Bratislava: Europe’s Most Underrated Capital City

Bratislava: Europe's Most Underrated Capital City

Bratislava wasn’t in my original Europe plans.

I honestly had never given the city much thought and didn’t know much about it other than we had extended family ties there. But when I was invited to visit as a day trip from Vienna, I thought it would be the perfect chance to explore the city.

Arriving by catamaran, the trip took just over an hour sailing down the Danube.

Unfortunately when we arrived, the clouds began to roll in and the sky turned grey. We knew rain was inevitable. Luckily, walking off the boat we were swooped up by our tour representative who put us on a mini train ride of the city.

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As our train made its way up the steep castle hill, I almost had a heart attack thinking that it wouldn’t make it. Finally we got to the top and were given the opportunity to get out and explore the park for a bit.

The views from up there are some of the best in the city.

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I loved seeing all of the orange rooftops– another reminder of Prague. But as my vision swept across the city, I could see the shift to areas more modern with high-rises and large suspension bridges. This was something Prague definitely seemed to lack.

We didn’t have enough time to go up and visit the castle because we spent so much time looking out at the views. I probably could’ve stayed there even longer– it seemed like the perfect spot to sit and read or to have a picnic.

But before we knew it, we were back on the train praying that the brakes didn’t give out as we maneuvered back down the steep hill.

Chugging along into the Old Town, we passed palace after palace, now turned residence. I’m pretty sure if there were an award for the most palaces in a city, Bratislava would win. I had no idea the city had such a long and fascinating history.

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Most of the buildings, similarly to Prague, dated back to the 1100s. And while the two cities are very different now, you can certainly still see the ties they once had.

We ended our tour in the town square where we were led to lunch. Back in a barely trafficked street, we had one of the most delicious meals in all of Europe. The sun started to come out a little more and we were amazed that no one was on the streets. Where were all the tourists?

As we made our way back towards the town square, we continued to wonder why there was a lack of people in the city. We found that Bratislava has so much to offer tourists– it’s historical, its architecture is stunning and its prices are very affordable.

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It really is like a less crowded, less touristy, and less expensive version of Prague. And I know people go on and on about how much they like Prague, and I like it too. But you know what? I actually think I enjoyed Bratislava more.

Wandering through the streets, it finally began to pour. We took cover under an overpass and were treated to a whole other side of Bratislava. Vibrant street art covered every inch of the concrete walls, many making political statements.

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Seeing this edge, this burst of culture, I think is when I really began to appreciate Bratislava. And although we left after only a few hours, soggy and cold, Bratislava had certainly made my list of places I want to return to.

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Have you been to Bratislava? Is it somewhere you’d like to visit?

Our tour to Bratislava was provided by Get Your Guide. All opinions and love of this underrated city are my own.

33 Comments

  • Maria says:

    Loved your article! Our city is really beautiful and has a lot more to offer than it seems. If you plan to return, this might be helpful to check prior your trip: http://www.welcometobratislava.eu/
    Bon voyage!

  • bynn.fyi says:

    despite the fact that Bratislava is a beautiful city, slovakia have much more to offer.. believe me – it is worth to visit, you will be not disappointed :)

  • Iva says:

    Hi All.
    lovely to read such Love on our capital.

    I have moved into capital 10yrs ago and still loving it.
    City center despite small-ish compared to Prague (the result of a history & government back in the old days) it is indeed lovely.

    There are a lot of beautiful Medieval cities in whole Slovakia.. Lots of Castles.. Beautiful Mountains for Hiking.. I could go on :)

    If I can recommend you, next time you visit Bratislava not having more days to stay in Slovakia (but still want some castle to see), I recommend you to check out the Devin Castle. It is close to the City, lovely place + lot of history went down there.

    http://www.visit.bratislava.sk/en/vismo/dokumenty2.asp?id_org=700014&id=1780&p1=6441

    Safety in a city is completely ok, as mentioned above watching over your small belongings is a very good idea (like in other cities ;))… but other than that you are fine. I think it is safe-to-say that even if you go “outside” from the city centre you will be completely fine, but you may get lost as there are many suburbs/streets.. :D

    Again lovely to see that our Little – Big country is finally becoming popular :)

    • Beth Williams says:

      I’ll have to check out Devin Castle, it looks beautiful! I’d love to spend more time exploring the rest of Slovakia someday :)

  • michaela says:

    I live in Bratislava and Im always so pleased to read such articles as yours. Our city may be tiny, but really lovely and definitely worth to visit. thanks for a lovely article :))

    • Beth Williams says:

      Thanks for such a lovely comment! You live in a beautiful city that I hope more people get to experience! :DD

  • Vladi says:

    I’ve been living in Bratislava since I was born and it is nice to see such compliments. You are guys all welcome here. Bratislava has some flaws too and sometimes you can run into angry or arrogant people, but I think things are slowly getting better.

    I suggest you to visit in summer. The riverbank is a nice place for summer walks and if you combine it with ice cream in Zmrzlík, you will experience a good times. The old bridge completion is scheduled on next spring so I hope the everywhere roadworks will finally disappear.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Everyone I ran into seemed very friendly, so yes, it must be getting better :)

      We did visit in summer, but it was pouring rain during our stay. Next time, hopefully we’ll have better weather!

