As we’ve often touched upon, Bratislava is framed as a one-day city destination. Yes, its capital is close to Vienna, but why not spend more time getting to know Slovakia? There are plenty of Bratislava day trips that don’t involve crossing the border!
Whenever we say we lived in Slovakia, varying reactions range from genuine curiosity to comments like, ‘is Slovakia safe?‘
To be honest, we didn’t exactly know much about Slovakia before moving there. Let us just say that it will exceed your expectations and leave your stereotypes at the door. What we will say is to try to learn a wee bit of Slovak, and the locals will appreciate it.
Did you know Slovakia is famous for its castles, spa towns, and local wine industry? It’s also incredibly mountainous and a haven for outdoor activities. The vibe is family orientated, and the locals we knew were all outdoorsy types, with hiking and cycling being popular hobbies!
Honestly, living here, we felt tremendously unfit compared to the locals. Still, it motivated us to get outside a bit more!
Visiting other parts of Slovakia outside of the cities isn’t something to be afraid of. There is true beauty to this country and lovely people to meet. What matters is that you form your own opinions by having these cultural experiences, and we can guide you on how to get started.
How to get around Slovakia – Bratislava day trips
From car rentals to public transportation, this is a savvy guide to how to get around Slovakia.
The trains and buses are very cheap and comfortable, but there has been the odd occasion where the train takes a while to get going. We would argue it’s still better than the rail service in the UK. Car rental is simple enough, we enjoyed the Up! City Cars because you can rent them from a shop in the city centre and they’re electric!
Car Rental in Bratislava
You’ll find there are the usual suspects – Hertz, Sixt, Avis and Europcar which are well-recognized international car-hire firms. You can rent from their offices at the airport, and some have bases in hotels in the city centre. Local car-hire firms include abrix.sk, autodanubius.sk, rai.sk.
Eco-friendly Up! City Cars
If you’re looking to go electric, then check out Up! City Cars who you’ll find in the city centre in the Stara Trznica building (just around the corner from Tourist Information). These are nifty little cars designed to navigate the streets of Bratislava easily. They also have enough juice for you to travel around the Bratislava region. There are child seats available. They also come with built-in navigation systems which is perfect for Bratislava day trips!
Public transport in and around Bratislava
We wholly recommend getting the Bratislava City Card, because you get free public transport not only in the city but around the region on both the bus and train. The card gets you quite far, and some of the places we recommend on our list have free or discounted entry with the card!
If you’re buying on-the-go, the machines at tram and bus stops take cash (Euros), and you need to validate your ticket once inside the bus or tram. There are inspectors so don’t get caught out. On buses leaving from the central bus station to places out with city limits, you can buy from the driver. Train tickets again can be purchased in the central train station from a machine or teller. If you want to be super prepared, pre-buy train tickets, and use the regional train website ZSSK.
Gorgeous Bratislava Day Trips
This article is a set of mini-guides to our favourite destinations, just a short train, bus ride, or drive from Bratislava.
Modra – Bratislava day trips
This pretty little town is just half an hour from Bratislava and is nestled in the south-eastern hillside of the Little Carpathians. Modra’s roots date back to the 12th century. It was named a Free Royal Town by Rudolf II, and it’s famous for making wine and pottery production. We took a tour with Enjoy Bratislava, but it’s also easy enough to explore on your own.
Facts about Modra:
- The name Modra means blue in Slovak
- Writer Ľudovít Štúr lived and died here – he standardized the Slovak language
- There is no train station here because when the line was built, the town magistrate didn’t allow it!
Things to do in Modra
Modra is a small town. Once you know where to go, you can fill up your day with cultural experiences, wine tasting, and perhaps take away some beautiful locally made pottery!
Ignác Bizmayer Gallery, Modra
We adored this gallery! It’s located inside a rotund old bastion of the town walls which date back to the 17th century. It contains ceramics and sculptures from legendary Slovak artist Ignác Bizmayer. His work depicts real Slovak people and workers through the ages, with special homage paid to the traditional dress of different towns and villages. There is an impressive collection of ceramics showing the painstaking wine-making process from vine to bottle. We learned a lot about Slovak culture and the history of its people through his work.
