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“You can’t go to Europe when you’re on a budget” is perhaps one of the biggest travel myths out there. Heck, even Halef and I considered avoiding Europe on our round the world trip. But the fact is, Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. You can do places like Bratislava on a budget, for example.
I did Bratislava in one week and had money left over!
Can everyone travel Europe – even on a really cheap budget? Of course not. But our goal is to help those who can afford to get there to do it as inexpensively as possible.
In this post, I’ll show you how to do Bratislava on a budget in one week (or less).
And it’s not going to be a dumbed-down trip where you come back feeling like you did something really cheap and didn’t get a full experience either.
What this post is about
This is a one-week, budget trip to Bratislava, Slovakia that is inexpensive. More importantly though, it’s a meaningful trip where you’ll have a wonderful time.
No, you won’t be staying in 5-star hotels. And you won’t be dining in Michelin-starred restaurants. But you’re going to get to do and see the things that people want to talk about when they come home.
The point is that just because you’re doing a cheap trip to Bratislava doesn’t mean you need to cheat yourself out of an amazing experience.
And the great news: Bratislava is pretty cheap anyway, so your money will go even farther in the capital of Slovakia!
How to get to Bratislava
Although this post is about the cost of visiting Bratislava for a week and not the price to get there, I thought I would share with you how I arrived in this beautiful city.
I subscribe to an email list called “Scott’s Cheap Flights.” For a nominal annual subscription (at the time of writing, just $39), I get 4-5 emails a week with International airfare deals from my home airport of Atlanta.
Since I take 3-5 international trips a year, Scott’s Cheap Flights saves me a couple of thousand dollars a year – at least.
For this trip, I got a deal to Budapest from Atlanta for $344 round-trip. The normal price in the summer would be far more – over $1,000.
How to get to Bratislava from Budapest
From Budapest, I took a train to Bratislava that cost about €11 for a second-class ticket. That means you have a closed-off cabin that seats six and has dedicated air conditioning and heat.
I actually paid more for the taxi from the airport to the train station than I did for the ticket to Bratislava. Ouch! Not very “budget” of me, is it?
This 2-3 hour journey twisted its way along the Danube River, which was very nice.
The Bratislava City Pass (Bratislava Card)
One way to make your one-week visit to Bratislava very inexpensive is to invest €20 right away and buy a Bratislava City Card.
Here are the Bratislava Card options and their prices:
- 1 day: €18
- 2 day: €22
- 3 day: €25
You can purchase these cards either at their tourism office and information locations, or online at the official Bratislava Tourism Office page.
There is no one-week Bratislava card.
Main Benefits of the Bratislava Card
There are three main benefits to the Bratislava card that will save you money:
- Free public transportation
- One hour Bratislava free walking tour
- Free entrance to 14 museums
What to do in Bratislava on a budget
Bratislava is just one of those cities that has a lot of free or very cheap things to do. And if you have equally inexpensive Bratislava Card, it’s so cheap it’s almost funny!
Here are a few things you can see during your week in Bratislava:
Old Town Hall
Old town hall is one of the oldest stone buildings in Slovakia and is the oldest city hall in the country. The building is the home of the Bratislava City Museum.
It’s the dominant feature in the city, without question. You can see Bratislava Castle from just about anywhere. From the castle, you can see all of Bratislava, into Austria, and when the weather is clear, all the way to Hungary.
I found myself coming here nearly every day just to take pictures.
Bratislava Castle was built from the 9th to 18th centuries. It was destroyed by fire and rebuilt from 1956-1964. The original castle was brown stone. I think I like it better white.
People in Bratislava either love this bridge or absolutely hate it. I kinda like it, though the history of the bridge leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many here (including me).
In order for the bridge to be built, many Jewish homes had to be destroyed, displacing many Jews in the city.
You can go up to the top by paying 7.50€; however, if you buy something at the restaurant, this is deducted from your bill.
Presidential palace (Grassalkovich Palace)
The Presidential Palace, or Grassalkovich Palace, was built in the 1750s and completed in 1760. It’s the current home to the president, but was originally the home of Count Antal Grassalkovich, for whom it is named.
This palace was originally built for Archbishop József Batthyány. Today, it’s the office of the Mayor of Bratislava. The cool thing to see here is the famous Hall of Mirrors.
It’s also the only place in the palace where you may take photos.
Maximilian’s Fountain/Roland’s Fountain
No doubt, if you’re staying in Bratislava for a few days, you’ll walk by this fountain several times. It’s called Maximilian’s Fountain, but it’s better known as Roland’s Fountain. Roland was a knight, famous for defending Bratislava and its values.
It’s said that Roland comes to life a few times a year.
The fountain is particularly beautiful at night when colorful lights illuminate it.
Slovak Radio building
The Slovak Radio Building holds the distinction of being named one of the ugliest buildings in the world. I don’t have an opinion either way on this.
There’s something that draws you to it, that’s for sure.
All I know is that I spent a lot of time trying to find it and walking there. I’m glad I did!
Street art and murals
Bratislava has so many beautiful murals, you could probably do an entire feature on them. Of course, they’re free to see.
Add a walking tour to your Bratislava itinerary and check them out.
Galeria Nedbalka is a Slovak Modern Art Gallery featuring artists from the late nineteenth century to the present. It’s just 5 € to enter.
The gallery is open every day except Monday and stays open until 7 each evening.
Blue church (St. Elizabeth’s)
The Little Blue Church is one of Bratislava’s most famous landmarks. It was originally the chapel for a high school, but now serves as a Hungarian Secessionist Catholic Church.
