Travel Like a Local in Bratislava | #TrainLineTravel
Have you been to Bratislava before? Chances are if you haven’t travelled too far then you haven’t been to Bratislava. The nice thing about the city is that because it is not a common touristic place like Prague, Rome, Paris or New York, the city isn’t overrun by tourist activities. You are able to walk the streets and really experience a ‘normal life’ in Slovakia.
It’s not hard to travel like a local in Bratislava. The town is small enough to roam by foot and you’ll find that you rarely ever need to take a tram or bus – we even walked from the train station which is only about 25 minutes walk from the city centre.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Bratislava, perhaps I can share some of my tips with you from 4 days in Slovakia.
If you’re at all a traveller, you are well aware that this new idea of offering ‘free tours’ is all the craze. As we experienced and learned about in Bratislava, most hop on, hop off tour buses still act like the free tours don’t exist. They see it as competition, where the free tour operators see it as a whole other area of tourism. People compare the free walking tours and private bus tours to ‘those who want to walk and experience local customs’ vs. ‘those who just want to see the city and say they’ve been there, done that.’ Walking tours tend to pick up the young, active and eager travellers and at the end of the day, it’s all up to you to determine how much you want to pay for the tour.
We joined one tour group called Be Free Tours
. Every day, rain or shine, this tour runs at 11:00am and 3:00pm for 2.5 hours meeting in front of the American Embassy. You see all there is to see in Bratislava and learn about the history, culture, traditions and people of Slovakia. Though I’m not always up for touring around with a large group of other tourists, there’s really nothing like learning the history from a well educated local. Our guide Sonia was a young Slovak who was born and raised outside of Bratislava in a small village – her passion for Bratislava and education was out of this world. After the tour ended we took the time to sit down and chat and the things that I was able to learn from a local were incredible.
Coming from a communist past, battling through the velvet revolution and fighting for their freedom, Slovakia (once Czechoslovakia) has quite the history to tell. So, if you want a little bit of interesting education before starting your vacation in Bratislava, make sure you jump in on a tour like Be Free Tours and get the inside scoop from a local.
If you haven’t heard about the Danube River, well then I think it’s time to get onward with travelling and experience a little more that Europe has to offer. The Danube runs right through Bratislava with some of the most breathtaking and peaceful views I have ever seen. Instead of taking the tram to Devin’s Castle the second day into our Slovakia trip, we decided to rent a bike. Of course the debate was between Paul renting us trekking bikes or myself renting a tandem. As my luck had it, it was a busy day and the only bike left was a tandem – WOOHOO!
We searched up a few companies and decided that for 25 Euros, we would head to Bike Bratislava
and rent the tandem for the day. To me, 25 Euros is still on the pricey side – though realistically no where in Czech Republic or Slovakia had a cheaper rate.
We were provided with a biking route of the city and as a couple locals had mentioned, they were impressed to see us wanting to bike so far and experience so much as most tourist come for an overnight stop between Prague, Vienna or Budapest. DON’T BE THAT TOURIST – BRATISLAVA IS SO WORTH IT!
So we went out for about 8 hours that day by bike, rode around the city, along the Danube and into Devin where the well known Devin Castle is situated on the top of the hill.
I won’t lie, Bratislava is an easy city to experience in a weekend, though once you’ve spent the day exploring the city, try and get out a bit into the country side and explore the nature. Right along the Danube is some incredible scenery that we had no idea existed in Bratislava. Get a little adventurous and step outside that city box.
Here’s a little look into our tandem bike adventures:
Where to Stay
For such a small city, there are surprisingly quite a few accommodations available for booking. I would love to suggest you stay in the Radisson Blu Carleton where iconic figures such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Theodore Roosevelt had spent their time in Bratislava. However, realistically not many of us have that sort of cash accessible for a few nights in Slovakia (you may need to save it for your time heading over to Vienna which is quite likely double the price).
So, where would I suggest you stay? There are many MANY hostels and small apartment rentals across the city, but it’s always best to go with one who is in affiliation with a larger corporation. The Patio Hostel
in Bratislava is part of Europe Famous Hostels
which provides travellers the confidence that they will be booking into a clean, friendly and professional accommodation.
Though you can’t expect a fancy, fluffy pillow and someone to carry your bags up to your room for you, this place is like home. Carry your own bags, but expect to get pampered in many other ways such as:
- Free Towels
- Free Sheets
- Free WIFI
- Free Coffe & Tea
- Free coupons for surroundings shops and pubs
- 2 Euro Breakfast
- Bike Rentals
- Free Welcome Drink (Choose the Pivo/Beer)
If you’re not a hostel go-er, you can always choose a private room for less than half the price you would pay in a hotel. Not to mention, I always prefer a hostel as they are usually much more willing to tend to your needs than fancier hotel accommodations. Patio Hostel understands our budgets and instead of trying to charge you for every little thing like the wifi, the water in the fridge or storing your suitcase for a couple of hours, the Patio Hostel does it all for free.
Where to Eat
Where to eat and what to eat, that is always my question. Slovakia has incredible food and drink – did you know that? I honestly had no idea what was in store for us before arrival but was pleasantly surprised at the quality and price of the food. I will tell you about one place – 1. Slovak Pub
– we went more than 3 times in 4 short days to this pub for traditional Slovak food. The prices were unbeatable across the city and all their food was made with love. This pub is the largest bar in the city with more than 500 seats. They run their own organic farm just north of the city where they produce many of the menu items listed in the pub. There are 11 rooms in the pub which will teach you a little big about the historical stages of the country. Though I think they should be charging an entrance fee or at least higher priced food items, I’m not complaining! This is one of the best food joints I’ve ever been to!
: They promote their flagship pub which is about a 5 minute walk down the road. I’m not sure what the benefit of doing so it or why… but the menu is similar, the prices are higher and there was a serious lack of loving in our meals at their flagship store. If you’re looking for cheap and delicious homemade meals in Slovakia, the 1. Slovak Pub
is a mandatory stop. Seriously.
- Garlic Soup in Bread Bowl
- Brynza Haloushka (sheep cheese dumplings)
- Korfola (a delicious hipster cola drink)
Disclosure: On route through our #TrainLineTravel adventures we were a guest at Patio Hostel through Europe Famous Hostels. In exchange for review we were invited to stay at Patio Hostel in Bratislava. As always, opinions and writings are 100% my own.