The capital city of Slovakia since the country shrugged off its old Czechoslovakia identity, Bratislava is an enchanting medieval town with a fascinating history. This dreamy riverside city boasts baroque palaces commissioned by powerful nobles, charming squares that haven’t changed in centuries, and a spectacular Renaissance castle perched on a hill.
Despite there being so many ancient treasures in the city, it isn’t all about the past. Whether you want to step back in time or surround yourself with the city’s modern wonders, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Bratislava!
In stark contrast with the city’s romantic past, Bratislava is also known for being home to quirky clandestine statues, contemporary artsy boutiques, hipster-attracting cafes, and secret nightclubs that promise high-octane fun. Travel to the outskirts of the city, and you’ll discover more variation, with rolling hills, sweeping vineyards, and wide-open spaces just a short trip away.
There are so many amazing things to see and do in Bratislava that you may not know where to begin. To help you put together an itinerary, we’ve made a list of the absolute best things to do in Bratislava. Add these activities and attractions to your Bratislava bucket list, and you’re sure to have an incredible time exploring the “Beauty on the Danube!”
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Bratislava
1. Have Dinner in a UFO
Looking for unique things to do in Bratislava? You’ve got to check out the city’s famous UFO! Probably not the type of UFO you’re thinking of, the city’s UFO is actually an observation tower and restaurant that stands a staggering 311 feet above the ground.
Crane your neck to the top of the tower, and you’ll spot a bizarre spaceship-shaped capsule filled with hungry diners and people enjoying the view. Known as the Most SNP or the UFO Tower, this one-of-a-kind attraction is where you’ll find the very best views in all of the city. On a clear day, you can see for more than 60 miles in each direction!
Visit during the daytime early in your vacation to get your bearings and work out where everything is. Then return during the evening to see the city lit up with twinkling lights. It’s also an excellent place to enjoy a fancy dinner with a view.
2. Take One of the Most Beautiful Train Rides In the World
For the best sights in Bratislava, hop on board a local train and enjoy the ride. Because the country is so naturally beautiful, you don’t have to blow your vacation budget on a special scenic train ride. Instead, you can hop on one of the city’s ordinary trains, snag a window seat, and enjoy the view.
The most impressive train ride in the whole of Slovakia begins in Bratislava. It takes you past Trencin, Zilina, and Poprad on the way to Kosice. First, you’ll see gorgeous views of the Vah River, followed by the towering mountains of northern Slovakia, including the impressive High Tatras. A lot of trains follow this route, so you’ll never have to wait long at the station.
For something a bit more local, you can hop on the tourist train in the city. This takes you around all of Bratislava’s most popular sites, including Bratislava Castle, the UFO Tower, and the National Gallery.
3. Wander Through the President’s House at Grassalkovich Palace
Grassalkovich Palace is one of the biggest and best Bratislava attractions. This spectacular rococo-baroque building has been the official residence of the president of Slovakia since 1996. Although you’re unlikely to see the woman herself, you can explore this stunning home and exquisite formal French garden.
The palace dates back to the 1700s, when the aristocracy used it for hosting glamorous musical performances and high society events. Composer Joseph Haydn conducted some of his most revered works here for the first time!
While the palace is truly sublime, it’s the gardens that will really blow you away. Open from dawn until dusk, the gardens are overflowing with centuries-old trees and a beautiful statue of Empress Maria Theresa (she originally ordered the palace to be built).
Explore the gardens further, and you’ll also discover a number of old and modern statues created by Slovakian sculptors, as well as the iconic Fountain of Youth, which is known for its three beautiful statues playing in the water.
4. Become an Avid Foodie at the Slovak Food Festival
If you love trying new things, one of the coolest things to do in Bratislava is to check out the Slovak Food Festival. Held each May at the Bratislava Castle, this gastronomic delight is fondly known as the largest picnic in the country, but it’s so much more than that!
The gardens of the castle are teeming with talented chefs whipping up local delights. The smell is absolutely incredible and makes you drool almost constantly – no matter how much you’ve already had to eat! In addition to the classic Slovak dishes, meats, cheeses, and freshly baked goods, you can also sample a wide range of local beers, wines, and spirits.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the festival also includes a number of live performances and competitions you can enter to win all kinds of foodie prizes.
Because of the festival’s excellent location, you get the chance to explore one of the city’s best attractions. Bratislava Castle is home to stunning artwork, sumptuous interior decor, and dramatic views of the city down below.
