Sign Up for Our Monthly Europe Newsletter
Waving goodbye to my beloved Vienna felt wrong. The city’s grandeur, gourmet cuisine and sprawling green spaces deserved so much more than my mere 24 hours. In fact, even with an eternity to explore Austria’s capital, it would be hard to feel like I’d had quite enough time to experience it to my heart’s content.
And yet, I believe it’s worth leaving Vienna for one particular side trip.
Linked along the Danube River with Vienna is Bratislava, Slovakia. Just an hour east along Europe’s second-largest river, this capital city is an affordable, effortless day trip that I recommend to all travelers. Whether your client is a foodie, a nature-lover or a history buff, a side trip to Bratislava from Vienna won’t disappoint.
Editor’s Note: Though the EU is still not allowing non-essential travel from the U.S. as of press time (due to COVID-19), the below recommendations are meant to inspire a post-pandemic day trip itinerary.
Visitors should set their alarm clock for an early start, as the first Twin City Liner ferry leaves around 9 a.m. It’s possible to catch a few extra winks (as my wife and I did) by staying at the nearby Hotel Post, a historical guesthouse that has played host to the likes of composers Wolfgang Mozart, Frederic Chopin and Richard Wagner, along with philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. A short 20-minute walk to the Naschmarkt is an exceptional choice to grab a light breakfast before boarding the sleek catamaran.
The journey lasts just over an hour, and the vessel offers seating on a sun-soaked top deck, as well as inside the main cabin, so even a chillier day is more than tolerable. Devin Castle, looming over the confluence of the Morava and Danube Rivers, welcomes passengers to Bratislava.
After disembarking, clients can walk a few feet to the Most SNP bridge — it’s impossible to miss, as it has an alien spaceship hovering above. Recommend that travelers take an elevator ride to the top of the UFO Observation Deck, where they can get a bird’s eye view of Bratislava. Though both sides of the river have their share of sights, visitors will want to spend most their time along the northern side where the Old Town is.
Getting around Bratislava is relatively straightforward, as there are buses, trams and trolleybuses crisscrossing the city. Old Town is easily walkable, however, and includes sites such as Hviezdoslav Square. Bratislava Castle and Sigismund Gate are also best visited on foot.
As sightseeing and shopping will surely rustle up an appetite for a heaping plate of traditional Slovakian food, recommend that clients hop on a tram to the northeastern outskirts of Old Town to eat at 1. Slovak Pub. Don’t let the “pub” moniker fool you; this charming restaurant is built around a 200-year-old wooden house that offers the coziness of dining at a friend’s home. Traditional Slovakian fare dominates the menu, with plenty of familiar items like dumplings and schnitzel. The Slovak platter offers a little of everything, including dumplings, pierogies and bryndza sheep cheese. And, of course, a pint of local pivo (beer) will wash everything down smoothly.
While enjoying the out-of-this-world view at the UFO Observation Deck, travelers may have noticed another tower standing in the distance. Not unlike 1. Slovak Pub, the Kamzik TV Tower’s name is deceiving at first glance. But those who venture into Bratislava Forest Park to visit it will be rewarded.
Public transportation runs to the train station at the foothills of the Little Carpathian mountains. It’s just a few euros to take a quick cab ride to the tower, but for those with time to kill, there’s a manageable uphill hike that surrounds you with Slovakia’s serene natural spaces.
RELATED: Travel Bucket List: Cycling Along the Danube River
At the entrance to the Kamzik TV Tower, advise clients to make a beeline to the elevator and soar straight to the top. The elevator doors open to a revolving restaurant with 360-degree views of jaw-dropping scenery; the forest and city of Bratislava rotate in and out of view as diners enjoy innovative Slovakian dishes.
After one last longing look at Bratislava’s beauty, a cab is the easiest way back to the Twin City Liner, which departs around 6:30 p.m. Back in Vienna, a delicious Sachertorte chocolate cake at the famous Cafe Sacher, or a late-night hot dog from Wurstelstand am Hohen Markt, is inarguably the best way to end the day.
Fancy an overnight in Bratislava instead? I highly recommend Dunajsky Pivovar on the south side of the Danube river. This “boatel” offers amazing views of Bratislava’s Old Town from its rooftop brewery, a perfect place to drink in memories of a day trip that is sure to exceed all expectations.
The DetailsDunajsky Pivovarwww.dunajskypivovar.sk
Twin City Linerwww.twincityliner.com