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A day trip from Vienna to Bratislava

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Bratislava Castle is the best-known landmark of the Slovak capital.

Bratislava and Vienna are the two European capitals closest to each other. With a distance of just over 50 kilometres, a day trip to the other city is definitely worthwhile. Just bear in mind that the sights of Vienna, due to its size, can only be scratched in one day. Bratislava and Vienna are also called Twin Cities and form the centre of the European region Centrope.

Since we live in Vienna, we made a trip to the Slovakian capital. Apart from the airport, we had never been to the city in the three-country corner of Hungary, Austria and Slovakia. Bratislava, or "Pressburg" as it used to be called in German, is thus the only capital in the world that borders more than one neighbouring country. As the political, cultural and economic centre of the country, Bratislava is Slovakia's seat of government as well as the country's cultural, economic and scientific centre. The city's landmark is Bratislava Castle; a fictitious castle with three towers also appears on the city's coat of arms.

We booked a guided excursion to the Slovakian capital in August this year. The outward journey by coach started at 9.00 am at the Vienna State Opera on Karlsplatz and took less than an hour. This was followed by a group tour of the old town, accompanied by a tour guide. As we were travelling with our children (8 and 12), we said goodbye to the group after 20 minutes and went our own ways. The long historical explanations made our kids a little restless. All we had to do was turn up at 5 p.m. at the arranged meeting point on the banks of the Danube, because that was where our return trip on the Twin City Liner speedboat started. We always wanted to take a ride on this modern catamaran.

We took the bus from Karlsplatz in Vienna to Brativlava without stopping.

During the short part of the guided tour that we still took, we learned a lot about the history of the city. On 1 January 1968, Bratislava was formally declared the capital of Slovakia, which was called the Slovak Socialist Republic from 1969. And even though the city was considerably modernised after the end of communism there, you can still see quite a few prefabricated buildings from that time when looking across the Danube. All in all, however, the city of 450,000 inhabitants has been transformed into a modern and respectable metropolis.

Before we took a look at the old town, we wanted to get the most strenuous part over with. In bright sunshine, we went up to Bratislava Castle, which stands above the city. The view over the Danube or over St. Martin's Cathedral to the old town make this effort an absolute must when visiting Bratislava.

The first landmark you are likely to see in Bratislava is the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising. It is the most famous of the five Danube bridges in the city and connects the Petržalka district with the Old Town. A special attraction is the tower restaurant located 80 metres above the ground on the bridge's 84.6-metre-high pylon. The structure is only called UFO by everyone, which may be due to its unusual appearance on the one hand, but also to the astronomical prices on the other.

The castle, the town's landmark, is located west of the old town on a rock 85 metres above the Danube. The castle hill was the core of a fortified settlement of the Slavs and later an important centre of the Great Moravian Empire. A first stone castle existed here as early as the 10th century. Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg had the castle extended to a Gothic-style fortress around 1430. Around 1650, the castle was given its present baroque appearance. In May 1811, it burned to the ground. Reconstruction did not begin until 1953 and was not completed until 1968. Since the end of the 20th century, it has been used as a museum and for representative purposes.

A visit to the castle overlooking the city is a must in Bratislava.

A walk through the surrounding park including a snack and a visit to the children's playground gave us parents energy for the "descent". At St. Martin's Cathedral we finally turned back into the old town. The centre of Bratislava is called Staré Mesto (Old Town). This comprises the historic city centre and the adjacent quarters that formed its immediate suburbs in the Middle Ages. One of the most important symbols of Bratislava is the Michael Tower. Of the original four city gates through which one entered the fortified medieval city, only the gate in the Michael Tower has been preserved to this day. Below it is the kilometre zero point, from which the distances to various world cities can be found. Other sights include the Zichy Palace, the Baroque Pálffy Palace and, of course, the already mentioned St. Martin's Cathedral - the largest and oldest Bratislava church dating from the 14th century. St. Martin's Cathedral in the years 1563 to 1830 was also the coronation church.

One of the busiest places in the Old Town is the intersection of Rybárska brána with Panská and Laurinská ulica streets. People enjoy the lively atmosphere here and listen to the street musicians. A popular photo motif is the sculpture of Čumil (Chumil). You could photograph just about any building on the main square. The most dominant, however, is the Old Town Hall. Exhibitions are held there from time to time.

If you are already in the old town of Bratislava, you should also drink a Draught Beer.

After a cool draught beer in one of the numerous and quite inexpensive pubs in the old town, we walked with children to the Blue Church. On the way there, we passed by a rubber paradise (and I don't mean a condom shop). The confectionery shop "Pirate Candy" in Laurinská is the absolute hammer. The shop itself isn't huge, but offers an incredible selection of gummy stuff in the weirdest shapes like teeth, eyes or giant bananas. It's not just children who will get their money's worth here. Those with a sweet tooth should definitely not miss this shop.

Pirate Candy" has gummy stuff and sweets until you drop. Crazy!

Sugar-shocked, we finally marched to Saint Elizabeth Church, which is much better known by its second name: The Blue Church. This wonderful photo motif gets its name from the striking blue majolica mosaic. The single-nave church was built in the Secession style from 1909 to 1913 according to plans by Ödön Lechner and is definitely worth a short visit.

Whoever guesses the colour of the "Blue Church" gets to dye their hair blue.

After the religious stopover, we finally made our way to the modern district of Nivy. Here we wanted to have a look at the Eurovea shopping centre, which is situated between modern buildings on the banks of the Danube. After an admittedly mediocre meal in the shopping mall, we made ourselves comfortable on the beautiful strip of grass by the Danube and watched the boats sail by. Young and old meet here to relax, there are some nice cafés where you can have a wonderful time. This part of Bratislava added the final touch to the trip.

The Eurovea shopping centre is a great place to shop and eat.

Am Donauufer hinter der Shoppingmall kann man bei Schönwetter toll entspannen.

From there, we went directly to the docking point of the Twin City Liner. The decision to return to Vienna on the nippy catamaran was absolutely right. During the lively trip along the Danube, you get to see beautiful places that would otherwise be difficult to see. The sandbanks you pass by make you want to spend a day at the beach. Drinks and snacks are available on board the boat and we recommend a glass of wine or "G'spritzn" to toast this successful excursion. The sunset we watched from the speedboat was another highlight of this great day.

The return trip on the Twin City Liner showed us the Danube from a whole new perspective.

We finally left the Twin City Liner at the landing stage at Schwedenplatz in the centre of Vienna. It has not seen the last of us.

We look forward to your feedback and are open to a lively exchange. If you would like to travel yourself or are often on the road and have a question: Write us or leave a comment. Even if you have travel tips for us, we would be happy to hear from you.

Kind regards,

Steffi, Max and the kids

(Author of this blog: Max)

Here you can find accommodation in Bratislava

TRavel-guide Bratislava

Bratislava city guide:

Expert travel tips and holiday advice including Old Town highlights, shopping and restaurants, transport, architecture and historical sites.

Also includes maps, itineraries, accommodation, day trips and walking routes, opera, Bratislava and Devín castles, Rusovce, Košice, Horský park and the Slovak National Theatre.


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