Why Visit Bratislava?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bratislava, Slovakia. A country filled with all the charming traits a tourist could want from a budget Eastern European winter city break destination. Christmas markets, mouthwatering snacks, cheap beers and sights to see. I'd seen Krakow, Poland at the same time the previous Winter and hoped for the same magically chilly experience.

Why Visit Bratislava?

Bratislava, Slovakia at a glance

 ✓ Language: Slovak

✓ Currency: Euro

✓ Getting around the city: Walking is fine

✓ Street food: €1-€3 - €1 Pizza slices and market stall food

  Restaurant food: €4-€10 - A wide range of restaurants and cuisine with limited veggie options

✓ Drinking: €1-€2 for beer - Local beers are always cheaper

 ✓ Places of interest: Bratislava Old Town, Bratislava Castle

All prices in Euros

Choosing to visit Bratislava - Why visit Bratislava? 

If cheap flights aren't enough to get you here than the ease and simplicity of travel throughout Europe should be. I booked a winter break to Bratislava randomly as a gift and surprise for my boyfriend Jamie's 21st birthday. We travelled from Liverpool to Bratislava, Slovakia's Capital, for under £50 and arrived in Slovakia to a cold but captivating capital city welcome.

Typically, (and to be expected) our taxi driver charged us double the average going rate for tourists from what the internet told us we should be paying. Sometimes in travel you just have to take the hit and this was definitely one of those times

There's something about the ease of travel and way of life that attracts me to Eastern Europe in the winter. I'm a beach girl and I love the warm but I find nothing more attractive than the idea of a weekend away in a winter wonderland.

Why Visit Bratislava?
The view from the walls of the castle - The River Danube

Top tip: Arrange your flights to arrive during the airport bus times to save on taxis 

About Bratislava, Slovakia and its accessible neighbours  

Bratislava was everything I expected from an Eastern European capital with extra charm and added travel opportunities. From Bratislava it's very easy to visit the neighbouring countries Hungary and Austria. Both Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria are popular destinations to visit from Bratislava and each take under 3 hours with tickets costing the same as a meal in MacDonald's,

I've mentioned it previously but I love a trip within a trip. It adds so much more excitement and adventure to a weekend away and I often plan destinations that have accessible routes to other key European cities. If this is something you are interested in then accessibility of neighbouring countries is why you should visit Bratislava.  

Bratislava is a small capital, quieter and less talked about than its European neighbours. Although the biggest city in Slovakia, Bratislava never leaves you feeling lost and dizzy because of its size and unlike many other European capitals getting around on foot is the best way to see the city. Although, cab rides do come in handy when the temperature drops below freezing.

Why Visit Bratislava?
From the castle - Featuring a Slovakian flag

Top tip: Take enough layers to wrap up - Winter in Slovakia is cold, Bratislava is no exception

A winter city break to Bratislava

In November the days are cold and the nights are colder. Its recommended to pack extra layers as snowfall isn't uncommon throughout November - March. The average temperature for November is 4 degrees centigrade with December and January usually falling below 0.

The food in Bratislava is cheap and the drinks are cheaper especially local beers which can be purchased for around a Euro. These are two key reasons Bratislava is definitely always top of my budget city break recommendation list. Situated on the banks of the River Danube and overlooked by the Castle of Bratislava, Bratislava is a picture. Everything you can see is medieval and Gothic in style, only occasionally do you stumble upon more modern architecture. It's not hard to miss the large UFO bridge across the Danube. We never managed to visit the restaurant but I've heard the views are a must.

Why Visit Bratislava?
Wrapped up warm for winter in Eastern Europe

Why Visit Bratislava?
Medieval and gothic architecture in the city of Bratislava, Slovakia


Being a tourist in Bratislava's Old Town

The main tourist streets in the historic centre of Bratislava's Old Town are always filled with life, day and night mix together and the bars and restaurants are always filled with people trying to escape the icy chill of winter in Bratislava. Beer and good times can be found in the many bars of Bratislava, locals and tourists alike huddling around wooden tables and TV screens with music playing and sometimes even smoke in the air.

Eyes peeled for the Cuban bar, which happened to be the first bar on our Bratislava bar crawl and one of the most memorable. Love Havana Club Rum? This ones for you. 

