My boyfriend and I spent most of this winter travelling through Europe, and we were joined by my sister about three weeks before it was time to head back home. Near the end of our trip, we decided to go to Bratislava on a complete whim – the accommodations we wanted to stay at in Vienna were only available the day after we were planning on arriving, so we had an extra travelling day to fill! Since the Slovakian capital is only an hour away from Vienna by train, we figured it would be a perfect little stop before visiting Vienna. So, after arriving to Vienna with our car rental, we hopped onto a train headed for Bratislava, not really knowing what to expect!
We found accommodations near the train station, which was super practical for a short stay, and then we headed out to explore. Our first stop was a large square near Bratislava’s Old Town, Hviezdoslavovo námestie. We went on a walking tour and got to see all the main historical sites, all the while learning about the city’s history. We saw Michael’s Gate, the city’s only preserved medieval gate, St. Martin’s Cathedral and the nearby Holocaust Memorial, the UFO Bridge, which is an impressive feat of Communist architecture, the Presidential Palace, St. Elisabeth’s Church (also known as the Blue Church) and most of the Old Town, including the Town Hall and Roland Fountain.
After our tour, we headed to a typical Slovakian restaurant for a nice meal – the food was to die for! We were shocked and pleased by the delicious potato-based dishes, amazing sausages and cheap beer. My personal favourites were the Bryndzove halushky, which are potato dumplings with cheese and bacon. Our hunger satiated, we headed out to explore the Old Town a little longer and absolutely fell in love with how quaint everything was. As we headed back to our place for the night, we watched the sunset over Bratislava Castle. Needless to say, it was a stunning view.
The next morning, we headed out to actually visit said castle. It was a fifteen minute up-hill walk, but it was totally worth it. The castle is beautiful, and the view from it is even better! We wandered around the castle grounds for quite some time, then headed back down to the Old Town to explore it one last time. We stopped in a couple of gift shops and got some snacks in an adorable café before heading back to our accommodations to pick up our belongings and head for the station to catch a train back to Vienna.
Though our visit was short and unexpected, we learned so much about Slovakian and Communist history and we got to experience the amazing food as well as soak in the culture. I feel like Bratislava is often overlooked by people planning a European trip, but it was definitely one of the most memorable stays of my winter in Europe and I highly recommend exploring this beautiful city. I am so glad I discovered Bratislava, and hope to return again someday.