Admittedly Slovakia wasn’t exactly on my radar until I started planning our time in Vienna, Austria, which ended up being the first two days of our two-week Central Europe trip. Once I realized how quickly and easily we could experience an additional capital city on this trip, I decided to give up one of our Vienna days in order to take a day trip over to Bratislava.
We originally planned to take an organized tour (round-trip transportation plus walking tour) to cross the border for simplicity’s sake, but when I discovered the start time would require us to be out the door about an hour or so before I’m functional in the morning, I decided to DIY the whole thing. And it couldn’t have been easier.
Before we left for the trip, I booked bus tickets online through FlixBus, traveling from Vienna Erdberg to Bratislava Novy Most. The morning of our day trip we simply took the U-Bahn (underground subway) from our Vienna hotel to the Erdberg bus stop, hopped on the big green bus, and enjoyed the comfy one-hour ride straight to Bratislava. The Novy Most bus stop put us right next to the main old town area. Easy breezy, and much cheaper than an organized tour!
We wandered the cozy pedestrian streets of Old Town on our own, discovering quirky statues, a mixture between tattered structures and cheerful buildings, and ample people-watching opportunities.
If there’s one thing we noticed around Old Town, it was all of the quirky, fun-loving statues. This one popping out of the sewer garnered a lot of attention from fellow tourists, and where else can you have the perfect opportunity to sidle up to Napoleon hovering behind a park bench?
For an easy way to get up to the castle, we took the one-hour Up to the Castle tour on the cutest little open-air bus, the Presporacik-Oldtimer. It meets its passengers right near the historical building of the Slovak National Theatre.
At 20 euro per person, this ended up being kind of a pricey spin around the town while listening to a pre-recorded audio guide, but in the interest of time it worked out well. I don’t think we would have made it back to the FlixBus in time for our return trip if we had trekked up to the castle and back on foot. Plus it took us away from the historic center and showed us a bit more of the surrounding Slovak socialist architecture. Random fun-fact: we learned from the audio guide that the tallest building in Bratislava, the Bratislava National Bank, has twenty-three elevators. If that ever comes up on Jeopardy, I’m ready.
It’s worth noting though that if you actually want to stay and tour the castle and don’t want to hoof it back down afterward, this isn’t an effective mode of transportation since the Oldtimer only stops at the castle for fifteen minutes.
After exploring the city center and cruising around in the Oldtimer, we walked across the Novy Most bridge to the UFO Tower where we took a speedy elevator up to the observation deck for an amazing view of the city. The entrance fee cost 7,40 euro each, but I’m a sucker for a good view and photo op. Here is where you can get a better idea of how the more opulent and medieval historic center is nestled in among modern structures.
We enjoyed drinks at the bar right below the observation deck before heading back to the bus stop to catch our bus back to Vienna. Look how much ice they gave me at the bar to go with my Coke Light! If you are an American traveling in Europe, you know this is a big deal. (Not pictured, Chris’s local Slovak beer. And the amazingly refreshing lemonade was from a stop earlier in the day at a cafe called Moods.)
Somehow we totally missed seeing St. Elizabeth, the Blue Church. It’s on the outskirts of Old Town, and didn’t know about it until we got back from the trip! I’m kind of bummed about that because it looks like a really beautiful church. I don’t think we rode past it on the Oldtimer. I’ll simply have to put it on the list for the next time I happen to be in Bratislava!
I’m so glad we added this charming city to our itinerary, if nothing else but to dispel the only (wildly inaccurate) image of Bratislava in my head courtesy of the movie EuroTrip. It’s well worth visiting, especially if you’re right next door in Vienna. Up next, Chris and I hop on a train toward Salzburg, but first we make a stop in Melk!