Bratislava, the underrated getaway city for students

7 mins read

Unlike cities in neighbouring countries, Bratislava rarely tops the destination list for a getaway. Despite sitting in the heart of Europe, Slovakia’s capital is often overlooked, with students preferring the better-known Prague, Vienna, or Budapest.

But the city is an underrated gem, with plenty to see and do, and a delightful charm which will leave you dreaming to go back.

Bratislava is situated in the far west of Slovakia. It straddles the Austrian and Hungarian borders, serving as a perfect gateway into Eastern Europe.

Whilst much smaller than its neighbouring capitals, Bratislava still gives you more than enough for a delightful getaway holiday.

bratislava modry kostol blue church
Modrý Kostol (Blue Church) in Bratislava’s Old Town. Image Credit: Ross Collie

The Old Town

A visit in the summer offers a city bursting with culture on Hviezdoslavovo námestie, with musical and dance performances. Enjoy the festivities with one of Luculus’ ice creams; a mango and lavender combination made for a pleasant surprise.

The city’s lively Old Town, filled with wonderful pavement cafés, is a perfect area to spend a whole day in. With a Mondieu café on nearly every corner, it’s not hard to find a relaxing spot to watch the city life go by.

Inevitably, you will stumble across a hidden treasure. On one seemingly ordinary street is Naštartované retro (also known as Škodovka), a cosy café to transport you back to the Czechoslovak era (or so it felt).

Strolling the cobbled streets, it is hard to avoid Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad) towering over the Old Town, staring down the small alleys.

The castle, standing on a hill overlooking the Danube, provides a stunning view of the city. In the distance, Austria’s plentiful wind turbines sit on the horizon.

Descending the hill back into the centre, there’s still more than enough to see. Bratislava’s Old Town is a gift of architecture, including the baroque Michael’s Gate. There’s also the art nouveau Modrý Kostol (Blue Church).

Looking for nightlife? Look no further, as the Old Town turns into a bustling party once the evening hits. There’s no shortage of options for bars to try a full-flavoured Slovak beer or a fancy cocktail.

bratislava most snp ufo bridge
A view of Most SNP (commonly known as UFO Bridge) from Bratislava Castle. Image Credit: Ross Collie

The City

Outside of Bratislava’s centre lies even more to explore. At the top of many lists to see is Devín Castle, the ruins of which are perched on the hill overlooking the quiet Devín area of Bratislava.

From atop the castle, you get a peaceful panoramic view of the Danube and Morava rivers meeting, with the Austrian border lying beneath you.

Also in the park is a powerful monument commemorating those who tried to escape through the Iron Curtain. For those interested in cycling or walking further, a cycle path takes you along the Morava river.

Once back in the city, it is worth taking a stroll across Most SNP (Commonly known as UFO Bridge, an attraction itself) towards Sad Janka Kráľa for a peaceful walk in the park, or along the Danube.

Once you’re done, the large shopping centre Aupark is nearby, with plenty of food options. If you don’t fancy heading back into the city centre just yet, it’s a good place to try Bratislava’s range of lemonades. They’re all the rage.

Also dotted around the city are more examples of Bratislava’s varied architecture. This ranges from the strikingly socialist Slovak Radio building, to the modern Nivy Centrum, and even the quirky Hotel Galeria.

bratislava hlavne namestie
Hlavné námestie (Main Square) in Bratislava at Christmas time. Image Credit: Ross Collie

In Bratislava

Bratislava, unlike many other cities in Europe, is not overwhelmed with tourist groups in the streets. It has kept a nonchalant atmosphere, part of the city’s appeal and perfect for a getaway holiday.

The city is remarkably easy to travel around, with many attractions within walking distance of each other. Failing that, public buses and trams are reliable and frequent.

Slovakia’s capital is also very safe and the people are friendly. They will appreciate you trying to speak Slovak, but are usually able to speak English if you are struggling.

A stay in Bratislava, unlike other nearby cities, will not break the bank either. Many of the food options and experiences are very reasonably priced, especially for the high quality.

It is a fantastic city to visit all year round. The summer offers a culturally vibrant yet serene escape, with a party on offer if you want it.

The winter offers a romantic and no less tranquil experience. Beware that Slovakia can be cold in the winter, so wrap up warm. It’s also nothing a hot punch with Tatra Tea (a Slovak herbal liqueur, which is worth a try) won’t fix. Also, a party remains on offer.

If you are staying in the area for a longer period, other cities are easily accessible by transport. You can travel further into Slovakia by train, or bus from Nivy Centrum to nearby Vienna or Budapest for a day trip.

But I recommend you make Bratislava the centrepiece of your holiday. It’s about time the city gets the recognition it deserves.

Featured Image Credit: Ross Collie

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News Editor 2023/24 at Brig Newspaper. Former Chief Sub-Editor 2022/23.
MSc International Journalism student at the University of Stirling.

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