1 Day in Bratislava
We added a day trip to Bratislava at the very last minute. I hadn't realized how close this city is to Vienna when we first booked our trip, so I had no idea how easy it is to get from city to city! We purchased our roundtrip commuter train tickets in the Vienna Hauptanoff where we could leave and come back at any hour we wanted. We had a bit of a rough start (see my post about me leaving my still-nursing son and husband at the Vienna train station HERE) but once we got everything situated and everyone back together, we had a surprisingly wonderful day in Slovakia.
Getting to Downtown
We *finally* arrived in Bratislava around 11:30am. We got off the train only to realize the station is not anywhere near the downtown area and since none of us speak Hungarian, we were on our own figuring out how to get downtown. We hopped across the street and paid for a Bratislava map, then started playing "ask the locals" until someone finally spoke enough English to help us get on the right bus and off at the right stop. We arrived to the Petržalka Train station, so we had to take either Bust 80, 91, or 93 to the downtown area. If you arrive to the Main Station, there is a plethora of ways to reach downtown. Find more bus information here.
Old Town Walk
We clamored off the bus with our giant double stroller and found our way to the downtown area. The very first thing I noticed about Bratislava was it's heavy Socialist influence on the architecture. I loved it. It was a nice change from the romantic scenes of Vienna and Prague. Since we had no guide book other than an excerpt from Rick Steve's Vienna Pocket Reference we were on our own to soak up everything. The very first place to head to: The Tourist Information Center where you can get FREE maps in ENGLISH and orient yourself a little better.
I had done a little research the night before and I knew I wanted to see a couple of their quirky statues and definitely Devin Castle; Slovakia's Oldest Castle. With an open mind, we started walking. Here are 5 must-sees in down town Bratislava:
1: Michael's Gate: This is an entrance gate to the city circa 1300's fortifications. It's a dominating and beautiful 51-foot tower. You are able to go inside and climb to the top for some panoramic views, but we decided to walk under it and have a photo op.
2: Napoleon's Army Soldier: Bratislava has several different statues located around the city. This one is in the main square and worth a visit. The kids will love running around the square, so sit down with the soldier and take it all in.
3: Man at Work: As someone who previously worked construction, I loved this statue. He's down on the ground coming out of a sewer, so be sure to look down when you are trying to find him!!
4: Primate's Palace Courtyard (and Museum): We were anxious to eat and our toddler was anxious to run. Jimmy and my parents went on the hunt for food while the kids and I sat and ran free in this awesome courtyard. There are plenty of benches along with a beautiful view of the Palace. We did not go inside (again, we were on a time crunch) but you can tour the palace. (Click link above) (Side note: The Tourist Information Center is located at the edge of this very courtyard)
5. The Main Square: This square (and all of downtown actually) is pedestrian friendly. Not only will your family be able to roam about without worrying about getting run over by cards, you are at the heart of Bratislava. Roland's Fountain, Napoleon's Army Soldier, Old Town Hall, & the Museum of History are all located in this square.
Where we ate:
We were in a rush, so we knew we didn't want to sit down to eat. We starting asking around to see where we could get some good street food. We were NOT disappointed. We stopped at Orbis Street food and really enjoyed their fries, "meat in a cone" and delicious sauces! I highly recommend a stop here on your day trip! You can find the best street foods in Bratislava HERE.
Since I knew we wanted to make the trek out to Devin Castle, we were pressed for time and once we ate, we started walking back toward the bus station.
The bus stop is literally underneath the New Bridge....if you feel like you're in the wrong place, you're not. We had to purchase an additional ticket for the fare out to and back from the Castle. You'll get your ticket at one of the self-serve kiosks (cash only) and start looking for Bus 28. You'll validate your ticket once your on the bus. The bus ride is about 20 minutes from city center to the bottom of the castle hill; the stop is aptly named "Devin".
Once we made it to the castle we started to climb the mountain to the top. Let me say this, if you are not physically fit or if you are not physically able, consider doing something else. It is a hard hike up. The ticket booth is about mid-way to the top, so you're committed when you get to that point. Our kids started falling apart right after we got tickets, so I had to stop and nurse the baby while Jimmy had to let Charletta out to run free for a while. It was honestly a nice break for my lungs and quads.
The views of Devin Castle are worth the hike. The castle overlooks the famous Danube, has a magnificent "maiden's tower," and so many amazing photo-op areas. There are also restrooms conveniently located at the top, so you don't have to trek back down to pee....but if you have to pee before you get to the top, you're out of luck because they are the only restrooms on the site.
As far as kids go; I wish I could have visited as a kid. My imagination would have been going crazy. The giant well, the maidens tower, the ruins, the open space to run between the walls, and the overall majestic feeling of being up there was so fun. This is a must-see if you're headed to Bratislava.
Overall, get yourself to Slovakia. Take it it's soviet charm, eat some delicious street food, see a castle & most of all experience what this Nation's Capitol has to offer. If you find yourself in Vienna, schedule time for this amazing daytrip!