Bratislava in Slovakia is another beautiful European capital set on the spectacular Danube. Despite its constant expansion, there’s an enthralling small-town atmosphere and several things to do in Bratislava. Winding streets, medieval architecture, a castle set on a hill overlooking the city, and a variety of historic buildings make a visit to this city a thoroughly rewarding experience.
Things to do in Bratislava
1. Explore Bratislava Old Town
Bratislava Old Town is quaint, intriguing, and easily walkable. You can expect narrow lanes, classic buildings, numerous stores, a range of restaurants and bars, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, a handful of communist-era concrete buildings. But it all adds to the charm and atmosphere. Find some higher ground on the walk up to the castle. You’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city, the Danube, and the distant plains that surround this bustling town.
Insider tip: To get some context to the sights and attractions in the Old Town, consider a free walking tour from Be Free Tours. They last two hours and will shed some light on this fascinating city.
2. The Blue Church
Officially called the Church of St. Elisabeth, Bratislava’s Blue Church has earned fame with visitors from around the world. It’s an intriguing building that looks like it’s straight off the set of a new Smurfs movie, and it’s well worth a look if you’re in the area. It’s not always open to the public, but on most days you can poke your head inside to get a view of its cake-like interior.
Insider tip: Most of Bratislava’s free walking tours will include this on the itinerary.
3. Devin Castle
Devin Castle is just a few miles outside of Bratislava, though it feels like you’re venturing back into another era altogether. A short bus ride from the city center will take you to the peaceful surrounds of this strategically located castle. It’s perfectly positioned at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers. It’s absorbing to spend a few minutes standing atop the old castle walls watching the steady Danube flowing from Vienna towards another famous European capital, Budapest.
Insider tip: Skip the overpriced package tours and do this one alone – the buses are easy to catch from the main bus terminal beneath the bridge and shouldn’t cost more than a few euros.
As far as cheesy photo opportunities go, this one is right up there. Cumil is an interesting statue of a man popping out from the streets of Bratislava. While it’s not much more than that, it’s worth a visit and a quick pose.
Insider tip: Most walking tours will stop here for a visit, but if you want a photograph without waiting for a few dozen tourists, try to visit in the evening or early morning.
5. Bratislava Castle
The Bratislava Castle sits high above the Danube and dominates the skyline in the southwest of the city. While the castle dates back to the around the mid 13th century, it has seen multiple renovations and expansions over the years. Today it mainly houses administrative buildings and its interiors are generally off limits to visitors, but there’s a museum that details Slovakia through the ages, and the views from all corners of the estate are well worth the effort you’ll exert getting there.
Insider tip: Access to the castle grounds is free, but they are only open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
6. UFO Observation Deck
In many ways Bratislava is a city of contradictions, especially on the architectural front. And in no place is this more apparent than at the UFO-styled observation deck that hovers above the Danube. You can venture to the top for a cold beer or simply to observe the stunning panoramic views, and it’s equally enthralling from ground level as it is from the top.
Insider tip: Entrance to the observation deck is approximately €7. Be sure to go on a clear sunny day for the best views.
Many people laud the Slovakian capital for its proximity to the stunning natural scenery that surrounds the city. But there’s also a lot of things to do in Bratislava. A few days here will provide context to another charming city set on the famous Danube. The knowledge that ski runs, vineyards, hikes, and bike trails are only a short distance away may keep you coming back here more than once over the course of a Slovakian rail journey.
The area around Bled is criss-crossed with raging rivers and rapids thanks to its mountainous terrain. One of the most quintessential experience in Bled is a whitewater rafting trip through Class II-III rapids on the two major rivers that flow through Slovenia: Sava Dolinka and Sava Bohinjka. The local hydroelectric plant controls the water level. Tour operators have an agreement with the plant to allow for rafting trips during certain hours of the day. The conditions are therefore generally easy and fun for rafters of all levels and age. Fun Turist has led rafters as young as four years old to eighty years old on these rafting trips.
How to: The three-hour rafting trip costs 30 euros per person. It includes transfers from Bled town to the launch point in Camp Šobec, one of the biggest campsites in Bled.
Kayaking on Lake Bled
The centerpiece of Bled is obviously the shimmering Lake Bled that has put the town on the world map. Formed by glacial and tectonic activities, the lake is a massive body of water. It’s large enough to make exploration on kayak fun and adventurous yet small enough for a day trip on the water. You can paddle around the beaches that dot the shore of the lake, or go to the beautiful Bled Island that rises from the middle of the lake. Zaka Valley on the western edge of the lake is also a great spot to stop for a swim.
How to: There are many kayaking rental shops in Bled town and along the shoreline. Kayak rental costs around 20 euros per hour.
Zorbing is the sport of rolling down a hill inside an orb. This orb is a giant inflatable ball cushioned by a thick layer of air. Originally invented in New Zealand, this wacky sport is also known as globe-riding, sphereing, or orbing. It has been creating waves all around the wave in the past decade. Roll off a hill with your arms and legs strapped to the orb’s inner wall, or frolick around in a zorb that floats on water. Prepare to get dizzy!
How to: The land zorbing experience costs 18 euros for each run (around 10 seconds to roll off a hill). Water zorbing costs 5 euros for 10 minutes. Both activities are held in and around Camp Šobec, one of the biggest campsites in Bled.
Regardless of the time of the year you’re visiting, Bled is an excellent spot for hikers. It’s riddled with signposted and numbered trails. One of the most popular routes is number 6. It starts from the southwest corner of Lake Bled and goes all the way to Velika Osojnic’s 756-meter high summit. Once you reach the peak, you’ll be treated to a view of the lake from above, including the Bled Island and castle. Sunset is the best place to come here. The first stretch of the climb is steep, but the entire hike takes only 3 hours or so round-trip.
How to: You can follow the trails on your own. You can also sign up for guided hikes.