Like your ex, a supermarket roast chicken or a Sunday morning, Bratislava is cheap and easy. If you’re in the vicinity, you’d be crazy not to go spend a day wandering around Slovakia’s capital. Here’s your guide to doing it (Bratislava, I mean, geez).
Get there: Train it
From Vienna’s Central Station, it’s just a one-hour journey into Bratislava, though tour companies like Viator also offer bus services with a walking tour thrown in. You could train it from Budapest too, though you’re in for a longer day with a five-hour round trip.
Stop 1: Hviezdoslavovo Square
Start your Bratislava experience at Hviezdoslavovo námestie (Hviezdoslavovo Square). Begin at the old Slovak National Theatre in front of the statue of Slovak poet, Hviezdoslav. Work your way down the square, stopping for snaps at Pálfi Palace, passing endless souvenir shops and (overpriced) cafes. If you happen to be in Bratislava around Christmas time, regular stops for mulled wine at the market stands are pretty much mandatory.
You’ll know you’ve reached the end of the square when you see the statue of Hans Christian Andersen. Bratislava has a thing for statues.
Stop 2: St. Martin’s Cathedral
A block up from the square (moving away from the Danube river, peeps) is St. Martin’s Cathedral. Back in the day, it was the official coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary. Today, it stands in all it’s stained-glass splendour, albeit slightly rough around the edges, with a replica of the Crown of St. Stephen atop its tower. Again, if you’re there at Christmastime, there’s gonna be another small market for mulled wine time.
Stop 3: Čumil
Wander (or stagger, depending on your levels of inebriation) all the way down Panská until you trip over a big bronze boulder sitting on a street corner. That’s Čumil, one of the most photographed statues in the city. He’s a worker who appears to be resting on the edge of a sewer with a grin on his face. Some say he is just watching the world go by. Others say he is there to look up women’s skirts. Baller.
Stop 4: Frescos and royal routes
There are lots of little landmarks around this part of Old Town to warrant a wander for a couple of blocks. You’ll see sights such as the Old Town Hall, Bratislava City Museum and the statue of Napoleon pausing awkwardly over a bench (damn, Daniel! Back at it again with the statues!) There are also partly uncovered frescos on building walls, and a path of crowns along the street that follows the old coronation trail through the city.
Stop 5: St. Michael’s Tower and street
One of the most photographed (and, let’s face it, Instagrammable) parts of Old Town. The street is also home to the Narrowest House in Europe, which is actually a thing and is actually now a small store owned by a woman who is actually tired of people coming in to scope the floor plan. Them’s the breaks, lady.
Stop 6: Late Lunch O’Clock
The narrower the street in Old Town (i.e., the further away from major tourist sites), the cheaper the grub. There are so many places to eat all around the area, but wherever you go, you best be sure potato dumplings are on the menu. To quote The Weeknd, “You earned it.”
Stop 7: Bratislava Castle
By now the afternoon has fast headed into sunset (unless we’ve lost you to a bar. In which case, bye Felicia). Head back down the way you came (towards the Danube) and then take the marked path uphill to Bratislava Castle. A Romanesque palace stood on the site since the 11th century before it was reconstructed in the Gothic style in the 15th century, then in the Renaissance style and finally in the Rococo style, which is fancy for ‘ridiculously ornate, decorated with all of the things.’
From here, head out to the open grounds to get a top panoramic of the city and mountains beyond. What you do next is up for debate – head back to Vienna/Budapest by bus, train or boat; or wander back down to town in time for Happy Hour.