5. Surprise Your Taste Buds with Pirohy
When you need a break from all the Bratislava sightseeing, stop by a local restaurant or cafe and order yourself some pirohy. This local dish is really similar to Poland’s pierogi, but with one distinct difference. Although these mouthfuls of deliciousness may look like tiny savory dumplings, they’ve actually got a wonderfully sweet filling.
Bite through the soft potato dough on the outside, and you’ll discover a fruity jam center with a sweet and sour taste. Pirohy are usually served up with rich and creamy goat cheese and topped with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts. The combination may sound a little strange, but it works really well.
The Slovak Pub does some of the very best Slovakian food in Bratislava. The pirohy here have the perfect balance of flavors and are made fresh in-house each day. They’re also served with the most delicious goat cheese, which isn’t overly strong or too mild – it’s just perfect!
6. Dine at a Floating Restaurant On the Danube
Why eat in a regular restaurant when you can have dinner in a floating restaurant that bobs up and down on the Danube River? One of the most fun things to do in Bratislava, enjoying a meal in a floating restaurant is a romantic and memorable way to see the city from a completely different angle.
The Danube is the second-longest river in Europe and crosses straight through Bratislava. You may be familiar with Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz,” which he composed in 1852. This is the river that inspired that world-famous song.
The Sundeck is one of the most popular and highly-rated floating restaurants in Bratislava. Although it doesn’t actually float up and down the river, this restaurant is set inside a number of containers on a boat on the water, creating a modern, urban vibe in a historic city. The menu changes all the time, but the dishes are always creative, innovative, and delicious.
7. Discover Bratislava’s Hidden Bunkers
Czechoslovakia was involved in a considerable number of wars, which led to Slovakia being dotted with secret bunkers. While most of the bunkers were hidden away in the countryside to protect soldiers from Soviet takeovers and Nazi invasions, a number of them can be found within the streets of Bratislava.
The capital city is home to the largest number of bunkers in Bratislava. You’ll find them scattered throughout a big field on the right of the Danube River. Although they were constructed to protect Slovakia from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, they were never actually used and are still in great condition today.
If you want to find out what life was like during wartime in Czechoslovakia, these bunkers hold some of the best things to see in Bratislava. As they’re in great condition, the bunkers were transformed into museums.
Today you can step inside and see everything from the authentic firearms used by soldiers and an old engine room to photographs documenting the battles and the spaces designed to house soldier crews.
8. Spot the Quirky Statues In Bratislava’s Old Town
If you love unusual points of interest that most people never get to experience, you’ll have a great time finding the statues hidden throughout the city’s Old Town. One of the most interesting things to do in Bratislava while you’re exploring and sightseeing is to see how many of these whimsical statues you can find.
The fun and quirky statues provide a striking contrast to the communist-era buildings that line a lot of Bratislava’s streets. The most famous and most photographed statue is known as Cumil. He’s a sewer worker who pops his head out of a manhole and looks content with watching the world go by.
Another easy-to-spot statue is a soldier from Napoleon’s Army who can be seen leaning over a bench and tipping his top hat. This statue also comes out great in photos. Sit on the nearby bench and join in with his courteous greeting!
There’s also a Hans Christian Anderson statue on Hviezdoslav Square. The stunning statue was built to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth.
9. Eat, Drink & Be Merry at Junifest
Spending the day at Junifest is one of the must-do things in Bratislava if you’re planning on visiting the city in June. Slovakia’s answer to Germany’s iconic Oktoberfest, Junifest is a huge beer festival that thousands of people look forward to each year.
During this 10-day festival, breweries from all over the country flock to Bratislava to show off their finest beers. Here you’ll find a huge number of beers to try, from iconic brands sold all over the world to special brews made exclusively for Junifest.
Although it’s certainly the focal point of the festival, Junifest isn’t all about beer. A great place to spend the day as a family, this lively festival boasts an excellent events program.
There are hundreds of music performances to watch throughout the festival, as well as engrossing art displays to enjoy, fun beer games to join in with, and contests you can enter to win all kinds of beer-related prizes.
10. Fill Up On Guláš
When you’ve spent all morning sightseeing and you need to reenergize before you’re able to carry on, one of the top things to do in Bratislava is to find a local restaurant and order a great big bowl of guláš. While this dish was created in Hungary (where it’s known as goulash), guláš is also incredibly popular throughout Slovakia.
Like all the best dishes, guláš varies depending on where you have it. Some restaurants get creative and put a modern spin on it, while others use a family recipe that’s been passed down through generations.
