There is a lot to squeeze into Bratislava in a day, but this itinerary will share the highlights and hidden gems to take you from breakfast until Bedtime to ensure you make the most of those 24 hours.
It will take less than an hour to be charmed by the Slovakian capital from the café culture to castles, the pink palace to the UFO bridge your one day in Bratislava won’t feel like enough time and you leave you’ll already be planning your return.
HOW TO GET TO BRATISLAVA
Bratislava is located next to the Danube River, near the borders of Austria and Hungary. Due to the short distance, it is common for tourists to just visit for 24 hours as many tour companies offer a Bratislava day trip from neighbouring cities such as Vienna or Budapest.
To be honest, it is super easy (and cheap!) to organise a Bratislava day trip yourself rather than booking a tour. Both trains and buses are VERY affordable and frequent. For example, there are up to 30 trains per day travelling from Vienna to Bratislava and the train from Budapest to Bratislava takes just 2.5 hours on average.
As we were backpacking Europe on a budget, we chose the bus as it was cheaper and to be honest it wasn’t much slower than the train. After 2 days in Vienna, we travelled with Flixbus and it took just 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Bratislava. Our tickets cost less than £10, even more reason why a Bratislava day trip is worth every penny!
You can also take a boat from Vienna to Bratislava as part of a day trip tour that includes breakfast, lunch and a buffet dinner as well as time to explore the city.
As a tip, following our one day in Bratislava we then continued to Prague as a bus from Bratislava to Prague cost only £10.90 with Flixbus.
ONE DAY IN BRATISLAVA
Bratislava Main Square
In order to squeeze in the best of Bratislava in a day, ideally you will start your morning in Bratislava’s Main Square. It takes around 25 minutes to walk from the bus station to the Main Square which is the heart of Old Town. There are a few notable icons found in Main Square to tick off your Bratislava bucket list, but if you’re anything like us before your day can begin you need coffee and we know just the place!
The Zeppelin Cafe
We did warn your one day in Bratislava was gonna be jam packed, so caffeine and cake is highly recommended to kick start your day. For delicious, traditional cake, we recommend The Zeppelin Café. After being suitably distracted by the traditional trinkets and folk themed souvenirs (directly from local crafts people), our first coffee of the day was long overdue. Through the gift shop, is the warmly lit café, adorned in traditional outfits so adorably cute I nearly talked Darren into us purchasing matching ones.
As self-confessed cake connoisseurs, Darren and I treat our cake selection with the same decisiveness we would choosing the name of our first born child. However, the kind waitress was more than obliging with recommendations, particularly of local treats with a huge selection of pies, sweet treats and pastries to choose from.
Suitably full with cake you’ll be relieved to hear your next stop is only 1 minute away and to be honest, it is likely the first thing you spot in the square. Maximillian’s Fountain is not just a notable landmark due to its historical significance (it dates all the way back to 1572) but because of the many legends that surround it, making it an interesting stop in your Bratislava day trip.
The first main legend is that as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, the knight on top of the fountain slowly turns around and bows at the Old Town Hall to honour those who lost their lives to save the city from destruction.
The second most popular legend is that the knight draws his sword on Good Friday to showcase his protection over the city.
Old Town Hall
As you only have one day in Bratislava, one of the best ways to get your bearings is to admire the city from above. One of the oldest buildings in the city (and in all of Slovakia) is the iconic Old Town Hall which is not only home to a history museum that shares the story of Bratislava but also a beautiful viewpoint offering panoramic views from the tower. The entrance fee is 5 Euros, noting it is closed on Mondays. Check the official website for opening hours as they vary depending on the season.
I have lost count of the amount of times I have nearly been run over/missed trains/lost Darren in my quest to get the perfect pic of a pink building. It’s a fact universally acknowledged that I am a magpie for Barbie inspired architecture. Whether blush or bubblegum, flamingo or fuchsia, I will find you and I will photograph you. (Side note – if you feel the same way, search the hashtag #willtravelforpink on Instagram. You’re welcome)
Anyway, you can imagine my delight that the jewel in Bratislava’s architectural crown is an unmissable pastel pink building, Primatial Palace. Understandably one of the most popular attractions and the next stop in your Bratislava day trip. For a mere €3 entry fee you can explore the Hall of Mirrors or the chamber where the Peace treaty of Pressburg between Austria and France was signed. Nowadays the chamber is used for far less exciting events and hosts mere conferences and council meetings. Yawn. However, the interior remains just as beautiful none the less and the exterior oh so Insta worthy.
Lunch at Urban House
When it comes to lunch, the city’s café culture is famous. A café revolution as such, so notable that even the New York Times reported on it. As you explore Old Town you will notice nearly every third shop is a cafe, so with only one day in Bratislava you won’t have time to dine in them all, but we cannot recommend Urban House enough. Best of all, it is situated half way between Main Square & the blue church (next stop in your itinerary.)
