The Danube flowing through Bratislava with the old town and castle in the distance

11 reasons to visit Bratislava

Planning a trip to Bratislava? Here are our top picks...

Stay: Marrol's Boutique Hotel, just a short walk from the old town.

Walking tour: Bratislava off-the-beaten-path

Local insights: Bratislava post-Communist tour

Day trip: Wine tour in the Small Carpathian hills

Food tour: Bratislava traditional food tour

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and one of Central Europe's hidden gems. It often gets overshadowed by more famous neighbours, such as Vienna, Prague and Budapest, but it’s well worth adding to your European itinerary.

Often visited as a day trip from Vienna, the city has a beautiful historic downtown. Picture cute cafes, pubs, art galleries, cobblestone streets, beautiful green parks, Danube river trails and a castle. What’s more, it's affordable and small, making it easy to get around and explore. 

Although Bratislava has just over 400,000 residents and is small in size, it’s mighty. That may be why it was nicknamed the Little Big City. Here are just a few of my top reasons for visiting Bratislava.

Primate Palace and the Old Town Hall in Bratislava's main square

1. Bratislava has a beautiful historic Old Town

The historic old town of Bratislava is full of colourful buildings, narrow cobblestone streets and preserved medieval architecture with numerous Renaissance courtyards and baroque palaces.

It's a beautiful place to wander around and get lost in its old European charm. I mean, who doesn’t love romantic hidden corners with little cafes and art galleries?

Marvel at the architecture and visit Bratislava’s iconic landmarks, such as the main square, Bratislava castle, Old Town Hall, Michael's gate and Primate's Palace. Inside Town Hall, you’ll find a museum exhibition with unique artefacts displaying the history of the city.

Bratislava was the coronation city for Hungarian Kings for almost 300 years. You can follow in the footsteps of the Hungarian kings and discover the most important stops at which the Coronation Ceremony took place. The city hides over a hundred brass plates with a crown icon that indicates the Coronation path.

The main ceremony was held in St. Martin’s cathedral. The other stops along the path are picturesque Rudnay square, Kapitulska, Prepotska, Venturska, Sedlarska streets, the old town square with Bratislava’s oldest fountain, Franciscan square, Biela and Michalska streets and more.

Slovakia also has rich folk traditions. You can try on Slovak folk costumes and take a photo (only a 2 min walk from St. Martin’s cathedral).

The Čumil, a bronze statue on a sewer worker resting on top of a manhole

2. You can spot fun statues around town

You can admire some quirky statues while you're in Bratislava.

One of the popular tourist attractions is Man at Work, nicknamed "Čumil." The statue resembles a cheeky little guy sneaking out of a sewer on the ground. It's located at the junction of Laurinská and Panská Streets.

You can also find a Paparazzi statue that looks like a man snapping photos around the corner. And even a Napoleon statue.

Do you like street art? Then venture out to a small SNP bus station under the UFO bridge. The station is full of interesting graffiti.

Street art is scattered in random places across the city, so to make your life easier, you can book a free Bratislava street art tour.

People walking along the tramlines in a wide street in Bratislava, Slovakia

3. Bratislava is very walkable

Bratislava is a prime example of a walkable city. Most highlights are within walking distance or only a short tram/bus ride away.

The small size of the city not only makes the downtown feel cosier but also makes it easy to get around and explore. If you don’t like public transport, you can download the Bolt app, which works similarly to Uber, and is super convenient.

If you’re anything like me and prefer more authentic, less touristy exploration, you’re gonna love this off-the-beaten-path guided tour. Alternatively, explore Bratislava in an unconventional way and hop on the Bratislava segway tour.

Pro Tip: You can download an app - GPS My City, which will turn your phone into a digital tour guide highlighting the main tourist attractions, interesting spots and iconic landmarks with easy-to-follow directions.

A plate of bryndzove halusky with a cup of žinčica (sour milk)

4. You can try traditional Slovak food

No trip to Bratislava would be complete without tasting Slovakia's hearty national dish - bryndzové halušky.

