A Half-Day Introduction to Bratislava

Only an hour away from Vienna by train, Bratislava is a convenient choice for a day trip. From Vienna main station I took the train to Bratislava Petržalka, and from there caught a bus to the Old Town. (Bus tickets can be bought from a counter at the train station.)

My first impression of the buildings in that part of the city was that they had plenty of colour on them despite their cracked and peeling exteriors.

Colourful door summarising the Bible
Entrance to a church

This isn’t exactly something that one sees often in the Netherlands, and especially not in the context of churches.

Colourful paintings on side of building
Paintings on the side of another church (at least I think it was a church)

From there I moved on to a location that the city is probably highly famed for – Bratislava Castle. It was a relatively short walk and the stairs leading to the castle gates weren’t steep at all. One can visit the place from Tuesday to Sunday between the hours of 10:00 and 18:00 (although I’m not sure if this holds throughout the year).

I had no intention of seeing the castle’s interior so I walked around and admired the architecture and Baroque garden. There are, however, historical exhibits inside that can be viewed for a fee.

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle

The garden was beautiful. Unfortunately, by the time I got there the sun was already high in the sky, meaning that it was very warm and there was a lot of glare owing to the white gravel on the footpaths. I walked through the garden for a little while and eventually left to see other areas of the castle grounds.

Baroque garden
The Baroque garden of Bratislava Castle

Having seen the castle, it was time for lunch. One thing you’ll notice about the restaurants in the Old Town is that their prices are rather similar to those you’ll see in western Europe (i.e. around €15). In other words, many eateries offer you their dishes at tourist prices, because Slovakia certainly doesn’t have high living costs.

One could put in some effort to search for restaurants or cafés with more typical prices. As for me, I was quite hungry and just wanted to eat something. I managed to find a place whose prices were more reasonable – albeit still a little high in my opinion – and had a soup and an extremely filling meat dish with Spätzle (a kind of noodle that’s common in southern Germany; tastes particularly good with copious amounts of melted cheese).

After lunch I visited the Museum of Photography in the Central European House of Photography. It showcases the work of Slovakian photographers, naturally, but rather interesting were also the (permanent) exhibits explaining the history of photography, as well as samples of early photographs made using different processes.

Once done with the museum I decided to walk around the city centre to get a feel of Bratislava. It being a hot day I soon got thirsty. Somewhat unhappily, I’d also elected to visit the city on the eve of a public holiday, meaning that the supermarkets were all closed. This resulted in me walking all over the place to find someone selling chilled water. It also gave me the chance to see some interesting street art, like this sleeping fox on the side of a building.

Mural from Bratislava Street Art Festival 2016
A mural painted during the Bratislava Street Art Festival of 2016

Close by this building I finally found someone selling water. Refreshed, I resumed walking around the Old Town.

Bratislava Old Town

It being August, there were scores of tourists on the streets. Many of them were also having ice cream, and I soon became tempted to get a cone of my own.

Bratislava Old Town

You can’t see it in the below photo, but there is a staircase going down to the street and to its right there is an ice cream parlour called Zmrzlina Gelato. You can probably guess why I still remember this place.

Bratislava Old Town

I ordered a watermelon sorbet and enjoyed it. In fact I recommend visiting Zmrzlina Gelato if you’re ever in the area.

My last stop before making my way back to Bratislava Petržalka station was the Slovakian parliament house. Like all other European parliament buildings this one looked all grand and majestic and superlative. (Well, I think the Austrian one was more ornate, but that was a little bit much for me with all its Greek statues outside.)

Slovakian parliament building
Slovakian parliament building

And this was my half-day introduction to Bratislava! I don’t think I would’ve budgeted more than a day for the city, but then again there might be several non-touristy areas worth visiting which I didn’t discover because I didn’t google extensively. Regardless, if you’re ever in Vienna for several days and want to see something outside the city, Bratislava is one option to consider.