Basic guláš is a type of hearty stew made with beef or veal, along with peppers, potatoes, and paprika. The meat is cooked until it’s so tender it practically melts in your mouth. It’s almost always served with crusty bread and is the perfect thing to warm up with on a cold winter’s day.
You’ll find guláš available in almost every Slovakian restaurant throughout Bratislava. Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivovar is one of the most incredible places in the city for this dish. Here it’s packed with flavor and served with light and fluffy bread dumplings.
11. Admire the Aptly-Named Blue Church
Even if you’re not interested in architecture or religious buildings, one of the best things to do in Bratislava is to take a look at the Blue Church. This stunning art nouveau Church was built in 1909 as a Hungarian Secessionist Catholic church and got its cute nickname thanks to its colorful exterior.
Dedicated to Saint Elizabeth, the tiny church features just one nave and was originally designed to be a school chapel. When it was first built, it looked like any other ordinary church. But soon, blue paint, mosaics, and tiles were introduced, transforming the building into one of the city’s most beloved landmarks.
Today, the Blue Church is open to the public. Step through its grand entrance, and you’ll discover that the blue theme doesn’t end at the façade. Inside you’ll see the ceiling, walls, and benches are also painted blue and decorated with blue-glazed ceramic tiles.
Visit over a weekend, and you may just see a couple getting married!
12. Discover Your Inner Art Lover at the Slovak National Gallery
One of the best rainy day Bratislava activities is to spend a few hours exploring the Slovak National Gallery. This gallery is so huge that it’s spread throughout a number of buildings across the country. In Bratislava, you’ll find the Slovak National Gallery in the Esterházy Palace and the Water Barracks close to the Danube riverfront.
This impressive art gallery includes modern and classical art collections. Take a look around, and you’ll come across amazing paintings and incredible sculptures with a strong connection to Slovakia.
The ground floors of the buildings are dedicated to the museum’s permanent collection, while the rest of the floors are where you’ll find temporary exhibits and displays by visiting artists. There’s always something fascinating going on here, from interactive displays on art history designed to engage children to comprehensive literary projects about local writers.
Not limited to the inside of the buildings, you’ll also find a number of thought-provoking sculptures in the buildings’ gardens.
13. Explore the Ancient Ruins of Devin Castle
Hidden away on the outskirts of Bratislava, close to the Austrian border, you’ll find the ruins of Devin Castle. This spectacular attraction dates back to the 9th century and is perched on top of a 700-foot-tall cliff in between where the Morava and Danube rivers meet.
The castle went through countless expansions and reconstructions between the 9th and 15th centuries, during which time it stood strong and looked magnificent. However, in the 17th century, the castle was devastated by bombings during the Napoleonic Wars and left to ruin.
Although not much remains of the once impressive fortress, Devin Castle is still worth a visit. You can explore a labyrinth of courtyards, staircases, and walls that make up the remainder of the ruins. Make sure you snap a pic of the Maiden Tower. It’s set on a solitary rock far away from the castle over the river and comes out beautifully in photos.
14. Discover Medieval Works of Art at Bratislava Castle
Spending a day at Bratislava Castle is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Bratislava. This huge four-tower fortress can be seen from almost everywhere in the city and stands high above on a towering, rocky hill. From up here, not only can you see all across Bratislava, but you can also see Austria and Hungary when the weather’s nice.
Step inside the castle, and you’ll find even more impressive things to see. There’s a fantastic collection of art, photographs, and paperwork that document the development of the area from the Middle Ages up until today. It’s incredible to see what Bratislava looked like all that time ago and compare it to what you can see today!
The oldest tower of the castle dates back to the 13th century and rises over 150 feet into the sky. Known as the Crown Tower, this dramatic structure was once home to the crown jewels.
15. End Your Meal With a Sweet Bábovka
If you’ve left room for dessert, don’t miss the chance to try bábovka. This traditional dessert can be found all over Slovakia, as well as in Germany, Austria, Poland, Croatia, and Slovenia. When so many places offer the same dish, you just know it’s going to be good!
Bábovka is similar in shape to a Bundt cake but totally different in texture. It’s more like a quick bread made with a soft dough that’s enriched with fruit liqueur, almonds, and raisins. Even a small slice can be pretty filling, so it may be best to enjoy it with a coffee as part of an afternoon tea instead of a dessert.
You’ll find bábovka on restaurant menus throughout Bratislava, as well as in cafes, bakeries, and grocery stores. Soupa Bistro is a cute, casual cafe that serves an amazing bábovka. With plenty of other light Slovakian dishes on the menu, it’s a great place to go for lunch!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Bratislava. What’s your favorite thing to do in Bratislava?
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