Sadly, the church was closed while I was there, but the inside is as quaint and pretty as the outside. You’ll find the church in the eastern part of old town Bratislava.
St. Michael’s Gate
One of the coolest things to see in the city, St. Michael’s gate is also very old. It was built in 1300 and is the only medieval fortification gate left of the 4 originals.
It’s completely worth the climb to the top to get a photo of the Old City.
Slavin War Memorial
The Slavín memorial serves as a testament to the memory of Soviet troops who fell while trying to free Bratislava from German troops during the second world war. 6,845 soldiers are buried here.
It’s an uphill walk to get to the memorial, but it’s worth it. Not only do you get to pass through a fairly wealthy neighborhood and see beautiful homes/ You’ll also see a replica of The White House.
Many mistake it as being the U.S. Embassy. It’s not. But it is, apparently, the residence of the American Ambassador in Bratislava.
Although Devin Castle is not in Bratislava, it’s close enough – just 20 minutes by bus. So I think it deserves to be in this post. If you have the Bratislava Card, not only can you take the metro for free, but admission into Devin Castle is also free (and just 5 € otherwise).
No Bratislava itinerary would be complete without a visit. For me, Devin Castle was one of the highlights of Bratislava. It dates all the way back to 864 A.D.
Check out our YouTube video from my trip:
Apollo Bridge (Most Apollo)
The Apollo Bridge is by far the coolest bridge in Bratislava. This is especially true at night. A couple of interesting facts:
- The bridge has no right angles.
- It was built on the left bank and then rotated into place from there.
- It was a finalist for an OPAL Award in 2006
There are so many cafes in the old city, it would be hard to single out even a few of them. They are scattered throughout the area and offer visitors a pleasant atmosphere to people-watch, have a drink, and have a bite to eat.
My personal favorite was Urban House. It was a little more expensive than I like, so it’s not exactly “Bratislava on a budget.” But I ate here several times and got to know the staff quite well.
Add a stop to your Bratislava itinerary. They are very friendly and serve great food. My favorites were the mushroom and truffle pizza with arugula and the veggie burger. It was unlike any veggie burger I’ve ever had.
They’ve also added a Beyond Meat burger since I was there. Yum!
Again, you’ll find far cheaper places. But if you want a friendly place to set up your laptop and relax, Urban House is it.
Where to stay in Bratislava on a budget
I stayed in Bratislava for 6 nights. Because I needed a quiet place to get work done (without the disruption of people coming in and out of my room or partying), I decided on an AirBnb this time.
I needed a place with a desk to write posts like this and do a bit of video sorting. But if I wasn’t concerned about stuff like this – which I’m usually not – I’d stay in a hostel. You can read more about why I think hostels are better than hotels here.
Here are a few Bratislava budget hostel suggestions that will help you save money even better than I did. I’ve researched them on several sites and added links so you can book them directly.
My criteria for hostel choices in Bratislava were fairly simple:
- A kitchen to help keep food cost low
- Centrally-located to avoid transportation costs
- Free (and good) Wi-Fi
- Under $30 per night
- Well rated by guests (at least 8/10)
Here are the hostels in Bratislava that I recommend you check out.
How to get around Bratislava on a budget?
Bratislava is a very walkable city. I rarely used public transportation and didn’t use taxis there at all. But if you need transportation, it’s readily available.
If you have the Bratislava Card, using public transport makes complete sense because it’s free. Even if you don’t use the card, public transportation in Bratislava is really cheap.
For the most part though, you probably won’t use public transportation. Most of the things to do in Bratislava are within walking distance of each other, especially if you’re sticking to the Old Town area.
The only exception when I was there was going to Devin Castle. Devin Castle is an easy 20-minute bus ride from Bratislava.
In mid-March, 2018, a court blocked Uber from operating in the country. But that order has now been lifted. So Uber away!
If it’s your first time using Uber, you can use promo code michaeld24694ue to get a free ride. Or, simply use this link.
A lot of people recommend Bolt (formerly Taxify). It’s an app you can download from whatever App Store you use. You get your first ride for free (up to €8)
Is Bratislava Expensive?
I spent 6 nights in Bratislava. Here’s a rough breakdown of my expenses:
Airbnb in Bratislava
I spent $184 to stay in a very nice Airbnb in a good neighborhood. I rented a spacious, clean private room in a home where the owner was not present. Coffee and tea were free, and the owner often left fresh fruit in the kitchen.
If you want to try Airbnb, I recommend it. If you use our Airbnb referral link, you’ll get a credit and so will we!
I used a 3-day Bratislava City Pass while I was there. Full disclosure: I got it for free. Normally, the 3-day Bratislava City Card costs 25 €.
When thinking about what to do in Bratislava, use this card as a guide. Many things in Bratislava are free if you have the card.
Food and Drink Prices in Bratislava
If you eat outside of the Old City – aka, tourist central – you can easily get by on 20-25 € per day. If you choose to eat at cafes in the Old City, you can easily add 50% or more to your budget.
- A pint of beer in the Old City – 5 €
- Enjoy a beer in a cafe outside the wall – 3.50 €
- Grab a pint at Devin Castle for less than 2.50 €
So no, Europe doesn’t have to be expensive at all. Especially in cities like Bratislava (and many other Eastern European cities!)
There are lots of amazing things to do in Bratislava on a budget. Personally, I would be hard-pressed to spend much more than I did.
The food here is inexpensive if you stay outside the Old City. Transportation is very inexpensive. Cheap hostels and relatively inexpensive Airbnbs help you further reduce your costs.
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.