Slovakia Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
💶Currency: Euro €
🕙Time Zone: +1 GMT
📞Phone Code: +421
✈️Best time to visit: May to October
🍴Eat: Párok (Slovak Sausage)
🍷Drink: SLovakian Beer
🗺️Don't miss: Devin Castle
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Situated in central Europe, Slovakia is an ever increasing tourist destination that attracts travellers from around the world to its rugged mountainous scenery, rich architectural history, and competitive prices. The centre for Slovakia's arts and culture is the capital city of Bratislava, which boasts many museums, art galleries, palaces, and ornamental churches in and around its historic Old Town district.
The Tatra Mountains are a popular destination all year round, offering skiing in winter and hiking and climbing in summer; while throughout the country numerous mineral springs and natural spas cater for health-conscious tourists looking to relax and be pampered.
Scattered among the hills and valleys of the lowlands are numerous fortified castles, relics from the Middle Ages that were built near to almost every hamlet and major road for protection from invaders. Also among the country's greatest architectural treasures are the ancient wooden churches in northeast Slovakia still functioning as religious buildings today, unique in their construction in that they are built without nails,.
Slovakia became an independent nation in 1993 when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech and Slovak Republics. The Czech Republic went on to revel in the glory of its capital city, Prague, which has become one of the must-see cities in Europe; while Slovakia's quiet charms have remained relatively unexplored.
Nowadays, the beautiful scenery, ski resorts, historic towns, and easy access from the rest of Europe means that more and more travellers are starting to add Slovakia to their list of top European holiday destinations. Come and see why!
Slovakia is a land locked country but easily reached from many European countries. It borders with Austria, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine.
Therefore, to visit Slovakia makes it an ideal destination when combined with other capitals nearby.
Reaching Slovakia is accessible specially by road and rail, thanks to a modern infrastructure and connections possible all around Europe. If you're coming from further away then flying is a good alternative, the biggest airport into the country is Bratislava, it's capital. You can fly mostly with low cost airlines from here. However, the country lacks a national airline. The most popular airlines to fly into Slovakia are Ryanair, Wizzair and Czech Airlines. If you are coming from overseas, then Vienna is the airport of choice, which is easy to get to from both America and Asia. From Vienna you can transfer by bus to Bratislava.(the trip takes 1 hours and tickets cost as little as €1 when bought in advance).
VIsit the website for the tickets and more information for the transfer from Vienna to Bratislava.
Once in the country, domestic travel is limited by road or rail, due to the relatively small size of Slovakia. Busses and trains provide good connections not only within the country, but also they often continue onto neighbouring countries (Vienna, Brno or Budapest the most popular).
Because of the location of Slovakia, it's likely you can experiment the 4 seasons within a day. The higher altitude, means that it can be windy, often rainy and cold from mid Autumn to mid Spring (November to May). The best time to visit is from May to October. However take into account the busy season July and August, which makes prices go up. Also during this time it can get hotter in the Summer, with temperatures reaching as much as 30-35 °C. On the opposite side, Winter's can be long, with snowfalls and subzero temperatures from December to March.
Traditional Slovak eating and drinking habits date back to the old Slavic period influenced later by Austrian, German and Hungarian cooking. Slovak food revolves around a variety of soups, boiled and stewed vegetables, roast and smoked meats and dairy products. Slovak specialities include both sweet and savoury dishes made with flour, including dumplings.
Specialities found are: Bryndzovéhaluisky, small potato dumplings with sheep’s cheese. Mutton with sauerkraut, flavoured with prunes, mushrooms and apples. Cabbage leaves, filled with minced meat, served with a milky sauce. Sulance, potato dough turnovers filled with plum jam. Polievka, soup infused with garlic (cesnaková) or sauerkraut (kapustnica). Párok, hot frankfurter, a typical morning snack. Jaternica, a dish derived from pig’s blood and rice. Langoše, deep-fried dough topped with crushed garlic, cheese, ketchup or sour cream. Bryndza, sheep’s cheese that’s light and salty, made in the area for centuries.
Popular drinks include Slovak beer, wine and mineral waters. Wine from the Tokaj region and sparkling wine from the Bratislava region are particular specialities. Also you can find Borovicka, (strong gin) and Slivovica (plum brandy).
As travelling within Europe, Slovakia came to my attention as an easy stopover when travelling to Austria. Nevertheless, it's a country which can't be missed and explore some of its hidden nature gems and medieval looking old towns. I visited Slovakia for a long weekend and stayed in Bratislava, where I was pleasantly welcomed by its friendly locals. The city is quaint and easy to move around. Many streets being pedestrian, which helps to relax and enjoy the atmosphere within the old town. The city's old town, is located on a hillside, so walking up and taking good photographs from the top is a good tip. Also it's a nice city where to enjoy healthy meals and good beer.
Prices are cheaper than the neighbouring country of Austria, so it's another good reason to explore and discover what Slovakia has to offer.
