Bratislava: The Most Underrated City in Europe

Selfie in front of Bratislava Castle

Bratislava is probably the most underrated city in Europe. Part of that reason is that the movies Hostel & Eurotrip based on Bratislava portrays the city in a negative light. The ironic thing is that these movies were not filmed here; they were actually shot in the Czech Republic & Germany. Unfortunately, Bratislava lost 75% portion of their tourism after these films were released with the villainous portrayal of the city and its inhabitants stuck in the 1950s. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Bratislava is a welcoming city that cates to the few tourists that do make the trip out to their beautiful city. Here is my list of places to visit in Bratislava the most underrated city in Europe.

Where to Stay

Hostel BluesIf you are looking for an inexpensive stay, check out Hostel Blues. The outside gives you an impression of being run down, but the inside is a comfortable hostel that has nice size rooms and a cozy common room where you can hang out. We had someone pick up the guitar and start playing when we stopped in the common room, and we were entertained for a while with some really great music. On our first night in Bratislava, my friend, Rebecca (travel blogger from Rayner En Route), and I had a room to ourselves. It felt like our own little apartment with beautiful views of the city.Hostel Blues Common RoomHostel Blues Dorm RoomView of Bratislava from Hostel Blues

Walking Tour

Walking Tour GuideThe city walking guided tour we went on was very enlightening for the most underrated city in Europe. We visited most of the sites within the old town and learned so much history that we weren’t expecting to hear. So much so, that we had to go back and visit some of the places, we saw on the tour to explore further. One of the impressive buildings to visit is the Primate’s Palace. This pink palace was the home of the Archbishop and eventually was sold to the city of Bratislava. The fascinating tale of this building is that after the town bought it from the church, they found six priceless English tapestries from the 1630s hidden in the walls. They are now on display here.

Another impressive building is the Old Town Hall. From the Hlavné námestie (town square), you can see all the different architectural styles that were used when they added to the building. It is the oldest city hall in the country, and it is one of the oldest stone buildings still standing in Bratislava, with the tower being built approximately in 1370. Plus, it houses the oldest Bratislava museum founded in 1868.

Primate's PalaceOld Town HallHlavné námestieSt Michael's Gate

City Museum in the Old Town Hall

View from the observation deck in the City Museum

If you are trying to decide on which museums to visit in Bratislava, the one you must visit is the City Museum in the Old Town Hall. This museum showcases the history of Bratislava from the middle ages to the 20th century. You can even climb a narrow staircase to the observation deck on the tower for some amazing views of Bratislava.

Also with your free admission if you used the Bratislava Card, you can see The Barbarity of Torture exhibit in the basement. Rebecca and I freaked ourselves out a bit down there. It was pretty funny when we were looking at old, cold and drafty prison cells. We both got the heebee jeebees and ran out of that area so fast. We couldn’t stop laughing at how scared we made ourselves. This was definitely one of the highlights of our visit to Bratislava.

Museum of Viticulture and Period Rooms Museum

Museum of Viticulture

We happened upon this museum by accident while looking for the City Museum. But, since admission is free with the Bratislava Card, we decided to take a look around. It was a little awkward being the only ones in the museum and being watched by the museum staff to make sure we didn’t touch anything. But, we managed to enjoy ourselves anyway. The Museum of Viticulture is all about the winemaking in the Bratislava region. This area is a bit small, but if you head upstairs, you can see the Period Rooms Museum. The rooms were nicely laid out with plenty of photo opportunities of vintage objects. All in all a nice museum to go through if you are short on time. It only took us less than an hour to go through the entire two museums.

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle

The one stop you have to see when visiting Bratislava is Bratislava Castle. For being the most underrated city in Europe, it does have an impressive castle even though it looks like an upside-down table. We spent about four hours exploring all the floors in the castle that are open to the public. We probably could have spent more time there, but we had to meet our walking tour after lunch. The one thing I noticed is that the castle rooms were devoid of furniture. We found out on the walking tour the reason why. The castle was destroyed by a fire in 1811 from some soldiers carelessness. The castle has been reconstructed since, but the furnishings from that time are now showcased in the Albertina Museum in Vienna.

We had so much fun taking photographs in the mirrors and posing on the staircases. This castle has so many places to take Instagram worthy photos, and we made sure we took them all. We even climbed the numerous staircases up the Crown Tower to get some amazing views of the most underrated city in Europe and its neighbors Austria and Hungary.

Statues Around Town

Heather with Cumil

The Bratislava statues are somewhat of the cultural icons for the town. Most cities have statues of famous military or political figureheads, but this most underrated city in Europe uses statues of everyday people encouraging you to interact with them. The trick for visitors is to find them. Most of them you can just happen upon them while walking around the city. The others you might have to hunt for them which is what we did. I was determined to find a couple of them, and I found two of the three I was searching for. The one I couldn’t find is one of Napoleon’s soldier leaning on the back of a bench. It was supposed to be in the town square. Unfortunately, it wasn’t out when we were visiting.

The statue above is Cumil, a worker coming out of a manhole cover. Supposedly if you touch the head of Cumil, your wish will come true as long as you keep it a secret forever. The one below is Schöner Naci. He is the only silver statue within the city while the rest are bronze. This is also the only statue based on a real person. The legend says that  Ignác Lamár, nicknamed Schöner Náci, who became famous due to his habit of walking through the streets of the city in an elegant suit and top hat. He bowed in front of the ladies and gave them flowers or sang. There are plenty of other statues around the town for you to find and interact with. Go ahead and be creative, Bratislava loves that!

  1. Čumil the Peeper by Viktor Hulík, 1997.
  2. Schöner Náci by Juraj Meliš, 1997.
  3. Napoleon’s Soldier by Juraj Meliš, 1997.

