24 hours in Bratislava Tips for a city trip in the winter time

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Bratislava – the capital of Slovakia – is mostly known for it’s towering castle, the rolling hills surrounding it and the Danube floating directly through the city. But when spending 24 hours in Bratislava you’ll notice that the city has more to offer. Especially the winter time with it’s Christmas markets has a special kind of magic atmosphere!

24 hours Bratislava in winter - Christmas market at the Main Square Hlavné námestie in Bratislava

The Christmas tree in front of the Old Town Hall is lit up beautifully at night.

From sunshine to thick flocks of snow

We got lucky – when we spent two days in Bratislava in the end of November – we got one day with sunshine and the second day the whole city was covered in a layer of snow. It doesn’t get more cast-a-spell Christmas magical than that!

Christmas Market in Bratislava

Day 1 in Bratislava: Sunshine and the last autumn leaves.

Historical building of the Slovak National Theatre at Hviezdoslavovo námestie, Bratislava

Day 2 in Bratislava: It had snowed all night!

What to see & do

Bratislava’s tourist center is definitely the Old Town (called “Stare Mesto”) just north of the Danube. Here you’ll find cobblestone streets, old architecture, charming bars and cafés, hip restaurants and the most beautiful Christmas markets.

Christmas market in Old Town of Bratislava

View of the Main Square in the Old Town called “Stare Mesto”.

Exploring the parts outside of the Old Town is something that we would recommend for a second visit of Bratislava or if you have very specific interests. The newer city districts like “Petržalka” are 100% made of socialist buildings, huge concrete blocks, that make a very special atmosphere. These districts can be interesting if you’re up for architecture photos or peaks into the real life of residents there.

View of Petržalka Bratislava from UFO observation deck

View of Petržalka district – as seen from UFO observation deck.

Here are our 5 highlights for 24 hours in Bratislava:

1. Climb the Tower of the Old Town Hall at Sunset

Definitely take the steps up the tower of the Old Town Hall for a spectacular view of Bratislava. The tower is located right at the Main Square and you’ll see all of Bratislava’s main attractions from up here.

View of Bratislava from Old Town Hall Tower BratislavaView of Bratislava from Old Town Hall Tower BratislavaView of Bratislava from Old Town Hall Tower Bratislava

Go later in the afternoon and watch the sun set behind the Old City, the churches and Bratislava castle and then wait until all the Christmas decoration is lighting up step by step – first the stalls of the market, then the lanterns, the chandeliers… it’s a beautiful spectacle and you won’t get enough of that sight.

24 hours Bratislava in winter - Christmas market at the Main Square Hlavné námestie in Bratislava

Stay until the charming ladies of the Old Town Hall climb up the tower and ask everyone to leave for closing hours 😉 We actually came early in the afternoon and then asked if we could come back later with the same ticket and they agreed – that’s how cute they are (even though their English is not really existent 😉 ).

Old Town Hall Bratislava

And since it snowed so heavily at night we decided to come a third time the next day for a different kind of view over the rooftops of Bratislava!

24 hours Bratislava in winter - Christmas market at the Main Square Hlavné námestie in Bratislava24 hours Bratislava in winter - Christmas market at the Main Square Hlavné námestie in Bratislava24 hours Bratislava in winter - Christmas market at the Main Square Hlavné námestie in Bratislava

Tipp: Ask for a ticket just for the tower and skip the museum if you’re not interested in learning about the city’s history (Entrance Fee 2,50 Euros).

2. Eat freshly baked Trdelník (Pyramid Cake) at a Christmas market

The most popular Christmas market is located at the main square (called “Hlavné námestie”).

Christmas Market at Hlavné námestieChristmas Market at Hlavné námestieChristmas Market at Hlavné námestie

We found the market at Hviezdoslavovo Square to be even more charming (and it has a small ice rink as an added bonus in the middle).

Historical building of the Slovak National Theatre at Hviezdoslavovo námestie, BratislavaHistorical building of the Slovak National Theatre at Hviezdoslavovo námestie, BratislavaIce Rink at Christmas market Hviezdoslavovo námestie in BratislavaTrdelník at Christmas market Hviezdoslavovo námestie in BratislavaTrdelník at Christmas market Hviezdoslavovo námestie in Bratislava

Being used to Christmas markets in Vienna we were especially surprised by the tasteful music (the whole market at Hviezdoslavovo Square is treated with one playlist with really nice Christmas music – as opposed to each stall trying to drown the others in their music).

More infos about Christmas markets in Bratislava.

3. Get up on the UFO observation deck to watch the city from above

The so called “UFO” is an observation deck, restaurant and bar built on top of one of the main bridges crossing the Danube. It’s UFO shape is recognisable from far away!

UFO and New Bridge in Bratislava

View from UFO Observation Deck in BratislavaView from UFO Observation Deck in BratislavaView from UFO Observation Deck in Bratislava


We heard the restaurant should be overpriced and not good and therefore decided to pay the 7,40 Euros entrance fee for the observation deck instead. A rather shaky old elevator takes you up through one of the sloping pylons until you reach a height of 84 meters. From up here you’ll have a great view of the old and new city alike.

