When searching out the best things to do in Bratislava for the first time, I honestly expected the worst. I’d heard nothing but lukewarm reviews about Bratislava, mostly swaying towards how dull the capital of Slovakia was compared to other top Central European travel destinations.
While I can’t claim that it’ll trump other more popular cities in Central Europe, the top tourist attractions in Bratislava are hardly worthy of dismissal either. There’s plenty of charm among the top points of interest in Bratislava—both outward and hidden—that’ll surprise you if you enter with an open mind.
Not sure what to do in Bratislava? Let yourself slowly fall for the Slovak capital with this guide to the best places to visit in Bratislava…
What to do in Bratislava
Wander aimlessly in Old Town
Only got one day in Bratislava? Set your compass to the city’s beguiling Old Town.
While it might fall short of expectation swaying in from its former Czechoslovakian brother of Prague, Old Town flashes its ancient good looks as well as any small European capital could.
The most memorable way to experience Old Town Bratislava is to simply let your feet guide you through.
Walk through its narrow cobbled streets, stopping along the way at the churches, monuments, shops, and cafés that catch your fancy.
Get quizzical with Cumil and other quirky statues
While you’re making your rounds in Old Town, keep on the lookout for Bratislava’s famous street statues.
Peppered throughout Old Town, these few quirky—at times, borderline creepy—statues are sure to catch your eye and beg for a photo op.
The most popular of these statues is Cumil, a bronzed worker popping his head out of a manhole.
Some say he’s just a worker on break, others say he’s a creeper. Either way, snapping a shot of Cumil is bound to put a smile on your face!
Other statues found elsewhere one the streets of Old Town include Schöne Náci, a beloved 20th-century Bratislava performer; and Hubert, a Napoleonic solider leaning on a bench.
See the city from above at Bratislava Castle
If you’re expecting something like Neuschwanstein when visiting Bratislava Castle, you’re heading straight for disappointment.
Let’s be perfectly honest: Bratislava Castle isn’t one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, or even Central Europe. That doesn’t mean you should give it a miss though!
Occupying a strategic location over Old Town, the castle serves up some incredible city vistas—even if its outward appearance looks more like a upside-down table than a former home to kings & queens.
Inside, the castle grounds add slightly more charm to your visit with its beautiful Baroque garden.
Bratislava Castle is also home to the Museum of History, dedicated to Slovak history from medieval times to the modern day, and the Hradná Hviezda (The Castle Star), a restaurant/café serving up Slovak favourites with a view.
Dig into history at Old Town Hall
Sitting on the main square of Old Town (Hlavne Namestie), Old Town Hall is one of the city’s loveliest buildings and a must-see for history buffs visiting Bratislava.
Inside lies the Bratislava City Museum, a museum dating back to 1868 that documents the entire history of Slovakia’s capital.
Undoubtedly, the quirkiest part of the museum—and the one most worth checking out, in my opinion!—is the basement where various torture devices and antique weapons used to quell dissent are on display.
Elsewhere in Old Town Hall, don’t miss a chance to catch one of the top things to see in Bratislava, a close-up glimpse of Old Town from above in the town hall’s clock tower.
Penetrate the city walls at St. Michael’s Gate
As one of the city’s oldest structures and the only remaining medieval city gate, St. Michael’s Gate demands at least a modicum of attention when you’re nailing down the best things to do in Bratislava.
The gate dates back to the 14th century when it was one of four military installations along the heavily-fortified walls around Old Town.
The most striking feature of this building is the mid-18th-century Baroque clock tower, a replacement the mid-14th-century Gothic original.
It stands 51 metres high and offers visitors a stunning view of Old Town from its terrace.
For military buffs, the ground floor at St. Michael’s Gate is also home to the Museum of Arms, detailing the history of Bratislava’s fortifications and showing off replicas of medieval weapons & firearms.
Burst through the Old Town bubble at SNP Bridge
If there’s any destination you simply need to see outside of Old Town it’s SNP Bridge.
Referred to by a variety of names—from Novy Most (New Bridge) to UFO Bridge, for its space-age façade—SNP Bridge was built to honour the Slovak National Uprising resistance movement against German invaders.
