Bratislava: 1, 2 or 3 days?

I happen to be in Bratislava recently and I must admit, its a nice city. A small city, but nice. When I started looking into how many days I should give myself to explore, I kept googling ‘how many days in bratislava?’. Funny enough, almost all posts or articles say you only need 1 day. Just one!

Having plotted all interesting places, I decided I can’t do everything in one day so I gave myself a couple of days (that’s 2) plus an additional so I pace myself and take the time to see the city. See and experience the city, not see the city as a tourist! (Yes, there is a difference!)

Along the way, I’ve met people whom either have visited the city or are visiting the city. Ironically everyone said you just need a day! I am surprised how one could cram to see everything in just one day, but I guess a ‘tourist’ can always do it in 4 hours as the people from tour boats sailing around Danube does it.

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

Generally  I start my first days by joining a free walking tour. I think they are excellent value for money as they operate on a tips basis which you tip at the end of the tour based on your estimated value of their time and info provided. They show you the most important places and/or monuments of the city and range from around 2-3 hours. Once done with the tour, I always go back to see the places that I am more interested in and take some nice photos as souvenirs.

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

Fort the sake of keeping to the point of this article, places I had mapped were:

  • Bratislava castle
  • Status of Pavol Hviezdoslav
  • Old town hall
  • Blue church
  • Michael’s gate
  • Synagogue
  • Presidential palace and gardens *
  • Slavin war memorial *
  • St Martins cathedral
  • Primatial palace
  • Devin castle *

By walking around the city, I get to take in a lot more than just taking a tour bus. You see different aspects of the city which are normally hidden or tucked away such as the coronation path – a path marked with crowns along the way from the castle to the coronation church.

Taking the walking tour, I managed to cover all above except that are marked in asterisks. Bratislava castle in general can be visited for free as you can get to the main court yard which includes the well and the baroque gardens which are lovely! Almost all of the castle is new and not the old castle anymore and you can only get to a few rooms through the museums, and its not like visiting the state rooms of castles around Europe. I was a bit disappointed, but I got to see up close.

If this is my morning view…

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

Old town hall building is located in a nicer square and the Primatial palace is also next to it. If you have the time, go up the tower of old town hall (costs only 2.5 euro) and the Prima palace to see their private chapel and the mirror hall (costs only 3 euro!). You can be sneaky enough here and get very close to the furnishings but I advice be considerate.

Blue church is a must see if you are in town. Do not miss it! (It is free)

Blue on blue

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

As I love old things, visiting Devin castle was a highlight for me. If you are coming from Vienna you see this place. It is a mere 20 min bus ride from the city and a wold away from the city life. Located next to Danube, Austria is across the water and also involves tragic history of communism (hint: Iron curtain). Views from the top of the castle is amazing and on a clear day photos are worth a million bucks. Entrance is only 8 euro. If you are feeling adventurous (or romantic) and have the time, why not take the boat back to city (costs 8 euro one way).

Notes: Boat from the city to Devin castle takes 1.5 hours up stream while back to city is only 30 mins downstream. Closed on Mondays.

Considering you do cover most of the sights within the city in the morning (meaning you see them, but not go in the castle, old town hall, primatial palace) and also try and visit Devin castle in the afternoon, it is possible to see all of the above in one day. However, this only involves as I mentioned earlier ‘looking’, and does not involve experiencing what each has to offer in full. For example, you can spend 2 hours at the castle, walking around the precinct and enjoying the expansive views down to the city as well as their new baroque gardens. You can also spend 1-1.5 hours at Devin castle admiring the views and learning about its history, But if you only have 1 day you can visit these places in 15 mins looking at them from outside and clicking away.

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

Also, do not miss the opportunity to have some local food which are awesome! My favourite was the Bryndzove pirohy…

Quite a mouthful to pronounce this, Bryndzove pirohy

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

As of now I have all the time in the world so I decided to spend 3 days here taking it very slow and see all the places and take in all what this small city has to offer. Be a traveller, not a tourist. Choice is yours.

Lofoten Islands

Should you bother? Yes, you should!

My experience was certainly mixed and by the end of it, I would highly recommend taking a trip to Lofoten islands.

Landscapes are magical and none that I have encountered anywhere else before. I would say its a mix between Swiss mountains and New Zealand scenery so it is very beautiful and majestic.

Main reason to get here is for hiking. There isn’t much info available when in town so be prepared and plan well ahead!

How to get there

Best and only way to get to Loften islands is to take a ferry. I have taken the Moskenes ferry from Bodo. Lofoten ferries are operated by Torghatten Nord. Timetable varies between summer and winter, and by each day. It is highly recommended you check the ferry times before taking the plunge.

Ferry times are certainly odd and none that can be taken to suit a day tripper easily. My ferry departed at 0015 hours and arrived at 0330 hours at Moskenes. 

