Planning a Bratislava Day Trip from Vienna

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by Adrian Fisk

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Planning a Bratislava day trip from Vienna is a great way to see more of Central Europe without having to venture too far. The beauty of travelling around Europe is that it’s often possible to visit multiple neighbouring countries within a short period of time without having to embark upon lengthy journeys.

Some major cities are in such close proximity it’s possible to pop across the border in the morning, see a few sights and be back before bedtime. If you’ve sampled enough of Vienna’s delights and perhaps want to experience somewhere different or just have a day to spare, then visiting Bratislava is a very plausible option.

The capital city of Slovakia lies around an hour away with a compact, pedestrian-friendly Old Town and its most notable spots within reasonable walking distance of each other.

Getting from Vienna to Bratislava

The three main methods of transport from Bratislava to Vienna are train, bus and car. Although limited, a ferry service does exist and has also been included.

By Organised Tour

Your one day in Bratislava can be done as part of a group tour if you prefer not to travel independently.

This full-day guided tour and this full-day tour leaves Vienna in the morning by bus and includes a walk around the Old Town of Bratislava with an accompanying guide. The return leg is completed by boat.

Another option is to take this guided tour that includes food and drink, the nature of which varies depending on what you choose but could be lunch or beer tasting. Again, a guide will provide background information on Bratislava’s sights. Travel is by bus only.

Alternatively, you can also book a private tour if you would rather have a guide to yourself.

By Train

The train is often a good way to travel as one can sit, observe and listen to locals, enjoy scenery, or have a bite to eat whilst reading up on a particular destination.

What makes the train particularly viable in this instance is the relatively short journey time, the high number of trains that run between the two cities and the reasonable cost of travel.

The train from Vienna to Bratislava will have you arriving in Bratislava Hlavná Stanica, the main station, just over 1 hour after leaving Vienna, but do note that some trains go to Bratislava-Petrzalka, which is across the Danube River and away from the main tourist areas.

At least one train per hour journeys between each city’s main station, but it’s best to check the latest timetables online and book in advance for cheaper fares. Click here to view the latest schedules.

Platforms 7 and 8 at the Wien Hauptbanhof train station
Vienna Train Station

By Bus

Getting to Bratislava from Vienna by bus for your day in the capital of Slovakia should also be fairly straightforward and may be the preferred choice for those on a tight budget in Central Europe.

Direct buses depart Vienna from Vienna Erdberg International Bus Terminal and Vienna Central Station with the journey time to Bratislava varying from 1 hour to 1 hour 40 mins depending on the departure and arrival point (there are three in Bratislava).

Services are very frequent with multiple per hour that run pretty much all day. You can view schedules here.

By Car

For those not willing to rely on public transport or who prefer the flexibility and independence that driving brings for their day trip from Vienna to Bratislava, then expect a car journey to last approximately 1-1.5hours.

The route using the A4 and A6 should take about an hour or at least, be quicker, but be aware that this route does have tolls. Avoiding these tolls means extending your journey to around an hour and a half and using either the B9 or B10.

In most cities finding a parking space can be somewhat problematic and is something to think about if considering making the journey by car. Also be alert to the parking rules and regulations which are likely to differ in each, plus the added cost implication. 

If you’re planning on hiring a car as part of a longer trip through Central Europe, then searching on will allow you to find a great deal as the platform compares prices across many of the major car hire companies.

By Boat

With the River Danube flowing through both, it is possible to travel from Vienna to Bratislava by boat. Journeys are more frequent in the high season (the summer months) with 3 ferries leaving Vienna daily.

The timetable changes at the end of September with fewer services that may only run on certain days. The trip lasts approximately an hour and fifteen minutes with ticket prices varying depending on the date of travel.

Bratislava skyline
Bratislava skyline, Slovakia

Vienna to Bratislava Day Trip Itinerary

Although one day is not a huge amount of time, it should be enough in a city of Bratislava’s size to take in some of its most notable sights and learn a little more about what it was like for people living under a communist regime.

Bratislava Old Town

Old Towns retain a postcard-esque charm even though many are now tourism hubs interspersed with bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. However, these areas retain visual, historical and cultural elements of the past that can make them worth visiting.

Hlavné nám, the Main Square, is considered the centre of Bratislava’s Old Town. Palaces and perhaps oddly, the Embassy of Greece, line its perimeter. The Main Square’s main attraction is the Old Town Hall which is home to the Museum of City History and its gruesome yet intriguing collection of torture devices dating from the 16th-18th centuries.

Within a 5-minute walk of the square lies the mottled green-capped tower of St. Michael with its underlying gate- the only remaining of the four original gates that allowed entry to the former medieval city. Within the tower is another museum, the Museum of Arms, and an observation floor with views overlooking the Old Town.  

It may be worth deciding which of the buildings and museums to explore in more depth, assuming that is, you wish to see more than just the Old Town during your Bratislava one-day trip. However, it is worth it to tour the Primate’s Palace and see the gorgeous Hall of Mirrors, learn about the history at the Bratislava City Museum or even take in the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture at the Blue Church.

