When you’re planning to spend 24 hours in Bratislava, it’s a little different from spending 24 hours in a city like Paris or London. Aside from Bratislava Castle, which we visited in our last 24 hours in Bratislava, there aren’t major attractions that take several hours to visit. Instead, Bratislava is the perfect Eastern European city for wandering and exploration!
We’re going to spend the morning with a little guided walking tour with a local. Then we’ll take the afternoon and explore on our own, finding some hidden gems. Finally we’ll finish the evening with as much delicious beer as our tummies and brains can handle! Sound good? I hope so! I had to drink a lot of Slovakian beer to bring you this 24 hours in Bratislava!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Bratislava.
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24 Hours in Bratislava
Where to Stay?
Bratislava isn’t a huge city, but you’re still going to want to stay near the Old Town and Bratislava Castle. You don’t want to waste any of your precious travel time commuting! I recommend the Art Hostel Taurus for your trip to Bratislava. It’s incredibly convenient and affordable. (I seriously thought the price for a private room with a private bath was a joke, but it wasn’t.)
The rooms are clean and comfortable, and a light breakfast is included. It’s got everything a solo traveler could want, but I also met families who were staying at the hotel and they were having a great time as well. But Art Hostel Taurus is very popular with budget travelers, so the rooms tend to book up fast. Don’t miss out!
24 Hours in Bratislava
Morning: Old Town Discovery Tour
Bratislava’s Old Town isn’t as famous as the old towns of some other cities like Krakow or Prague. But it definitely deserves to be better known! It has lovely historical buildings and churches, strange lessons, lovely local bites and drinks, and best of all, ALMOST NO CROWDS! I’m torn because I think more people should visit Bratislava, but at the same time I don’t want more people to visit Bratislava because then it will be overrun with tourists.
I like to take a walking tour with a local when I arrive in a city. It’s the best way to orient yourself, find some hidden secrets, and meet a new “friend” who can give you advice. For a solo traveler, this is especially important. That’s why I booked the Urban Adventures Old Town Discovery Tour. My guide Klaudia did an excellent job introducing me to the beauties of Bratislava’s Old Town. I don’t want to give away all her secrets, but I’m happy to share…
approximately top 5: bratislava old town
1) blue church
The Blue Church is one of the most famous landmarks in Bratislava. Every time I met someone who had been to Bratislava, they would tell me I had to see the Blue Church. (As you can see from my photo, it is quite blue. Probably the Smurfs would like going to church here.) You probably can’t go inside because it’s usually not open, but there’s certainly more than enough to see on the exterior.
The style is unusual for several reasons. First of all, the church is art nouveau, and I had never to my knowledge seen an art nouveau church before. Most churches I see are too old to be art nouveau, which is a style from the early 20th century. (If you’re having trouble remembering what art nouveau is, think flowery and curvy like the Paris metro signs. The style was a rebellion against the ugliness and mechanization of modern urban life. Damn the man! And the machine!)
Klaudia said that technically the style was Hungarian Secessionist, and I was confused because I’m American and to be secession is something Confederates do. I didn’t realize that Hungary took a side during the American Civil War. But apparently Hungarian Secessionist is just another term for the art nouveau movement in Hungary. That seems unnecessarily confusing to me, but maybe this is why I’m not a Hungarian architect.
Bratislava doesn’t only have art nouveau churches. It also has art nouveau schools. This school is called Gamca, and it’s an old and prestigious school. Bela Bartok, the famous composer went here, but when the school was located in a different building. I marveled at the fact that students in Slovakia get to go to class in such a pretty building. My school was so ugly, its nickname was literally the Brick Prison.
The sight of the school was a good occasion to learn about the history of the Slovak language. Slovakia has only been an independent country since the early 1990s, and Slovak was not always taught in schools. When Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, German was an official language of the country. Even the street where the school is located is called Grösslingova, which comes from the German word for a type of fish.
I enjoyed the plaques near the school showing quotes from famous writers like Shakespeare and Czech-French writer Milan Kundera. But I didn’t find any quotes from Slovak writers! We should all learn Slovak, which is similar to Czech but a different language, just so there will be more quotes in the Slovak language to choose from!
3) slovak beer!
It was breakfast time in our 24 hours in Bratislava, and you know what that means! We need a beer! Klaudia took me to a local bar, where we got to try a Slovak beer. Klaudia said that most beer in Bratislava is Czech, not Slovak, because the Czechs are so famous for their beer. So it’s a real treat to get a Slovak beer. Be sure to seek one out when you spend 24 hours in Bratislava!
While we drank our beer, Klaudia entertained me with tales about the neighborhood. My favorite stories were about this jolly looking metal fellow, Julius Satinsky. He was a Slovak satirist who was actually banned from performing in Slovakia at certain points during the Communist period. But his heart was always in Bratislava, especially his community.
At the base of his statue is a quote reading “On our street is freedom”. And he was a fellow who really knew something about the struggle for freedom. Freedom from humorlessness is definitely one of the most important freedoms, in my opinion.
