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A Day Trip to Charming Bratislava, Slovakia

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Bratislava. The capital of the Slovak Republic is less than 60 miles (100km) from Vienna, making them the two closet capital cities in the world. Bratislava was behind the Iron Curtain for decades and was a bit of mystery to us as we are only beginning to explore “The East.”

Our expectations of Bratislava were low, which is to say, we didn’t really have any expectations at all. However, after a day in this city, we absolutely fell in love with it.

Bratislava Castle on the hill
Bratislava Castle on the hill overlooking the city

Laura felt that my fascination with Bratislava day trip had more to do with “collecting” my 43rd country (her 33rd) and less to do with any actual desire to see the place. It’s worth noting that her allegations were not totally unfounded, as I have a history of taking us on crazy day trips with varying levels of success. Gibraltar was great. Greenland was not so much.

However, we both were absolutely enchanted by this city on the Danube that is often over-shadowed by its bigger neighbors of Vienna and Budapest.

Statue on the streets of Bratislava
Pretty Eastern European streets, with St. Martin’s in the background

We started our time in Bratislava day trip with a walking tour. Michael’s Gate was a preview of what was to come – a beautifully preserved old world downtown. Michael’s Gate serves as the entry way into the old city and its pedestrian-only streets. As you walk towards the Main Square, you pass buildings that still have cannonballs in their facade from the Napoleonic times.

Throughout the old city, there are a number of playful and quirky sculptures, which we loved. In particular, we liked the sculpture of Cumil, The Watcher, a worker peeping out of a manhole (apparently there’s a debate as to whether his vantage point allows him to look up women’s skirts) and the paparazzi snooping around the corner.

Paparazzi statue seen on a Bratislava day trip
Fun with statues

We stopped for a break at Café Meyer on the Main Square. Although it was recommended in our book, the food was not particularly good or hot. But the deserts and hot mulled wine made it a fine spot for a quick break. For lunch, we recommend the Dubliner Irish Pub instead. We celebrated St. Paddy’s Day there with crispy, fried fish and chips and the world’s best Magners.

The Dubliner pub in Bratislava, Slovakia
The Dubliner decked out for St. Paddy’s Day

Plus, the atmosphere was fun with a bunch of drunk Irishmen, Czechs, Slovaks and others out to celebrate the holiday. I’m pretty sure we were the only Americans in the place, which is always something we love to experience when we travel. The fish and chips were a real bargain.

One of the highlights was St. Martin’s Cathedral. It was the Coronation Church for the Kingdom of Hungary, and 11 Kings of Hungary were crowned there. Although we visited on Sunday afternoon, we accidentally crashed a wedding and got to see the beautiful bride enjoying her special day before we took a quick trip around the nave.

Wedding party at St. Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava, Slovakia
So, we accidentally crashed a wedding…

Though the Cathedral dates from the 1400s and is clearly quite historic, it is surrounded by interesting modern touches—there is some amazing street art adjacent to the Cathedral, and the Cathedral annex is covered in colorful interpretations of Van Gogh paintings.

Van Gogh replica paintings on the side of a building while exploring Bratislava in a day
“Van Gogh” works on the annex of St. Martin’s

We really wanted to walk across the bridge to the UFO and the café, but the weather didn’t cooperate—we were pretty sure we would get blown off the bridge. We’d heard the views from the UFO were amazing.

Bratislava's UFO bridge
The UFO cafe over the bridge

Before heading out of town, we stopped to pick up a few souvenirs. Bratislava may well be one of our new favorite cities in all of Europe! This is definitely the kind of place to come back to.

Napoleon statue in Bratislava
A Napoleonic soldier hanging out in the square
Hans Christian Andersen statue
Hans Christian Andersen

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