Bratislava Tourism Information Guide
The city of Bratislava was formerly known as Pressburg, due to the German and Austrian dominance. Then in 1919 it was officially known as Bratislava. Since then it has grown considerably in size and importance. It's a popular tourist destination, thanks to its lower prices and attractive gastronomy offer.
The old town, featuring the resemblance to the older medieval towns, is a pleasure to walk around through its pedestrianised cobbled streets. Many local cafes, bars and restaurants offer, local and fusion cuisines for all tastes. When visiting Bratislava, it's hard not to go out at night and soak up a little the vibrant atmosphere and enjoy the lively bars around the city centre.
Bratislava enjoys four distinct seasons, though it can often be very windy, causing a drop in temperature. In summer, between June and August, weather is hot and dry, with temperatures reaching easily to 30°C though the feel can be hotter without the wind. Winters, between December and February, are cold and wet, but temperatures don't suffer from extremes, staying in the city centre at night can experience -1°C but during the day can rise to 5-7°C.
Autumn and spring tend to be mild and pleasant, but are much shorter seasons. These also tend to be the best times to visit, with average temperatures around 10-18°C.
When arriving to Bratislava by plane, the airport is located close to the city, the easiest option is to take bus number 61 (€1) to reach the main railway station (short walk to the city centre) within 20 minutes. (if arriving by night then take bus N61).
Also it's popular to arrive by bus or train. The stations are located within easy reach to the city centre. From there you can travel around by public transport.
In Bratislava you will be able to find busses, trolleybuses (streetcars) and trams. They are integrated under one system so you can change modes of transport within the validity of your ticket. You can buy single tickets (15 min, 30 min, 90 min), 24 hours tickets (€3.50-7), 72 hours or 168 hours (7 day). Prices depend on the number of zones you travel. Additionally you can find "carnet" tickets for occasional use. For more information on the ticket prices visit the official website.
Below you can find the transport maps for Bratislava, available for download:
✔️Tip: If you are staying within the city centre, there's no much need to use the public transport. All you want to see is within the centre and is within walking distance (specially in good weather it's nice to walk around).
There's a whole amount of activities and sites to see in Bratislava. It's location, set along the Danube River is ideal to take a river cruise and explore the countryside nearby. Surrounded by vineyards and the Little Carpathian mountains, crisscrossed with forested hiking and cycling trails. The pedestrian old town, dates back to the 18th century, where history and culture mixes with pleasant relaxing places to sit down or at night head to the lively bars and cafes. The highlight of any trip to Bratislava is the Castle, located at the top of the hill, overlooking the old town and the Danube river.
Below are some of the most recommended places and activities to do whilst you stay in Bratislava:
- Bratislava Castle: Sitting as a guard protecting and overlooking the city, this castle has been there since the 9th century. In 1881, it was reduced to rubble due to a fire and wasn’t reconstructed until the mid 1900s. Its appearance has been likened to an upside down table with four corner towers. The Castle is worth a visit for the museums housed inside as well as the panoramic views over the city. The castle is open Tuesday through Sunday. To get to the castle from Old Town, cross the busy motorway through the underpass by St. Martin’s Church. You’ll then head uphill, past the pretty yellow and white House of the Good Shepherd, which now houses a clock museum.
- Old Town Hall: Originally the site of a towered house in the 14th century, the old town hall arose in the 15th century by connecting several burgher houses, and then went through several reconstructions in the course of the centuries. In 1912 the rear wing was constructed in neo-renaissance style and neo-gothic style. The town-hall tower was of defensive nature. At the bottom, you can find a table with the date of February 1850, marking the high water level when the Danube flooded.
- St. Martin’s Cathedral, is Bratislava’s most Gothic structure. The church, originally built in the 13th century in the Romanesque style, was replaced by a 3-nave Gothic Dome in the late 14th century. The new St. Martin's Cathedral was consecrated in 1452.
✔️Tip: Take the tour train: This sweet little red train rides along the city centre taking tourists to the Bratislava Castle. The trip takes around 45 minutes to drive through the city up to the castle and back to downtown, including a 15-minutes break at the Castle. It departs daily at 11:30, 14:30, and 15:30 (during holidays more times are offered). More info at www.blavacik.sk/en
- St. Elizabeth's Church or known as the little Blue Church of Bratislava, It is one of the most beautiful pieces of Art Nouveau architecture in the world. The Church was built from 1907-1913. Today, the Blue Church also has a high school and rectory. The Blue Church has one nave and a cylindrical tower and the exterior design is of the Hungarian Art Nouveau style and is decorated with bright and beautiful blue majolica tiles. Majolica is a tile indigenous to Slovakia and is manufactured in the city of Modra (Western Slovakia). The church is situated at Bezrucova street which is a short walk from Main Square.
