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Traveling through Europe is great because there are so many cities which you can easily tack on to an itinerary. In terms of capital cities, none are easier to add than the city of Bratislava in Slovakia. Not only is Bratislava easily reachable from many other, more popular places such as Vienna, but you can also see much of the city in a single day. Basically, if you’re in the neighborhood, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t allow 1 day in Bratislava.
The trick to seeing a city like Bratislava in just 24 hours is to not waste any time. It’s best to jump straight into the best places to visit in Bratislava as soon as you arrive. Following this guide of what to do in Bratislava in 1 day you’ll find you can accomplish a lot!
Best Time to Visit Bratislava
One thing you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your Bratislava itinerary is what time of year you plan to go. Bratislava may not be one of Europe’s busiest destinations, but the weather and the number of tourists can still make a difference in just how enjoyable your visit is.
Finding a balance between good weather and smaller crowds, the shoulder season is typically the best time to visit Bratislava. From April through June and again in September and October, you can expect nice weather and smaller crowds. This is because crowds generally arrive in summer when everyone in Europe is on their vacations and when the cruise ship activity on the Danube is at its peak.
Though winter in Bratislava can be chilly, the lead up to Christmas is another great time to visit the city as that is when Christmas markets pop up full of food, drinks, and holiday cheer.
How to Get Around Bratislava
Part of the reason why visiting Bratislava in just one day is possible is because it’s an easy city to navigate as a visitor. Much of your time in Bratislava will be spent in the city’s compact Old Town. This means you’ll generally be walking from one attraction to the next.
There are times though when taking public transport may be the more appealing option. When visiting landmarks beyond Old Town, walking can be tough or simply impractical. That’s where the city’s network of buses and trams come in. The city’s trams mostly circle around Old Town, which makes them useful for getting across the city center, while buses cover much more of greater Bratislava. The same ticket works for buses, trams and trolleybuses, and can be bought from the yellow machines at stops or newspaper kiosks, but not from drivers. The cheapest ticket is a 15-minute trip with no transfers and costs €0.70.
If you’re headed to Bratislava by air, you have the option of flying in to either Bratislava Airport or Vienna Airport which is not far away. From both airports, the best way to reach the city center is by bus. Local bus no. 61 runs from Bratislava Airport to the train station and from there you can connect to a bus or tram to reach the city center. From Vienna Airport there are hourly buses which connect to the Bratislava Bus Station.
Where to Stay in Bratislava
Thanks to the way that the city is laid out, you shouldn’t have too much trouble understanding where to stay in Bratislava. Visitors to the city will be spending much of their time in or around the edges of the Old Town, that means the best places to stay in Bratislava are ones which are walking distance from Old Town. More affordable accommodation is likely to be found further north near the train station, while many of the city’s apartments are slightly east of the city center.
With only one night in Bratislava, treat yourself with a stay at the Marrol’s Boutique Hotel. This glamorous 5-star boutique hotel has gorgeously styled rooms which are made for comfort, and it is just a short walk from the heart of Old Town.
Sometimes it’s nice to have more space and facilities, which is why the apartments at Charming & Cozy-Ambiente Apartments are so great. With affordable apartments which have both a kitchen and lounge area you’ll have everything you need for your time there.
We also recommend exploring Airbnb as an option for your stay, if you’re looking for apartments or reasonably priced accommodation. For recommendations, take a look at our list of the best Airbnbs in Bratislava.
For budget travelers, DREAM Hostel Bratislava is a great choice. With dorms and private rooms, this clean and friendly hostel is ideally situated between the train station and Old Town.
For more accommodation options in Bratislava check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 1-Day Bratislava Itinerary
With only 24 hours in Bratislava, you may be worried you’ll have a hard time seeing everything the city has to offer. The reality though is that the Slovakian capital isn’t a huge destination and can be explored in a short time if you know where you’re going. That’s where our Bratislava travel itinerary comes into play, taking you through the city’s Old Town and out to several sights in the downtown area. Following this Bratislava itinerary, you’ll get to see many parts of the city and visit Bratislava’s most impressive landmarks without difficulty.
However, before we get to our Bratislava itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
SafetyWing offers travel insurance for only about $10 a week, making it a no-brainer to get. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
SafetyWing is, of course, not the only option available. Two other popular alternatives are World Nomads and Heymondo.
Now that you’re prepared for your trip, let’s delve into what the best things to do in Bratislava are and how you can go about tackling Bratislava in 1 day.
Recommendation: A nice way to see all of the main attractions in a short amount of time is on a sightseeing bus tour. This tour takes you through the Old Town gates to the Medieval castle, and along the way you pass beautiful churches, fountains, and gardens.
There’s really no better place to start your visit than in the Main Square deep in Old Town. Lined by elegant historical buildings, this is one of the most classically pretty areas of Bratislava. Within the square visitors will find the beautiful Roland Fountain, as well as one or two creatively positioned statues, like the leaning statue of a Napoleonic soldier. But the feature attraction of the Main Square is Bratislava’s Old Town Hall. With ornate patterns in its green tiled roof and a pretty courtyard in its center, the Old Town Hall is certainly one of the city’s most picturesque landmarks.