I never quite came to terms with the smoking laws in Bratislava, some bars allowed smoking, some had smoking rooms and some were strictly no smoking. It reminds me of something similar I experienced in Zagreb. You can read about my views on that here.

When exploring the city take a walk up to Bratislava Castle where you'll find some of the best views of the city, river and UFO bridge. The walk is steep but worth it. You can also walk the fortified walls of the city, which also offer some great views and photo opportunities. Michaels Gate is the only preserved original part of the medieval fortified walls and acts as an entrance to Bratislava Old Town.

Look out for the grand St. Martin's Cathedral another great sight and photo opportunity which is just a short walk from Primate's Palace.  

Bratislava selfie

Top Top: The first stop on any Bratislava bucket list is the charming old town of Bratislava overlooked by Bratislava Castle

Budget eats in Bratislava

If there's one thing I really enjoyed about Bratislava is the availability of cheap snacks. As a budget traveller I'm always on the lookout for cheap and delicious eats. This is something Slovakia knows and knows well. Kebabs in all flavours and varieties meats, falafel and veggie wrap options, chicken snacks, crepes drenched in chocolate with fruit and pizza by the slice. All for the snack style food in Bratislava a couple of Euros at most. The most bizarre of the cuisine we experienced were the array of deep fried potato styles. Onion bhaji-looking crossed with a giant hash brown ball things covered in garlic sauce. I'm led to believe it's name is Zemiakove Placky. Try one, I dare you. It's a Slovakian delicacy.

Why Visit Bratislava?
Exploring the cold streets of Bratislava, Slovakia

Christmas Markets and more

If there's something that makes visiting Europe during November and December even more worthwhile it's the inescapable Christmas festivities that pack the streets of Europe. Whether you're looking for a mulled drink, to try a little ice skating or want to visit a Christmas Market the festive options are endless. We even caught a little snow during our time in Bratislava and Vienna. The days are short in length and it gets very dark, very quickly a constant reminder that Christmas is around the corner.

Books, souvenirs, carol singing and concerts fill Bratislava's old town during Christmas and its easy to spend several hours watching and enjoying the festivities. We were lucky enough to catch some beautiful carol singing and a small concert just before nightfall during one of the colder days we experienced in the city.

Why Visit Bratislava?

Top tip: Winter in Eastern Europe means one thing Christmas Markets! Always check opening dates before planning a Christmas market city break. 

Bratislava is without a doubt a fantastic setting to get you in the festive spirit for the holidays. Christmas shopping is also possible in the many pop-up market stalls and also the large shopping centre/mall just outside the Old Town. Even if you're a bit of a grinch the Christmas markets of Bratislava will really get you in the festive mood. Or if not, the mulled wine will!

I won't lie, during our time in Bratislava we spent a lot of time wandering on foot and viewing churches and the stunning architecture from a distance. I guess we were more swept up in the Christmas spirit than anything which made our time in the city seem more filled with purpose than usual. Your regular tourist activities take a back seat when there's a Christmas production or display.  

Why Visit Bratislava?

Top Tip: Enjoy a mulled wine and a deep fried something at one of Bratislava's many Christmas Markets

Getting to Vienna from Bratislava by bus

✓ Getting to Vienna, Austria: From the main bus station

✓ Duration to Vienna: 1/1.5 hours

✓ Price to Vienna: €5

 Alternative day trips: Budapest, Hungary

All prices in Euros

From Bratislava to Vienna

As mentioned earlier you can visit Budapest and Vienna easily from the main bus station in Bratislava - a retro 1980's style concrete bus station. Prices are cheap at around €5 depending on the bus company, our bus was pleasant and warm which made the journey across the border to Austria cosy.

I spend the bus journey trying to spot exactly when we had entered Austria and left Slovakia. Austria and Slovakia are entirely different countries in terms of appearance and culture from what I experienced of Vienna and Bratislava despite how close they are.

I'd really recommend this inexpensive short trip to Vienna from Bratislava to anyone spending long enough in each of the two cities. If you're heading to Vienna from Bratislava brace yourself for the contrasting prices, Vienna is not a budget friendly destination and you can expect the price of a beer or a warm meal to quadruple.

If you do visit Vienna from Bratislava on a budget trip during the winter season buy a tram pass and stay out the cold by doing loops of the city to see the main attractions.

