I confess that I didn’t know much about the capital of Slovakia before visiting in May of this year. All I knew from my research was that it was cheap, which is really all I really needed to know!
Flying into the city from the UK is really inexpensive, with Ryanair offering flights from £19.99. It’s also cheap to bus in and out of Bratislava, which is what me and my travel companion did – our next stop was Vienna, (for cheap buses in this part of the world try a company called Student Agency – and no it’s not just for students.)
Going in with little-to-no expectations was a good move, because I ended up loving the two nights I spent here.
First off I stayed in the Downtown Backpackers Hostel, which I also didn’t really know much about. But I think a major deciding factor in booking it was that it had a bar.
Things to do
- Castle / hrad
This is always at the top of everyone’s list of things to do in this city, but for a reason. It is beautiful, as is the walk up there, and you are rewarded with great views across the city once you make the steady climb.
It’s also the most noticeable thing across the city’s skyline. I didn’t bother to go inside when I visited (the outside was stunning enough) but you can for 6 euros.
- Slavín Memorial
Whilst I didn’t entirely know what to make of this memorial I would recommend that you go and see it, as it’s an important part of the city’s history. It was eerily quiet and deserted when I visited. The memorial is to the soviet soldiers who helped liberate Bratislava from Nazi occupation during World War Two, and the site is also a mass grave. It is a little out of the main centre in an area called Malé Karpaty. I think normal people tend to get a bus, but me and my friend walked. Or more accurately climbed. It’s situated at a very high point, so you also get great panoramic views across the city, and of the Castle.
- Devín Castle
I can’t remember how I found out about this, probably on a blog somewhere, but I’m so happy that I did. It didn’t seem to be that well-known when I mentioned it to my fellow travellers at the hostel, and it was very much untouched by the huge crowds of tourists so familiar in other Eastern European cities (cough…Prague…cough).
You have to catch a local bus out of the city centre to the sight, which is in an outer borough called Devín. It’s only a short journey and very cheap. You have to pay around 2 euros to enter, and then you’re free to explore the ruins, the great views of the River Danube, and the wildlife (mainly a lot of different birds). After we’d done our exploring we walked along the river bank with our new friend from the hostel, and to mine and his delight we found snakes in the grass (I know, we’re weird). Apparently the surrounding area of Devín is also nice to stay and explore, but I can’t say that we did this.
Just a word of warning, because the castle is so close to the river there are a lot of strange insects flying around and I got a few bites, so maybe take some insect spray with you (I know I wish I had).
- UFO Bridge and Observatory
You can’t really miss this bridge, although confusingly it seems to have many names. You might also see it referred to as Most SNP, the UFO Bridge, or Nový most in Slovak. It’s called the UFO bridge because of the saucer-shaped thing on top of the pylon.
You can go up to the observation deck (flying saucer) to get a view across the city for a small fee. Although myself and my friend didn’t feel the need to do this, we’d already found so many other great (free) viewpoints.
And my final recommendation would be to,
- Eat and Drink (a lot)
Alcohol is so reasonably priced here, I’m not a big beer drinker but there is a lot on offer here. Food is so well priced too, I don’t often eat out when I’m travelling but the hostel didn’t have a kitchen, and for once this wasn’t a problem. Being a vegetarian and ‘part time’ vegan I thought I might struggle in Slovakia, the stereotyped land of meat and heavy food. My travel companion and our new hostel friend found an amazing vegetarian restaurant with vegan options, in the heart of the old town. And we also walked past many other vegetarian restaurants too. A main course with a glass of wine came to less than 5 euros.
So whilst in this city I say treat yourself!