BRATISLAVA may be the smallest of the capitals in Central Europe, but it’s also one of the least expensive to visit. There are also a quite a few ways to entertain yourself without spending a single Eurocent.
1. Visit a museum.
On the first Sunday of each month, two museums in the city open their doors for you to look around for free: the Slovak National History Museum and the Slovak Transportation Museum. The Slovak National Gallery has free entry for all of 2017.
2. Watch an outdoor movie.
Every Wednesday and Saturday in July and August, there is a free movie screening at Kuchajda lake in the Nové Mesto neighborhood. Entry is free and the films start at 9:30 PM in July and 9 PM in August. Don’t forget to bring a chair or blanket so you can get comfy on the grass. Find out what’s showing on their Facebook page or website.
3. Go on a walking tour.
Be Free puts on three walking tours to show you around the city: The Castle and Old Town (Daily at 10 AM), the Original Tour (11 AM and 4 PM), and on most Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5 PM, you can take the Communism and Castle Tour (be sure to check their website for a list of the days that the tour isn’t offered). The meeting point is Hviezdoslavovo Námestie by the statue of P.O. Hviezdoslav outside the US Embassy.
4. Climb up to Slavín.
If you’re interested in a bit of Soviet history, I recommend you walk up to Slavín, the monument to the Soviet soldiers who liberated Slovakia from the Nazis. The walk to get there is grueling, but the view from the top is incredible.
5. Check out the open-air market on Miletičová Street.
Check out an open market. The best one by far is the market on Miletičová. It’s open Monday-Friday from 6 AM – 8 PM, and Saturday 6 AM – 3 PM. There you can buy textiles, fresh flowers, baked goods, meat and dairy products, a variety of pickled vegetables, and whatever produce is in season.
6. Drop into the market hall Stará Tržnica.
Another option is Stará Tržnica in the old town. It was used as a market hall in the past but was left unoccupied for years, until recently the city opened it up again for a farmer’s market and event venue. The farmer’s market is every Saturday, and some weekends it’s combined with other types of bazaars, usually focused on the sale of antiques and vintage clothes.
7. Hang out at one of the many lakes around town.
Bratislava has about 6 lakes within city limits that are open to the public and free for you to walk around or even swim in. My favorite ones are Velký Draždiak in Petržálka, because I love the contrast of ungroomed nature found between the boxy Soviet-style high-rise apartments, Kuchajda because of its accessibility from the city center, and because there is a lot of space available for sitting on the green grass. Skinny dipping is allowed and often practised at all the city lakes.
8. Hike or picnic in the city’s wooded areas.
There are two forest areas in the city that are great for having a nature-break. There’s Koliba where you can walk to the TV tower or cook something over a fire pit. Or there’s Železná Studienka which has nature trails, several playgrounds, and a basketball court. Both places can be reached by car or bus.
9. Relax at Magio pláž.
This seasonal man-made beach on the banks of the Danube River is a popular hang-out spot because of free activities and the nice view of the water. It’s set up June to August and in previous summers some of the attractions were open-air concerts, free movie showings, beds, hammocks, a lending library, beach volleyball, bocce ball, and several playgrounds.
10. Go for a bike ride.
If you’re traveling through Europe with a bike, Bratislava is a very attractive place to visit. The city streets aren’t known for being particularly bike-friendly, but designated bike routes run parallel to the Danube and lead into Austria and Hungary.
11. Take shelter in a shopping mall.
While most free things take place outside, the one reliable place to take shelter on a rainy day (or a blazing hot day) is at any of Bratislava’s many shopping malls. Besides window shopping, many of them have free events and exhibits on the weekends. Most of the shopping centers have an outdoor playground and an indoor soft play place for little ones.
12. Stroll through one of the gardens near the city center.
Take a walk through the greenery, play Frisbee in the grass, sunbathe, or let your kids run off their energy in the playground. I recommend Sad Janka Kráľa (just across the Danube from the old town), Medická Záhrada (about a block from the bus station), or the Presidential Palace Garden (directly behind the Presidential Palace).