View from UFO Observation Deck in Bratislava

UFO BratislavaUFO and New Bridge in Bratislava

4. Visit the blue church

This landmark church is actually called “Church of St. Elizabeth” and is an Hungarian Art Nouveau gem.

Blue Church or Church of St. Elizabeth BratislavaBlue Church or Church of St. Elizabeth BratislavaBlue Church or Church of St. Elizabeth Bratislava

Unfortunately it only opens for church services during the week – which are held before sunrise and after sunset in winter – so there was no chance for us to take good photos of the interior.

Tipp: If you want to see the impressive interior properly make sure to check the website for the opening hours.

5. Walk around the Old Town until Bratislava Castle

Actually the best views of Bratislava Castle are from the UFO, but you won’t want to miss the view in the other direction.

Bratislava Castle

View from Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle

The views of Bratislava from the Castle are also quite nice!

Also it’s worth to check out the result of the ongoing renovations at the castle. The castle’s garden have been finished just this year!

Bratislava CastleBratislava CastleBratislava Castle

On your way up to the Bratislava Castle make sure to also pass by St Michael’s Gate (Michalskabrana).

St. Michael's Gate Bratislava

And also don’t miss the most photogenic street of Bratislava – Kapitulská street.

Kapitulská street Bratislava

The perfect 24 hours in Bratislava

If you have checked off all of our top 5 highlights you’ll probably have enough time left to just stroll around and enjoy the city in one of the various restaurants or bars.

Streets of Old Town of BratislavaStreets of Old Town of Bratislava

Bratislava Main Square Hlavné námestie

After strolling the streets of Bratislava it’s good to plan a few pit stops.

Where to eat & drink

We were impressed by the variety and quality of all the places we visited and would definitely deem Bratislava a foodie heaven! Here are our highlights:

Gyoza at Foodstock

Foodstock is a small Asian-Vegetarian take-away place with a couple of sitting options. You order at the counter and there are only a few items on the menu. While the Ramen was a bit bland, the Gyoza were incredible – actually the best we ever had! Also make sure to try one of their homemade ice teas.

Gyoza at Foodstock BratislavaFoodstock BratislavaGyoza at Foodstock Bratislava

Soups & bread at fach

fach is an institution in Bratislava. It’s not just a restaurant, but a juice shop, bistro, bar and just a really beautiful place to hang out in. The furniture is very Scandinavian and the menu is also inspired by the masters from the North.

fach bistro Bratislava

Everything we ate here was a pure treat to the taste buds, seasoned to perfection and also beautifully arranged. We had: A potato soup with grilled salad, ash baked potatoes with sour cream, a carrot soup with fermented ginger and a Beluga lentil ragout with sweet potato. Definitely finish off your meal with dessert here – the cinnamon or cardamom bullars are fantastic!

fach bistro Bratislavafach bistro Bratislavafach bistro Bratislavafach bistro Bratislavafach bistro Bratislava

Take-away from Urban Bistro

Winter is the perfect time to eat take-away in your hotel room. Especially since we had a very uncommon reason for our stay in Bratislava (as reported in this blogpost, I got an eye laser treatment there) – I wanted to relax in the hotel at night instead of going out. Urban Bistro is part of a very hip chain in Bratislava – the take-away avocado bread with chilli and lime was a real treat!

Urban Bistro Bratislava

Chocolate Espresso at Mondieu Laboratoire

Mondieu is available at multiple locations in the city of Bratislava. The menu offers vast breakfast options and that’s why we went here. The waffles with berries and avocado toast with poached egg just sounded delicious.

Chocolate Espresso at Mondieu Laboratoire Bratislava

We should have been warned by the photos in the menu. Whenever a place has photos in the menu it’s a bit of an alarm sign 😉 The food was tasty, but not great. While my poached egg and sauce hollandaise were nearly cold, the omelette didn’t really hit all the high notes on the taste scale. But: The chocolate coffees are divine. You can get those as coffee to go as well!

Where to stay

Bratislava’s hotel scene is growing, but we stayed in the partner hotel of our eye clinic – a very traditional house. The 4 star “Hotel Devín” is located super conveniently directly at the Danube and behind the beautiful Christmas market of Hviezdoslavovo Square.

Hotel Devín Bratislava Premier Suite

The hotel has the charm of a very old school luxury hotel – think a Christmas tree in the lobby decorated in red and gold and dark wood panelled walls.

Hotel Devín Bratislava Premier SuiteHotel Devín Bratislava Premier SuiteHotel Devín Bratislava Premier Suite

But the room we got was really incredible! We were upgraded to a Premier Suite (#106) in the first floor, which was unbelievably spacious and very cozy and comfortable. Our bedroom felt bigger than our whole apartment at home. And the views of the Danube and the UFO were quite something! This is definitely a great homebase for a stay in Bratislava (be it 24 hours or longer) 😉

Also check our other 24 hours city guides:

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