If you plan to visit a number of museums, the Bratislava Card can be good value and also includes a walking tour of the Old Town as well as a public transport card. It’s also possible to simply book a walking tour of the Old Town if you want to learn more about the history of the city and get around Bratislava with the help of a knowledgeable tour guide.

The Main Square in Bratislava
Bratislava’s Main Square

Bratislava Castle

Arguably the city’s most iconic image is that of its white-walled, four-towered castle perched atop a rocky hill. The fortification, which has been the home of former heads of state, has taken on many incarnations in its long history, with the current one owing much to renovations carried out in the 1960s.

Buildings of this age are steeped in legend and folklore. One, in particular, tells the story of the giant, who it was said, would flip the castle over and use it as a table on his morning commute to work. With the giant having either moved or found a more suitable surface from which to eat, the Slovakian government deemed the castle fit enough to house collections from the Slovak National Museum.

Entry is ticketed (it is included in the Bratislava Card), but visitors can walk up the hill, wander the grounds and enjoy views across and along the Danube for free. Visiting the castle is definitely one of the best things to do in Bratislava in a day.

View of the Bratislava Castle at sunset
Bratislava Castle

Communism Walking Tour

Walking tours are a very good way of seeing destinations, and not only learning facts about them but gaining perspectives and insight from the local guides, many of whom share interesting personal stories about themselves or their families.

The most interesting tours are those which have a particular theme or slant, usually regarding subject matter that sparks controversy or stirs strong opinion. The free communism walking tour in Bratislava meets these criteria.  

Your guide will take you to places dotted around the city centre synonymous with communism such as the Slovensky rozhlas (Building of Slovak Broadcasting) and Namestie Slobody (Freedom Square).

History and the everyday life of a Bratislavan under a communist regime- both the positive and negative aspects are explained and described. The guide may even show photographs from that period as a visual contrast to then and now. You will also go by certain sites such as the UFO Bridge, some socialist realist statues, the Pyramid Radio Station and more.

With only a day, it may be tough to find the time for a walking tour, but if you can fit one in, then do so. If you don’t want to do a walking tour, it’s also possible to take a communist tour of Bratislava with vehicle transport.

Man at Work Sculpture in Bratislava
‘Man at Work’ Sculpture in Bratislava

Have more time?

If you intend to extend your trip to Bratislava then here are a couple of further suggestions for things to see and do:

Looking over the Danube from the Old Town side of Bratislava, it’d be impossible not to notice what looks like either a decapitated puppet from the smash potato adverts perched atop a pylon, or, a UFO on a stick.

The UFO Tower on the Most SNP, as it is actually known, offers great views of the city with, on a good day, visibility of up to 100 kilometres thanks to its 95m high observation deck. The alien craft is host to a restaurant and bar with, in effect, a full refund on the cost of an entrance ticket to the observation deck if eating a main course at the restaurant. 

This stop could be suitably combined with a walk across the Most SNP (or the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising). It is said to be the world’s longest one-pylon and one cable-stayed plane bridge.

Devín Castle, which lies about 10km northwest of Bratislava, is a potential day trip in itself. The rocky ruins stand in an area of visual beauty, backed by the Little Carpathian Mountains and overlooking the spot where the Danube and Morava rivers meet.

You also could simply relax and enjoy the lovely cafe culture of Bratislava for a bit more time – the city is compact but it certainly retains a definitive charm that is worth absorbing.

You can also use Bratislava as a stopover when travelling to or from the Hungarian capital of Budapest en route to Vienna. The Slovak capital makes for a great “halfway” point between the two.

Devin Castle is a possible day trip from Bratislava
Devin Castle

Where to Stay in Vienna

Motel One Wien – Hauptbahnhof – This hotel is a great place to stay if you want a chic and trendy hotel in a convenient location for exploring Vienna. Situated close to Vienna’s main train station (perfect for visiting Bratislava!), they have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available and an option to include breakfast each morning.

Hostel Ruthensteiner – This family-run hostel is one of the highest-rated in Vienna and is a great place to stay if you’re travelling solo or on a budget. They have a range of dorm beds and private rooms available and also have good common areas in order to make meeting other travellers easy.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Vienna hotels!

Where to Stay in Bratislava

Smart&Green Living by Ambiente – This aparthotel is an excellent place to stay in Bratislava if you’re looking for a clean and convenient place to rest your head without breaking the bank. They have a range of different, well-equipped apartments available and their central location makes exploring Bratislava easy.

Arcadia Boutique Hotel – This chich hotel is an excellent place to stay in Bratislava if you’re looking for a luxurious and classic stay in the city. They have a range of plush and comfortable rooms available, numerous amenities including a spa on site, and a central location only 50 metres from the main square.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bratislava hotels!

New bridge in Bratislava
Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising

A day trip to Bratislava from Vienna is an entirely plausible option owing to their proximity and the ease of which they can be travelled between. Bratislava offers the traveller visiting from Vienna something different whether that’s just for a day or beyond.

Are you planning to visit Bratislava? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Adrian is a writer for The World Was Here First. He is a passionate world traveller and spends most of his free time travelling around his native England, jetting off to Europe and planning excursions further afield.

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