Since opening in 1972, this bridge has become one of the most recognizable landmarks in Bratislava and a testament to Slovakia’s modern age.
More compelling than its oddly-out-of-place looks, however, is the bridge’s observation deck and restaurant at the 95-metre-level that dish out some ridiculously lofty views to both the Old Town and its less-than-beautiful step-sibling suburb of Petralzka.
Beyond scoping out Bratislava from above, the restaurant features surprisingly good food and a stellar selection of Slovak beers & wines for such an obvious tourist trap.
Time your visit with the sunset to enjoy a hearty Slovak meal while watching the sun dip below the Danube.
Step back into Slovakia’s medieval past at Devin Castle
If the lackluster appearance of Bratislava Castle leave you a bit numb, the magnificent ruins of Devin Castle, one of the best day trips from Bratislava, might prove a tad more inspiring.
Wedged between the Danube and Morava Rivers on a 212-metre-high precipice with massive fortification walls and towering turrets, Devin Castle eases the mind into imagining knights battling marauders as they storm in to capture stronghold.
Although the castle lies only 10 kilometres from the city (about 30 minutes by public transportation), you’ll want to carve out at least half a day to visit.
The castle ruins are spread out over hilly terrain that could prove challenging for some travellers.
To squeeze the most out of your time here and for a better chance of unfettered views, visit early in the morning before the bulk of the tourist crowds descend.
Marvel at the blue hues of St. Elizabeth’s Church
Bratislava’s hardly low on inventory for beautiful churches. But none will catch your eye quite like St. Elizabeth’s Church just east of Old Town.
Whereas Bratislava’s most compelling religious buildings usually dabble in classic architectural styles like Baroque & Renaissance, St. Elizabeth’s, also known as the Blue Church, throws together the city’s finest example of Hungarian Secessionist Art Nouveau style with more than a small dash of captivating colour.
Be sure to charge up your camera to capture the church’s exterior, decorated with a fusion of Romanesque, Oriental, and Baroque elements blasted with a colourful mix of pale blues and off-whites.
The inside of St. Elizabeth’s Church is equally beguiling, matching the exterior’s sky blue shades and contrasting them with subtle gold accents.
Worship the Gothic architecture of St. Martin’s Cathedral
As one of the oldest churches in Slovakia, St. Martin’s Cathedral is a must-see for architecture & history buffs visiting Bratislava.
Once the coronation site of various Hungarian & Hapsburg royals, this lovely three-nave cathedral dates back to 1492 when it was built in Gothic style over a Romanesque church.
It was once part of the old city walls. Its 85-metre-high tower even acted as a defensive position against attacks from foreign invaders (which in those days were plenty).
Inside the cathedral, you’ll encounter four beautiful chapels dedicated to the canons, Sophia of Bavaria, St. Anne, and St. John the Merciful. There’s also a handful of impressive stained glass windows and a gilded replica of the crown of St. Stephen, the former Hungarian monarch.
Besides the main chapels, be sure to check out the crypts & catacombs in the basement, the final resting place of several important archbishops, cardinals, and dignitaries.
Catch big city views at the Slavin Memorial
Perched on a hill peering unto Bratislava, the Slavin Memorial pays tribute to the Soviet soldiers who died during World War II while freeing Bratislava from Nazi rule.
At the centre of the war memorial is a 42-metre-high obelisk surrounded by a leafy park and a cemetery that’s the final resting place for over 6,800 soldiers.
Even if you’re not a WWII history buff, the views of the city from Slavin are worth the trek out here.
Admire the Primate’s Palace
While the name might lead you to expect to find a troop of royal chimpanzees chillin’ out at this top Bratislava attraction, Primate’s Palace is likely a little tamer than your imagination runs.
Built in the 1770s, the palace is superb example of Neoclassical architecture style. It was originally designed for a Hungarian archbishop, but also served at the president’s residence until 1996 and as the current seat for the mayor of Bratislava.
Besides the stately architecture, the palace is an important part of Bratislava’s history.
The Treaty of Pressburg was signed in the palace’s Hall of Mirrors in 1805, marking Napoleon’s victory in the War of the Third Coalition against the Holy Roman Empire and other allies.
