Bratislava Sightseeing - Itinerary for a Long Weekend
I have to say I knew very little about Bratislava before making the decision to go there for a long weekend (Saturday-Monday) - my primary reason for going was cheap flights and a fantastic weather forecast. My plan was to spend arrival and departure days walking around the old town and to use the full day to rent a bicycle and venture further out. Read on to check what and when we covered during this Bratislava sightseeing and what you need to know about cycle rent in Bratislava.
Day 1 - Bratislava Castle and Grassalkovich Palace:
We landed in Bratislava airport on Saturday at around 4pm (flew in from London with Wizz Air - if you want to know how that went, read my Wizz Air review). The airport is small, so if you only have hand luggage, you will get through it very quickly - it took us only around 20 minutes! To get from the airport to the city centre you can use a bus (number 61, which goes to the main train station) - if you want to take the bus, make sure you buy the tickets in advance from the machine as you can't purchase them from the bus driver.
We, however, decided to treat ourselves and pre-book a transfer instead with Sixt My Driver. It's a relatively short ride into the centre, so the prices were affordable, plus we were met by a friendly English-speaking driver who drove us the scenic route, pointing out sights and giving tips for things to do and food to try. The car was a new Mercedes E-class, if you like your cars! At the time of writing, there is also a discount code available to new customers who create an account (and yes, of course, I googled for a discount code before booking and used it!)
So we were in the hotel all checked in before 5pm, unpacked, grabbed a snack and a cup of tea in the lounge and set out towards Bratislava castle. For the route we took, you can click here to view the map. The castle is located on a hill so prepare yourself for a bit of an uphill walk. We were walking from Mercure hotel located by the train station, so the walk took us by Grassalkovich presidential palace on the way:
The grounds of Bratislava castle were lovely to potter about in for a bit and then sit on the wall looking over Bratislava as the sun set. You might even want to bring some snacks for a mini picnic!
Having spent enough time taking in the views, we headed over to a lovely cafe we discovered on the way up - Mačkafé, a cat cafe where we enjoyed the company of some cute felines as well as Marlenka layered cake and delicious lemonade (lemonade seems to be the drink to have in Bratislava - it was served pretty much everywhere, with tons of different flavours, healthy and delicious! A must-try!
After quality kitty time, it was getting rather late, so it was time to find a place for dinner. Luckily, there was a great place just a few steps down from the cat cafe called Zelený Rodrigéz, offering, among other things, the Slovakian specialty called bryndzové halušky - gnocchi with sheep cheese sauce and sprinkled with bacon. It's very tasty and super-filling and the portion size is massive, so make sure you have plenty of room in your stomach! To give you an idea what to expect price-wise, we paid around €30 for our meal (two mains, one dessert and a few non-alcoholic drinks). Photo of bryndzové halušky:
On the off chance you are still hungry after that meal (highly unlikely), there is also a shop selling posh chocolate pralines in the same street. Otherwise, time to call in a day and head back to the hotel.
Day 2 - Devin Castle, Freedom Cycle Bridge and Austria:
Day 2, Sunday, we were spending the whole day sightseeing in Bratislava and the weather was glorious, so after a cup of tea at the hotel lounge, we headed down to Bike Bratislava in Panenska street to rent some bikes and . That's where it all started to go wrong.
As we reached Bike Bratislava, it turned out that there were no bikes available as everything was either already rented out or reserved, so us and the couple behind us were turned away. Now normally it wouldn't be a biggie and we'd just use the next bike rent place, but turns out there aren't many of those around in Bratislava. So that's my first tip to you about cycle rent in Bratislava - if you definitely want to go cycling, book in advance. We didn't, so were desperately scrambling for other options, which were:
Bratislava Segway, which has no mention of bike rent on the website nor options to book, but they had a small ad on our city map, saying they had bikes as well as segways, so we thought we'd drop by, seeing as they are located right in the city centre. Result - all bikes gone and after sharing that disappointing fact with us, the shop assistant forgot about our existence and completely ignored the question of where else we could try. By this time we were getting hangry, so decided to sit down at Mondieu just down the street, have brunch and start calling the rental shops that we could find online:
Tandemo - if I understood correctly, only rents tandem bikes and didn't have anything available when we called.
