Since this year I'm in Erasmus in this city, I've become a little expert on it, and reading this can be your starting point for make the most of your time here! As Erasmus student or just by visit! It's a little bit bigger than the others because of that, but won't take you more than 8 minutes to read!
This guide is for the same public as the others: for visitors and tourist, the another more extensive Bratislava guide for Erasmus students has much more information for locals and students!
If you want to check all the featured activities and secrets of Bratislava in an interactive map, click here!
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, a EU Member country located in Central Europe, with a population of (500k) is the biggest city of the country, and also one of the youngest capitals in Europe since the average age is 36 years old. What makes it so awesome is the great location it has, less than an hour to Viena and no more than two and a half for Budapest, so if you stay in any of these cities you will end up visiting the other ones as well.
Coming to Bratislava is quite easy, there are many transport options from almost everywhere,, it features it's own airport which is also an important Ryanair hub (more than 8 destinations), is also just 40 min from Vienna airport and is reachable by bus or train for a very good price from Prague and Budapest (also by Warsaw, but bus takes 11 hours).
Most buses will leave you in bus station (Autobusova Stianica), where you can get a taxi, bus or walk a little, and by 5 minutes you will be in the Old Town, similar situation can be applied to the train station (Hlavna Stianica). If you come by Blaguss bus from Viena airport, it will leave you in Most SNP, the main bridge of Bratislava which points the begining of the Old Town. Finally if you come by plane directly to the city, there is a direct line Airport (Letisko)-Train Station, the bus number 61, but before going to the train station is better to get off in the stop called Trnavske Myto and from there take the tram that better suits you.
Public transport is very cheap, with tickets from 35 cents for students and 0,7€ for adults, ticket is valid for both bus and tram (try not to cheat since tram officers are not rare). For checking the routes the best option is to download the App iTransit BA, and use the “planner” to find yours.
You can come also by turistic boat from Viena from 25 € . Taking a taxi won't be cheap and expect to pay around 25 € if you come from airport and 10€ inside the city, if you speak Slovak, pretend to be a local since taxis are the most obvious tourist rip-off here, they will probably cheat you, so use them as last resource.
Many people ask me if the city is nice, my answer is always the same: Yes, it is, but considering its neightbour cities is obviously the ugly duckling of the Danube, but that doesn't make it worse, in the opposite, you will discover different things than in Budapest or Viena. The sentence that in my opinion best describes Bratislava is: It doesn't have many spots to see, but many places to be.
A fact that will make this city more attractive to you is that beer is 1€ per 0,5 l in many pubs of the city (may go up a little in the turistic ones, but not more than 2,5 € in discos for example). The beer quality is excelent (both Slovak and Czech beers are among world's best). If you are not a beer fan there is also wine (from Nitra region), vodka and two local spirits: The braincracker Borovichka and the awesome high graded Tatra Tea. The city is also known among young people by the name of Partyslava so if you come for a incredible night, you reached heaven (more information at the end of the guide).
The best part for both tourist and students is the city centre. The Old Town features nice Austro-Hungarian archiquecture. Here you can see most of the tourist attractions (which will be better explained in the free map you can get in the Info office in the main square) and many souvenir shops as well as restaurants. Is also where most of the nightclubs are as well as main University buildings.
The view of the castle is also very pleasant by the riverside, and you should not leave the city without goint uphill. One of the best streets close to the Old Town is Obchodna, where many shops are as well as the best restaurant to go if you are a tourist: The Slovak Pub, the most typical affordable restaurant (and nice discounts if you are student). In the same street is KGB pub, a cold war era restaurant where you can eat typical eastern menu for just 3,4 €. If you are a meat lover, you need to go to Divný Janko Restaurant, located in Jozefská 2991/2, in there you can have a pan full of potatoes and different kinds of meat for just 3.70€!! There are a lot of options but in my opinion, you should not pay more than 15€ anywhere for a meal, specially since Slovak food like Halusky which is not very expensive to make.
Instead of making a detailed walkthough, I will point out the spots you should not miss in this city:
Right now you will be thinking: “Hey, is this the gray looking Bratislava other friends told me about? Because it looks so awesome” but then you will realize that ...“Maybe just the Old Town is beautiful...”