This dish is made from potato dumplings, sheep cheese and bacon. But not just any cheese. The cheese is called bryndza and it's what gives halušky that unique flavour. You can find halušky in Slovak Pub, located on Obchodná street.

Traditionally, you should eat your halušky with sour milk called žinčica. But if sour milk isn't your cup of tea, you can order draught Kofola, which tastes similar to Coca-Cola. Kofola is incredibly refreshing in the summer and is a popular local non-alcoholic drink.

Another local delicacy is fried cheese (vyprážaný syr) or dumplings with poppy seed (makové šúľance).

Koliba Kamzík is a great spot that serves local cuisine, including halušky. Alternatively, you can go on a traditional food tour to enjoy most of the Slovak food scene.

Peeople walking down the street in Bratislava's old town

5. Bratislava is affordable

Bratislava remains relatively affordable compared to other major cities in Europe. To make the most of your trip, you can buy a Bratislava Card for 20 euros which includes a free walking tour, entrance to museums, public transport and various discounts. 

Some restaurants in the old town can be overpriced, but you'll find plenty of authentic and affordable options outside the centre. For example, Pán Cake is only a 3 min walk from Michael’s gate. They serve sweet and savoury crepes (palacinky). It’s a perfect place for a quick breakfast or snack. Many of their crepes are below 3 euros. 

Slovaks, including myself, love soups. We love them so much that we have restaurants dedicated to soups only, such as DQ Bistro Polievočka. For something closer to the city centre, head to Soupa bistro. It’s a super affordable and popular local canteen that serves delicious healthy food

Regarding accommodation, it varies from hostels and Airbnb rentals to 5-star hotels, so you're sure to find something that suits your budget.

People sitting outside a cafe in Laurinska Street, Bratislava

6. There are many trendy cafes

Slovaks love their coffee, and the local coffee scene reflects that. 

During the communist times, the only available coffee was a strong, dark Turkish-style brew. Today, Bratislava is a paradise for coffee lovers, with new trendy spots popping around every corner. There are many stylish cafes to choose from that serve high-quality roasted coffee. 

As a student, I used to love spending my afternoons in the Martinus bookstore. It also has Foxford cafe, where you can grab a book to read while you sip your coffee. 

Urban bistro is my favourite spot to have a delicious breakfast and a cup of coffee. I particularly recommend their breakfast menu, but they’re open till late evening.

If you have a sweet tooth, La Donuteria is a must-visit, with incredible doughnuts and a super cute Instagram-worthy interior. Kormuth Confectionery serves traditional Slovak cakes and will make you feel like you stepped back in time because of its stunning historical interior.

Two mugs of beer on a wooden table in Bratislava, Slovakia

7. The local beer is really good

Slovakia has an abundance of local breweries. If you're a beer lover, you'll be happy to know that most pubs in Bratislava serve tasty local craft beers that won't break the bank. During your visit, try some of the most popular Slovak beers, such as Kelt, Šariš, Zlatý Bažant or Corgoň.

A great brewery in town is Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar. I love the interior, and yes, they even serve Slovak traditional cuisine, so you can kill two birds with one stone. Alternatively, if it’s a sunny day, Dunaj Brewery has a fantastic outdoor terrace overlooking the Danube river.

For something right in the historic downtown, you can head to Čierny pes, a cosy little pub away from the hustle and bustle. The beer is tasty, and the prices are reasonable.

If you want to immerse yourself fully in Bratislava's beer culture, you can go on a local beer and food tour. Beer, good company, and food are always a winning combination.

People dancing at a nightclub in Bratislava

8. Bratislava has vibrant nightlife

The historic old town of Bratislava is fun not only during the day but also at night. As soon as it gets dark, the city comes alive with music and pretty Slovak women. There's something to enjoy for everyone, from pubs and clubs to rooftop bars. You’ll also love the low prices of alcohol. 

The clubs in the Old Town are scattered across the Michalská, Obchodná and Ventúrska streets as well as Hviezdoslavovo and SNP squares.