Thinking of Budapest from Bratislava instead? - Check out Wanderlust Bee's post on A Christmas Break to Budapest

Why Visit Bratislava?
Welcome to Vienna - Not bad for a day trip

Incorporate your Bratislava trip with a day trip to Vienna or Budapest

Big Bus Tours Vienna

A day trip from Bratislava to Vienna

We spent the our time in Vienna hopping on and off the trams to catch all the must see sights and tourist hotspots. The Hofburg Palace was a favourite of mine and lets not forget the incredible St Stephens Cathedral. Both of which are absolute must see's when exploring the city. The cathedral can be found outside the main bus terminal in Vienna and during the time of year we visited there were plenty of horse and carriages waiting to take tourists on a city tour. Perhaps on a bigger budget we would've taken one.

Why Visit Bratislava?
Vienna, Austria
We explored the lavish shopping streets of Central Vienna, I wasn't looking to buy a Cartier watch from one of the many extravagant designer stores but like I said, maybe on another budget.  Typically we stumbled up on Vienna's oldest Irish pub, The Bockshorn - almost hidden down a side street somewhere between Chanel and Louis Vuitton. As the sun set on Vienna we enjoyed a couple of cold expensive beers before exploring the Christmas markets at dusk. The evening ended in snow, fries from McDonald's and a sleepy bus ride back to Bratislava for a few more (resoundingly cheaper) beverages.

For a little more Vienna visit Todd Ventures

Top tips for your visit to Bratislava

Wrap up in winter, it's freezing in Bratislava and sometimes you don't realise how much the temperature has dropped once nightfall hits when you're sitting in a cosy warm bar. 

Use supermarkets and mini-markets. They can be found everywhere in Bratislava and most importantly they are cheap. Keep basic snack provisions in your room aka. crisps and beers. 

Ask the locals! Don't be afraid to ask the locals for the best eating and drinking spots. 

Try not to taxi. Most things in Bratislava are within walking distance and a cab will only cost you money than anticipated. (We only used a taxi when it was extra cold, dark and late). 

Don't wander too far. We never experienced any trouble but some of the side streets outside the Historical Centre look dodgy and uninviting. This especially goes for solo travellers. 

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Why Visit Bratislava, Slovakia - by travelsandmore

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  1. Great post!
    Slovakia also has some great wines, which I'd really recommend ☺ There are plenty of cozy wine cellars and wine bars in Bratislava - I really miss those!

    1. I wish I had known this at the time. Think I might have to visit again. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Bratislava is a little jewel, I loved it :)

    1. It really is! I'm heading to Sofia in two weeks so hoping to have a similar experience. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. we seriously needed to go in Bratislava! :) Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Yes! You must, its so great. Definitely visit in Winter!

  4. We loved Bratislava! We went for our wedding anniversary, in late May 2014. The highlight was the day trip to Devin Castle, located close by.
    Budapest is an amazing entry point for Central Europe, btw. From there, just take the train to Bratislava or Vienna. Yeah, we've been to all three but have yet to make it to Bratislava during winter.

    1. I would definitely like to see Bratislava in the warmer months. I think it would be a totally different experience. Budapest is on my list for sure! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Bratislava is high on the list of cities I still like to visit in Europe. I once passed through it by train on my way to Romania

    1. I hate that, it's such a tease when you have to pass through a city or country. I had to pass through Bosnia and Herzegovina on my way through Croatia. It's such a tease.

  6. This is such a great post! As I haven't been there myself this post gave me such great information and I will definetely add it to my list of next destinations ;)

    1. Thank you for reading. Hope you make it to Bratislava soon!

  7. I love Eastern Europe. And Christmas. And Christmasmarkets! And the fact that it's cheap makes everything even better. Strange I never thought of going to Eastern Europe during winter but it's definitely a very good idea. We're going to Berlin for NYE to a friend of my bf but maybe the year after, that would be cool.
    Also great to read that you can make a day trip to Vienna! I've been curious about this city for a while now but it's kinda expensive. Visiting it from Bratislava seems a great solution.


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travelsandmore was originally just an outlet to document my travels. It turned into something much more and now its more of an obsession for me than anything else. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to subscribe, I'll only ever send you my latest travel related blog posts right to your inbox.