I’m currently in Bratislava, and it’s easily the most underrated place I’ve ever had the pleasure of traveling to.
When I told people I was visiting Bratislava, most people didn’t really understand why I would bother. One friend, in fact, gave me a searing look of derision, so I quickly explained that we were just going to spend two nights there passing through, and she told me that there wasn’t even enough in this city to occupy myself for one full day. And to be honest, I mostly added Bratislava on to my current itinerary to check another country off my list. But now I sincerely wish I had scheduled more time to spend here.
No, Bratislava is not nearly as picturesque as Vienna (or even Prague). And it’s not as large or as cosmopolitan as Budapest. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised throughout my short time here, and I would heartily recommend it as a travel destination to others.
For one, it’s super cheap. Like you can get a full meal at a sit-down restaurant for 5 euro cheap. Maybe the city is not as cheap as it once was (and there are plenty of places where you’ll spend much more than 5 euro per person), but compared to Vienna, you’ll feel like a king. There are also plenty of “touristy” sights to see: walk around the Old Town; take a stroll up to the castle that overlooks the city; take a longer trip to Devin castle; visit the blue church; hang out with Cumil; see a performance; etc.
But there are also hipster cafes and restaurants with great food (and cheap prices!) that wouldn’t be out of place in Portland or Austin (U Kubistu and Funki Punki are two specific recommendations that are also good for people with dietary restrictions; we received better service at U Kubistu than I have at many Michelin-starred restaurants). You can go wine tasting at typical/normal spots, but you can also randomly go into the cellars of people’s homes where they sell home-brewed black currant wine (like an old Slovak man served us tastes of his wines and liquors out of giant barrels that may or may not be legal in the US). And we’ve encountered some crazy awesome people.
And finally, from a points perspective, your devalued Club Carlson points will still be put to good use in Bratislava. Even though the Park Inn here isn’t fancy, it’s still got a great location and it’ll still be only 9k points per night. It also has an actual gym, and the elite status recognition was good (upgrade to a junior suite and free breakfast) for someone who only has status through the credit card.