Bratislava, Slovakia, just over the border from Austria, is a great place to visit. We did it as a side-trip from Vienna and we weren’t disappointed. Like many of the cities in the former ‘eastern block,’ Bratislava is benefitting from an increased number of tourists since the wall came down and Europe began opening up again.
Austrian rail company OBB do special deals, which are even cheaper than the bus companies. It is a picturesque trip through lush green countryside and you are only just settling into the trip when you arrive. The whole trip from central Vienna, via the south station (Sudbahnhof) takes less than two hours.
The ‘Old City’ is the place to go. We could have taken advantage of free local transport, included in the return fare, but it’s a pleasant walk down the hill from the railway station and you get a closer look at the city on the way down.
In the old city itself there are dozens of wonderful old buildings and the city has a great feel to it. As with many European cities, it is hard to imagine it without the tourists. It would be very quiet, lacking in atmosphere and all the restaurants and cafes would struggle to survive. Bratislava is the perfect size to wander around at a leisurely pace, take in all the sights, but still have time for a meal and a drink or two.
The hike up to the old castle is quite steep, but worth the effort. Views from the top are impressive and the exercise won’t kill you, although in the case of many of the river boat ‘cruisers,’ I am not so sure! There were a few giant vessels visiting on the day we were there. Some of the ‘cruisers’ walked through town in giant groups, while others split up or took advantage of the cute little passenger vehicles that carried people to all the main sites.
We enjoyed the whole feel of the city. You are spoilt for choice in terms of restaurants and cafes and they are noticably cheaper than their counterparts in western Europe. Often the set menu is the way to go because you can enjoy two or three courses for the price of one.
And people-watching on a gorgeous afternoon, while sipping an iced coffee in front of an ancient historical building and listening to a busker is always an enjoyable pastime.