While visiting, be sure to keep on the lookout for the interesting statue St. George slaying a three-headed dragon in the inner courtyard.
Hang out on Hviezdoslav Square
Dedicated to Slovakia’s most famous poet, Hviezdoslav Square (Hviezdoslavovo Namestie) is one of the most popular hangouts in Bratislava for locals and those passing through alike.
The square stretches diagonally between Most SNP and the beautiful Slovak National Theatre at the southern edge of Old Town.
Aside from admiring the elegant architecture along Hviezdoslavovo Namestie, this leafy & expansive square is a great place to do a little people-watching or to grab a bite & drink at one of the surrounding restaurants, bars or cafés.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch a festival or event here!
Marvel at Grassalkovich Palace
The current resident of the Slovak president, the elegant Grassalkovich Palace, hailing back to 1760, is one of Bratislava’s finest examples of the elaborate Rococo (Late Baroque) architecture style.
Unlike the Primate’s Palace in the city centre, however, you won’t (for obvious reasons) be able to tour the interior of the Presidental Palace.
In any case, it’s well worth the short trek north from the old city to marvel at its impressive façade and catch a breather among its gorgeous gardens.
Check out the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum
Fans of modern art will cherish the opportunity to head south of the city centre to check out the eclectic collections at the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum.
Located close to the intersection of the Austrian, Slovak, and Hungarian borders on a small manmade promontory off the banks of the Danube River, this museum features one of the finest collections of modern Slovak artwork in the country. There’s also a handful of international artists represented here.
Even if you don’t fancy yourself an art lover, you’d appreciate the trip out here. The architecture of the museum is interesting in itself as is the sculpture garden. The relaxing views onto the Danube River aren’t half bad either!
See the city from above at the Kamzík TV Tower
As you peer beyond the Bratislava skyline, it’s hard to not catch a glimpse of the Kamzík TV Tower in the distance.
Rising above the city from the north, this 196-metre-tall television tower has been a fixture in the Bratislava cityscape since 1975. Given the date, it’s hardly surprised that there’s a distinctive communist/socialist look to the tower.
Of course, if you’re going to hop on a 40 minute bus ride (or walk for over an hour) to get to Kamník TV Tower, you’re gonna want to make sure it’s worth your while.
Pop up to the observation deck, located 70 metres up, and catch incredible panoramic views of Bratislava and as far as Austria, Hungary, and even Czech Republic on a clear day.
Shop til’ you drop at Eurovea Galleria
Celebrating its first decade in existence in 2020, Eurovea Galleria is the premier place to shop in Bratislava.
This large shopping complex, located along the Danube waterfront just west of the tourist centre, is one of Bratislava’s most ambitious modern development projects. Besides shopping, Eurovea Galleria is home to a casino, swimming pool, and cinema. By 2022, Eurovea will also be the site of Slovakia’s first skyscraper, rising up 46 floors and 168 metres.
Even if you aren’t into shopping, the riverside boardwalk and park is a great destination for some well-deserved relaxation.
Where to stay in Bratislava for sightseeing
Unlike other—much larger!—Central European capitals, choosing among the best places to stay in Bratislava isn’t such a challenge. If you’re looking to get close to all the top tourist attractions in Bratislava, Old Town (Stare Mesto) is definitely the place to be.
Check out these incredible accommodations options…
- Danubia Gate: A superb boutique-style hotel located just minutes from Old Town. Rooms here are large and shine with unique modern decor. The on-site restaurant gets rave reviews from guests for its delicious Slovak and international cuisine and local wine pairings.
- Loft Hotel Bratislava: One of the best mid-range choices in the vicinity of Old Town, this brand-new 4-star hotel charms guests with its spacious contemporary rooms. Sip on a local brew at Fabrika The Beer Pub, the on-site restaurant & bar, and enjoy some of the best food & drink Slovakia has to offer.
- Marrol’s Boutique Hotel: One of the top luxury choices in the city, this brilliant 5-star boutique hotel, decorated in an elegant & sophisticated art-deco style, will no doubt knock your socks off. Be sure to take full advantage by booking yourself into the hotel’s on-site Jasmine SPA.