4) slovak national theater
I almost don’t need any story or history to appreciate this building. It’s very pretty, and we don’t need a reason to appreciate and enjoy beautiful things. But let me give you some history anyway. This theater was designed by a duo of Austrian architects named Fellner and Helmer. They designed over 200 theaters in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the gorgeous opera theater in Odessa.
That’s a completely insane level of productivity! If Fellner and Helmer were alive today, they could make a fortune consulting about how to Get Things Done. In fact, I don’t know why Netflix hasn’t made a series about them. It could last for over 200 episodes. And Fellner and Helmer is already a great name for a TV series because it’s so fun to say.
As productive as Fellner and Helmer were, they were not responsible for the notable Ganymede Fountain outside the National Theater. This was the creation of Bratislavan artist V. Tilgner. At this point in my 24 hours in Bratislava, I get very excited when a Slovak is famous for something. The Austrians, Hungarians, and Czechs don’t get to have everything, as my grandmother always used to say.
5) oldest store in slovakia
At this point in the tour it was time for a snack break! This snack break was an extra treat because we had it in the oldest store in Bratislava. The store even has a little museum inside dedicated to vintage cash registers and advertising. So it’s a store and a Store Museum all in one!
During our last 24 hours in Bratislava, I mentioned that poppy seeds are a popular ingredient in Slovak desserts. So here you get to try these adorable horseshoe shaped pastries filled with poppy seeds. These pastries are special because they are called Bratislava rolls. As you can tell from the name, they are the Must Eat Snack in Slovakia’s capital.
And as everyone knows, you can’t eat a poppy seed pastry without wine! The wine here was a very light, sweet, and drinkable currant wine called ribezlak. So even if you’re not a big wine drinker, I think you’ll enjoy it.
6) bratislava town hall
We’re going to end this part of our 24 hours in Bratislava with a trip to one of the other major landmarks of Bratislava Old Town, the Old Town Hall. (I’m gonna take my horse to the old town hall/I’m gonna ride ’til I can speak Slovak.) The Old Town Hall is a two-in-one attraction. You can visit the Bratislava City Museum, and then you can head to the Old Town Tower and get lovely views of Bratislava.
One fun fact I learned in the museum is that Bratislava is sometimes known by its German name, Pressburg. Some of the older maps in the museum are labeled Pressburg and the word Bratislava isn’t mentioned at all.
Also, arguably the coolest artifact in the Bratislava City Museum wasn’t put there on purpose. It’s a cannonball left in the wall of the tower by Napoleon when he attacked the city. (I never knew that Napoleon attacked Bratislava, but is there a city in Europe he didn’t attack?) Anyway, I think these two anecdotes once again show a lack of respect for the dignity of Bratislava.
24 Hours in Bratislava
Afternoon: Slovak Art
So I’ve been complaining throughout this entire post that people don’t appreciate Slovakia and its individuality enough. We’re going to correct that during the afternoon of our 24 hours in Bratislava by visiting two of the best art museums in Bratislava and getting to know the biggest names in Slovak art.
Even if you’re not an art fan, I think my fun facts will entertain and amuse you. One of my goals is to help everyone see that they don’t need to go to art school to enjoy themselves at an art museum.
But first, lunch!
24 hour treat: funki punki
Funki Punki was one of my favorite restaurants in Bratislava, and I’m not just saying that because it was so near the Art Hostel Taurus and I’m a very lazy person. Funki Punki specializes in light-as-air crepes (they even have gluten-free) and never using the letter “y”. One crepe isn’t going to be enough for lunch, so I suggest getting two, one sweet and one savory.
I chose the eggplant and hummus because it sounded healthy, and then because too much health is bad, I ordered the Elvis crepe filled with peanut butter, banana, and bacon, just like the King’s favorite sandwich. This was an excellent combination, and not just because I believe the vitamins in the eggplant cancel out the calories in the bacon.
If you want a truly local drink and are sick of beer, order a Kofola. It started in communist Czechoslovakia because you couldn’t get Western Coca-Cola or Pepsi back then. But even after the Czech Republic and Slovakia opened up to the west, Kofola stayed popular. It has less sugar and more caffeine than American soft drinks, so win-win.
And now that our bellies are full, let’s fill our brains with…
three fun facts: slovak art
1) what’s the major art museum in bratislava?
I gather that it’s the Slovak National Gallery. This isn’t a giant museum like the Met or the Louvre. You won’t spend more than two hours here, maybe less. But it’s still a great place to get an introduction to Slovak art. And if you’re anything like me, all you’ll know about Slovak art before visiting is:
The exhibits at the Slovak National Gallery change on the regs, so I can’t guarantee what you’ll see when you visit. When I was there, they had an exhibit on the Slovak artist Jan Berger. I was surprised to read that he is considered an academic artist. Most “academic artists” I think of paint very realistic animals or naked people from Greek mythology. But maybe that’s just because I’ve never been to Slovakia before.
One of the first things you can notice when you examine a work of art is how the artist divides the canvas. Here Berger splits the painting into three different screens. It almost looks like what a security officer sees when he is looking into several cameras at once. Perhaps this painting is a commentary about how we are all constantly under surveillance now. Or not! But I doubt Mr. Berger reads this blog, so he’s not going to give me an argument.