Bratislava Bike Point - only rents bicycles with a reservation of at least one day in advance, but at least they could recommend us another place to try, which was...
Up City - a place that rents out electric Volkswagen cars, but also has bikes and e-bikes. It didn't come up on Google at all when we were looking for bicycle rent places in Bratislava, so it's a good thing Bratislava Bike Point told us about them! UpCity was our last hope and we got super lucky - all they had left was 2 e-bikes, but 2 bikes was all we needed. We begged them not to give them to anyone else and rushed to finish our brunch.
When we got to UpCity (which, incidentally is also very centrally located and easy to get to), we discovered that in order to rent an e-bike, we needed to produce a photo ID (which was securely locked in the hotel safe). For other UK residents like us who are used to being able to use a debit card as ID, that doesn't work here. So, my next tip to you for bicycle rent in Brasitlava - carry a photo ID with you. Not sure if the same applies if you're renting from other companies or if you're renting standard bikes and not e-bikes, but it's best to be prepared, otherwise you will waste another half an hour traipsing to the hotel and back to get the photo ID.
After that, we were finally able to get our e-bikes, which we rented until the following morning, and set off along the Danube towards Devin Castle. The way to Devin is part cycle path part cycling along the main road and is a popular route (to view the whole route we did on the day on Google Maps, click here). The cycle path isn't particularly well-maintained, with lots and lots of bumps, but it's a really fun trip anyway. The main road is also ok to cycle on - even though there's no cycle path, there isn't too much traffic and cars generally give cyclists a wide berth. This is towards the start of the trip when the cycle path is going along the Danube:
It was a hot day and we arrived in Devin sweaty and exhausted. Thankfully there are a few bars/restaurants right by the entrance to the castle ruins, so after locking up our bikes at the cycle parking racks, we sat down for a cool-down break before buying tickets (€5) and going in to explore the ruins. And that brings me to tip number three for cycle rent in Bratislava - make sure you get a lock when you collect your bike - they are free and you will need to leave your bike outside before entering the territory of Devin castle. This is just coming into Devin:
Devin castle was such an awesome place to explore, even though much of it had been destroyed by Napoleon. The ruins were super picturesque and the views were fantastic! Definitely worth a visit, and if you don't fancy a bike ride, you could also come here by boat or by bus (number 29 departing from the SNP bridge station). Just a few of the photos we took at Devin castle ruins:
After we made it back out, it was back to the bar/restaurant to grab a bite to eat before continuing on towards Freedom Cycle Bridge (Cyklomost slobody). It's a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the river Morava that connects Slovakia to Austria. A true testament to the freedom of movement within the Schengen zone, the bridge has no fences or checkpoints and crossing it is as easy as it is to walk across The Thames in London (or insert the name of your closest local river). Cycling across Freedom Cycle Bridge was super high on my list of things to do - I mean, how often can you say you cycled from one country to another on a weekend trip?!
By the time we emerged on the Austrian side of the bridge, it was already late afternoon/early evening thanks to wasting so much time looking for bicycles in the morning, so though we cycled to Schloss Hof, we kept our visit short, and, after cycling around the palace grounds, we started to make our way back to Bratislava. If you are a super keen cyclist, however, you could ride your bike all the way to Vienna, as the information board by Schloss Hof informed us - the route is 90-odd kilometres long from there.
