Is Bratislava worth visiting?

It’s hard to know what to expect when going to Bratislava. Is it a poor ex-communist industrial city? Or a beautiful cultural gem like Vienna or Prague?

Well, it’s both, and sometimes right at the same time. Bratislava is very different from its neighbouring cities but, like so many places in Europe, it has quite the story to tell.

Bratislava has had it quite rough throughout the last century.  The once former royal capital of The Kingdom of Hungary, teamed up with the wrong side during the war and then, largely at the hands of the communist regime, lost a lot of its old beautiful buildings and charm to ugly buildings and major industrialisation. Then in 2005, Hostel happened and Slovakians were not best pleased that their country had been made out by Director Eli Roth to be a poor, miserable and, worst of all, dangerous place.

Bratislava beauty is worth visiting

I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for this little city. While it felt immediately very different from other European capitals, some of it reminded me of the lesser visited parts of Krakow, and with the Slovak language being quite similar to Polish, it also felt somewhat familiar.

So, is it beautiful? Well, It has its beautiful parts, like the central square, the best view of which, comes from the top of the old town hall which now houses a lovely little museum dedicated to Bratislava’s history.

Bratislava Town Centre

bratislava town square

bratislava town square

The little square itself is one of the loveliest parts of the city with buildings that are so ornate they look quite out of place.  With artists, musicians, statues and craft shops dotted around the square it’s the postcard part of Bratislava that retains just a little of its former glory.

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hand-painted eggs as souvenirs

hand-painted eggs as souvenirs

One of my favourite parts of the city are the quirky statues fill the old town and sometimes pop up in the most unexpected of places, out of holes in the ground and even the inside of restaurants.

bratislava statues

bratislava statue

bowing to the statue

statue peeking out of restaurant

The old town is small but adorable and quirky.  It’s not all postcard perfect; it’s a city that is in many places grey and dull, in disrepair, and still trying to grow.

bratislava wallSome of the best hidden gems though are found when walking in the areas that look rather unintersting from the outside.  Turn a corner and you’ll find a funky statue, interesting street art, and the odd bright blue church.

bratislava

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I love a city where you can turn around and see two sides of a story just like that.  On one side of the road we have this beauty of a church, and on the other side a beast of an old hospital.  We were losing the light so it was hard to capture the beauty but just google image search ‘blue church Bratislava‘ (here’s one I made earlier) and you’ll be amazed at its blueness.

Another place where you’ll see just how much this place is a tale of two cities is to walk up to the historical castle which looms over the huge industrial landscape that is now modern Bratislava.

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Industrial Bratislava

So, is Bratislava worth visiting?  Absolutely. It’s different from anywhere else in Europe and that makes it absolutely worth visiting and learning about.

EAT, SEE, DO RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BRATISLAVA

slovak garlic soup

Bryndzové Pirohy

EAT: Garlic soup in a bread roll and bryndzové pirohy (dumplings with Slovakian sheep cheese) at Bratislava Flag Ship restaurant (Namestie SNP c. 8), or for non-Slovak grub at a very cool place, try Alchymista (Laurinska 11).

SEE: the view from the top of the Old Town Hall (Stara Radnica) Tickets for the museum inside cost 5€.  Also, the view from the Castle is great, and that one’s free.

DO: Go on a free walking tour by day then walk around the old town at night to hear street music and pop into the many bars dotted around the square. Also, do take the trams – they’re cheap as chips and perfectly safe.

AVOID: Taxis with no phone numbers on them as they’ll rip you off with dodgy taxi meters which is never fun.  Taxis here should be super cheap (around 10€ from city centre to the airport).

Linking up with Bonnie for Travel Tuesday.

35 Responses to Is Bratislava worth visiting?

  1. Bratislava sounds quite interesting! I love those statues- so cool! And I need that food in my life! Garlic soup in a bread bowl? Yum.

  2. Frania says:

    This is a very apt description of Bratislava – I’d have said the exact same things! I also found it a fascinating and beautiful city to visit (although like you say not hard to venture into the dismal parts!).

  3. Thanks for this post. I’m doing a day trip to Bratislava in March! I don’t know much about it but I’m excited to go.

    • anna says:

      Oh you might even get some Spring flowers! Or snow. Eastern Europe can be a bit weird like that. If you walk up to the castle there’s a coffee shop that says “walking is better with coffee” on the outside, and they’re right and their coffees are really good.

  4. Bill Facker says:

    Excellent “shots” Anna, and I echo Rachel regarding the garlic soup .. what could be better!

  5. Thanks for this post. I’ve never considered visiting Bratislava before, but I think I just fell in love through your pictures. It looks like it’s quite a bit quieter than most other European cities. Is that a fair observation?
    Claire xx | somewhere… beyond the sea

    • anna says:

      Yes it is really quiet, especially on a Sunday, but I think in summer the evenings will be a bit busier. There were some bars that look like they could welcome a few stag parties in the summer so that would certainly liven things up.

  6. Ah! I LOVE those statues! Haha, totally never knew that Hostel was about Bratislava. I’m thinking about going to Hungary soon, but in Budapest.

