If you are in Vienna (or Bratislava) I highly recommend doing a Danube boat cruise!
When our good friend visited Vienna a couple of years ago, she popped over to Bratislava, Slovakia for the day. She took a train there and a high-speed catamaran back. Being that the boat cruise took about an hour, and her pictures looked awesome, we decided this was a must-do whilst we were in Vienna.
First of all, if you don’t know much about the Danube (like me) here is a map of it:
So, you see, it goes through half of Europe: 10 countries, 4 capitals! It’s a big deal.
A high-speed catamaran can travel between Vienna and Bratislava (or vice versa) in 75 minutes. Leaving Vienna, we took it easy traveling down the Donaukanal where there are Viennese fishing houses that are SO cute and inspiring.
My husband, the fisherman, was probably envisioning a life spent fishing out of his own version of this, while I was envisioning building, decorating, and maintaining our own little cottage. I failed at taking enough pictures of these because I was too busy fawning over them. Trust there are some really adorable ones, as well as some serious “bachelor pad” ones as well.
Once on the Danube proper the catamaran did its “high-speed” thing. The river is wide, but calm – perfect for cruising along, however you may see fit. Along the way to and from Bratislava you will see various other boats like large floating hotels that boast multi-day Danube cruises, long-distance kayakers (this seems like a hardcore, yet awesome, adventure), and barges.
OK, so on to the day!
We bought tickets and headed to Bratislava, Slovakia early in the morning. We chose to spend the shortest time there, 4 hours. I think with little kids, this was a good amount of time. Not too long and drawn out; however, I don’t think we used our time entirely wisely.
Here’s why. When you arrive in Bratislava, you are dropped off on the “old town” side of the river.
There is a little train you can choose to take some tours on, which will go around the old town and castles and what not, and I would actually recommend this even though we didn’t choose this option. But it is there, and I think a great way to see the sights and learn some history about Bratislava in an amount of time of your choosing.
We didn’t choose this option because…I don’t even want to put this out there publicly, but whatever…we decided to cross the UFO bridge to the shopping mall on the other side of the Danube to try to buy a Starbucks mug. So, when the Twin City Liner docked, we disembarked and found our way to the walking path that is on the bridge, and then found our way over to the mall.
Unfortunately, the Starbucks there didn’t have any Bratislava or Slovakia mugs 🙁 Fortunately, we got to take some time to experience something more than touristy Bratislava…although, a shopping mall isn’t typically my first option for that sort of thing. This mall was pretty impressive though, as it had a great selection of international stores that I recognized from the UAE (European stores that I hadn’t seen in Sweden, or before), and a wonderful family changing room with private nursing areas, and a great selection of cafes and restaurants. We grabbed lunch there, as well as a sun hat for the baby.
Not that happiest looking picture, but lunch was great!
Soon after, we made our way back over the bridge and into Old Town to explore a bit.
While there we walked around, found some souvenirs, and tried to walk over to Bratislava Castle, but didn’t make it the whole way before realizing we just didn’t have the time. I would say we had a nice enough time looking around the Old Town area, but could always enjoy more. If you aren’t limited by children, and are interested, I’d encourage a longer stay.
Slovakia itself has piqued our interest before, so it was more than “just a trip to Bratislava” for us. I’d LOVE to go back to Bratislava, as well as any other part of Slovakia. Matt has pointed out that the difference in language was striking – not something we have any background knowledge of – but luckily in Bratislava enough people spoke english well enough for us to get by (in the few hours we were there, in the touristy areas, ha). We can manage enough of a Scandinavian language, or German, or Spanish, or French, but this was our first time in a European area with a wholly unfamiliar language. I absolutely enjoyed the little slice of life we got to see at the mall, and I loved the Old Town area!
Whatever comes to mind when you think of Bratislava, I guarantee visiting will far surpass your expectations!