Travel Slovakia. Bratislava Guide for First Time Visitors

Slovakia’s capital Bratislava sits smack bang between Hungary and Austria, and it is easy to reach by car or train from Munich, Vienna or Prague. There is lots of culture, and if you are a fan of nature, you can already see the Little Carpathians from viewpoints in the city. Bratislava has a picture-perfect old town with cornices, bay windows and magnificent entrances. Many facades are either painted in gaudy lolly colours or softly decorated in pastel. In the old town, the streets are lively with restaurant-goers, and café and pub visitors. It is a vibrant atmosphere, and there is lots going on all over town.
Travel Slovakia. Bratislava Guide for First Time Visitors

When it comes to Slovakia, most are wondering whether it was part of the former Yugoslavia or of the former Czechoslovakia. It is complicated. As a result of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and its independence from it, in 1918 Slovakia and the Czech Republic formed Czechoslovakia. 

What to expect from the Bratislava Guide for First Time Visitors?

I guide you to a bright blue art nouveau church. I show you murals in an open-air street art gallery. I am going to tell you about Shared Cities: Creative Momentum, a European cultural platform addressing the contemporary urban challenges of European cities. We will visit a food hall where locals are selling artisan products, and a Rococo palace fit for a queen. You get to know a count who needed a palace while he was the highest official of Bratislava in the middle of the 19th century. We make our way to a flying saucer from where we have a fantastic view over the little Carpathians. You will learn how to get to Bratislava, the best time to travel to Bratislava, and what language they speak in Bratislava. Plus vegetarian-friendly cafés and restaurants and where to sleep (a hotel that has the most amazing travel story to tell).
During WW2 Czechia was occupied by Germany. Slovakia became independent, the Slovakian state was born, and that as an ally and under the protection by Hitler and Germany. According to Slovak military historians, and as it was shown in the exhibition "Dream and Reality" (Sen a skutočnoct ') in the Slovak capital Bratislava, Slovakia was the first active ally of the Wehrmacht. Slovak soldiers participated in the German Army's campaign against the Soviet Union, and it declared war on the US and Great Britain at the end of 1941. Slovakia was active on the German side in war activities in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Austria, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Slovakia was Hitler's only ally, who even took on the transport costs of 500 Reichsmarks per person for the deportation and annihilation of a total of 57,627 Jews. After the war, Czechoslovakia became a communist state.

Fast forward to 1998. Communism ended in most countries, and in 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two sovereign states, one the Czech Republic and Slovakia the other. Slovakia joined the EU in the spring of 2004.

Travel Slovakia. Bratislava Guide for first-time visitors

Blue Church

Make yourself on the short walk to the eastern part of the old town, to visit the church of St. Elizabeth (dedicated to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary). The art nouveau catholic church in the colour blue was built between 1909 and 1913. All of it is blue, the facade, the onion domes (Russian Orthodox churches are usually decorated with these), the roof, the church furniture, the inside walls. Hungarian architect, Ödön Lechner, designed this blue jewel in the 20th century. He is otherwise well known for this architectural style in Budapest and has the nickname the Hungarian Gaudi. Remember to check the rather odd opening hours of the church before your visit, if you plan to have a proper look inside.

Blue and white painted art nouveau facade of a  atholic church.

Blue and white painted art nouveau facade and entrance door decorated with stars, of a  catholic church.

Blue and white painted art nouveau facade and entrance door decorated with stars, of a  catholic church

Blue and white painted art nouveau facade and entrance door decorated with stars, of a  catholic church

Blue and white painted interior of a art catholic church.

Blue and white painted art nouveau facade and entrance door decorated with stars, of a  catholic church

Blue and white painted art nouveau facade and entrance door decorated with stars, of a  catholic church

Information: Blue Church, Bezrucova 2, Bratislava. Plan around thirty minutes for a visit. Hours: Monday to Saturday 6.30am to 8am, 5.30pm to 7.30pm, Sunday 7.30am to, 5.30pm to 7.30pm. Tickets: Free. 

Street Art of Bratislava

During the street art and graffiti festival in summer 2018 Slovak artists such as DAOR and DANO, Fin Dac from Great Britain and French artist CART1 and Hungarian FAT HEAT created an extensive Street Art Gallery. Pedestrians can look at large-scale murals on and in the adjoining streets around Kamenné Square.