Zoya Museum, Modra
This gallery is the twin of the Zoya Gallery in Bratislava, and you’ll find it in Elesko Wine Park. This modern complex opened in 2010 and won architectural awards for its design. Zoya hosts a permanent exhibition which includes work by Slovak and international artists. Its biggest draw is the work of Andy Warhol. He famously said, “I am from nowhere”. But his parents came from a small village in Eastern Slovakia called Mikova meaning Andy Warhol had Slovak roots!
Ľudovít Štúr Museum
This museum is in the home of the famous writer Ľudovít Štúr, who was the innovator behind creating a standardized Slovak language. He led a literary movement that had a substantial social and cultural impact on Slovakia. The museum also presents the history of Modra, its ethnographical, ceramic, and cultural traditions. Displays are also in English.
Modra Wine Cellars
Did someone say wine?! We are right there! You can’t go to Modra and not visit a wine cellar to discover small carpathian wine. There are several Modra wine cellars to choose from, and there are even festivals and open wine cellar days you can do if you plan ahead! Our favourite was the family-run Pivnica U Pradeda which is open all-year-round. It’s a beautiful old house and cellar, and they provide wine tastings which can also come with food if requested. Other lovely local wine producers are Vino Kmeťo, Fedor Malik & Son, and Wine Fiala. You can also visit the ultra-modern Elesko Wine Park. They have a winery, restaurant, and art gallery on-site – the ultimate cultural day out! We also recommend picking one of the delightful family-run restaurants in town and having some local wine with your meal.
Pottery in Modra
Modra is most well-known for its production of majolica pottery. The pottery guild was formed in Modra in 1636. These wonderfully intricate designs are painted in Modra blue with a white base. Still, you will also find green, yellow, purple, brown and red décor on the pieces. Blue, of course, represents the name of the town and that’s why it’s the most popular. The designs range from traditional flowers and grapevines to patterns designed by the artists. The ceramic workshop – Slovak Folk Majolica has been in use since the 1950s, and it preserves the tradition of the craft. You’ll find beautiful displays in Slovenská Ľudová Majolika and visit the shops to buy a non-touristy gift to take home.
Farm Pod Gaštankou
For families, there is a lovely little farm tucked in between vineyards, meadows, and forest. You can see and meet all kinds of friendly animals such as sheep and goats. They also run events and activities throughout the year for children. You can also enjoy scrumptious snacks from their café.
Modra Lookout Tower
If you feel up to an hour-long hike, there is a 20m tall lookout tower just outside of Modra that gives you views of Modra and the surrounding countryside. We decided to climb the town hall bell tower instead, but this is something you can only do with a guide. That is another perk to having a private tour! This hike is a brilliant alternative, and it doesn’t cost a penny. The trail is located at the top of Veľká Homola in the Little Carpathians. To get here by bus from Bratislava, get off at the stop – Modra Piesok across from Hotel Zochova Chata.
You can get to Modra quite quickly by bus. It takes around about an hour, and you can get a bus from the central Bratislava bus station. By car, you will get there in 30 minutes from Bratislava.
Trnava – Bratislava day trips
This beautiful gem of a city is affectionally named the ‘Little Rome of Slovakia’ with its abundance of churches and quaint streets. Trnava is a gorgeous small city to go for a stroll, eat delicious food and have unique cultural experiences. Trnava itself was founded in the late 9th century. It is the oldest free royal borough, and it has always played an essential part in being the centre of culture and trade in Slovakia.
- It was the church “capital” of the Kingdom of Hungary for several centuries
- It’s a university town which equals fun times!
- Trnava has lots of festivals every year including the Trnava Jazz Festival
Things to do in Trnava
Trnava is the perfect day trip from Bratislava. Not many tourists come here, but it’s ripe for sightseeing! Enjoy eating out at hip restaurants and quaint cafes, and check out events and festivals here, especially in the summer and autumn. Let’s take a trip around Trnava!
Synagogue Status Quo Ante (Art Gallery)
A gorgeous contemporary art gallery and a former working synagogue. The Jewish community has a long history in Trnava. When the synagogue was built in 1897, over 2000 Jews were living here. This population grew to almost 3000 by 1930, but they did not survive the Holocaust. Nowadays the gallery pays homage to the lost community with a memorial at the front of the synagogue. It is now used as the Center for Contemporary Art of Jan Koniarek Gallery. It showcases artists from Slovakia and further afield and sometimes holds events. It’s a uniquely beautiful space, and on our visit, we received a pamphlet detailing the history of the local Jewish community.
