Often described as the ‘little big city’, Bratislava has a reputation for being one of Europe’s most relaxed capitals. With lots of bars, restaurants, hotels and activities all within minutes walking distance, it even has two big cities close by - Budapest and Vienna. This Slovakian city is not only culturally diverse but also boasts old-town charm, amazing locals and incredible live music from jazz to opera. Even better - you get all of this with Central Europe’s best river as a backdrop.
Explore the City
The Old Town
Surrounded by the banks of the Danube, Bratislava is made up of grand buildings and cobbled streets, which are ideal for exploring. The famous Old Town is home to various shops, cafes, pubs, historical buildings, museums and churches - so whether you want culture or cocktails, there’s something for everyone.
A Segway Tour
A great way to experience the city is to take part in a guided tour with a difference. Hop onto a Segway, learn the basics and follow your guide as you’re led around the city’s best bits. Look out for the Town Hall, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava Castle and St Martin’s Cathedral. And, after all that exploration, a cold refreshment in one of the area’s many bars is just what you need.
Brewery Tour and Beer Tasting
This tour takes you around a local brewery as you learn about the history and production of local beers. Once you’ve digested all the information, you’ll get 4 beers to sample as well as some paired snacks. Who said local culture had to involve museums?
Since 1993, every November and December, Bratislava’s main square is filled with large Christmas markets. Ideal for shopping and enjoying local traditions, you’ll find traditional food, street artists, impressive alcohol and gifts for all your loved ones. The Christmas markets are known for having a friendly atmosphere, making for an even better experience.
Shopping in the city
Slovakia’s capital city offers big shops, small boutiques, local markets, souvenir shops and more. Obchodna is one of the best streets for shopping with a number of UK fashion brands. Traditional markets can be found on Miletičova Street and Žilinská Street offering fresh food as well as homemade products. Several shopping malls such as Aupark, Central and Eurovea Galleria, are also dotted around ideal for when the weather is not on your side.
There’s something to please everyone in Bratislava from beer halls to rooftop bars. So whether you’re looking for some quiet drinks with friends or stag-do mayhem, the options are endless. Even better, the locals are incredibly friendly which makes for a great experience.
In the city centre, you’ll find every type of club possible - from gay clubs, nightclubs, themed clubs and those playing live music. Hviezdoslavovo nám and Eurovea have some of the most popular clubs and with entry as low as free to €5, it means you’ll have plenty of money left over for drinks.
Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar Beers, Stupavar and Slovak Pub are 3 of the most favoured traditional pubs in the area. Offering great beer, snacks, rustic decor and even beer-flavoured food, these places are often described the beer connoisseur's choice.
Guided Bar Crawl and Club Entry
Most of Bratislava’s bars are within walking distance so you can easily crawl from one to another. Even better, beer and wine tasting activities can easily be arranged, ensuring that you experience everything that the city has to offer. A guided bar crawl led by a local guide will also ensure that you visit the hottest spots as well as getting club entry.
Eat like a Local
When it comes to food, Bratislava has lots to choose from. Jam-packed with a variety of cuisines, whether you’re looking to grab a quick bite or want to try some traditional Slovak cuisine, you’ll find an array of choices in main square and Old Town.
The Main Square
In Bratislava, food is not hard to come by. The pedestrianised central square has loads of traditional cafes, including the chilled-out Cafe Mayer, as well as posh restaurants like Roland. Here, restaurants are used to catering for tourists and remain open until late.
Bratislava is popular with many groups which means that a number of fast-food and casual dining restaurants now line the streets. From stylish burger bars, like NYC Corner, to classic pizza spots, and even a Wagamama, you'll have no problem finding a proper home away from home.
Places to Stay
Bratislava’s city centre has a huge range of accommodation. As well as being great value, a selection of hotels, hostels and apartments are also centrally located, meaning you don’t need to look far for somewhere to rest your head. Even better, many of the areas hotels welcome big groups and backpackers and offer double or triple rooms as a cheaper option. Or, if you’re looking for somewhere a little more impressive, the city is packed with lots of stylish hotels. Whatever you choose, Bratislava is compact so you won’t be far from the city centre.
Your guide to a weekend in Bratislava
It might be a small city but for sheer friendliness, party stamina and overall good looks it pretty much ticks every box. Bratislava is a historic and picturesque city that deftly blends old world charm and modern restaurants, bars and nightclubs; a top option for those after a unique and extremely reasonably priced weekend.
Bratislava is a young European capital with an ancient heart. Gorgeous Medieval monuments, traditional houses and huge palaces are what pull the crowds and keep them enthralled. But no way is Bratislava about to settle for being an attraction. It’s keen to compete with the rest of Europe and isn’t shy when it comes to a business opportunity. Plenty of the city is smart and contemporary and it makes the most of its natural advantages. And (as long as you don’t compare Bratislava to Prague) the locals couldn’t be friendlier or more fun to be around.
Bratislava at a glance:
- Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia but a relatively young one – the country gained independence in 1993 following the ‘velvet divorce’ from what is now the Czech Republic
- It boasts a Medieval Old Town that is one of the most picturesque in Eastern Europe
- Proudly claims the nickname ‘Partyslava’ thanks to endless bars, clubs and pubs
- Has its own famous bar ‘strip’ and you can even party on a boat on the Danube
- Currency is the Euro and beer costs about €1,50 a pint
Stare Mesto – not just for tourists
The beguiling Old Town is Staré Mesto’s big ticket to the unforgettable – and it’s enchanting. From the might of St Martin’s Cathedral to the charm of its straight-laced townhouses, graceful squares and iconic Hvár Castle, if being a tourist for a bit is your thing then this is where to indulge. But don’t deprive yourself of the area’s earthier attractions. Clubs, bars, cafés and restaurants cluster by the dozen in Staré Mesto (in the Old town and beyond) and Slovakia’s most famous shopping mall, Eurovea, is also in this part of the city.