Brightly coloured wooden benches on a terrace in front of a high rise with a black and white painted facade.

A mural of a fox next to a clock at 12.13 pm and twelve small bells, on a facade of a white-grey high rise.

A mural of a young girl dressed in a yellow summer dress skipping rope, on a facade of a white-grey high rise.

A mural of a hand holding a broken mirror with the image of a young girl's face, on a facade of a white-grey high rise.

Mural of a figure dressed in white spraying the words ego vanity onto a facade.


Mural of a woman in a yellow hoodie and blue and red coloured  cap on the facade of a house..

Rooftops with a white and black painted facade of a high rise in the centre.

Trh-Piac-Markt – Food Market

In previous years the market hall, halfway between the old town and the newer part of town, didn’t offer that much. The market as we see it today started in 2013 after a group of locals did all they could to make this space attractive for locals and visitors. The Old Market Hall Alliance is a partner of the Shared Cities: Creative Momentum project, co-financed by the EU Creative Europe program. Shared Cities: Creative Momentum (SCCM) is a European cultural platform addressing the contemporary urban challenges of European cities.

There is nothing like a market in a food hall where locals are selling artisan products. Coffee, tea, winemakers who support the homeless in town, jam, bread, biscuits, and cake, honey, and flowers (there is also a green oasis). Order some veggie tapas and buy fermented cabbage. The focus lies on local small farmers and manufactures.

Have a chat with the stallholders, they are happy to share the history of their products with you. The market hall was built in 1910. Come hungry. On a Saturday morning, the hall is buzzing with foodies, young families, hipsters and elderly couples. In good weather, you can sit on the beautiful large square in front of the market hall. On the upper level, you can browse clothes and antiques.

There is a community kitchen, where minorities living in Bratislava get the chance to introduce their national dishes to visitors. With this project, the organisers aim to bring together locals, from all walks of life and with different backgrounds, through their food and traditions. In that context, you can also buy Iranian dates and safran at one of the stalls.

Food and design at the Trh-Piac-Markt in Bratislava in Slovakia

Market stalls decorated with red and white awnings arranged in a large hall whereby the ceiling is covered in a white canopy.

Trh-Piac-Markt – Food Market. Stará tržnica (The Old Market Hall), Námestie SNP 25, Bratislava, 81101 Slovakia. Hours: Saturday, 09am till 3pm. Tickets: Free

Mirbach Palace

The Mirbach Palace in Rococo style is in the northern part of the historic Old Town of Bratislava, directly opposite the Franciscan Church and close to the Michael's Gate. The palace was built from 1768 to 1770 by Michael Spech, a brewer from Bratislava. The last owner, Emil Mirbach, left the palace to Bratislava, under the condition to be turned into a gallery. The palace houses a permanent exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Dutch, Flemish and Italian artists, and there is also space for temporary exhibitions. Rooms have been preserved in the Bratislava Rococo style. Special mention deserves the cabinets of prints which have been preserved as interior wall decoration of two rooms in the Mirbach Palace. It is believed they were commissioned by the original owner of the building. 

Art and Fireplace at the Mirbach Palace in Bratislava in Slovakia

Art and Fireplace at the Mirbach Palace in Bratislava in Slovakia

Wooden interior of the Mirbach Palace in Bratislava in Slovakia

View through several open wooden doors in the Mirbach Palace in Bratislava in Slovakia

A wooden entrance door of of a property with a white facade.

Staircase laid with red carpet in a vaulted entrance hall.

Information Mirbach Palace. Františkánske námestie 11, 81101 Bratislava. Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 6pm. Closed Monday. Tickets: EUR 4.

Pállfy Palace

Count Jan Pálffy needed a palace while he was the highest official of Bratislava in the middle of the 19th century, and simply rebuilt the old palace that was in the hand of the Pálffy family ever since 1715. The palace we see today was reconstructed as recent as 1987, and the architects and the town were so lucky. It was at that time that archaeologists found Celtic coins and a mass grave of the Roman Era, and also artefacts from the Great Moravian Era at the end of the 9th century. The Pálffy Palace is part of the Bratislava City Gallery.