This unique café was built in 1891 by Jakub Gartner, a Viennese architect and is an Orthodox synagogue. It went under reconstruction in 2010 after years of neglect, and it even won an award for its restoration! Synagogue café respects its heritage and sees itself as a cultural hub with everything from exhibitions to concerts. The space itself retains the old features with an impressive intricately painted ceiling – even if you just pop into the cafe for a coffee, it’s worth going to see.
Churches and Trinity Square
We mentioned earlier that Trnava is seen as Slovakia’s Rome. This fact is mostly to do with the number of churches and because it’s the seat of a Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The gothic-style St Nicholas Basilica is a 15th-century church with a weeping painting of the Virgin Mary. Meanwhile, the historic Cathedral of St John the Baptist (University Church) was visited by Pope John Paul II in 2003. On Trinity Square, you’ll find the town hall and a beautiful baroque Holy Trinity statue which dates to the 17th century. Just walk around the streets of Trnava and happen upon other small churches but be mindful of when services are taking place.
Surrounding Tranva are these incredibly intact fortification walls which are the oldest in Central Europe. Don’t miss a chance to see Bernolak’s Gate and admire its 13th-century gothic style.
Town hall tower
The Trnava Tower is attached to the town hall in Trinity Square, which is also conveniently the visitor information centre. For a wee fee, you can climb the tower and get a cracking view from above. It’s also a picture-perfect spot for you Insta-fiends!
The cultural scene in Trnava
Trnava always seems to have something going on, and it was a regular event to hop on a train from Bratislava to get a non-touristy cultural fix. Little Berlin is a recent addition. It’s a cool hang-out, co-working space and hosts regular events such as theatre performances and concerts. We mentioned the jazz festival who host free concerts in a city-centre park. There are other festivities throughout the year, including Christmas markets and music and wine festivals.
Smolenice Castle and Driny Cave
Nearby is the neo-classical Smolenice Castle which is just outside a village of the same name. This castle rich country does offer castle hunting nerds like us lots of opportunities to discover fairytale-esque beauties and this is no exception! Smolenice Castle is only open to the public in July and August. Still, you can explore its grounds or go hiking in the Little Carpathians. Driny cave is also located in the Little Carpathians. It is the only cave in these hills and is a national monument. There is a lovely educational trail here from the recreation centre Jahodník.
Eating out in Trnava
Foody haven! We did not expect the quality of places to eat and drink that we found here. For top-notch coffee and brunch try Thalmeiner on Trinity Square. For lunch in a gorgeous terraced setting, try Forhaus and Akademia in Little Berlin. Dinner at Enak Bistro is also an excellent choice – it’s classed as an Indonesian restaurant with influence from all over Asia. We all know gelato is top of the agenda and you can’t go wrong with a trip to Gio on Halenarska for their creative flavours. The cream of the cake though is Babovka Bakery – a chic café with amazing cakes and perfect for a cheeky glass of vino. Along the main street, you’ll see so many restaurants serving traditional food too, which in our experience also filled us up nicely.
Trnava is an easy Bratislava day trip by train. It only takes about 30 minutes and costs a grand total of € 2.55 each way from Bratislava Hl St. If you want to visit the castle and cave then bringing a car would be easier to get there but otherwise we advocate public transport. Walking around the city is simple and very enjoyable.
Pezinok – Bratislava day trips
This town seemed to be the place we were most drawn to. Mostly because Pezinok is most famous for being a wine town! It’s charming and has a well-preserved historical centre. A long tradition of wine-making means it is often the home of wine festivities. It gradually changed from being a mining town to a vineyard town in the 17th century after a wave of German settlers arrived. Nowadays it is still a mean, wine-making machine and a beautiful place to explore.
Facts about Pezinok
- There is a ski resort nearby – Pezinská Baba
- It’s on the Little Carpathian wine route
- Pezinok was made a Free Royal Town in the 17th century by Ferdinand III
Things to do in Pezinok
Outside of festivals and wine harvest season you can have a lovely one day trip to Pezinok from Bratislava. Wander its pretty streets, park, and sample the local wine in the wine museum or a wine bar.
Little Carpathians Wine Museum
Why wouldn’t this be your first stop? If you are as me (Jen) then you will not regret finding out about the town’s relationship with wine-making and viniculture. The Little Carpathians Wine Museum is very educational, and you learn the fascinating history of Pezinok. Kids can go too; it has interactive elements and a dress-up box…not just for kids of course. Downstairs is a cellar with old presses and barrels, a shop and a free glass of wine which comes with entry!
