The next day we decided to take a stroll along the riverbank – we tried to visit the ‘UFO’ lookout tower but discovered we should have booked a ticket in advance. Instead, we spiralled up the streets to Bratislava Castle to gain a vantage point and take in the views over the city. From here you can look south across the Danube to the Petrzalka district, a vast Communist-era housing complex with concrete tower blocks stretching endlessly into the distance.
Back in the centre we paid a visit to Čumil – Bratislava’s bronze statue of a sewer-worker peeping from a manhole. We also visited a handmade candy shop to watch the mesmerising process of making boiled sweets – you can now watch videos of this on TikTok etc, but this was the first time we had seen it!
For dinner this evening we had made a reservation at Fabrika @ LOFT – a pub-style restaurant with its own brewery. My husband still raves about the amazing pork fillet he had here, even 5 years later.
On our last full day we were up and ready early to catch the train to neighbouring Vienna. Bratislava is perfectly situated in central Europe to make a twin or even multi-city trip appealing – you can reach Prague in 3-4 hours by car or bus, Budapest in 2-3 hours, and Vienna in only 45 minutes by rail. Bratislava and Vienna are the closest capital cities in Europe (if you overlook Rome and Vatican City), so it seems a shame to see one without the other!
The trains are basic, but clean and comfortable – which is more than can be said about some of the services in the UK – and when we travelled, they were not overcrowded either, despite our journeys being around 9am and 6pm! We crawled north-west over the countryside with views over farmland and vineyards for miles. You can see in the distance the foothills of the Little Carpathians, which offer some great hiking if you like a daytrip out into rural Slovakia.
The train pulls into Wien Hauptbanhof, a large modern station serving the city of Vienna, and a 30-minute walk brings you down into Innere Stadt, the main ‘old town’, encircled by the Ringstrasse Boulevard. This is the area where you’ll discover Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Stephanplatz, where I found a stall serving steaming hot goulash, ladled into a hollowed out crusty bread roll.
We spent a few hours wandering up and down Kärntner Strasse and Graben, historic pedestrianised shopping streets lined with fancy shops and cafes and Baroque architecture, then stumbled over to the City Hall, where the biggest Christmas market in Vienna is held annually in the gardens it overlooks, with over 150 stalls selling handicrafts, festive foods and wooden toys.
Not only did we find an abundance of Christmas stalls, we found one of the best ice-skating rinks I’ve ever seen, with tracks and paths meandering around the gardens, offering an endless number of routes beneath the trees – it was almost enough to inspire me to put on a pair of skates, maybe a few mulled wines would have swayed the decision, but the thought of spending several hours the next day on a budget airline seat with a bruised bum was forefront in my mind!