After leaving Korea, I had a big trip across Southeast Asia planned. As I added up the cost of flights, spending money, and just shipping things home, I came to realise I was going to cost me a sizeable sum. I worked really hard in Korea to pay off debt and finally acquire myself some savings. While I am by no means money obsessed, the thought of spending this money wasn’t something I relished.
I made the difficult decision to swap a sojourn around sun-soaked Asia was a 9-day trip to Europe. I had friends I wanted to visit, so it seemed like a great compromise. Bratislava was chosen mostly due to its cheap flight home!
With no expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by Bratislava. A relatively small capital, it is great for a short European city break. While it was cheap, it was more expensive than other cities I have visited. However, it is possible to enjoy what Bratislava has to offer on a budget.
Enjoy the Views from Bratislava Castle
Everybody I’ve spoken to about Bratislava asked me, ‘Is that the city with the castle on the hill?’ And yes, it is! Perched on high, the white building overlooks Bratislava’s old town. Coming from Northern Europe, it isn’t what I would deem a castle (where’s the portcullis? No imposing stone tower?!), but a castle it is.
The hostel I stayed in provided some excellent tourist information. She told me that while the castle is great to go and visit, she wouldn’t advise paying to go inside. Apparently, it is mostly old furniture and doesn’t really give much information about the history.
So, I walked up to wander the grounds and appreciate the views. If you are on a budget I would highly recommend this way of doing it. I saved on a pricey entrance fee and still felt like I saw Bratislava Castle in all its beauty.
Explore the Historic Old Town
One of the main reasons to visit Bratislava is to see the Old Town. Surrounded by a city wall, the area itself is pretty small. Therefore, it is perfect to explore on foot. It was a little cold when I was there, but I still spent the best part of a day admiring the cobbled streets, looking at the churches, and marvelling at how exquisite the buildings are.
Drink a Decadent Hot Chocolate Coffee
Before I visit a place, I use Instagram to research my destination. One of the main things that people seemed excited about was these beautiful coffees served in chocolate-lined glasses. I did some research and they are the trademark of the café chain, Mondieu.
There is a few dotted around so I went into the first one I saw. The waiter was a bit rushed so misunderstood me. Sadly, I ended up with a rather sad looking normal latte. I did get a French onion soup, which I would THOROUGHLY recommend.
I tried again the second day and had far more success! The coffee was predictably decadent, but the chocolate was well-balanced with the strong espresso. Although it wasn’t the cheapest, it is a great way to spend a couple of hours without breaking the bank!
The Blue Church (Church of St. Elizabeth)
This is exactly as it sounds, no surprises! This is outside of the city walls, so a little bit of a walk (about 10 minutes), but it was close to my hotel. When I visited, it wasn’t open so I was only able to admire from outside. It is a pretty little church that reminded me of a wedding cake. I wouldn’t go too far out of your way to see this, but if you’re close it is worth a little visit!
Learn About Bratislava at the Town Hall Museum
As I visited during the ridiculously cold March we had, I was on the hunt for affordable INSIDE activities. Bratislava has a number of museums, all costing around $10 each, so I had to be picky!
Located in the Old Town, I walked past the Town Hall a few times before realising it was a museum. On a particularly blustery day, I sought shelter inside. As it was warm, I decided to pay the ticket price and I’m glad I did. While it isn’t the world’s best museum, it explains the history of the city well. The top of the museum opens onto a tower, offering superb views of Bratislava.
Rather bizarrely, there is an exhibition of torture in the cellar. There are a number of horrendous looking devices with rather vivid descriptions. The most unsettling part was the end corridor, containing two torture wells.
The Museum of Jewish Culture
I love a museum, which is perhaps evident in this post! I am woefully ignorant of Jewish culture, so when I saw this (indoor) museum seemed like a great thing to do. The museum is located close to Bratislava Castle, so offers a great thing to do afterwards.
The museum itself is quite small, and moderately well explained. The first floor is mostly glass cabinets containing items important to Jewish practices and history. This leads on to the second floor which is more focused on the Jewish people of Bratislava.
As with the Town Hall Museum, there was a rather odd surprise in the cellar. Underneath the museum there is a Jewish Cemetery. I didn’t spend a great amount of time down there as I was alone!
Try Some Local Cuisine in a Beer Hall
Everyone’s favourite part of going on holiday is trying the local food (or at least it’s mine!) While Bratislava wasn’t as cheap as I expected, it was cheap to eat Slovak food. On the recommendation of the hostel, I ventured to Bratislava Flag Ship Restaurant. A little difficult to find as it was tucked away, it’s an enormous building resembling a German beer hall.
The menu here was almost entirely Slovak and surprisingly affordable, so it was a fantastic place to taste a variety of local dishes. I opted for the goulash and could’ve ordered a second! The service was a bit lacking, so I would suggest going when you aren’t in a rush!
Overall, Bratislava was a great choice for a European city break. While it wasn’t a cheap as I was expecting, it was still incredibly affordable. My trip was more expensive than expected due to the freezing temperatures outside!
Have you visited Bratislava? Do you have any more hints?