  • I love going to the city, I live about 50 kilometres away.

    If you want a tip for good food, there’s a Jewish restaurant very near the castle (in the region of the city called “podhradie”, which is in the old town, but on the other side of that strangely located freeway).

    It’s also possible to go up to the UFO atop the bridge and it affords fantastic views of the mountains, the castle, and the Slavin war memorial. There’s a restaurant there too!

    There are some very popular musical events every summer and some local musicians worth checking out (apart from me) ;) are Lavagance, Talent Transport, Fallgrapp, Katka Scevlikova, Zuzana Mikulcova and Katarzia :)

    A trip through the nearby small Carpathians is also worthwhile, there are lots of castles and old monasteries hidden amongst the trees and the region is quite well known for it’s wine – there’s even an annual wine tour. If you’re going hiking there, watch out for the ticks though.

    If you’re about, come to my town -Trnava – as well. I’d love to show you around :)

    • Beth Williams says:

      Next time I really want to visit the UFO! We heard it gave great views of the city, but we just ran out of time.

      I’ll def be checking out that restaurant and wine tour– thanks for the tips! If I ever make it out to Trnava, I’ll let you know! :D

  • Joseph says:

    Been there, loved it:)

  • Bram says:

    Definitely an underrated city. I went there last year and loved every moment of it. It has lots stunning and experimental Communist-era architectures, though the railway station really needs improvement.

    Too bad it’s located too far in the west otherwise I could go for an extra trip to places like Kosice or the Hron River.

  • I spent two days in Bratislava this summer, and…. in hindsight I loved it. BUT at the time, we were cramming so much in that by the time we got there on the first day it was dinner time, so we had dinner & went to a rock bar- which suited my group down to the ground. then the following day we did an all day tour… and, like when you were there it was GREY and it rained(!) in spite of it being july, on our first night, so we didnt’ spend as much time in the city as i would have liked. i also felt that because we didn’t have a night out there, that the city was perhaps not as safe as other places… it was more than i felt like we were being babysat, rather than that we were unsafe, but also convinced myself that we’d been given such freedom in other places that perhaps there was a reason for it. I did otherwise really like Bratislava, I had a good time there.

    Also that last graffiti mural was one of my favourites in the city, it was pretty much opposite the botel we stayed in. I loved it.

    • Tomas says:

      Dont worry about safety in Bratislava :) its a heaven compared to Prague or Budapest and its city center is one of the safest in the world. Of course youre not going to gethos where its a little bit worse

      • Beth Williams says:

        I agree, I didn’t get the vibe that Bratislava was unsafe at all–quite the opposite honestly compared to Prague!

    • Mirka says:

      I assure you there’s no special or creepy reason :) I have no idea why u’ve been “babysat” but probably there was problem in your guide who just didn’t want you to get lost or something… :)) If you go out or to the club it’s good to keep an eye on your small belongings like wallet or phone … otherwise it’s really safe in here

      • Beth Williams says:

        I agree Mirka! Bratislava felt very safe and it was probably the guide who just didn’t want to be bothered ;)

    • Beth Williams says:

      Hm, I never got the feeling that Bratislava was unsafe, whereas I did a bit going out in Prague. Yeah, it was July for us also!! Ugh, it was just pouring.

      I need to re-visit and hopefully have better weather to explore more!

  • Thanks for sharing about Bratislava – looks like a very cool city to visit! I was tempted to make a side-trip there when I was in Vienna but didn’t have enough time. Now I wish I did! I absolutely love Prague so I’m really interested to hear that you liked Bratislava more! Anther place added to my endless wish list :-)

  • askan says:

    Bratislava is a very nice city indeed. And the comparison to Prague is fair. I also like the proximity to Vienna. And I “found” also I market hall for food (like local smoked cheese and good dried sausages amongst others) which has a unusual architecture for such a place: http://askan.biz/2014/09/17/trznica-market-hall-bratislava-slovakia/ There is also a map to get orientation.

    • Beth Williams says:

      The proximity to Vienna is what made us visit Bratislava in the first place. We just did it as a day trip! :)

  • I’ve lived in Bratislava.. and have always loved it. I have also lived in Prague. For me the main difference between the two cities (besides the obvious size and economic difference) is the people.

    Love Bratislava and I’m glad you’re sharing about it!

    -Marina from MadeinMoments.com

    • Beth Williams says:

      Yes!! I noticed the people were very different. I felt that everyone is Bratislava was pretty friendly, smiling and generally happy. I can’t say the same for locals of Prague though…

  • Amanda says:

    I haven’t been to Bratislava, but you aren’t the first to say that it’s awesome! I love Central and Eastern Europe (and especially the parts that aren’t so touristy), so I have a feeling I would love this city, too!

    • Beth Williams says:

      I’ve barely explored Eastern Europe, but it really fascinates me! I’m hoping to do a whole E Europe trip soon. Seeing your photos from the Balkans made me want to book a ticket right then and there!

  • nomadicpanda says:

    Lovely!! I’ve been interested in going there. It’s just one of the places that caught my eye when I researched the Carpathian mountains and Romania coincidentally!

    • Beth Williams says:

      You totally should go there! It was a ton of fun.
      Romania has caught my eye lately though, so I’m hoping to visit there soon!

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