bars. There’s museums and culture if that’s your thing, or shopping and nightlife if that’s what you prefer.
Of the eight cities we visited on our jaunt around central Europe, this was definitely one of our favourites and somewhere we’d love to return for a chilled out city break or a longer get away.