Even for Europe, Bratislava, Slovakia is a rather small capital city with right around half a million residents. But despite its small size, this beautiful and historic city is packed with incredible experiences and unique culture.
While Bratislava isn’t typically the first city that American travelers put on their itinerary, this city is beloved by Europeans for its low prices, fun nightlife, incredible culinary scene, and wealth of historic landmarks. Visitors can walk through Bratislava’s Old Town and admire the stunning architecture, waft the aromas of the city’s many restaurants, and get a truly authentic European experience away from the hordes of tourists found in more popular European cities.
Without a doubt, Bratislava is one of the more underrated cities in Europe. And since Bratislava is quickly growing into a vibrant and popular destination, now is the time to visit while tourism and prices are still relatively low. There are endless places throughout the city to learn about its history and get a sense for Slovakian culture, and visitors to Bratislava are guaranteed to leave feeling satisfied with their decision to visit.
These are the top 7 things to do in Bratislava:
1. Michael’s Gate
If you plan on going to Bratislava, you’ll inevitably make your way to Old Town at some point or another. And it’s impossible to walk through Old Town without catching a glimpse of Michael’s Gate. At a time, the only way in or out of Bratislava was through one of four gates, all of which were erected in the 1300s. Today, Michael’s Gate is the only one of the four that remains.
Since it was originally built, the tower has undergone several reconstructions, including the addition of Baroque elements in 1758. Visitors to Michael’s Gate today can enter the tower and view historical documents and photographs, and see an impressive display of weapons in the tower’s Museum of Arms. Walk to the very top of Michael’s Gate and you can take in a great view of Old Town from the tower’s observation deck.
Entrance to Michael’s Gate costs under €5 per person. So if you find yourself walking around Old Town, which you absolutely will if you’re visiting Bratislava, it’s definitely worth at least poking your head in.
2. Bratislava Castle
If you look out the observation deck of Michael’s Gate, you’ll be able to see a very impressive historical structure in the distance, Bratislava Castle. This four-tower structure sits atop a rocky hill in the middle of the city and is visible from nearly any part of Bratislava.
Bratislava Castle was once home to the country’s rulers, and the oldest of the four towers constructed in the 13th century, the Crown Tower, was once home to the royal family’s crown jewels. Visitors to the castle can explore the different corridors on their own or take a guided tour. On a clear day, one can climb to the highest point in the Crown Tower and see the neighboring countries of Austria and Hungary in the distance.
Entrance to Bratislava Castle costs €10, and the guided tour costs an additional fee. Most travelers recommend skipping the guided tour and simply taking in the stunning views from one of Bratislava Castle’s massive towers.
3. UFO Tower
Bratislava isn’t only known for its old historical structures, the city also has some modern marvels that are definitely worth checking out. One of the most famous structures in Bratislava is the Most SNP, which is commonly referred to as the “UFO Bridge” because of the flying saucer-shaped observation deck that sits on top of it.
The bridge itself runs over the famous Danube River. Visitors can take an elevator to the observation deck at the top of the UFO Tower and enjoy panoramic views of the city. This is one of the best places in Bratislava to snap some photos of the surrounding scenery.
The UFO Tower also contains an upscale restaurant and bar that’s the perfect place to enjoy the sunset over a nice meal or cocktail. Entrance to the UFO Tower is a little under €8, but food and drinks are some of the most expensive in Bratislava.
4. Old Town Statues
For any treasure hunters out there, one of the most fun things to do in Bratislava’s Old Town is to try and find all the bronze statues scattered throughout the streets. These whimsical statues seem to contrast the Communist-era buildings that still line the streets of Bratislava, and searching for them is a fun and engaging way to spend a day.
Among the many bronze statues hidden throughout Old Town, Cumil is among the most famous. This statue depicts a worker coming out of a manhole with an ambiguous grin on his face. Some speculate that Cumil is simply enjoying a moment of respite, while others believe he may be peering up the skirts of passing women. No one really knows the artist’s original intention.
There are plenty of websites out there that list all the statues in Old Town, but from there it’s up to you to find them all and cross them off your list. Look for the statue of Hans Christian Anderson commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth.
5. Devin Castle
If you’re interested in getting out of the metropolitan area of Bratislava and getting a taste of the Slovakian countryside, there’s no better place to do so than Devin Castle. Located in the outskirts of Bratislava near the Austrian border, the ruins of this 9th century castle offer phenomenal views of the surrounding forests and farmland.
You can walk through the maze of staircase and courtyards throughout Devin Castle and peer off the massive cliff to see the junction of the Danube and Morava Rivers. The surrounding area is absolutely beautiful, making Devin Castle the perfect place to get out of the city for a bit and set up a romantic picnic.
Entrance to the ruins costs €5, but you can stay for as long as you want. Visitors to Devin Castle often find themselves spending hours taking meditative walks through the ruins and taking photos of the surrounding countryside.
6. Dunajsky Pivovar
Amongst the endless places to get great food and drinks in Bratislava, Dunajsky Pivovar is definitely one of the most unique. Translated in English to “Danube Brewery”, Dunajsky Pivovar offers the opportunity to sample freshly brewed Slovakian beer from the top deck of a boat that sits on the Danube. There’s no better way to end a day of sightseeing than by stretching out on a lounge chair on top of a boat and enjoying a cold one.
Dunajsky Pivovar also functions as a hotel for anyone who’s interested in the experience of staying on a boat while in Bratislava, and they also have a restaurant that serves top-notch Slovakian pub food. The restaurant offers unique items every day of the week, so you can dine there every night of your stay and have a completely new experience each time.
The masterminds behind Slovakia’s renowned Patron Brewery are also responsible for bringing Dunajsky Pivovar to life, and locals and tourists agree that this is some of the best beer in Bratislava.
7. Kamzik TV Tower
If you’re looking for some outdoor activity during your stay in Bratislava, taking a hike up to the Kamzik TV Tower is one of the best places to do so. The tower sits within the Bratislava Forest Park, a beautiful natural area that features a dry bobsleigh run and a treetop ropewalk. There are also many places throughout the park to grab a bite to eat if you get hungry during your outdoor adventure.
Sitting at the highest point in the park is a large metal structure known as the Kamzik TV Tower, an actual television transmission tower that you can climb to the top of for some stunning views of the surrounding area. From the tower’s rotating observation deck, you can see Austria, Hungary, and Czechia. The observation deck also features a highly-rated restaurant and cafe for hungry hikers.
If you want to continue deeper into Bratislava Forest Park after visiting Kamzik TV Tower, you can catch a cable car at the tower that leads to a scenic part of the park known as The Iron Well. Here you’ll find old mills that you can explore tucked within the beautiful Slovakian forest.
Whether you plan on visiting Bratislava for a day or a month, you’re sure to find ample activities and sights to see all throughout the city. The tourism industry in Bratislava is growing every year, so if you want to experience one of Europe’s hidden gems before it gets overly popular, now is the time to make your trip.