Newly renovated, the beautiful Pezinok Castle is a Renaissance castle which was reconstructed in a baroque style. It’s now home to a wine cellar, restaurants, wine bar and small museum. When Pezinok is in full festival swing, the castle has a market and food typically for sale in its courtyard. During vinobranie (wine harvest) we even found a stage with live music just outside the castle.
A heavenly park to walk through. Pezinok park is on the edge of the town centre and next to the castle. There are all kinds of incredible wildlife roaming around in here, including peacocks and red squirrels. Sit by the lovely pond in the middle and feed the ducks like we did and enjoy the beautiful greenery.
Mlsna Emma Chocolate Café
Need we say more?! This space is both a chocolate café and a lovely shop with trinkets, clothes and ornaments made by Slovak designers. A great place to come and support a local business and designers with a genuine souvenir! Mlsna Emma kind of reminded us of the Chocolat shop from the film, with some delightful sweet treats, pralines, and hot chocolates to enjoy. We think we’ve just remembered why we love this town so much!
Old Town Hall and Pottery
The 17th century “Stará Radnica” hosts a lovely wine bar with seats on the terrace outside. You’ll find some lovely places to stop and eat around here too. If you’re up for a bit of shopping visit Keramika Granec which has a beautiful selection of Slovak Folk Majolica pottery.
Cerveny Kamen Castle
Cerveny Kamen is a stately home slash castle which you can easily get to on a bus from Pezinok or Bratislava. We combined visiting the castle in the morning with a trip to Pezinok in the afternoon. It’s a well-preserved red stone castle next to the village of Častá and set against a backdrop of lush forests and rolling hills. Cerveny Kamen’s roots go way back to the 13th century but it was eventually sold to the Pallfy family who did their own makeover on the place which is what you see today. Tour around the rooms inside, the underground bastions, and roam the gorgeous grounds. There are tours in Slovak most of the year, for English tours come in the summer. Don’t miss climbing the clock tower and seeing the resident peacocks on your visit and bring cash for the café and wine shop.
If you start from Cerveny Kamen, get the 566/550 bus from Bratislava’s main bus station to Častá. The bus takes around an hour to get there and is free if you’re using the Bratislava Card. The bus drives through Pezinok, so it’s easy to jump off there. From Pezinok we recommend the train from the train station, which only takes 20 minutes to get to Bratislava.
Piestany Spa Town – Bratislava day trips
On the banks of the Váh River is this picturesque spa town which is well renowned throughout Slovakia as a place for relaxation and rehabilitation. People flock to Piestany’s hotels for medical treatment and to take advantage of the natural mineral water.
- The town is divided into two parts with the spa island on one side and the city centre on the other
- Its spa island treats 40,000 people a year
- You can drink hot mineral water straight from the tap!
Things to do in Piestany
Piestany is a beautiful relaxed destination for those needing a bit of pampering. You can come for the day, enjoy the spas, and take a wander around the town, along the river and enjoy what nature it has to offer.
Piestany Spa Island
Piestany’s famous spa island is why everyone comes to visit – you have to go for a spa treatment! Being British, we do have to warn you that if you decide to go for a mud bath, you do have to get naked to do it. I (Jen) did this day trip with my mum and her friend, and we all knew each other much better by the end of the day! On the spa side of town (the river splits it into two sides), there are a plethora of hotels.
You can walk straight in and book treatments on the spot as long as they’re not too busy. We went for massages, thermal baths, and hot mud baths followed by a hot towel wrap in Thermia Palace. This art nouveau hotel is stunning, highly professional, and we were properly pampered. There are lots of thermal baths on the spa island, and the hotels cater to various budgets.
Some hotels even offer outdoor swimming pools, and you could easily while away your time wandering the grounds and gardens. We wouldn’t say the treatments were costly, and certainly much cheaper than in the UK.
Piestany city centre
There is an equally pretty town centre just over the bridge, where you can enjoy shopping, eating and drinking. It’s the perfect place to wander, and in the summer there are cultural events, concerts and theatre productions happening.
Places to eat in Piestany
On the spa island, it is a little more expensive, so we stuck to the other side of town for food. We found Heaven Caffe and Bar on the top floor of a hotel next to the river. It gave us brilliant views over to the island and across Piestany. You can grab a coffee or cocktail here! For dinner, we headed to Zuckmann Villa and ate on the terrace outside. They had a tasty variety of seasonal food, traditional Slovak food, and things like burgers to keep everyone happy. It was high quality and lovely service.
