When I researched our 7-day Vienna itinerary, Bratislava kept popping up as “must-see” stop to include. So naturally, I slotted it into our weeklong plan. Our Bratislava day trip itinerary took us through most of the well-known sights, and we certainly enjoyed the city’s hospitality. But at the end of the day, I found myself asking,
“Is Bratislava a must-see?”
A bit about Bratislava
As the capital and largest city of its country, Bratislava is certainly one of the must-see places in Slovakia. It borders both Hungary and Austria, one of the only capital cities in the world to sit on two national borders. Since the train from Vienna to Bratislava takes less than an hour, it’s a popular addition to trips to Austria, or backpacking itineraries through Eastern Europe. It has been historically influenced by people from a wide range of nations and religions, including the Hungarians, Austrians, Jews, Czechs, Croatians, Serbs, and Slovaks.
What is there to see in Bratislava?
Popular sights include Bratislava Castle, which was built in the 9th-century, and St. Martin’s Cathedral. Both are located near the Old Town, which is very well-preserved. Not far from Bratislava are more castle ruins and hiking trails, which could fill out time if you plan to spend longer than a day trip’s worth of time there.
Check out my Bratislava day trip itinerary for more details on the sights and scenery!
My rating: is Bratislava a must-see?
While I found Staré Mesto, the Old Town, to be quite charming, I was…to be direct, a bit bored by Bratislava. The Castle is certainly imposing, but there’s not much to do once you’ve walked around it. St. Martin’s is nice, but doesn’t compare to many of the other European churches. So in terms of the sights, I wasn’t particularly wowed. It sounds very jaded to say, but I think I could have spent my time better in Vienna.
That said, I could have been quite happy to spend a few more hours bar-hopping and beer drinking through the Old Town. The vibe was very relaxed, the patios were spacious, the service friendly, and the beer incredibly fresh.
Why People Go
If Bratislava isn’t a must-see, then why do people go? For one thing, it’s close. And there’s something pretty cool about just hopping the border into another country via train. Additionally, the prices are definitely cheaper than Vienna. They’re not as cheap as they were a few years ago, before Eastern Europe became such a hot spot for tourism, but definitely better than most capital cities in Europe.
If you haven’t spent time in Eastern Europe, doing a day trip to Bratislava gives you a sample of the food, architecture, and vibe without having to commit to a longer stay. At night, the city is supposed to really ramp up, so if you’re looking for a good party, Bratislava might also seem more appealing.
Worth it if…
In the end, I’d say Bratislava is a must-see if:
- You’re coming in just for the day
- Your Vienna itinerary is longer than 5 days (We were doing a week in Vienna, plus I’d already spent a week on a prior trip, which made it nice to dedicate more time to day trips)
- You really love beer and/or nightlife
I’d recommend Bratislava for couples and friend groups. I didn’t see a ton of things to do with kids, so if you’re coming as a family, you might want to rethink how long you visit for, if at all.