Trains from Vienna to Bratislava take just over 1 hour, this makes it easy to go for just a day, or to spend a longer holiday in Slovakia. With its gorgeous hilltop castle, innovative museums, and a historic centre, it's an excellent spot for a day trip.

How to get from Vienna to Bratislava by rail

Trains depart from Vienna Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) and arrive at Bratislava (short for hlavná stanica, meaning Main Station). Vienna Hauptbahnhof is less than a 10-minute taxi ride from downtown Vienna, or you can get off at the Hauptbahnhof metro station. Once you arrive, the city centre is about 20 minutes away on foot.

Bratislava is situated in the far west of Slovakia, bordering both Austria and Hungary. As such, it's within easy reach of Budapest as well. Trains from Bratislava to Budapest take just over 4 hours. This means you can easily carry onward to another country as part of a wider European tour.

On arrival: Historic sights in Bratislava

Once you arrive, start exploring the gorgeous Slovakian capital. An important site in town is the Slavin memorial, built to honour the casualties of Bratislava's liberation battle in the Second World War. It's close to the city centre and features a war cemetery and monuments, as well as clear views out across the castle and down to the cityscape below. It's located close to the train station, so it's ideally located for the start of your day.

The city's most iconic building is perhaps Bratislava Castle. It dates all the way back from the 9th century and has long stood proud with a magnificent view over the Old Town. Admire its magnificent architecture reconstructed to its former glory and tour the Treasury on your visit.

If you're staying a little longer in Bratislava, a trip to the Red Stone Castle is well worth it. It's a relatively newer fortification, having been built in the 16th century, and is surrounded by acres of lush forestland. As well as being a stunning fortress, it also houses the Slovak National Museum. It's an excellent place to appreciate the fascinating history of the country and its capital.

An afternoon of culture in Bratislava

For Bratislava's best museums, you'll be spoilt for choice. One of the most popular art galleries is the Slovak National Gallery. It's a superb collection of much of the finest artwork created in the country. Another excellent option is the Bratislava City Gallery, containing tens of thousands of works of Slovak art. Danubiana is a thoroughly modern gallery built on a narrow inlet over the River Danube.

The Museum of Jewish Culture is another fascinating place to visit, documenting the experience of Jews in the country, spanning the experiences of the Second World War and beyond. The Museum of Arms is well worth visiting for more history. It's housed in the imposing Michael's Tower, with commanding views out across the centre of town. Inside are several antique weapons and military uniforms.

Finally, spend some time walking through the Old Town. This is an excellent place to browse the boutiques and stop for lunch. Among the popular local dishes are pork with dumplings and cabbage, and fries with cheese and tartar sauce. The rich flavours of Slovak cuisine are bound to leave an impression!

By night: High culture and pub crawls

Before heading back to Vienna, squeeze every last minute out of Bratislava and have a look at the many evening entertainment options. The New Slovak National Theatre is a superb place to catch everything from opera and ballet, to plays and musicals. Performances often have a modern twist. The Historic Slovak National Theatre is the more traditional counterpart. Both are well worth visiting just for the gorgeous architecture in downtown Bratislava!

If you want to check out the local nightlife, head to the bars and pubs for a selection of Slovak beers. Topvar and Steiger are two of the popular local brands. Kofola is a local take on cola, with a milder taste that's worth trying if you'd prefer a soft drink. The Old Town district is an excellent place to eat and drink and is also the centre for many of the city's nightclubs. Channels Club is one of the best, with a specialised gin bar on one of its three floors.

Traditional spirits include the heady Tatratea, which comes in a range of strengths up to 52% and is made with tea. Bentianna is a more modern creation, a deliciously smooth shot made with herbs and honey. These make excellent unique gifts if you know someone back home who likes a tipple. For a chic dining and drinking experience, head to UFO, which offers a 360-degree view of Bratislava by night.

Still more places to visit in Bratislava

The short journey time means Bratislava is an ideal day trip destination from Vienna. That said, there's so much to do you could certainly stay for longer. Why not hop on bus 29 and head out to the ruins of Devin Castle? It has a dramatic history, having survived through the millennia until it was destroyed by Napoleon's army. The site is believed to date from the 5th century B.C., when it probably began life as a simple border fortress.

And within Bratislava itself, we’ve failed to mention plenty of other innovative and intriguing architectural wonders. The Slovak Radio Building is particularly unusual, resembling a kind of upside-down steel pyramid. It dates from the communist era and is an excellent example of the experimental style of the time. This bizarre and beautiful construction is a must-see sight, and you can even head inside for classical music performances in the concert hall. The Old Town Hall also offers excellent views out across the neighbourhood from the top floor. If you arrive after closing time, the square here is absolutely worth seeing at night. The fountain and buildings light up to offer a stunning vista of historic Bratislava.

See a whole new country by train

Travelling by train from Vienna to Bratislava is an exciting way to extend a trip in Austria, or as part of your wider tour of Europe. These cities are so close that you can easily leave Vienna in the morning and have a whole day in Bratislava before heading back for bed. Have a look for yourself on our website and see just how frequent and affordable the trains are between Vienna and Bratislava.