Heather with Schone Naci

Rebecca offering her phone to a Bratislava statue

Bratislava Food/Restaurants

Slovak Pub

Slovak PubBratislava has some amazing local delicious dishes for you to try when you visit. One of the best places and the most unique restaurant is the Slovak Pub. There are over eight different rooms for you to choose to sit in all with different themes. The local meal you must try is Bryndzové halušky, which is potato dumplings with sheep cheese and roasted bacon. Yum! You also get a 10% discount with the Bratislava Card.

Bratislava Flagship Restaurant

Bratislava Flagship RestaurantAnother great place for dinner is the Bratislava Flagship Restaurant. It is very large and has just as large of a menu for you to choose from. It boasts it is the largest restaurant in Europe. You also get a 15% discount with the Bratislava Card.

Prašná bašta

Prašná Bašta restaurantFor those looking for a more romantic or less crowded option, try Prašná bašta. This restaurant is tucked away and a little difficult to find, but well worth the effort. 

Urban House and Mondieu Laboratoire

Urban House restaurantMondieu LaboratoireBreakfast choices are plentiful in Bratislava, but my favorites are Urban House and Mondieu. Both had great American style breakfasts if that is what you are looking for. I had pancakes at one and French Toast at the other. They were both delicious. 

 

Bon Manufaktur 

Bon candy storeThe last isn’t a restaurant, but I found this place fascinating. Plus, with me having a big sweet tooth I was in heaven. Bon Manufaktur is where they make natural hard candy in Bratislava. I was mesmerized by the process from taking the gooey and pliable candy to chopping it into little hard pieces. As their slogan says, Bon Manufaktur is the only manufactory in Slovakia which turns sugar into art.

Shopping

As we were exploring each street in the old town we had fun peeking in the shops and looking at all the Bratislava souvenir options. One of the stores we saw earlier on our walking tour actually had a Trade Museum inside the store that has old cash registers on display. We went back to explore deeper. They also sold the traditional Bratislava Rolls. You need to make sure you know what flavor you want by the shape of the roll. Poppy-flavored rolls are shaped like horseshoes and nut-flavored like the letter C.Oldest Shop in BratislavaBratislava Rolls

Museum of Trade

Bratislava Churches

As one of the most underrated city in Europe, Bratislava has some beautiful churches to photograph. I love traveling to Europe and visiting old churches. There is so much history in these old churches and the architecture and creativeness to construct them is impressive. Here are some of my favorites from Bratislava.

Blue Church

Blue Church

One of my favorites is the Blue Church, aptly named for its striking blue color. The trick here to get a good photograph of the Blue Church is to be patient. This is probably one of the most photographed churches in Bratislava so, there is constant traffic around it. We tried one day at dusk, and it was way too crowded with pedestrians and other photographers that we decided to come back. The next morning we went first thing and found the area to be empty.Front view of Blue Church

Inside the Blue Church

St. Martins Cathedral

Side view of St. Martins Cathedral

St. Martins Cathedral is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. It is known for being the coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1563 and 1830. One of the most impressive rulers crowned here was Maria Theresa, who was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. Another interesting fact about the church is that it was actually built into the fortification of the city’s walls.St. Martins Cathedral

Franciscan Church

Entrance to Franciscan Church

The Franciscan Church has a great history. It is the oldest existing religious building in the Old Town of Bratislava. The church was consecrated in the year 1297 in the presence of King Andrew III of Hungary. Part of its famous history is that during coronations, kings used to knight nobles as Knights of the Order of the Golden Spur in this church. The bell tower also has its own history. It would ring twice a day. The interesting thing is that the time it rang was not what you would think (not for church services). It would actually ring when the town could start selling beer and when they had to stop selling beer (last call before taverns closed). Hence, the nickname Beer Tower.

Franciscan ChurchInside the Franciscan Church

Jesuit Church

Jesuit Church

The Jesuit Church is another Bratislava church with a lot of history. The church was built from 1636 to 1638 as a place of worship for the protestants. By the King’s decree the church could not resemble a Roman-Catholic house of worship in any way; so it was built without a spire, presbytery and lacking entrance from the main street. There is definitely a lack of churchness when looking at it from the outside. But, the beautiful inside is very familiar.

Inside the Jesuit Church

Devín Castle

Heather at Devín Castle

The Devín Castle ruins are at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers on a cliff overlooking Austria and Hungary. Devín is one of the oldest castles in Slovakia and is a great half day trip out of Bratislava. Napoleon’s army destroyed the castle in 1809, but parts of the castle were reconstructed in the 20th century. If you have the Bratislava Card, there is free public transportation on the buses that will take you right out to the town of Devín. The bus will drop you off, and all you have to do is follow the signs to the castle and then return to get picked back up. It happened to be cold and windy on the top of the cliff, but that didn’t stop us from taking selfies and exploring all the nooks and crannies left in the ruins. 

Bratislava: Is Not The Most Underrated City in Europe 

I hope that my sharing what I did while I was in Bratislava for two days shows you that Bratislava is not the most underrated City in Europe. That it is actually worth a trip in itself. There is so much to do and we didn’t even make a dent in all that the city has to offer. So, next time when someone mentions their plans to visit Bratislava, give them encouragement and maybe tag along. You won’t be disappointed

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Further Reading

If you would like to see more of my nomad travels, check out my post on my first month of traveling full time: One Month of Nomad Travel 

Thank You to the Bratislava Tourist Board for offering me the Bratislava Card that gave me free entrance to museums, free public transportation, a free city walking tour, and the discounts to the restaurants. As always opinions are 100% my own.

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