They usually open around 10/11 pm, but you can start even earlier with pre-drinks in one of the many local bars. Most action happens after midnight, and the parties go wild until 4/5 am. It’s not uncommon to stay partying until dawn. 

If you’re not into clubbing and just want to socialize a bit, you can go to a small Irish pub Uisce Beatha or for something fancier, Michalska Cocktail Room - Bratislava’s secret cocktail bar. The bar is above the trendy cafe Urban bistro. For epic views, I recommend Lemon Tree & Sky Bar Restaurant.

Looking for a taste of authentic Bratislava nightlife? Look no further than the original Bratislava Pub Crawl. You’ll get free shots and visit popular local bars and clubs accompanied by local guides.

People wandering around the Christmas Markets in Bratislava

9. The Christmas Markets are magical

Christmas in Europe is pure magic. So if you happen to be in Bratislava in December, you're in for a treat. 

The market kicks off by lightening up the 13-metre (42-foot) tall spruce tree on the Main square. It usually starts around 21 November and lasts until 23 December. 

The market has around 70 stalls full of wonderful aromas, Christmas decorations and delicious local treats. To keep yourself warm, start with a glass of hot mulled wine (varené víno), mead (medovina) or Christmas punch (vianočný punč). 

You shouldn’t miss out on trdelník, also known as chimney cake. It’s made from dough rolled around a stick, then grilled on fire and topped with cinnamon sugar and walnut mix. For something savoury, try potato pancake (lokša), gypsy roast (cigánska pečienka) or pork sausage (klobása).

To burn off the calories, take a walk in the lit-up streets towards an outdoor ice rink in front of the Slovak National Theater. 

Danubiana Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum by the Danube River in Bratislava, Slovakia.

10. Bratislava has a rich art scene

The Gallery Nedbalka has interesting architecture and interior displaying classic and modern Slovak artworks. Just outside the gallery, you'll find a funky umbrella street.

Another highlight is Slovak National Theater. It's a beautiful historic building in the heart of Bratislava where many performances take place. If you enjoy opera, this is the place to go. The prices of tickets are reasonable.

Check out the modern Gallery Danubiana overlooking the Danube river with funky garden sculptures. It’s located 25 min from Bratislava. You can also get there by speed boat, which makes the whole experience more enjoyable.

For something different, head to mirror Gallery Multium on Zámocká Street. It’s a mirror gallery with various illusion exhibits.

A vineyard near Svaty Jur in Little Carpathian mountain with Bratislava in background.

11. You can visit the surrounding vineyards

If you want to spice up your trip to Bratislava, add wine tasting in the Small Carpathians Wine Route to your list.

The route leads through a wine region of Svätý Jur, Modra and Pezinok and has a long wine-making history dating back to Roman times. The vineyards are only about 30 min drive from Bratislava.

The Small Carpathian region is known for its blue wine grape varieties. You can sample St. Lawrence, Frankovka Blue, Rhenish Riesling, Burgundy, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling Wallachian and more.

There are more than 100 winemakers in this region, so booking a Small Carpathian Hills wine-tasting tour might make sense. This way, you’ll experience the area's main highlights.

A small Carpathian route leads to another beautiful historical town of Trnava (about 30 min drive by car or train from Bratislava). While here, check out Synagogue Cafe or Severná Veža - Bar & Lounge.

If you prefer to stay in town, you can sample and learn more about Slovak wines on the Bratislava city wine-tasting tour. Or, for something more adventurous, try wine tasting in complete darkness?

Planning a trip to Bratislava? Stay at the Marrol's Boutique Hotel for beautifully-decorated rooms just a short walk from the old town.

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Kamila Jakubjakova

Author - Kamila Jakubjakova

Kamila is a freelance writer and blogger originally from Slovakia and now based in Canada. On her blog, she and her partner share useful tips for expat life in Canada. When she isn't writing, you can find her on a yoga mat or enjoying a cup of tea.

Last Updated 28 August 2023

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