After the quick stop in Brno, it was time for us to head towards Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, from where we had booked a hotel for two nights, right in the city center. We had opted to spend two days in the city, but due to the stop in Brno, we ended up discovering Bratislava in one day. Was it rushing? Maybe. Did we feel like we should have stayed for longer? Not really.
We stayed in Art hotel William, that was conveniently located in the heart of the city center (although, must say, the old town is so small that probably most hotels are centrally located). For around 90 euros per night we had a newly renovated, nicely decorated room with a good breakfast, so I could say this was a highly recommended hotel for anyone looking for a good 4-star hotel in Bratislava.
Bratislava was a lovely old city with a really beautiful, but rather small old city center. What was noticeable in the old town was that there were tons of different bars and restaurants right next to each other and even in the middle of the week, all seemed to be packed with people.
Based on our experience, the city does not offer much attractions to keep you entertained for several days. We ended up staying for only one full day in the city (plus a few hours on the evening we traveled from Brno to Bratislava), and felt it was just enough. The old town is a lovely place to spend a few hours, or even more, just strolling around, having a drink or a meal, but to be fair, you’ll walk around it twice in an hour, so you should not expect too much to see. Outside the old town, there were two popular attractions, the Bratislava Castle up the hill right next to the old town, and Most SNP, a large cable-stayed bridge running over the Danube river.
Climbing up to the castle took some 10 minutes from the old town, a decent climb even on a hot day. There is also a bus connection to the castle, but like said before, we mostly prefer walking if possible. The main entrance area at Vienna gate was surely beautiful, but in all fairness, nothing mind-blowing if you have ever been to any big castle in Europe. The interior of the castle has been recently restored and includes some amazing features, such as the grand staircase framed with eye-catching gold elements and gold-framed mirrors (Side note: at this point I’m really annoyed that I accidentally deleted almost all the photos from Bratislava…). Besides the staircase however, I personally thought the white hall-like rooms with no or little furniture did make it feel like a 80’s museum instead of a centuries old castle.
The walk up to the castle was an easy one through a narrow street offering some nice views to the city and the Danube river
What comes to the other main attraction, the Most SNP-Bridge… well, it is a bridge and once you walk to the riverbanks, it is quickly seen and ticked off your list. What is more interesting about it is that on top of the bridge, at 95 meters, is an observation deck and restaurant called UFO. From there you get spectacular views over the city and to the castle. The visit to the observation deck is really worth it despite the rather expensive admission fee (6,5€). During the sunset, when the castle lighting goes on, the view is just beautiful!
A cute little tourist “train” in Bratislava
In between the visits to the castle and the UFO, we also headed outside the city to visit Devin castle. A 20 minute bus ride away from Bratislava, right on the border to Austria lies the old ruins of a castle, dating back to as far as the 9th century. The castle was ordered to be destroyed by Napoleon in the beginning of the 19th century, but lying in the confluence of the Danube and Moravia rivers, the ruins rising up at heights over 200m still offer a magnificent view of the area. The castle can be reached by a city bus departing from the bus terminal under the SNP-bridge right next to the city center. If you are planning to take the bus to the castle (or anywhere else in the city), be aware that tickets must be bought from ticket machines (not from the kiosks around the stop, or the driver), and the machines only accept coins. If you are unlucky like we were, sometimes the machine does not offer change, but requires the exact amount to be inserted, so hold on to the little coins in your pocket!
Overall, we were quite satisfied with how much time we had to spend in Bratislava. Despite the few mildly negative statements in this post, I personally did really like the city and I’m glad we did stop there for the two nights. I would not suggest to stay there much longer, you’ll be fine with just one day in Bratislava, 2-3 days would be more than enough even to a little less restless person than I am. With the close proximity to Vienna, the city offers a perfect day trip destination from there and also a popular stopping point when travelling between Budapest and Vienna.