So,Yep, the Old Town is the only nice part of the city, the 70% of the remaining buildings you will see will be Socialist style housing blocks (the front view from the castle illustrates this), specially in the district called Petrazalka (the south part of the city across the Danube). But don't be afraid if you are in some of this districts, most of them are very safe by daylight, and the shock would be mainly due to the fact that is the first time you see such kind of architecture (which in my opinion looks like giant cereal boxes fell into the ground and placed randomly). Also is the first part of Bratislava that you can see by bus when coming from Budapest or Viena, don't be scared, some parts of the city really look ugly, but they are incredibly fun!
For example in Petrazalka there is the AuPark shopping centre and the Bunker Museum (where you can visit a real fortification from the cold war and see real weapons at the same time you learn about the strategic importance of Bratislava just behind the Iron Curtain.
In other districs some important buildings are located, such as the ice hockey stadium, the zoo... The train station and the bus station are as well in a borderland between the Old Town and the rest of the city.
The accomodation prices can be very different depending what you want, you can find good prices for hostels in the typical accomodation webs, a good cheap centric hostel is Hostel Blues and a funny option is Freddie next to Mercury. If you are looking for a affordable private double room in a centric 3* star hotel I can recomend Film Hotel (you should not pay more than 45€ per night). You need to book your place in the Old Town (Stare Mesto) if you don't know the city or don't know any local, if you do, you can try looking for better prices in areas which are far from center, but conected with tram line (so you can reach the Old Town in 10 minutes). I don't recomend booking in Petrazalka if you don't have a car. If you book an apartment, check the sourrondings by Google Maps, some streets doesn't look so nice for a first timer in Bratislava.
Bratislava has also very nice things to see just 30 minutes by public transportation, such as Devin castle, a very beautiful castle in one of the most western parts of the country where you can see two rivers collide (Danube and Morava), as well as cool surroundings which in summer features activities such as archery or medieval costumes, the price for the castle is 4€ (2€ if student) and normal bus lines (such as 28) reach the place. Another good alternative is to visit the nearby Austrian town of Hainburg, which has a cozy downtown and another castle in the top of its hill. You need to take a bus from Most SNP and pay directly to bus driver, price for bus is around 2€ (can be 0,75€ for students), to come back go close to the bus station and locate the stop with the timetables, usually a bus comes every 30 minutes. More daytrips will be added to the big Bratislava guide which is under construction!
Many young people come to this city for its nights, and for the amazing amount of discos that the city has. Most clubs have entrance fee, sometimes even without a drink included, but beer inside most discos is less than 2,5€ for half a litre and cocktails are about 4 €. Usually there is not strict dresscode or face control but in case of a thematic party, it would be good to go according to it (but again, is not necessary, is not as crazy as Moscow or Poland). There are a lot of discos with several styles, from hipster music to D&B going through indie, electro, house or international music. Since most times discos change its atmosphere depending on the day,that's why I will describe them according to the place itself rather than the music.
A classic one is SubClub, located in a soviet nuclear bunker just under the castle, usually features “hard music” such as electro or D&B, but there are days with Indie DJs and more international feeling. There are several discos in the city centre such as Masquerade, which has usually the best DJ mixes but is a little bit pricey and small; Dole is located in a basement (Dole means down in Slovak) and it has pretty cool Indie parties depending on the day; The Club is quite big, and usually you need to pay to go in, but drinks are cheap if there is an international party (every 3 weeks or so) and many students go there. The definitive Erasmus experience will be found in Unique, located just under the Mylny student residence (is 15 minutes from centre), in this big disco there are always crazy parties with affordable drinks and most times with a lot of young international people. An exotic option can be Plt'ka, a disco-boat in the Danube, just 2 minutes from Most SNP. There are many other discos, which I will be writing about in the Erasmus Bratislava Guide, as well as bars and pubs where have a drink before dancing.
Finally, if you are looking for an action-packed day, check Bratislava Shooting Club! A wide variety of real weapons as well as Paintball and Airsoft is waiting you and your friends in the city!
I hope you liked this guide and visit this awesome city soon, it won't dissapoint you!
In this section you will find all you need to become a little expert in the guide place, without expending a lot!