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Explore the Old Town
Most of Bratislava’s main attractions are found in and around the Old Town, so it’s well worth spending the best part of a day exploring it. It is really easy to navigate yourself around and it is all doable on foot. Our best tips are to either download an offline map and explore the place on your own, or better yet do one of the free walking tours which will also help give you a good historical background of what you are seeing.
The Old Town is honestly really different and unique compared to most others in Europe, so make sure you enjoy it. In our opinion, it is by far one of the Best Things To Do In Bratislava.
Visit St. Martin’s Cathedral
Yep another church… and yes we know Europe is full of them, and yes you have probably already seen a lot of them. But hey… don’t be a disrespectful douche bag. Take the time to appreciate the city you are in and learn some history.
Originally a roman catholic church, St. Martin’s Cathedral was constructed in 1221, and remained this way until 1291. Later on the church became part of the city’s defence and was built into the town’s protective walls. It was redesigned completely in 1452 into the Gothic Style structure that is seen today.
From the years of 1563 to 1830, the church itself was used for the coronation of Hungarian Kings and Queens. To celebrate this history, St. Martin’s holds a reenactment of the coronation ceremony every September. In fact to this day, the church displays a gilded replica of of the royal Hungarian crown on top of one of its towers. The Cathedral really is quite impressive when seen in person. On the outskirts of the Old Town, it is something that is easy to get too and enjoy. If you download and offline map, the church should be easy to find.
Admire The Old Town Hall and Square
The Bratislava Old Town Hall and Square offers a very unique blend of history and architecture. Located in the centre of the Old Town, the hall was used as a public building where important laws and decrees were passed and signed, and it is thought to have been built in the 13th century. These days the hall houses a municipal museum, which is the oldest museum in Bratislava.
So because of the location, this place is often loaded with people, both locals and tourists. We suggest checking it out early in the morning or maybe even at night time, just to avoid the crowds. Otherwise you might be playing a game of “spot the Asian tourist with the longest camera lense”, if you are there at the wrong time. Despite the tourists, we believe spending time here is definitely another one of the Best Things To Do In Bratislava.
Visit Primate’s Palace
Located in the centre of the Old Town, the palace can easily be reached on foot. To be fair, it is also probably the prettiest building in the city. Out the front of the palace you’ll find an interesting statue and fountain that depicts St. George slaying a dragon.
The rooms of the palace contain a number of paintings and portraits of previous Hungarian rulers. There are also English tapestries on display and a Hall of Mirrors which is well worth a look.
Whether or not you head inside the palace will be up to personal taste, but we’d definitely recommend at least checking out the exterior of the building. In terms of the Best Things To Do, it is probably one a little lower on the list, but hey it is a little different which can be a nice change at times.
Walk Along St. Michael’s Gate and Street
St. Michaels Street, in the city centre, is full of atmosphere. You’ll find a lot of good cafes and bars, as well musicians and street performers along the street. The street is named for the archangel Michael, who is depicted in statue form battling a dragon atop a 51 metre Gothic style tower at the end of the street. The tower was originally built in the 14th century and served literally as a ‘gate’ to enter the city of Bratislava.
The inside of the tower now functions as an arms museum, which is also worth a visit. You’ll be taken back to the medieval times of knights and maidens, and the balcony at the top of the tower offers great views of the city.
Explore St. Elizabeth’s Blue Church
St. Elizabeth’s Church, known to locals as ‘The Blue Church’, is quite a unique attraction. The church is more famous for its quirky design and architecture than its history. It’s definitely worth taking the time to see the church, as it actually looks a fair bit different to most of the others you will see in Europe. It is a really short walk to get there from the Old Town, so you don’t have to go to too much effort to find it.
Climb To Bratislava Castle
Built in the 9th century, Bratislava Castle sits atop a hill close to the city. Also known as Hrad, the castle has four main towers, which in Roman times were used as frontier posts by the Roman Army. However, as the centuries went by, Hrad underwent many transformations, depending on who was in control of the region at the time. The Castle was fully reconstructed in the middle of the 20th century, as fire had reduced it to rubble almost 80 years prior.
The Castle is a pretty good place to go and sit and relax, and is probably a podium finish on our Best Things To Do In Bratislava list. If you want a good view of the city, then this is the place to check out. It is also home to the Slovak National Museum and Museum of History. It is easy to get to the castle – it’s just a short walk from the Old Town. You should be able to find it on any tourist map or offline map.
- Tip: If you are a bit of a history nerd like us, then check out A Brief History Of Bratislava, for a quick historical summary and background of the city.
Walk Around The Grassalkovich Presidential Palace
Located just outside the Old Town towards the main train station, Grassalkovich Palace is the residence of the President of the Slovak Republic. It was the former summer palace for Count Anton Grassalkovich back in 1760, who was an advisor to Empress Maria Theresa and also the chairman of the Hungarian Royal Chamber.
The palace is nice to see from the outside, and directly behind it you’ll find a picturesque park which contains immaculate gardens, trees and interesting works of art. We never went inside, so we can’t really tell you about that. But again if all the tourists are giving you the shits, go and have a few drinks or a picnic in the palace park. It’s not a bad place to chill out for a while.
Admire The Slavin
The Slavin is a World War Two memorial built to commemorate the Russian Soldiers that freed the city from German occupation in 1945. It is also a massive cemetery and holds the tombs of 6,845 Soviet troops. The memorial itself is 11 metres high and on top is a statue representing a victorious Russian soldier holding the nation’s flag.
The monument is situated in the new section of town, so it’s best to catch a bus to the area. It stands on top of a grassy hill, which has excellent views of the city and is again, a great place to relax.
Bike Ride On The Danube
If you get sick of ticking off churches and museums, then try going for a bike ride along the Danube River. We will be surprised if you run in to tourists doing this, as it is usually done by the locals. Most hostels will allow you to hire a bike, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.
The river is located just outside the Old Town, so it won’t take you long to find. There are many great views along the river and you will get to see how the locals live on the outskirts of town.
Do a Walking Tour
A great way to orientate yourself to Bratislava and find out some interesting history is to do a ‘free walking tour’ of the city. We do these all of the time really when in a new city, and it should always be high on your Things To Do list. So we strongly recommend you do it too.
These tours are based on tips, meaning that you don’t pay anything upfront, and at the end of the tour you give the guide a tip, based on both how much you think the tour was worth and how much you can afford. Also don’t be afraid to ask your guide about good bars and cheaper places to eat in the city. Their local knowledge is priceless, and can sometimes give you a more genuine experience.
Be Free Tours offer daily free tours in Bratislava.