From the Main Square you can head in any direction and enjoy a wander through the city’s Old Town. There aren’t many major streets in this part of Bratislava, but quite a lot of Old Town is now pedestrianized, making it a great place to casually explore on foot.
As you stroll around Old Town, there are some scattered attractions worth seeing. The Primate’s Palace just behind the Town Hall is worth a walk through, if only to see the striking fountain statue of St George in its inner courtyard. A walk down Hviezdoslav Square will show you the city’s cultural side including the opera and theater. Then there’s St Martin’s Cathedral, the city’s large gothic cathedral with four chapels and a tower which defines the city’s skyline.
The Blue Church
Known officially as the Church of St. Elisabeth, this landmark has been dubbed by locals as the Blue Church due to its outward appearance. Found on the eastern side of the city center, this delicate Art Nouveau building is painted in a highly unique pale blue, making it stand out. Finished in 1913, everything about this church is blue; the exterior, interior, and even the tiles on the roof are all varying shades of blue.
Lying just past the northern end of Old Town, SNP Square is a nice place for a brief stop. In the middle of the square you’ll spot various oversized statues which honor those who fought in the 1944 uprising against German occupation. Around the square you’ll notice several elegant churches, as well as the excellent Franz Xaver Messerschmidt Cafe. Over the road you’ll spot the Old Market inside a large historic hall. Every Saturday, this marketplace comes alive with local and seasonal produce from local farmers, butchers, and bakers.
Walking north of SNP Square, you’ll arrive at another of Bratislava’s impressive historical sights – the Presidential Palace. Historically known as Grassalkovich Palace, this stylish summer palace from 1760 has been the residence of Slovakian Presidents since 1996. You can’t go inside as it is an active residence, but it is quite an interesting view when standing by the fountains in nearby Hodžovo Square.
One of the iconic landmarks of Bratislava, Michael’s Gate is a photogenic tower gate at the northern end of Old Town. Sitting at the top of a lively pedestrian street, the 51 meter high tower is a sight that all visitors to Bratislava should see. On the ground floor of the tower, you’ll find the city’s Museum of Arms, which focuses on the city’s historic fortifications and defensive weaponry. Climb to the top of the tower and the viewing terrace gives you the perfect panorama of Bratislava’s Old Town.
You can’t leave Bratislava without taking the time to go see the city’s castle up close. Once you’ve made your way up the hill, you’ll pass through one of the elegant castle gates and find a large square standing before you. In one direction you have a statue of King Svatopluk I standing before the high walls of the castle; in the other you have panoramic viewpoints which let you look down on the Danube below.
It’s also worth seeing the castle’s central courtyard even if you don’t plan on going inside. Heading on into the castle you can visit exhibits from the Slovak National Museum, including special items crafted from gold and silver in the Treasury. After seeing the castle, be sure to head around into the peaceful castle grounds. Besides being a nice place to sit, this area also offers the perfect view of the city’s Old Town, with St Martin’s Cathedral front and center.
Have More Than 24 Hours in Bratislava?
One of the nice things about visiting the Slovakian capital is that you can pretty much see the best of Bratislava in just one day. But if you do have a little more time, you can see some of the sights further afield in Slovakia, or even head across the border to Austria. Places to consider with a second day in Bratislava include:
1. Slavín Memorial
Because of how much there is already to see in Bratislava, the Slavin Memorial tends not to fit into many quick visits to the city. Located up on a hill out near the train station, this huge memorial is quite impressive if you have the time. Dedicated to the soldiers of the Red Army who fought and died to liberate Bratislava in April of 1945, the main monument of this memorial is a towering obelisk with a flag-bearing Soviet soldier standing on top. As interesting as the memorial’s Soviet design is, the superb panoramic views from the hill also deserve a mention. From up top you can clearly see the entire city of Bratislava, including the city’s magnificent white castle.
2. Devin Castle
Overlooking the spot where the Danube and Morava Rivers merge, Devin Castle offers visitors both history and views. Walking up the hill you pass through the first of many gates, before seeing fields, farm animals, and some smaller ruins. On the hilltop, a tower and the castle keep are separated by a square which boasts views of the rivers below. Nearby and built into the hillside, there’s a museum exploring the castle’s history and artifacts which have been found there. Best of all though are the views from the castle keep, where you can look down at the entire castle site, as well as the landscapes on both the Austrian and Slovakian sides of the border.
Since you’re already so close to Austria, consider hopping over the border for a visit to an interesting Austrian destination. The perfect spot to visit on your trip over is the ancient Roman ruins of Carnuntum. Often explored as a day trip from Vienna, it can also be easily reached from Bratislava. Carnuntum is home to a collection of Roman sites which explore the ancient history of the region. The main attraction in Carnuntum is the Roman City Quarter, where you’ll find a museum which details the site’s history and has the ruins of civilian houses, including several that have been faithfully rebuilt. Other attractions spread out around Carnuntum include a treasury museum, two amphitheaters, and several minor ruins.
You should now have a great idea of what you can expect from a day in Bratislava. With this Bratislava itinerary for you to follow, sightseeing in and around the city will be a breeze and you’ll get to see all of Bratislava’s most important attractions.