Nove Mesto – new town, great attitude
Most tourists give Nové Mesto a miss, it’s not big on medieval and nobody’s ever going to describe it as quaint. That’s good news for more adventurous types who don’t mind some real life in the visitor mix. Best described as Bratislava’s business district, Nové Mesto is all about getting things done. It feels urban and contemporary, everyone’s busy and if you need to shop this is where the city helpfully concentrates almost all its major malls.
Best bars in Bratislava:
UFO, Most SNP Bridge
Easily identified flying above the Most SNP Bridge over the Danube, UFO is easily the highest place in the city for stunning views. Give the Observation Deck a go before you get into their amazing cocktails, just to be on the safe side.
Gallery Andy, Beblavého 287/4
Paying tribute to the world’s best known American Slovak, Andy Warhol, this is one of the city’s smartest and most intriguing bars with an ever-changing interior style. In the Old Town near Hvár Castle.
Trafo Music Bar, Ventúrska 269/1
This is where Bratislava fashion and media types swarm to be beautiful, achingly cool and endlessly admired. Industrial styling, urban cocktails, a 15m concrete bar and a dance floor.
Cocoloco, námestie snp 1
120 cocktails and right in the heart of the Old Town. Slick, seductive lighting and seriously good sounds.
Slang Bar, Hviezdoslavovo nam 23
Just off Hviezdoslav Square, unpretentious and pulls a mix of party tourists and locals. The bar’s long, the beer and wine list is big and everyone’s very chatty – language is not an issue once the booze is flowing. Unpretentious and fine fun.
Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar, Drevená 575/8
One of five microbreweries in the centre of the Old Town. Slovakian beer at its best is the way it goes down here and traditional, high-carb food is served to soak up the excess. Always busy.
U-Certa, Beblavého 286/2
Name means ‘The Devil’ in Slovakian and a demonically good tour of the country’s best beers, wines and liqueurs it is too. Nod to an international audience comes from a range of whiskies and rum.
Lemontree & Sky Bar Restaurant Bratislava, Hviezdoslavovo nám 7
Clear focus on the purest spirit here with over 80 different vodkas to choose from. Great views from the terrace and the rooftop bar attracts Bratislava’s beautiful people. Especially good on warm summer evenings.
The Dubliner, Sedlárska 6
It’s all Irish but strangely Bratislava too. Guinness gets a run for its money with local favourites. Sports on TV competes with loads of live music gigs. And it’s the only Irish bar in the city so it’s busy and boisterous and good for a party.
Best clubs in Bratislava:
This city centre building isn’t beautiful from the outside but don’t let that put you off. This is a city legend and the crowd’s cool, creative and good to be around. Always something going on and the pints are even cheaper than the Bratislava norm – really, really cheap.
Channels, Župné nám 2 Several floors of Slovak party so take your pick here. It’s just outside the Old Town on SNP Square and attracts a young, cute crowd with a mix of sounds and events.
Food: eat like a local:
You can’t visit Bratislava and not try Halušky. It’s the Slovakian national dish and basically consists of little potato dumplings (think gnocchi but stodgier) with a rich, sheep’s cheese sauce and a liberal sprinkling of smoked bacon or pork rind. Traditionally this hearty (or heart stopping) dish is served with Žincica (sheep’s milk whey drink) – alternatively you could just have more of the country’s fine beer.
Right in the heart of the Old Town on legendary bar strip Obchodna, 1 Slovak Pub (www.slovakpub.sk/) is the best Halušky restaurant in the city. Reasonably priced and lots of alternatives to the sheep’s milk whey for washing down your dumplings.
At Café Vienna the name’s the only thing this great breakfast café has in common with one of the most expensive cities on earth (Vienna’s just 60km from Bratislava). Here €5 or thereabouts will get you bacon, egg, rolls and fantastic coffee – it wouldn’t even get you the waiter’s attention in the Austrian capital.
Beer Palace – Traditional pub style food with a Bratislava angle and great value fixed-price lunch menus is the deal at Beer Palace. Big on meat but looks after vegetarian and gluten intolerant diners well too.
If the only thing you want is a fantastic steak cooked just the way you like it then Towers is for you. You choose the cut, the weight and one of the 15 different sauces, they cook your steak and serve it up on a bed of bacon and beans – the last bit is kind of odd, but when in Bratislava…
When to visit:
Summer weather is mostly sensational and the city has over 10 lakes and even a man-made beach to cool you off – or you can head into the mountains for a bit of shade. Bratislava is Eastern Europe so it does the big magical Christmas thing without a second thought. The winter weather is cold but ice skating, mulled wine, traditional decorations and all that Medieval prettiness trimmed with frost is worth wrapping up warm for.
The best view of the city:
One of the best views in the city is from the battlements of beautiful Hvár Castle. It’s in the Old Town, of course, and the walk up is almost as rewarding as looking out over the city when you get there.
Bratislava’s tram and bus services are excellent and most routes operate from 5am to midnight. But the ticketing system is complicated so best bet is to buy a Bratislava City Card (all public transport is included in the cost) or opt for 24 or 48-hour passes. Taxis to get you about after midnight and before 5am aren’t too expensive and go everywhere in the city.
A small, friendly and very safe city, Bratislava doesn’t have any major problems to watch out for. There are pickpockets in the well-known tourist districts but that’s not unusual and you just need to be careful with your valuables. And, if you visit in summer, use mosquito repellent especially in the evening by the river.
Hello = ahoj
How Are You? = ako sa máš?
Do You Speak English? = hovoríš po Anglicky?
Nice To Meet You = teši ma
Cheers! = na zdravie!