2) other famous slovak artists?
Would you settle for a team: one Czech and one Slovak? Then meet Ľudovít Fulla, the Slovak, and Emil Filla the Czech. When they were painting, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were still one country, so they were both Czechoslovakian artists.
Fulla and Filla didn’t actually paint as a team. In fact, Filla was 20 years older than Fulla. But they were two of the most influential Czechoslovakian avant-garde artists of the 20th century, so they are shown together. Also their names are amazingly fun to say together. (Filla and Fulla! Filla and Fulla! This would also make a good Netflix show.)
Of course their works were criticized by the prevailing Communist party because they painted in a modern, decadent style and not Social Realism. Look at those Cubist-esque works by Filla and Fulla in my photo above. If they were done in the Social Realist style, they’d just be realistic paintings of brawny young men working in a factory with no cubes at all. Sometimes I think the Communists just didn’t want anyone to have fun.
Fulla is actually buried in Bratislava, and his tomb is run by the Slovak National Gallery. Fulla designed parts of his tomb himself, which is pretty hardcore. In America we like to think we’re never going to die, so it’s hard to imagine an American artist designing his own tomb.
3) any hipper, cooler art galleries?
First of all, I don’t recommend using the words hip and cool if you want to sound hip and cool, Internet Stranger! But you might enjoy the Nedbalka, which is the Slovak Modern Art Gallery. They exhibit the best Slovak artists from the 19th century up until the present day. The art works are displayed in chronological order, which helps you understand the development of Slovak art.
As in many other smaller European countries that gained their independence during the 20th century, Slovak art started as fairly nationalist and realist. Most of the paintings are of beautiful Slovak landscapes and people.
Then, as the 20th century started to get more and more extremely terrible, paintings grew darker and more abstract. Also maybe this painting above is a realistic painting of a party in Bratislava. No one’s ever invited me to one, so I wouldn’t know.
Some of the paintings are clearly inspired by more famous European artists like Picasso.
Even surrealism came to Slovakia. At least, I hope that this is surrealism and not a realistic painting of a poor, faceless lady.
24 Hours in Bratislava
Evening: Bratislava by Beer
I don’t usually suggest having two tours in one day. But evening food and drink tours don’t really count as a tour for me. They’re more of a replacement for dining out at a restaurant. And what is going to be more fun, especially for a solo traveler, bar-hopping in Bratislava alone or bar-hopping with a fun local like Klaudia?
During the Bratislava by Beer tour with Urban Adventures, we got to visit four different bars and try four different beers, one shot of vodka, and some tasty local snacks. Except for the starting pub, the tour might be a little different depending on your guide because the guides are free to switch the bars up. So your itinerary might be different than mine. Also, I can’t share any of my snacks with you, but I can share…
three fun facts: bratislava beer
1) so what is slovak beer?
Glad you asked! As Klaudia had said earlier that day, most Slovaks still drink Czech beer. It’s more famous after all. But Slovakia is starting to produce its own beer more and more. The meeting point of the tour is at a local brewpub called Bratislavsky Mestiansky pivovar. So we actually get to drink the lager at the place where they make it. Doesn’t get any fresher than that.
As in the Czech Republic, Slovaks sometimes pair their beer with a spicy cheese dip and bread. This is clever because the carbs in the bread help soak up all the beer. It’s also clever on the brewpub’s part because the salt in the cheese and the spice in the pepper makes you want to eat more! Be sure to eat up because it’s the only snack included on the tour. However, you are free to order food on your own at some of the later restaurant.
2) what about a real sketch dive bar, huh?
OK, you obviously have hidden depths I was unaware of, Internet Stranger! Yes, a dive bar is definitely included on this tour. If you want to order food on your own, please don’t do it here. Klaudia took me to a dive bar that was literally kind of underground and smelled like a giant ashtray. We were the only women inside, but we didn’t get hassled at all. Or maybe guys were whispering about us in Slovak. I certainly wouldn’t know!
Klaudia said most of the clientele here is students or guys who have graduated but think they’re still students. Overgrown frat boys! We definitely have those in America. How nice that they have them in Slovakia too! So to drink like an overgrown Slovak frat boy, you need to do a shot of vodka, and then have a beer chaser. Do it and make the Delta Tau Chis proud! Na zdravie!
3) what was the coolest looking bar?
That had to be the third bar we visited, which was an actual boat on the Danube River. It is called Lod Cafe, which just means Boat Cafe in Slovak. I feel like we could get a little more creative than that, Slovakia!
I inexplicably forgot to take a picture of the boat cafe from the outside, but I did not forget to take lots of photos of what the Danube looks like at sunset. You’ll definitely want to hang in this bar until the sun starts to dip, so you can photograph the memories. I’m sure Klaudia will hold your seat for you. I feel this view alone should be enough to convince you to spend 24 hours in Bratislava. And if the view alone isn’t enough, how about this view + 4 beers? Yeah, that’s the ticket!
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Bratislava!
What would you do with 24 hours in Bratislava? Should more people visit Bratislava or should we keep it to ourselves? And what nicknames do Slovak frat boys give each other? Please leave your thoughts below!