During the course of my dad’s visit to Vienna last summer, we decided to spend an afternoon taking the boat down the Danube to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. So that’s the story of how I visited 3 countries in 20 hours. #europe.
Bratislava is small enough that it’s super easy to see on a day trip–or even for just an afternoon. We took the boat with Twin City Liners, which I highly recommend (at least one way). They operate boats between Vienna and Bratislava all day, making for a great alternative to taking the train or public transportation, though those are options as well. The ride takes between 75-90 minutes depending on the current, but it’s a really great way to see the landscape from a different perspective. The boats themselves are super nice—lots of seating on the inside with large windows and an exposed upper deck, which is very windy, but you’re rewarded with incredible views in exchange for some ~*casually wind-swept hair*~. In my case this looks like a bird’s nest. I try to be trendy guys, I really do. Plus you spend part of the ride with Austria on one side of the boat and Slovakia on the other. The boat docks in super convenient places in both cities, so you don’t have to walk far at all to see all the main sites.
Disclaimer: I’ve added links to various helpful webpages for the things I mentioned during this post. None of these are affiliate links and all opinions are my own.
what to do:
There are quite a few sights to see in Bratislava, but none of them are too far apart. My dad and I chose to forgo any type of public transportation and just walked everywhere with no problems! I had done a ton of preparation in advance to make sure we saw every sight in Bratislava possible. Like I did in Prague (read that travel guide here), I planned out a whole itinerary of the “must-see” sights and had mapped out the best route in order to see them all.
Then we actually got to Bratislava. We went to the first three stops on my over-full itinerary and promptly said “Let’s just walk about the main square instead.” I’ve noted the places we actually went as well as the places we were going to visit before we just decided to sit at a sidewalk café and eat fried cheese (honestly though, are you even surprised).
Bratislava Castle | This is where we started our day. It’s just outside the main area of the city but on a hill and impossible to miss. It’s a little bit of a walk from the main central plazas but the walk is totally doable for anyone, as long as you don’t mind a few hills—just call it your workout for the day…or month. You can go inside the castle as well, but we were content to just walk around it.
St. Michael’s Tower & Gate | This was the next stop on our agenda. It’s right in the middle of the central part of the town, so even if you aren’t trying to hit ever site in Bratislava, you should make a point of seeing this one! We only saw it from the outside (are you sensing a trend here?) but you can pay to go up to the top of the tower, and apparently the views are incredible. From my understanding, there’s also a museum inside—if you go, check it out and tell me how it is!
St. Elizabeth’s Blue Church | St. Elizabeth’s, also known as the Blue Church, is a stunning piece of architecture and shouldn’t be missed. Like the castle, it’s not right in the main city center and the walk to it isn’t exactly the most scenic. By that I mean that you can definitely tell it was a country formerly dominated by the Soviet Union because all you can see on both sides of the street for a while is utilitarian cement structures—very inspiring. But as you’re about to say “We totally missed a turn and are about to be lost in Slovakia forever” you’ll round a corner and see it. The color is just stunning!
Other places we had initially planned on seeing were the following: Slavin War Memorial, Napoleon’s Army Soldier statue, the UFO Observation Deck & Restaurant (which is part of the bridge spanning the Danube that you can see from pretty much anywhere), Devin Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Primatial Palace, Grassalkovich Palace, Slovak National Theatre, Czechoslovak Fortification Museum, and the Slovak Radio Building.
Once we decided to ditch the itinerary and just wanter through the central part of town, we headed to the street that leads up to St. Michael’s Tower. It’s a lovely, pedestrian-friendly area with a ton of cute shops and cafés to check out. I don’t remember the name of it (😭) but one of them was this beautiful little pottery shop—I picked up some great gifts there. I mean…can you expect me to walk past a pottery shop and not go in??? The artist was working in the store at the time, so I was able to talk with her about her artistic process, which made the entire experience that much more memorable.
what to eat:
There are a ton of small sidewalk cafés and pubs in the main square and historical old town area. Europe, I love you and your love for sidewalk cafés so—and Bratislava certainly did not disappoint. There are also many ice cream and gelato shops in the area if it’s a hot day or if you’re craving something sweet (which, in my case, is always).
what to do:
Definitely wear good walking shoes. The city has lots of hills and uneven cobblestones, which is true of basically everywhere in Europe but especially here.
In case you’re like me and my Dad and couldn’t figure out if Slovakia uses the Euro…it does. I’m not sure why we thought it didn’t.