Bratislava – the city of three names, having formerly been known as Pressburg and Pozsony, before the collapse of Austria-Hungary and being renamed in 1919. Bratislava is also nicknamed The Little Big City, thanks to it’s small size compared to other major European cities. Incidentally, the city is big on things to do even with a little budget. Having just returned home from the city a few weeks ago, here’s four top tips for getting the most out of the Slovak capital on a shoestring!
Get a two course lunch on the cheap
Feeling hungry? Is it about midday? You’re in luck – traditionally, the main meal of the day in Slovakia is lunch, however nowadays it’s more common for families to have a big meal for dinner instead. Fortunately, you’ll find that most restaurants haven’t seemed to notice and still serve up rather large portions at lunch time for just a handful of Euros.
The traditional lunch of soup and a main course is pretty much ubiquitous around Slovakia, according to a friend of mine who spent 30 days traveling through the country. Think of it as the equivalent to the UK’s Tesco meal deal, or America’s Subway sandwich.
So where should you eat in the capital if you’re tight on funds? Having spent four days in the city, dedicating the hours of 11:30 to 1:30 purely on finding the best lunch deals, I’ve found that most places will offer you a filling meal for around €4.50, but the cheapest by far was KGB Pub on Staré Mesto, offering a soup of the day, main course and glass of sparkling water for just €3.60. It would probably cost you more to make it yourself!
Skip the bridge and visit the castle
Want to get a breathtaking view over the city? If so, then you’ll most likely head straight to the Slovak National Uprising Bridge, or more commonly known as The UFO Bridge. However, considering you’ll have just had lunch for €3.60, the fee to take the elevator to the viewing platform seems a little on the steep side at about €7 per person.
Admittedly, you can go up for free if you’d like to dine in the restaurant, but at around €50 for a meal, it’s also one of the most expensive in the city. With that you could have had nearly 14 lunches at KGB Pub!
Yes, the views are great, and if you’ve come to Bratislava specifically to get a new panorama photo for your Twitter cover image, then go ahead and visit the bridge. However if you’re on a budget, you can also get a pretty good view over the city from the castle grounds, situated on a huge hill overlooking the city. Plus, it’s free!
Go on the free walking tour
Like many cities, Bratislava has a free walking tour, running at 11am and 4pm each day from Hviezdoslavovo namestie. The tour lasts around two and a half hours, covering everything from the city’s period as the capital of the Hungarian empire, through to World War Two and on to the Socialist period and it’s occupation by the Red Army. Definitely worth it if you’re a history buff!
As you’ll learn at the start of the tour, however, the ‘free’ walking tour shouldn’t actually be free, once you consider the quality of the tour. That’s because while the tour guides are all volunteers, the knowledge they share on the well structured is very interesting and a great way to really get to known the city.
At the end of the tour, your guide will leave out a tip bag, while being available to answer any questions about the city. So why not take the €7 you saved by not going up the bridge tower, and donate it to a good cause?
Don’t just visit Bratislava
As our tour guide explained, Bratislava has historically been a city that travellers would stop off at while on the way to an onward destination, thanks to the city’s central location within Europe. Bratislava lies between a number of major cities, including Krakow, Vienna, Budapest and Prague. If you’re travelling between any of those cities by train, then chances are you’ll pass through Bratislava.
As a result, you can make your visit to the city cheaper by tacking it on to a longer trip. For example if you’d planned to visit Budapest and then go onwards to Prague or Krakow, then you’ll need to pass through Bratislava, so why not stop off for a day or two?
Bratislava is also a mere 66km from Vienna, making them the closest capital cities in the world! So why not take advantage of this and combine a visit to the two cities into one? There’s a train between the two cities every hour, taking an hour to complete and costing just €15, making Bratislava an ideal destination for a day trip if you’re already planning to visit Vienna!
So what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time you put Bratislava on your travel bucket list?