Accommodation

If you arrive in the wee hours of the morning just like me, I highly recommend you book a place for to crash for a couple of hours. I didn’t take the trip seriously and had nothing booked which meant I was outdoors in the freezing cold arctic temperatures from 0330 in the morning. My fingers were frozen and I realise I had done a big mistake. I could have been dead by the time anything opened!

Having learnt my lesson, I would definitely book something well ahead even if its a day just so you don’t have to freeze outside. 

Googling places to stay in town doesn’t come up with much but there are certainly a number of places available certainly around Å town. There were at least 5 places and if you look in Google maps, you can see most of these places. So please do take in some time and book a place to get some much needed rest before you explore.

What to see

Landscape in Lofoten islands are dramatic. They rise high above the seas and is always snow covered giving them them a majestic look. Just look at them…

Picture perfect

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

There are a number of small villages, rather towns, scattered along the pointy edge of the archipelago Å being the final village at the pointy edge. Å generally has more accommodation than other areas from what I have seen but I could be wrong :). 

There are 2 museums in the village. As a result of my early arrival in the town and being exhausted, I skipped them in search of more memorable landscapes. Past the car park area, there is a small trail to the right to go up a mountain and I would definitely recommend this hike to anyone. This is an easy hike for everyone and provides great views of the town. Further up, you can get close to the water with even more beautiful views.

image3

Sørvågen has more options around shops (for quick stop grocery shops) and a restaurant Maren Anna which I had the opportunity to have lunch. If you have the time I highly recommend going there for a meal as I had the best soup in my life! 

image2

There is always interesting architecture around. I especially like the houses both small and big and always had something interesting about them.

Further up, Moskenes area doesn’t really have much to offer but you can admire the port and the small lighthouses. It is always beautiful coming down from Sørvågen area. Coming down the mountain, you can also see where the seagulls nest which I think everyone misses as they drive.

On the other side of Moskenes is the gorgeous town of Reine which I found impressive against the sleepy snow capped giants. I envy those live around here for having such natural in their back garden! Walk up to Reine passes 2 vehicle tunnels where the pedestrians have a separate path, a scenic path outside of the tunnel with amazing expansive views. 

As I was hiking most of the day, Reine had been the last town I visited and I am glad that was the last as I now carry great moments thanks for Reine and its sleepy giants. 

Planning

If anyone is plan on visiting, I strongly advise that you plan ahead whether its a day trip or couple of days. It also depends on whether you want to get close to nature with hiking or just walk around. 

Most important thing is to check the ferry times. This is not meant to help tourists, especially day trippers as they have weird arrival and departure times. As mentioned earlier. times vary by day and getting there at 0330 hours does not help anyone, so book some accommodation and get some much needed sleep before anything.

Plan where you want to start your trip and whether you want to walk everywhere or get in by car. Hiring a car would be the most practical approach and easy to get around. I don’t recommend walking but of course you can just like I did 🙂

Happy travels!

 

Things I like to do when I travel

My trips, whether they be domestic or overseas tend to be shorter stays. I generally plan a lot ahead and look for good deals and book about 6 months in advance. Domestic travel wraps around a weekend and public holidays so generally 3-5 days in length. Generally as a result of my leave schedules and other work commitments, overseas trips tend to be around 1-2 weeks. Yes, you might think its a waste to spend so little time in one place, given that we travel overseas spending a lot of money on the tickets, time to get there, visas, etc.

As my stays are generally shorter, I plan a lot ahead. Accommodation I choose depends on the activities and sites I would like to do (I map the location of sights in Google maps) and then find the best location combined with the price. Once the locations are mapped, I get a general sense of their concentration so I know if I need to spend more time in a particular area or not.  Accommodation I choose is mostly walking distance to as many sites as possible so I avoid spending too much money on transport.

I do like visiting museums and art galleries a lot so that is the first thing I look for. Then all other cultural sites such as temples, shrines, castles, mansions, monuments, gardens, interesting markets, lakes, etc. And, I try to savour some local cuisine. My research is a combination of google searches and blog sites, plus travel books. I do like to know more about a place if I come across something new and see the viability of visiting it. And yes, I’ve skipped a lot due to time restrictions of travel distances (which I sometimes regret).

My general rule of thumb is to stay as close as possible to all important places I would like to visit and then to start the day early. I like to walk a lot between these places getting some much needed exercise (although can be tiring) while taking breaks in between. By starting the day early, I get a chance to visit many places during the day time and still have some time to detour and come across something new. I remember walking about 7-8 hours one day when in Japan visiting many temples. As I try to cover a lot, its a go go go state as soon as I land. And sometimes I get all tired and let the world revolve around me by not doing much.

As you travel often, in my opinion, your tastes evolve. You become more open to ideas and cultures, you get used to different customs, you appreciate the journey and in the end it makes a better person.

What do you like to do when you travel? Leave your thoughts below…