Bratislava By Bus
After four days in Vienna we are wondering if Bratislava can hold its own against one of our favourite European cities.
We pick up our Flixbus from the main train station in Vienna & board for the just under one hour trip to Bratislava. On arrival at the Bratislava main bus terminal we discover that the precinct is a construction zone, whilst the new terminal & surrounding buildings (offices & hotels by the look of their frames) are finished. The terminal is a little under a ten minute taxi ride from the old part of Bratislava.
It’s a little after 7pm & starting to go dusk – summer is well and truly over now! Our hotel is, according to Google Maps, only a five minute walk away but that time estimate was, I think, based on joggers not walkers! A little under fifteen minutes later we were at our hotel.
The hotel is three to three and a half star – built, I would estimate, in the sixties & would have been super luxury in its day. Whilst not run down, it is showing signs of its age – more in its style than anything but the staff are very friendly & our room is probably fifty percent bigger than the one we had in Vienna, which was almost suite like in size itself! We have a “Study” area with large desk, a “Seating” area with two lounge chairs & side table & “Sleeping” area with queen sized bed – oh, & there’s a large balcony with table & chairs too!
By the time we have finished check in & settling in to our room it is approaching 9pm so we decide to just have room service for dinner before an early night in readiness for tomorrow!
Sunday arrives without any fanfare and, to be honest, the only reason we get out of bed is that breakfast finishes at 10.00am! We head downstairs & make our way to the dining room (the scene of last night’s dinner). Breakfast is a buffet set up, like most hotels these days, with a selection of food that would satisfy pretty much anyone with a heartbeat.
We take our time having breakfast & then decide that we will head out to explore Bratislava (well, at least the old town to begin with) a little after 1pm. We order a taxi at reception & the ride into town takes a little over 5 minutes & €8.50 (fixed price).
Vehicles are not allowed in the centre of the Old Town so our taxi drive drops us off close to the Slovak National Theatre building, which is just opposite the City’s Casino – both of which are housed in historic buildings that are quite impressive.
We take a walk around the old town centre, making our way past some fashion shops (open on a Sunday (take note Germany) & up towards a market square & the old Town Hall building. Then we stroll up towards St Michael’s gate, where there is an ancient weaponry museum but that, unfortunately, is closed. So we head back towards the market square to take advantage of one of the many café/restaurants nearby with a coffee & some cake.
After a little more exploration we decided to grab something to eat & found a nice Chinese restaurant in a small courtyard. There aren’t many customers – but it is a Sunday evening, so we are not discouraged. The food is great & prices are very reasonable. On leaving we discover that there is a Segway tour operator in the same courtyard which is a real bonus. So we make a mental note for tomorrow.
Time to head back to the hotel. A lesson learned here was to confirm the price of the taxi before you start the journey. The ride back cost us €18.50 with the drive showing us the fare on the meter. I later found out that these “Meters” are not regulated & can be set to whatever rate the drive thinks he can get away with!
Next day comes around (Monday) & we decide to head into town on the bus. We have purchased a 48 hour Bratislava Card which gives us unlimited use of public transport & discounted entry to numerous attractions – some even free entry!
We had good directions from reception but still managed to get on the wrong bus & ended up at one of Bratislava’s main shopping centres – which has the same stores as just about every other shopping centre throughout Europe – not much interest for us really as neither of us are avid shoppers.
We have to walk through the centre to get to the bus stop we need to get back to the old part of town we were originally heading for & find the right bus this time!
The old town is really interesting, with lots to see but first we head to the Segway tour office to check out prices & availability. It’s only €35 each for a two hour tour so we book for 2pm. We have been wanting to try a Segway ever since our daughter, Cristal, told us she hates them when we went to Berlin with her in 2016, so we are finally going to be able to tick this off our list – Cristal will not be impressed!
The guy in the office is really personable & recommends for us a local restaurant/bar that provides a two course lunch for €4.50, so we decide to check it out. It’s only a five minute walk from where we are & his directions are spot on. Lunch comprised a soup followed by your choice of a traditional Bratislavan chicken dish or goulash. We choose the chicken & are not disappointed – it was very tasty & for the price, amazing value.
