Located between Vienna and Budapest, Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is a city that is often missed out on travels around Central Europe.
Situated on the banks of the Danube and divided in two by the river, Bratislava is one of the smallest capitals in Europe, with a population of less than 500,000.
Slovakia has been a member of the European Union since 2004, and they use the Euro there.
How to get to Bratislava from Vienna
If you don't want to hire a car, the three main ways to get to Bratislava from Vienna are by bus, train and boat.
- Train: this is the most common way to travel around Central Europe. The train journey between Vienna and Bratislava lasts between an hour and an hour and a half, depending which station you arrive in, and the ticket is around 12 euros.
- Boat: cruise down the Danube in a boat departing from the heart of the cities' historic centres. The boat journey usually takes around 75 minutes, and the price of a ticket costs between 20 and 35 euros each way. You can find out more information on the Twin City Lines website.
- Bus: taking the bus between these two European capitals takes between an hour and an hour and 45 minutes, and usually depart from the main bus terminal in the same building as the central Vienna train station. Most buses cost less than 10 euros.
What to see in Bratislava
Here are some of Bratislava's most important places to visit:
- Bratislava Castle: one of the most symbolic monuments of the Slovakian capital, this imposing castle is perched atop a hill on the banks of the Danube. Its fascinating history dates back to the 9th century, and it day it is home to the National Museum of Slovakia and offers excellent views over the city.
- Blue Church: the St Elizabeth Church is better known by its striking bright blue colour, and is one of the best examples of a religious building in Art Nouveau style in Europe.
- Old Town Hall: this 14th century complex of buildings houses the Bratislava City Museum, which was founded in 1868, making it Slovakia's oldest museum.
- St Martin's Cathedral: the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava, having been built in the 15th century, this imposing building was the coronation church of the Hungarian monarchs between 1563 and 1830.
- Franciscan Church: consecrated in 1297, this church and monastery is the oldest religious building in Bratislava's old town. Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I was crowned King of Hungary here in 1526.
- Michael's Gate: the only surviving city gate preserved from the four that surrounded Medieval Bratislava. Today, it houses the City Museum's weapons exhibition.
If you've got time and want to explore more of historical Bratislava, the Devin Castle is located 8 miles from the city centre, around a 30 minute journey on the number 29 bus from Novy Most (Most SNP). The ancient fortress is one of Slovakia's most important archaelogical sites and has played a significant role throughout the country's history, including being blown up during the Napoleonic Wars. Its Maiden Tower, a tiny watchtower perched perilously on a rock overlooking the Danube and Morava rivers, is a particularly photogenic spot.
In modernistic contrast with the city's historic centre, the Most SNP, also known as Novy Most or New Bridge, is home to a spaceship-shaped restaurant and observation deck. At 278 feet (85 m) in height, it offers excellent views over Bratislava.
How much time should I spend in Bratislava?
If you're staying in Vienna and you don't have plans to visit Budapest, the best option is to take a day trip to Bratislava. A few hours should be enough to explore the city's historic centre and enjoy a typical meal here.
If you're visiting Bratislava on the way to Budapest, it would be a good idea to spend a night in the city, allowing you to see the illuminated monuments, and, if you're in the mood for a party, to enjoy the Slovakian capital's lively nightlife. For the best deals on hotels in Bratislava, we recommend booking your accommodation here.