The permanent exhibitions hold gothic paintings, paintings from the Dutch and Flemish masters of the 17th and 18th century, and artwork by Italian painters from the 17th to 19th century.

As I enter the artwork 'Passage' I find myself in a seemingly infinite space of books and light. The artwork 'Passage' by Matej Kren is a "symbolic short cut through the world in which we exist or dwell: through the factual, real-world into the world of human culture, where reality is exchanged for another - virtual - reality, for the reality of word, text, sign, symbol, image, and back again".

 Art at the Pállfy Palace in Bratislava in Slovakia

Art and parquet floor at the Pállfy Palace in Bratislava in Slovakia

Art and tiled floor at the Pállfy Palace in Bratislava in Slovakia

Wooden doors and parquet floor at the Pállfy Palace in Bratislava in Slovakia

A white marble staircase laid with red carpet and decorated with black iron railings over several floors in a vaulted hall.

Rows of books mirrored.

Rows of books mirrored.

Rows of books mirrored.

Information Pállfy Palace, Panská 19, 81101 Bratislava. Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 6pm, Monday Closed. Tickets: EUR 4. 

UFO – A Flying Saucer in the Sky

As soon as you arrive in Bratislava, and while you drive along the banks of the Danube, you are going to spot the UFO-shaped structure on top of a bridge over the river. What you see here, is the world's longest bridge to have one pylon and one cable-stayed plane. It took five years to construct the 430-metre-long bridge, called the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising. On the top there is an observation deck, to be reached by a lift, which is hidden in one of the bridge's pillars. A quick ride of 45 seconds later, standing on the open-air observation deck, at a height of 95 metres you have a bird’s eye view over the town's rooftops, Bratislava castle, the little Carpathians, and all the way to Austria.

The restaurant and bar area is in a dome with 60 windows, uninterrupted views from every seat in the house are guaranteed. The same goes for the bathroom, go and check that out too.

A white castle, red rooftops of period properties and a church tower.

A viewing platform in the form of a UFO standing over an empty highway.

Information UFO, Most SNP. Hours: Monday to Sunday 10am to 11pm, restaurant 12pm to 11pm, bar 10am to 11pm. Tickets: EUR 7.40 per Person; right now, the elevator ride and entrance to the viewing platform is still free when you dine at the restaurant.

Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants and Cafés in Bratislava

Five Points – Speciality Coffee in Bratislava

Five Points is where to drink fantastic coffee in Bratislava. They serve 9 Grams (speciality) espresso, a blend of 100% Arabica coffee and also single origin from different continents. You can also get advice on which coffee maker or grinder is best to buy, and also buy tea, and accessories for coffee making. If you fancy, get a 'selfiecinno,' no joke, the baristas put your face on the espresso drink. When in the coffee shop, simply send them a selfie of you (or a photo of your pet).

White hydrangeas in a transparent vase on a delicate gold-coloured coffee table next to a teal-coloured sofa on a dark wood floor in front of a blue wall.

A cup of coffee from above with a heart drawn into the frothed milk foam..

Information Five Points, Pranska 23, 81101 Bratislava. Hours: Monday to Saturday 8am to 11pm. Sunday 8am to 10pm.

Enjoy Bistro

Do you want to eat healthy lunches (e.g. grilled vegetable salad with feta cheese) in beautifully designed, minimalist, all-white, surrounds, served with a smile? They also serve smoothies, organic 100% Arabica coffee, and Løv Organic teas (organic quality tea, with tea bags from unbleached muslin). Not to be missed are the in-house home-made cakes, the raspberry torte tastes simply fantastic. You can also buy home accessories.

Wall mural with word art, a large piece of cake with pink filling, a cup of cappuccino served with a heart-shaped biscuit, and white chairs around a round table in front of a wall decorated with white miniature houses.

Information Enjoy Bistro, Michalská 3, 811 02 Staré Mesto, Slovakia. H0urs: Monday to Sunday 8.30am to 10pm.

Urban Bistro

Spacious, stylish and welcoming Bistro directly in the centre of Bratislava’s Old Town. They serve Green Plantation speciality espresso (a Slovak roastery). Do not leave without trying the Lavender Earl Grey Latte, and or Slovakian wine. There are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu, as for example the Red Thai Curry. I also saw there is a breakfast called Melbourne (with avocado and poached eggs). They obviously know what they are talking about, read: Travel Australia. Stylish Vegetarian-Friendly Breakfast Places in Melbourne.

