Bratislava, Slovakia. A country filled with all the charming traits a tourist could want from a budget Eastern European winter city break destination. Christmas markets, mouthwatering snacks, cheap beers and sights to see. I’d seen Krakow, Poland at the same time the previous Winter and hoped for the same magically chilly experience. This is why you should visit Bratislava this winter.
CHOOSING TO VISIT BRATISLAVA – WHY VISIT BRATISLAVA?
Typically, (and to be expected) our taxi driver charged us double the average going rate for tourists from what the internet told us we should be paying. Sometimes in travel you just have to take the hit and this was definitely one of those times
There’s something about the ease of travel and way of life that attracts me to Eastern Europe in the winter. I’m a beach girl and I love the warm but I find nothing more attractive than the idea of a weekend away in a winter wonderland.
|The view from the walls of the castle – The River Danube|
Top tip: Arrange your flights to arrive during the airport bus times to save on taxis
ABOUT BRATISLAVA SLOVAKIA – AND IT’S ACCESSIBLE NEIGHBOURS
Bratislava was everything I expected from an Eastern European capital with extra charm and added travel opportunities. From Bratislava it’s very easy to visit the neighbouring countries Hungary and Austria. Both Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria are popular destinations to visit from Bratislava and each take under 3 hours with tickets costing the same as a meal in MacDonald’s,
I’ve mentioned it previously but I love a trip within a trip. It adds so much more excitement and adventure to a weekend away and I often plan destinations that have accessible routes to other key European cities. If this is something you are interested in then accessibility of neighbouring countries is why you should visit Bratislava.
Bratislava is a small capital, quieter and less talked about than its European neighbours. Although the biggest city in Slovakia, Bratislava never leaves you feeling lost and dizzy because of its size and unlike many other European capitals getting around on foot is the best way to see the city. Although, cab rides do come in handy when the temperature drops below freezing.
|From the castle – Featuring a Slovakian flag|
Top tip: Take enough layers to wrap up – Winter in Slovakia is cold, Bratislava is no exception
A WINTER CITY BREAK TO BRATISLAVA
In November the days are cold and the nights are colder. Its recommended to pack extra layers as snowfall isn’t uncommon throughout November – March. The average temperature for November is 4 degrees centigrade with December and January usually falling below 0.
The food in Bratislava is cheap and the drinks are cheaper especially local beers which can be purchased for around a Euro. These are two key reasons Bratislava is definitely always top of my budget city break recommendation list. Situated on the banks of the River Danube and overlooked by the Castle of Bratislava, Bratislava is a picture. Everything you can see is medieval and Gothic in style, only occasionally do you stumble upon more modern architecture. It’s not hard to miss the large UFO bridge across the Danube. We never managed to visit the restaurant but I’ve heard the views are a must.
|Wrapped up warm for winter in Eastern Europe|
|Medieval and gothic architecture in the city of Bratislava, Slovakia|
BEING A TOURIST IN BRATISLAVA OLD TOWN
The main tourist streets in the historic centre of Bratislava Old Town are always filled with life, day and night mix together and the bars and restaurants are always filled with people trying to escape the icy chill of winter in Bratislava. Beer and good times can be found in the many bars of Bratislava, locals and tourists alike huddling around wooden tables and TV screens with music playing and sometimes even smoke in the air.
Eyes peeled for the Cuban bar, which happened to be the first bar on our Bratislava bar crawl and one of the most memorable. Love Havana Club Rum? This ones for you.
I never quite came to terms with the smoking laws in Bratislava, some bars allowed smoking, some had smoking rooms and some were strictly no smoking. It reminds me of something similar I experienced in Zagreb. You can read about my views on that here.
When exploring the city take a walk up to Bratislava Castle where you’ll find some of the best views of the city, river and UFO bridge. The walk is steep but worth it. You can also walk the fortified walls of the city, which also offer some great views and photo opportunities. Michaels Gate is the only preserved original part of the medieval fortified walls and acts as an entrance to Bratislava Old Town.
Look out for the grand St. Martin’s Cathedral another great sight and photo opportunity which is just a short walk from Primate’s Palace.
Top Top: The first stop on any Bratislava bucket list is the charming old town of Bratislava overlooked by Bratislava Castle
BUDGET EAT IN BRATISLAVA – WHY VISIT BRATISLAVA?
|Exploring the cold streets of Bratislava, Slovakia|
BRATISLAVA CHRISTMAS MARKETS AND MORE – WINTER IN BRATISLAVA
Books, souvenirs, carol singing and concerts fill Bratislava’s old town during Christmas and its easy to spend several hours watching and enjoying the festivities. We were lucky enough to catch some beautiful carol singing and a small concert just before nightfall during one of the colder days we experienced in the city.
Top tip: Winter in Eastern Europe means one thing Christmas Markets! Always check opening dates before planning a Christmas market city break.
Bratislava is without a doubt a fantastic setting to get you in the festive spirit for the holidays. Christmas shopping is also possible in the many pop-up market stalls and also the large shopping centre/mall just outside the Old Town. Even if you’re a bit of a grinch the Christmas markets of Bratislava will really get you in the festive mood. Or if not, the mulled wine will!
I won’t lie, during our time in Bratislava we spent a lot of time wandering on foot and viewing churches and the stunning architecture from a distance. I guess we were more swept up in the Christmas spirit than anything which made our time in the city seem more filled with purpose than usual. Your regular tourist activities take a back seat when there’s a Christmas production or display.
Top Tip: Enjoy a mulled wine and a deep fried something at one of Bratislava’s many Christmas Markets
FROM BRATISLAVA TO VIENNA
I spend the bus journey trying to spot exactly when we had entered Austria and left Slovakia. Austria and Slovakia are entirely different countries in terms of appearance and culture from what I experienced of Vienna and Bratislava despite how close they are.
I’d really recommend this inexpensive short trip to Vienna from Bratislava to anyone spending long enough in each of the two cities. If you’re heading to Vienna from Bratislava brace yourself for the contrasting prices, Vienna is not a budget friendly destination and you can expect the price of a beer or a warm meal to quadruple.
If you do visit Vienna from Bratislava on a budget trip during the winter season buy a tram pass and stay out the cold by doing loops of the city to see the main attractions.
Thinking of Budapest from Bratislava instead? – Check out Wanderlust Bee’s post on A Christmas Break to Budapest
|Welcome to Vienna – Not bad for a day trip|
Incorporate your Bratislava trip with a day trip to Vienna or Budapest
A DAY TRIP FROM BRATISLAVA TO VIENNA
We spent the our time in Vienna hopping on and off the trams to catch all the must see sights and tourist hotspots. The Hofburg Palace was a favourite of mine and lets not forget the incredible St Stephens Cathedral. Both of which are absolute must see’s when exploring the city. The cathedral can be found outside the main bus terminal in Vienna and during the time of year we visited there were plenty of horse and carriages waiting to take tourists on a city tour. Perhaps on a bigger budget we would’ve taken one.
We explored the lavish shopping streets of Central Vienna, I wasn’t looking to buy a Cartier watch from one of the many extravagant designer stores but like I said, maybe on another budget. Typically we stumbled up on Vienna’s oldest Irish pub, The Bockshorn – almost hidden down a side street somewhere between Chanel and Louis Vuitton. As the sun set on Vienna we enjoyed a couple of cold expensive beers before exploring the Christmas markets at dusk. The evening ended in snow, fries from McDonald’s and a sleepy bus ride back to Bratislava for a few more (resoundingly cheaper) beverages.
For a little more Vienna visit Todd Ventures
TOP TIPS FOR YOUR WINTER VISIT TO BRATISLAVA