- Slovak National Theatre, built in the Neo-Renaissance style, stands at the end of the long Hviezdoslav Square (Hviezdoslavovo námestie). Was built in 1885-1886 during the time of Austria-Hungary. It was opened as the City Theatre on September 22, 1886.
- St. Michael's Gate and Street, is a quaint street lined with many shops and restaurants. In the summertime, the street, (Michalska Ulica) is teeming with tourists, street bands, and locals enjoying the cool Slovak summer nights. Most of the building date from the 18th Century and have survived several wars, occupations, and Communist rule, On the top of the street there is St. Michael's Gate - the only preserved gate of the medieval city fortifications. Its Gothic foundations were laid in the 1st half of the 14th century. Today, the Museum of Weapons and City Fortifications is located within the tower. At the top, you can go out on the balcony, from where you can see great views of the Old Town.
- Novy Most Bridge and observation deck: It's the best place if you want more spectacular views of Bratislava and its castle. The bridge and tower was completed and opened to traffic in 1971. Unlike most monstrosities of Slovak Communist architecture, the Novy Most and tower actually blend into Bratislava''s centuries old architecture. There is a walkway for pedestrians to walk to and from Novy Most to cross the bridge.
- Primatial Palace, built in 1778 and located in the centre of Old Town is considered as one the most beautiful building in Bratislava. Its pale pink and white exterior is topped with various marble statues and a large cast iron cardinal’s hat. Another major attraction in the palace is the ornate Hall of Mirrors. Although built on a smaller scale than Versailles, the Hall is still an impressive sight as well as being historically significant. It was here that Napoleon and Francis I signed the Treaty of Pressburg (Bratislava’s former name) in 1805.Other points of interest are the fountain and statue of St. George in the courtyard and the St. Ladislaus chapel. The palace is open from Tuesday through Sunday.
- Grassalkovich Palace, now the home to Slovakia's President, built in the 1760's by Count Anton Grassalkovich. The Palace is guarded 24 hours a day by an honour guard who can be seen marching in front of the castle daily by visitors. The Palace is situated in a huge, open park with a Baroque garden that is open to the public, even when the President is in residence. Grassalkovich Palace is located in the Hodzovo Namestie (Hodza Square). It is beautiful especially during the Christmas time as all the building is illuminated.
- Devin Castle, is one of the three oldest historically castles in Slovakia. Oldest traces of settlement there date back to the 5th century B.C. Due to its geographical position, the castle played an important role as a boundary fortress as a part of the Limes Romanus fortifications against enemies at the times of the Roman Empire. The castle was altered in 13th and 16th century and destroyed by Napoleon's troops in 1809. The castle is open to the public May-October daily except for Mondays from 10am to 5pm and on weekends from 10am to 6pm. The castle is accessible by car (direction Karlova Ves and Devin) or public transport (bus No. 29 from bus stop under the New Bridge - Novy most ). But the best alternative is to get the boat, which leaves twice a day from a special port near the city centre (Fajnorovo nabrezie 2 - Fajnorovo Embankment).
The boat takes you around the Danube, for 90 minutes until reaching the Castle. Then you have 2 hours to explore the castle and it's grounds. The return trip only takes 30 minutes back to Bratislava. The cost of the tickets is €12 return. For more information visit Cruise over the Danube.
Bratislava has a growing number of good places to go and is building a reputation as a nightlife capital, specially with its cheaper beer and drinks, it makes the perfect weekend getaway for many stag parties and hen nights. Top Slovak beers that are definitely worth a few rounds include Zlaty Bazant or Kelt.
In recent years, Bratislava’s club scene has completely reinvented itself. In came DJ's and funky cocktails, out went the go-go dancers and big-unfriendly doormen.
The best places lie around the city's old town where you will find the more popular bars and clubs.
Bratislava offers a wide variety of shopping possibilities. Ranging from small boutiques, designer outlets, open-air fresh produce markets to big and modern shopping malls which are open 7 days a week. Small open-air markets can be found on Polna near the Medical Garden and Sancova, Mlynarovicova on Petrzalka. The liveliest market is the one on Mileticova Street, which sells lots of well-made but affordable clothing.
There are numerous shopping malls throughout Bratislava, including Aupark on the right side of the Danube next to Sad Janka Kráľa Park. Polus City Center is on Vajnorska, 10 minutes away from the city centre, and the newest Eurovea is situated in the city centre, right next to the river bank.
Bratislava is cheaper than most European capitals, so finding reasonable Hotels is not hard. If you look very close to the city centre, prices are high, but as the city is not that big, there are many non-chain hotels offering good prices and comfortable nights. Even if you have to walk a little or get a short bus ride , it's worth searching these options. You can find Hotels in Bratislava for around €35 per night. Additionally, if you are looking for budget accommodation, there any many Hostels and private housing available via Airbnb.
When visiting Bratislava for the first time, it's a city which is worth staying for a little more and discover its culture and history. A weekend or 2 to 3 nights would be enough to see the highlights.