Two large silver tube pipes, a long table decorated with flowers and vases and water bottles, and brown sofas in front of a white painted wall in low light.

The top of a drink in a glass decorated with frothed milk foam and dried edible lavender.

A couple leaning into each other and a woman looking into her phone sitting on a bench, in a brown and white decorated cafe near the words: urban bistro.

Information Urban Bistro, Michalská 5, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia. Hours: Monday 9am to 10pm. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9am to 12am. Friday and Saturday 9am to 2am.

Where to Sleep in Bratislava

Marrol's Boutique Hotel is a 5-star hotel in Bratislava. Within a few minutes you are in the historical Old Town and after only a skip and a jump, you are already on the banks of the Danube.

This exact place at Tobrucka No. 4 used to be the house of Mr. Antal Marshall and his family, who ran a workshop for carriages. The hotel is named after Lady Mary Ann Marrol, a daughter of a wealthy Scottish merchant who loved to travel. At the turn of the 20th century, being on her way from Vienna to Bratislava a wheel of her carriage broke and someone recommended her Mr. Marshall’s place in Bratislava. While repairs were undertaken, she stayed at the home of the Marshall family. One day she saw a boy when he was about to be overrun by horses, and she jumped to his rescue. It was Mr Marshall's nephew, and he was so thankful that he named his business after her and had a stone relief sculptured of her to be placed above the front door.

You get a warm and friendly welcome, rooms are spacious enough with lots of wardrobe space, beds are comfortable, the bathroom is decorated pretty, and L'OCCITANE products, such as shampoo, shower gel and body lotion, are provided. The hairdryer is strong. There are tea and coffee making facilities in your room, and the minibar gets refilled daily, and that free of charge. Breakfast is served in the restaurant; the choice is lavish and there are many healthy options. Wi-Fi is free and fast, not password protected. Parking is available in the parking garage.

Classic interior at the restaurant and in rooms of the Five Star Marrols Boutique Hotel in Bratislava in Slovakia

Information: Marrol's Boutique Hotel, Tobrucká 6953/4, 811 02 Bratislava, Slovakia. Please visit the website to check prices.

What you need to know to travel to Slovakia

How to get to Bratislava

You can hop on a non-stop flight from most major capital cities to nearby Vienna International Airport (in Austria). Visit the website of the airport in Bratislava, to see which airlines fly directly to Bratislava.

Visa for Bratislava

Slovakia is a member of the European Union. Europeans are free to enter. If they want to stay longer as three months, they need to inform the immigration department. If one travels within the Schengen area, there are obviously no border controls. Visa-free tourists may stay in Slovakia for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days: United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Brazil. Citizens of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and China require a visa to travel to Latvia. For detailed info please visit: Guidelines on How to Apply for a Schengen Visa.

How to get to town from Bratislava airport

Bus No. 61 links Airport Bratislava with the city centre in the direction from the Main Railway Station (Hlavná železničná stanica) and bus No. 96 in the direction from Petržalka, Prokofievova. The taxi ride takes about 15 to 20 minutes and can cost anything between EUR 7 to EUR 30. Speak about the price before you start the journey towards town.

Wi-fi in Bratislava

You can get free Wi-fi in restaurants, cafés etc. 

How to change money in Bratislava

You can pay almost everywhere with a credit card, and there are also lots of ATM’s in the centre of town. Citizens of EU member states wouldn’t need to change any money, since the currency in Slovakia is the EURO.

Best time to travel to Bratislava

Bratislava is a year-round destination. The climate in Bratislava is characterized by cold winters and hot summers. You can expect sunny days from May to October, with an average temperature of 23 to 24 degrees Celsius in August. Winters are icy cold with lots of snow, that sort of weather can last well into March and even April (bring warm clothes, as in beanie, gloves, puffer jacket (cruelty-free) or woolen coat, winter boots).

What language do they speak in Slovakia?

The official language in Slovakia is Slovak. Slovak is not a dialect of Czech, it is a language in its own right.

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