Have you heard about Slovakia’s Countess Elizabeth Bátory? She is said to be the world’s most prolific female serial killer! Cachtice castle is where she killed hundreds of girls, and you can still visit the castle ruins today. It’s also said she is the inspiration behind Dracula. The castle itself is a 20-minute drive from Piestany. The surrounding area around Cachtice castle is also a nature reserve where you can have some lovely hikes. Despite a bloody past, it is a beautiful place to explore.
It’s an hour on the train from Bratislava and you get the train from the main train station. the Number 1 tram will bring you there. Once you get out of the train station it’s a little walk to the spa island and city centre. Be wary of jumping in a taxi at the station – we got ripped off on price. Phone for a taxi using Etaxi or book through their app.
More Bratislava day trips
We have missed out on a lot of other brilliant day trip options! We’ve listed some other ideas below according to what you want to do on your Bratislava day trip!
- For hikers – You can get to the Tatra mountains easily from Bratislava. However, two or three days might be best to see it properly. You could drive out to the Stiavnica mountains which you can read more about here, or on the edge of Bratislava are the Little Carpathians which doesn’t take long to get to!
- For castle chasers – Take a trip to the fairytale Bojnice Castle, visit nearby Devin Castle on the Danube River, and Bratislava Castle in the city centre. Explore the town of Nitra and see its impressive castle, or go to Beckov Castle which sits atop a cliff close to the Váh river
Cultural festivals in Slovakia
If like us you enjoy the frivolity of festivals, here are some dates to keep in mind for a visit to Slovakia:
Vinobranie (wine harvest festivals) – Wine harvest festivals are all over the Bratislava region in Modra, Pezinok and Svaty Jur. We went to the vinobranie festival in Pezinok, and it was a massive celebration with live bands, and it was free! Do try burciak – a young wine (cider-like) drink and eat the amazing street food! (September/October)
Salamander Days – A weekend of celebrating Slovakia’s miners in Banska Stiavnica – read all about it in our guide to the gorgeous mountain town! This could be added to your Bratislava day trips roster, but experiencing the whole weekend in Banska Stiavnica is something we recommend. (September)
Coronation Festival in Bratislava – The capital is the Coronation City of the Kingdom of Hungary, and there are festivities every year with a big parade. (June)
Rotenstein – A festival celebrating the Middle Ages. – who doesn’t love dressing up in the clothes of ye olde times! (May)
Hontianska Parada – A traditional festival held in the mountainside village of Hrusov with folk music and a great chance to learn more about Slovak culture. (August)
Kingdom of the Goose – A 100-year-old Slovak tradition. A roast goose event in Slovensky Grob, a village outside of Bratislava which we wrote about in our slow travel story section! (September)
Music Festivals – Pohoda (July), Topfest (end of June/July), Uprising Reggae Festival (August), Grape Festival (August)
Christmas markets – In the winter there are Christmas markets everywhere across Bratislava and in the towns we’ve mentioned in this guide. Read our guide to traditional Slovak foods to try at a Slovak Christmas market.
Mindful travel tips for your Bratislava day trips
Take the time to explore what Slovakia has to offer. Seeing other cities and towns, going to festivals and paying to enter historical sites, are how you become a mindful traveller. Maybe you just have time to do one Bratislava day trip? It’s still worth the cultural experience, and you will hopefully walk away knowing a little more about Slovak culture and its history.
If you’re looking at taking a guided tour from Bratislava, we recommend looking up Authentic Bratislava, a local tour company. They run Bratislava day trips to the Carpathian wine region and alternative tours around Bratislava. The local tourist board, Visit Bratislava, also have some companies they recommend that go out to places like Bojnice Castle and Modra. They also offer discounts on some tours with the city card, another reason it’s such a good investment for your trip!
Enjoy Bratislava and beyond!
Sometimes it’s just knowing where to go, and you’ll find the most unexpected things! We hope this has inspired you to do some Bratislava day trips to some lesser-visited gems. If you want more tips on the capital, check out our Three Day Bratislava City Card guide for things to do in Bratislava. Or discover our choice of hidden places to visit in Bratislava and whet your appetite with our Bratislava Food Guide!
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