For many, like us, visiting Bratislava means a short stop on a Eurotrip en route to places like Budapest or Vienna. While you could definitely see the major highlights of the city on a one-day trip, we highly recommend taking a bit longer to really soak it all in – and even journey further into Slovakia. Because this area has so much to offer!
We have the unique privilege of looking at places a bit differently than other travelers. As house sitters, we’re constantly assessing if a place would be worth returning to if we found a house sit opportunity there. Sometimes even the most beautiful places aren’t somewhere you’d want to be for multiple weeks or months. So, we really try to look at a city not just for how picturesque it is, but how much there is to do, what else it is near, what the people and food and culture is like, etc.
After just a short amount of time in Bratislava, we’d definitely go back if given the chance – and that’s not just because they have the best vegan gelato in the whole world. Here’s our whole list…
1. Taking in the Views
Bratislava is a beautiful, clean, easy-to-navigate city located on the scenic Danube. There’s a castle, unique churches, museums, medieval-esque clocktowers, and plenty of places to take in those views from above.
During our visit, we had the Bratislava Card which gave us access to museums and other perks – including a great tour by a local! (At €18 for one day, this is one of the best city card deals we’ve seen). While fun to learn about Bratislava and Slovakia as a whole, we also really enjoyed the scenic views in many of the places.
Here are some favorite places for views in Bratislava:
- Museum of Arms (view from clocktower toward Bratislava Castle)
- Walking Along the Danube (plenty of spots to stop for a drink, too!)
- The UFO Tower on the bridge (for food/drinks and 360-degree views)
- City History Museum (tower view into town and toward other tower)
- Bratislava Castle (with great Danube views, a beautiful garden, and a Museum of History inside)
But there is so much more to the city we missed, not to mention the surrounding areas. We’d love to take a cruise down the Danube or a castles and wine-tasting road trip.
2. Enjoying the Architecture, Art & Museums in Bratislava
This is one of those cities you just want to walk around in for days. It’s clean and bright with beautiful architecture, cute cafes, and unique places to spend the day – with a surprising amount of museums for a smaller area!
A few favorite places in Bratislava:
- St. Martin’s Cathedral
- The City History Museum had so many interesting exhibits with artifacts that give a look into Bratislava’s past
- The Blue Church
- Museum of Arms (with views and fun dress-up photo opp!)
- Bratislava City Gallery (including a fun infinity book walk)
If time allowed, we’d have loved to use our Bratislava Card to visit other museums – like the Museum of Viticulture. And we’d definitely spend time visiting other nearby castles – Devin Castle, included with our card, looked amazing!
3. Learning About the Unique Culture & History of Slovakia
Sometimes walking tours can be a bit of a boring activity, but our young guide was extremely engaging. We really appreciated that she shared all about the history of this city – including lots of fun facts as well as parts of their past they aren’t proud of or would rather not think of.
It was very interesting to hear how her parents had to live during communism (they would have been shot if they dared to cross the Iron Curtain) and how one day the country woke up to be separate from the Czech Republic. And of course, the WWII history where they aligned with the wrong side and ended up sending away much of the Jewish community to die. We had a lot of respect for her for talking about these difficult topics.
But, of course, we also liked learning about the less heavy topics, like their huge IT presence and Slovakia’s large car manufacturing presence. Apparently, there are a lot of expats there employed by big businesses who have set up base there. The city is also very proud of its history of being a ‘Coronation City‘ where the King of Hungary was crowned. They even reenact this annually with a big celebration!
This is a very layered, interesting culture with a varied history. It is surprisingly modern (with a large mall and even some skyscraper buildings), but still maintains many traditions. A short intro to it was wonderful to have during our visit, but a longer stay would allow us to really dive in and really get to know Slovakia.
Of course, trying the delicious food and drinks was part of this, too!
4. Chatting with the Kind Locals
There are a surprising amount of expats in the city and many of the younger people are very chatty and happy to share about their home. We ended up becoming quick friends with the guy at the gelato shop who insisted we try the homemade lemonade after we raved about our creamy treats. Love him!
We also had a wonderful time hanging out into the early hours of the next day with another couple who has been living in this beautiful city for the last year. Before visiting Bratislava, we connected with Jenni and Henry through Instagram and found out that they are also bloggers and are getting into house sitting as well. Too much in common not to meet up!
They were a blast to hang out with and very passionate about showing us everything they had grown to love about their temporary home. This, of course, included sampling the local food and drinks they’d fallen in love with – not something we were opposed to at all!
In addition to taking Tatratea shots (a strong tea-based liquor with herbs – yummy!) and trying multiple Slovak wines, our favorite drink of the night had to be the Ribezlak currant wine, which tasted like alcoholic grape juice! Similarly to neighboring Hungary, the Slovaks don’t export much (if any) of their wine – so it was a real treat to get to taste these delicious libations. It is some of the best wine we’ve ever had. Ever! So sweet and strong! Needless to say, we stumbled into the hotel we were staying at with giant grins and full hearts.
We could have easily hung out with them for days. And we’d have loved to have more time to get to know other locals as well. Everyone seemed very friendly and relaxed – our people, for sure!
5. Eating Koun Gelato (the BEST vegan ice cream we’ve had)
You guys, I can’t stop thinking about this deliciously creamy treat. Truth be told, we got Koun Gelato about an hour before meeting Jen & Hen (because it was somewhere she had raved about on her IG). Then, when she suggested meeting there for our first stop, we had no reservations about going for round two! We didn’t even switch up our order.
Since we got to pick two flavors, I was recommended to try the walnut and blueberry vegan gelato options since those are both popular local ingredients. It was divine – creamy, not too sweet, and so tasty. Unlike most vegan ice creams, they really nailed the texture and taste without just adding extra sugar to try to make it work. It was perfection. Buddy loved the classic chocolate and sweet cream traditional gelatos he tried as well.
If we had more time, I’m sure this would be a daily (or twice daily) treat!
6. Enjoying Unique Festivals while Visiting Bratislava
We were so bummed to find out that the weekend after we left, the city would be celebrating one of their largest festivals of the year – the Coronation Days (celebrated once in June and again in September). It’s a huge celebration where the coronation is reenacted and (according to what we were told) wine even flows from the city fountain! Yes, please!
There’s also an annual one-day Jazz Festival, Gypsy Fest, Cathedral Organ Festival, and a Shakespeare Festival. They do an annual reenactment of the Battle of Bratislava, too.
Plus, the ‘White Night’ art festival in autumn with exhibits around the city. And, of course, Christmas Markets!
7. Day Tripping Outside the City
After chatting with our new friends, we learned all about the amazing places just outside Bratislava to enjoy – from other cute cities to beautiful natural landscapes to explore. For more ideas, be sure to check out their blog for all the tips on Slovakia!
There is also an easy bus (or boat!) to Vienna, train to Budapest, and the Piešťany Spa Resort town. Basically, Bratislava is perfect for a longer visit and we hope to plan a trip back soon!
Have you ever been to Bratislava or elsewhere in Slovakia, what are your favorite places?
Special thanks to Bratislava Tourist Board for providing us with Bratislava Cards to review while we were visiting Bratislava. As always, all opinions are our own. We loved getting to get a great intro to this beautiful city by use of these cards and some friendly locals.