Bratislava: A city of friendly faces, quaint streets, gothic charm, and unusual foods.
I was on the boat heading along the infamous Danube River from Austria. Tree-lined canals on both sides, and we finally made our stop in Bratislava City. Walking through the medieval gate was reminiscent of a fairytale town I had once dreamt of visiting. Cobblestone streets, pastel-colored architecture, and burnt-orange rooftops. A charming capital in the heart of Eastern Europe.
Where is Bratislava?
Wedged between 5 other countries, the capital city is located in the South Western region of Slovakia. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it’s the only capital that borders two other countries.
It’s quite easy to visit if you’re traveling from another European country via buses, trains, or boats. I personally took a boat straight from Vienna to Bratislava, and arrived in a little over an hour!
The Best Time To Visit
Slovakia definitely experiences all four seasons throughout the year. From blistering winters to humid summers, there’s no ‘bad’ time to visit this beautiful country.
January sees temperatures as low as 23F, while July gets close to the 80’s. It all depends what you’re in the mood for. Cozy Christmas Markets or scorching lake days — take your pick!
If you’re looking for a warm temperature, outdoor restaurants, and boat trips, then spring-summer is for you. Obviously like most places in Europe, summer tends to bring the crowds, but it’s still a great time to visit this charming city to witness it at its best.
What to do in Bratislava
Hop on the mini tourist train, that weaves throughout the city and its side-streets. Your tour guide will explain the history and important focal points you’ll pass. Your group will make a stop at Bratislava Castle, where you’ll have some free time to wander around the grounds and take in the beautiful scenery of Bratislava City.
After a relaxing train ride, test your stamina by climbing to the top of St Michael’s Gate. In medieval times the city was fortified, and this gate is the last remnant. If you have time, climb again to the top of the lookout tower for incredible views.
Stroll through the stores on the main street to find handmade gifts, then relax and do some people watching around the Old Town Square.
After all the activity, it’s time to fill your belly on Obchodna Street. Find a traditional, Slovakian restaurant and try some local dishes! Cabbage soup, pierogi, or goulash soup- it’s all amazing!
First Impressions of the City
The people are incredibly proud of their country and its beauty. If you’re doing a day tour, ask questions, smile, and appreciate the country too!
The food is carb and meat heavy, but absolutely delicious (One side of my family is Polish, and I could definitely see the comparisons in the dishes).
There’s a large drinking culture. Most of Europe is known for their laid-back lifestyles and excellent work-life balance, but Eastern Europeans beat all when it comes to drinking culture. If you wander the streets, you’re sure to find a happy hour, wine tasting, or beer hall.
Bratislava is a small city, so I’d recommend a day tour if you’re short on time. If you’re flexible, then definitely make Bratislava your home base (as it’s very safe for solo travelers), and then explore the rest of the country at your own pace).
It’s cheap (if you go to the right places). Obviously Bratislava is a hub for tourists, but if you meander through the side streets and find off-the-beaten-path places, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Beer in Slovakia is typically 96 cents, and street food ranges from 1-3 dollars (so budgeters, take note!)
Where to Stay in Bratislava
Personally when I solo travel, I prefer being closer to a City Center or Old Town where there are people around. While there’s a slew of options to choose from in Bratislava City, these are some suggestions that are close to the restaurants and tourist attractions.
- Marrol’s Boutique Hotel
- Arcadia Boutique Hotel
- Falkensteiner Hotel
- AC Hotel Bratislava Old Town
- Apart Hotel Virgo
Like anywhere in the World, as a solo traveler it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings, think smart, and don’t be naive! Bratislava City is overall a very safe pick for those traveling alone, but there are still some things to be aware of before you visit.
- There’s no need to hide everything, but just be aware of pickpockets — especially in overpopulated areas and the Old Town of Bratislava.
- Look out for overcharging or incorrect change. It’s quite common in Europe, so be sure you know your currency and exchange rate before traveling anywhere. Switching to Euros in 2019, it’ll be easier to figure out — but keep checking to stay on top of it!