The majority of tourists who come to Bratislava spend a couple of days wandering around the old town, before rushing to the more established destinations such as Vienna, Prague or Budapest. I made this very mistake in 2005 – ignoring Bratislava and the local area in favour of a day trip to Vienna. Consequently, I feel that I missed out on both at the expense of trying to see everything, a lesson that most season travellers will likely understand.
I’ve been living in Bratislava for nearly six months now, and managed to have a reasonable stab at exploring the surrounding area – which has been fantastic! Here are some of the day trips that tourists and travellers coming here should consider (travel to each will cost you no more than €5 return).
1 – Malé Karpaty
The hills adjacent to Bratislava are the small Carpathian mountains (or male Karpaty), and should be on your to-visit list if you’re interested in wine, castles, hiking or biking.
As Slovakia lies at the heart of many historical trade routes it has been subject to military pressure from various countries and regions since the middle ages. Consequently, there are numerous castles and chateaux throughout the country, some restored, others in various states of decay. The excellent network of hiking trails makes access easy from the towns and villages on either side of the male Karpaty. Two of my favourite day trips are to Devín and Pajštún, which you can read more about in the links below.
At the foot of the eastern slopes of the mountains are several villages and towns renouned for wine production. Take a direct train or bus to places like Svätý Jur, Modra, Pezinok, Častá, or Doľany, and visit the many wineries or wine cellars. As very little Slovakian wine is exported, it’s relatively unknown on the international market, although it is of excellent quality.
2 – Čunovo
Čunovo is a small village next to the danube, and near the border with Austria and Hungary. Two of the most notable attractions for tourists in the vicinity are the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, and the tripoint, where Austria, Hungary and Slovakia converge. I’ve yet to visit the Danubiana, which is accessible by either local bus (#90 from Nové SND) or boat from central Bratislava. I have however visited the tripoint, which you can read about below.
3 – Hainburg an der Donau
The small Austrian town of Hainburg an der Donau is situated within The Danube-Auen National Park, around 12 km to the west of Bratislava. Largely ignored by tourists in both Vienna and Bratislava, the local area boasts an array of cycling and walking routes, in addition to a preserved medieval town centre with numerous historical buildings. The hills of Braunsberg and Schlossberg feature the remains of a Celtic fortress and a ruin castle, respectively.
At the western end of the town is the 13th century Vienna Gate (Wienertor), the largest remaining medieval gate in Europe, whichnow houses a small city museum (open 12:30 – 17:30 on Sundays and holidays). Large sections of the old city walls also remain intact, as well two additional city gates – Das Fischertor and Das Ungator. Like many central European towns there is Marian column in the main square, possibly symbolising the end of the Plague in the 14th century. A defining moment in the history of Hainburg occurred on the 11th July 1683, when Turkish soldiers captured the city and killed all 8.000 inhabitants in one day, many of whom were escaping via Das Fischertor.
As I’ve not spent much time here, I can’t really offer any advice on decent cafe’s, bars or restaurants. As expected, prices are considerably higher than in Bratislava, so maybe not ideal for those on a budget. That shouldn’t discourage anyone from visiting, especially as Hainburg has excellent transport connections with Bratislava. Slovak lines operate this route from the main bus station and the journey takes just under 30 minutes (€1.50 each way, or €2.90 return). There are also regular trains to/from Vienna.
4 – Bratislava Defence Arc
In response to the increasing threat from Hitler and facism during the 1930s, Czechoslovakia began the construction of bunkers and fortresses in the border regions. One such example was the 9 km long Bratislava-Petržalka Defense Arc, which featured 15 bunkers designed to help protect the only area of Czechoslovakia that was south of river Danube which borders both Austria and Hungary. The defense system partially operational, although never completed, as this territory was transferred to Hungary after the First Vienna Award treaty in November 1938.
These bunkers lay abandoned for many years, although recently several (BS-4, BS-6 and BS-8) have been restored and converted into small museums. I recently wrote about my visit to BS-8 in August 2016, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in was related sights. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to investigate the others too!
Public transport in and around Bratislava is excellent. The Cestovné poriadky website provides information on transport links for trains and buses throughout the Slovak Republic, as well local transport in towns and cities. There is an app available (Slovak language only) for both Apple and Android devices.