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. A Bratislava day trip from Vienna falls suitably into this category.
If you’ve sampled enough of Vienna’s delights and perhaps want to experience somewhere different or just have a day to spare, then taking a Vienna to Bratislava day trip 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.
This brief guide outlines the main means of travelling between the two and suggests the sights and activities that can be enjoyed in Bratislava in one day, or more, should time allow.
How to Get from Vienna to Bratislava
The three main methods of transport for a Bratislava day trip from Vienna are train, bus and car. Although as Steven Wright, the US comic once put it, “everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.” In this case, the time would need to be about 13 hours. If you don’t fancy traversing the 65 or so kilometres on foot, or travelling independently at all, then tours are an additional option.
Although limited, a ferry service does exist and has also been included.
Vienna to Bratislava by Train
The train is often a good way to travel by 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.
Direct trains will have you arriving in Bratislava Hlavná Stanica, the main station, just over 1 hour after leaving Vienna (1 hour, 6 minutes to be exact), but do note that some trains go to Bratislava-Petrzalka, which is across the 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.
Vienna to Bratislava by Bus
Getting to Bratislava from Vienna by bus for your day trip to the Slovak capital should also be fairly straightforward and may be the preferred choice for those on an extremely tight budget, with some companies advertising single tickets for just over €1. Travel experience suggests these are likely to be limited, at extreme times of the day and will probably have to be booked well in advance. The average ticket price is more likely to be around the €6 mark for a single and €12 for a return.
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. Click here to view the latest schedules and prices.
Vienna to Bratislava by Car
For those not willing to rely on public transport or who prefer the flexibility and independence that driving brings for their one day in Bratislava day trip from Vienna, then expect a car journey to last approximately 1 to 1 and-a-half hours. 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, L5 or B10 and B50.
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 Rentalcars.com will allow you to find the best deal as the platform compares prices across all the major car hire companies.
Vienna to Bratislava by Boat
With the River Danube flowing through both, it is possible to travel between Vienna and Bratislava by boat. Journeys are more frequent in 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-a-quarter with ticket prices varying depending on the date of travel. Click here to view the latest prices.
Bratislava Tour from Vienna
The Vienna to Bratislava day trip can be done as part of a group tour if you prefer not to travel independently.
This full-day guided tour leaves Vienna in the morning by bus and includes a walk around Bratislava’s Old Town with an accompanying guide. The return leg is completed by boat. Click here to view prices for this tour.
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. Click here to view prices for this tour.
Both tours allow time for some spontaneous exploration. Which is nice.
Vienna to Bratislava Day Trip Itinerary
Before beginning your Vienna to Bratislava day trip, you may want an idea of what you can feasibly do in one day. Although it’s 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.
1. 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.
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 Bratislava on your day trip from Vienna.
2. 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 €10 (it is included in the Bratislava Card), but visitors can wander the grounds and enjoy views across and along the Danube for free.
3. 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.
With only a day, it may be tough to find the time for a walking tour, but if you can fit one into your Bratislava day trip, then do so. As with all tours of this nature, ‘free’ means there’s no set fee, but usually a few euros is appreciated by the guide at the end. And even though it’s a communism tour, the money doesn’t go directly to the state…
If you don’t want to do a walking tour, it’s also possible to take a communist tour of Bratislava with vehicle transport.
Have more time?
If you intend to extend your Bratislava day trip from Vienna 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, 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. The price is €7.40 otherwise. This stop could be suitably combined with a walk across the Most SNP (or the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising). It is the world’s longest one pylon and one cable-stayed plane bridge … apparently.
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.
Where to Stay in Vienna
Vienna is one of the most popular places to visit in all of Europe and therefore has countless accommodation options to choose from. Whether you’re travelling on a budget and looking for a backpacker’s hostel or would like to stay in a chic boutique hotel, Vienna has you covered. If you’re wondering where to stay in Vienna, have a look at these suggestions:
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. Click here to see their availability
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 going on a day trip to Bratislava!), they have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available and an option to include breakfast each morning. Click here to see their availability
Airbnb — If you want an alternative to traditional hostels and hotels in Vienna, then Airbnb is a great option. There are countless different properties available on the platform — ranging from private rooms in a local’s home to chic, city centre apartments like this one. You can click here to browse more Vienna Airbnb properties!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Vienna hotels!
Where to Stay in Bratislava
If you decide to visit Bratislava from Vienna as more than a day trip, then you’re going to want to find a great place to stay in the city. Though small in size, Bratislava has countless accommodation options to choose from that will suit any kind of traveller. If you’re wondering where to rest your head in the Slovakian capital, then be sure to consider some of these recommendations:
Hostel Blues — This hostel is an excellent choice to solo and budget travellers in Bratislava. They have a great, central location and an involved staff to help make your time in Slovakia’s capital a great one. They also have a range of dorm beds available, clean facilities, and good common areas. Click here to see their availability
Smart&Green Living by Ambiente — This apart-hotel 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. Click here to see their availability
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 their central location only 50 metres from the main square make it the perfect base for exploring the city. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bratislava hotels!
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.
When travelling on a Bratislava day trip from Vienna, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning a Vienna to Bratislava day trip? Have you been recently? Let us know in the comments below!