    • anna says:

      Budapest is high on my list! We almost went there instead of Vienna but then we found out that the boys had already planned a trip there, so I’m going to have to go another time. It’s only a couple of hours by train from Budapest so if you get bored (?!) you can always pop over ;)

  7. Agness says:

    Although I’ve never been to Bratislava, I’ve heard how wonderful this place is. In some way it reminds me of Warsaw and Krakow located in Poland. By the way, you should definitely try some local dumplings!

    • anna says:

      Yes it does have its similarities. I haven’t travelled throughout Eastern Europe as much as I’d like as it would be interesting to see more of the similarities and differences.

  8. What inspired you to visit Bratislava? Your post and photos of the soldiers have made me curious about this city. Would you go back?

    • anna says:

      We were supposed to be going skiing in Slovakia so we figured it would be worth popping over to Bratislava for a start. Would I go back? Hmmmm. I would definitely enjoy it if I was there again but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to go back though.

  9. Abruzzo is very similar in some ways. It is not a perfect gem polished for tourism, but it is a gem nonetheless. I love places like this. The old and the new, real people who are proud of their home. Great pics!

    • anna says:

      Yes me too. I’d love to visit Abruzzo – it sounds like it’d be a great way to see real Italian culture which you can’t see in the big tourist cities.

  10. Jenna says:

    I tend to fall in love with cities like this… almost like you can follow their timeline throughout history :) I’d love to visit Bratislava! It’s definitely on my “someday” travel list.

  11. This is a great recap of Bratislava! We went to a wedding there a few years back and loved it. A day or two’s visit is perfectly timed as it is tiny and gorgeous. My boyfriend was there for 5 days on the other hand and unless you are staying in a family home, felt that was too long for a tourist visit. (I am going to need to go back for the garlic soup!)

    • anna says:

      I think I agree with him that 5 days is a bit too long for a tourist visit as we managed to do all the things we wanted to do in just a couple of days. I’d love to go back and explore some of the other parts of Slovakia though. And yes. You must go back for the soup ;)

  12. LeahS. says:

    It’s definitely an unexpected gem. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Margaret says:

    I traveled to Bratislava for a short trip when I lived in the Czech Repbulic. While Prague will always hold the biggest piece of my heart, I did very much enjoy Bratislava! And the bryndzové pirohy…anytime I crossed the border into Slovakia, I ate this- SO GOOD!

    • anna says:

      There’s definitely a little friendly competition with Prague in Bratislava. They know she’s like the prettier cousin but on our walking tour the guide kept slipping in little quips about how Hostel was actually filmed in Prague and other little stories.

      And yeah, I love any kind of dumpling so they were bound to be a winner for me too!

  14. Seeing the old and new is so similar to how it is in Prague. I’ve been to Bratislava, but not to site see. Always driving through or a quick shopping trip from Vienna. Crazy, huh?!

    • anna says:

      I can understand that. I don’t know if we would have gone out of our way to go to Bratislava if it wasn’t for the skiing which didn’t happen but glad we did end up there.

  15. danniellek says:

    This looks like such an interesting place, the statues add so much as well! I’d be going on a statue hunt to try to find them all.

    • anna says:

      Hah, that would be quite fun. There were loads more that I didn’t get to see which are dotted around the old town. I love a city that has little quirks like that.

  16. Adam P. says:

    I think you´ve really captured the essence of Bratislava. I´ve had very similar feeling about this city, but couldn´t quite put it into words.. Another great place to eat is The Three Musketeers restaurant (close to the Presidential palace) — very nice rustic looking interior as the name suggests and tasty food..we had a great time.

  17. aroundtheworldin80pairsofshoes says:

    I’m loving this post and I have often wondered if Bratislava was worth visiting! I am going to put in on my city break list; fantastic post Anna x

  18. Vienna-Bratislava-Budapest says:

    Hi, I fully appreciate your opinion, but after so many posts agreeing with you, I think I have to comment that for me the charm of Bratislava did not work. Call it wrong personal chemistries or bad feng shui, but neither the wow effect nor the joy of surprise never came. Perhaps it is because similar mix of decay and rebirth is already familiar to me from cities of about the same size such as Tallinn, Wroclaw or Ceske Budejovice. Somehow the town indeed appears to be very quiet in comparison except the plentiful bar streets, while I appreciate the athmosphere of a place where you see the signs of real everyday life such of lively outdoor markets for groceries or 2nd hand items, libraries, dog parks, etc… But perhaps all that takes place somewhere else outside the old town, and I just missed to find out where. To be fair, I however very much enjoyed a gig of a local band in one of the bars, so no hard feelings anyway.

    • anna says:

      I’m so glad you commented because I totally understand why it might not work for you and I like people disagreeing! I don’t think everyone will like it. It is a very quiet town and it’s definitely missing a lot of the things you mentioned. I thought the fact that it was a shadow of its former self was interesting and so very different from Vienna which is so close by, but yes, completely respect your opinion. Thank you!

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