We certainly aren't super keen cyclists and aren't used to cycling long distances, so at this stage we were feeling rather tired and we very grateful for the fact that destiny provided us with e-bikes rather than normal bicycles, as originally planned. It was my first time trying an e-bike and it made all the difference! You still have to pedal of course, but the force that propels you forward is significantly greater than the effort you put in, especially if you set your e-speed to the top setting (there are different levels) so you are able to just swoosh off into the distance after pushing off. Our e-bikes by the Danube:
So my last tip for bicycle rent is to get an e-bike if possible for your Bratislava sightseeing, especially if you are only an occasional cyclist. There is hardly any price difference to a normal bike, and though you are still likely to get a sore bum from the saddle, your legs will thank you the next day. Cycling back into Bratislava along the Danube - just look at that moon:
We got back to the hotel around 9pm, locked our bikes up in the garage and were so knackered we couldn't face walking into the old town to look for restaurants, so we just ventured to the closest supermarket and dined in the room on a selection of ice-cream and local horseshoe-shaped pastry called Bratislavské rožky - you can have them filled with poppy seeds or nuts (delicious, by the way, so give it a try!):
Day 3: Bratislava Old Town and Eurovea Shopping Centre:
Day 3, Monday was departure day and we had to be at the airport around 3pm. So the plan was to have breakfast at the hotel, bring the e-bikes back to UpCity and then wander around the old town.
I don't have an exact route for you to follow, but some of the places we walked by were St Martin's Cathedral, Primatial Palace, the main square (Hlavné námestie), Clarissine Church and the Blue Church.
While we were wandering around, we felt compelled to sit down for some coffee and cake at a beautiful historic cafe called Konditorei Kormuth, lavishly decorated with wall and ceiling paintings and carved wood. They offer a set menu of any cake and any drink for €10 and we ended up consuming 3 of those menus between the two of us. The cakes looked and tasted awesome and the violet lemonade was asking for a post on Instagram. Great option for a special occasion! If you prefer something more low-key, there were plenty of other cafes available to choose from.
The Blue Church was our last stop in the old town before we headed out towards the Danube and the ultra-modern Eurovea shopping centre. It's a typical shopping centre with all the same brands that you see everywhere, but it was an interesting building with some noteworthy statues. Another awesome things about the Eurovea shopping centre is the fact that it overlooks the promenade and has lots of restaurants with outdoor seating, so if the weather is nice, I would highly recommend this area for a leisurely lunch or dinner.
Having spent a bit of time sitting by the Danube, we decided to start our search for a taxi to the airport. We were strongly advised at the hotel that hailing a taxi in the street is not recommended because they will charge you more than if you call a taxi (apparently the tariffs are different, so if you see a taxi nearby, it is still cheaper to note the number on the side and call it than it is to just get in). Now our Slovakian is non-existent, so we weren't feeling too confident about calling a taxi company and then trying to explain where we were, so we tried to get the guy at the information desk at the shopping centre to help us, but he just pointed us in the direction of the taxi stand...
We then tried to ask the taxi driver at the stand how much it would cost to get to the airport in advance, so at least we would know straight away if it was a rip-off, He said it would be based on the metre readings, but the estimate was around €20, which seemed kind of ok. When we got to the airport, it was €28 on the metre... but he agreed to let us pay €25. So I can confirm that getting a taxi from the street is indeed very expensive - if you are in Bratislava, definitely try and get a transfer to the airport booked in advance or have someone call you a taxi. Oh well, at least we were in a new E-class Mercedes and not an old run-down car so I consoled myself by thinking we paid extra for the luxury car and the convenience of not having to wait around.
So that's it - an itinerary for Bratislava sightseeing on a long weekend. If you had two full days in Bratislava, you could easily condense days 1 and 3 into one and cover all of the old town in one day and then go cycling on the second day. Either way, it a great destination for a weekend trip and I hope you have a lovely time! If you want to know a bit more about the history and important sights of the city, why not try one of these guided tours:
You could also combine a visit to Bratislava with a day trip to Vienna - there is a direct train that only takes about an hour and costs ~€10 one way - super easy and cheap!
If you're flying to Bratislava from London, do also check out my review of Wizz Air based on the flight to Bratislava below.
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