Urban House Café is located on Laurinská Street and boasts interior inspired by every Pinterest fanatic’s fave mood boards. Large leather sofas swallowed us up as we rested our weary legs from our busy morning. The extensive array of craft beers and cocktails made us wish we could stay all night (its open until 2am at weekends.) Instead we opted for hands down the most delicious ginger tea we have ever tasted. How rock n’ roll.
The best part was the people. From tourists to tinder dates, accountants to artists Urban House epitomises café culture – a space between work and home where you feel welcomed. Darren engulfed the minestrone soup, claiming it was a strong contender for my mother’s (let’s hope she’s not reading this) whilst I enjoyed my favourite pita and hummus. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Hipster heaven.
Church of St. Elizabeth (The Blue Church)
From Urban House it’s a 7 minute walk to the next stop in your Bratislava itinerary – The Blue Church, known formally as the Church of St. Elizabeth. Designed by architect Edmund Lechner, the iconic blue art nouveau exterior is a popular photo spot with tourists and locals alike. It is not just the facade, roof and walls that are blue, but the interior also. However, the church is unfortunately rarely open to visitors, let us know in the comments if you were lucky enough to catch a glimpse inside during your day in Bratislava.
Cumil – Man at Work Statue
It is impossible to spend 24 hours in Bratislava and not notice the statues dotted around the Old Town. As you walk from the Blue Chuch to St. Martin’s Cathedral, you will pass one of the most famous statues, “The Man at Work” which is halfway between the two, at the junction of Laurinská and Panská street.
The statue is titled locally as Čumil which translates to the watcher. There are 2 reasons why this is believed to be the statue’s name – the first being he is based on a typical communist era worker who isn’t too fussed about his work and would rather be people watching. The second is, he’s “watching” up women’s skirts. Regardless of the intention, it’s an interesting stop on your way to St. Martin’s Cathedral.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
Just 15 minute walk from the Blue Church (or 5 minutes from the Man at Work sculpture) you will find the beautiful St. Martin’s Cathedral. Even if you only have one day in Bratislava, it would be impossible to miss St. Martin’s Cathedral. As the number one most visited attraction in the city, the cathedral hosted 19 coronations and even has underground crypts which are open to the public.
If you only have one day in Bratislava, make sure to leave time to explore the colourful narrow streets that surround it, including Baštová Street which is the most narrow street in the city. Or, if sunshine is on your side, Rudnay Square is a beautiful spot to catch a few rays, people watch and enjoy a vino or two from nearby wineries.
Depending if you opted for the vino or not, it is a potentially wobbly 12 minute walk from St. Martin’s Cathedral to Bratislava Castle.
The striking white building dominates the city, towering high upon a hill with incredible views over the river. There is a Museum of History inside the castle with tours running throughout the year. Opening times vary depending on season, so check the official Bratislava Castle website when planning your visit.
Being Scottish, we are slightly spoiled when it comes to castles, so in all honesty we weren’t overly fussed about exploring inside as we weren’t blown away by the exterior. As we only had one day in Bratislava, we skipped the Museum to enjoy the sunshine from the castle gardens and admire the stunning views over the city instead.
From the castle (or the majority of locations in the city) it is likely you spotted a rather futuristic bridge, known locally as the UFO bridge. For €6.50 you can travel 95m in 45 seconds to the top of the observation deck and be blown away by the spectacular panorama views of the city. It is the perfect place to end your one day in Bratislava – admiring the sun set over this enchanting city.
The entry fee is free if you are dining in the observation deck restaurant. Since we neither had the cash or the class, we left dining in the clouds to the experts and enjoyed our supermarket picnic on the bus enroute to our next destination – Prague.
If you are visiting Bratislava for longer than a day, it is then worth going over to the other side of the bridge to the colourful neighbourhood of Petrzalka – the largest borough of Bratislava filled with vibrant architecture…. and far fewer tourists.
Bratislava at Night
If you’re the wild sort, (we like those sorts) then you might be wanting to end your one day in Bratislava in style – by partying the night a way! It would be rude not to mention one of the most famous things about the city, it’s night life. The Bratislava night life is considered one of the best (and cheapest) in Europe, hence the city’s popularity with stag & hen do’s during the Summer months.
For something really worth writing home about (or worthy of a Facebook status update at least) we recommend these top clubs in Bratislava. If techno and cheep cocktails don’t float your boat, how about an actual boat to end your day in Bratislava?
That’s right, you can enjoy a cheeky evening tour on the Danube by SPEEDBOAT. No longer reserved for James Bond, you can hire a private speedboat complete with your own captain. Although pretty pricey, it is per group of 6 so grab some pals for an evening to remember.
For other ways to end your Bratislava day trip, we have the following suggestions:
So, there you have it, your one day in Bratislava – dawn until dusk, breakfast until bed time with all the photos, food and frolics in between. Any hidden gems or obvious attractions we’ve missed feel free to pop a comment below or if you enjoyed any of these recommendations we’d love to know how your Bratislava day trip goes.