The place also looks like it does live music so we make a note to come back in the evening to check it out.
Two pm comes around quickly enough & we find ourselves back at the Segway offices where we select our Segway (we have a choice of the “Off road” or normal Segway). Both of us go for the normal unit as the off road version looks like a bit of a monster! There is one other tourist with us and, after our tour guide puts us through our familiarisation paces we hit the streets of Bratislava!
These things are a real hoot once you get the hang of them & it’s a fabulous way to do a city tour. We spent half our time on the roads (where there were cycle lanes) & half on the footpath with our guide giving us a rolling commentary on the various sights of the city & its history.
Some of the places of interest we had already seen earlier in the day & yesterday but on a Segway everything looked a little different! We went through the city park & along one side of the river bank, crossing via a bridge to make our way to The Bratislava Castle (which we only looked at from the outside) before heading around the old town where we saw St Martins Cathedral, The Primate’s Palace, Martin’s Gate, the Slovak Presidential Palace & The Old Town Hall to name but a few. With plenty of stops along the way the two hours went by very quickly!
Once we had finished the tour we decided to walk through the old town to the river & catch the bus back to our hotel – we were feeling quite tired after the combination of walking & mastering that Segway!
After some “Down time” having a relaxing cuppa in our room, we opt to have dinner in the hotel restaurant. It could easily seat 150-200 people & adjoins a separate dining area, which I presume is used for small functions. The food is good, the service is pleasant & the price is great value for money.
Once we finish dinner we head back to our room & to bed, looking forward to some more adventures tomorrow.
Tuesday, & after a late breakfast we head back into town to visit some of the attractions we passed by on our Segway tour yesterday. First stop was Bratislava Castle & it was quite impressive. Originally built in the 9th Century it has been completely refurbished after a period in the twentieth century where it was an absolute ruin. Works only commenced in the late 1950’s &, at one point, authorities considered tearing it down!
Now it is a real landmark & is in almost new condition. From there we went to Michael’s Gate & had a look around the exhibits of ancient weapons. It was interesting both for the history of the weapons on display as well as for the building they are housed in – which is an old tower, one of the remnants of the old city walls, so you are going up a spiral stairway onto each of the four levels where the weapons are displayed. Our Bratislava card got us in for free.
Then it was time for a much need coffee break before we continued our self paced tour with a visit to St Martin’s Cathedral. Over the last three years we have become used to the opulence of the innumerable Cathedrals in Europe so this one did not create a “Wow!” for us but it was a beautiful space nonetheless & well worth a look.
Dinner time was approaching & so we made our way to an interesting looking tavern that was done Scottish style – it was even called the Loch Ness Tavern! Meals were good &, again, great value. Once we had finished eating we headed back to see if the live music was playing at the café we had visited for lunch yesterday but, by the time we got there (a little after 9pm) the music had stopped – a piano player. Not to be put off by that, we had a couple of drinks there before heading back to the hotel.
Wednesday & we are scheduled to head back to Vienna for our flights back to Frankfurt. We decide to have a “Lazy” day & not venture out at all but stay in our hotel. I arrange a late checkout for 2pm & Iris does some reading whilst I do a little work online.
We checkout & head for the bus terminal – this time we catch the bus! We arrive in plenty of time for our Flixbus which will take us to Vienna for our 8.30pm flight. However, our bus runs late & we end up not catching it – we were waiting at the right platform (according to the screen anyhow) but because it was running late we figure that the driver must have just stopped outside the main terminal building as opposed to driving around to the departure platform advertised.
We are not impressed but another bus comes along & we simply catch that one. We still arrive at Vienna Airport in plenty of time but it is a hassle we could well have done without.
Our flight back to Frankfurt was on time (& left from the right departure gate to boot!). Once landed we got our one piece of hold luggage & headed to the bus interchange where we caught the OF64 back to Buchschlag & “Home sweet home”!
This will be our last trip within Europe before we head back to Australia in December & we had a blast – as usual!