For several years voted the world’s most liveable city for foreigners in Economist magazine surveys, Vienna has also been a legendary travel destination for generations. Its memorable empire grandeur and cosmopolitan atmosphere ensure its place on many a travel itinerary.
And while you’re in Vienna, remember that a little gem with the same grace is only an hour away. Bratislava, capital city of one of the European Union’s newest members, is a travel bargain. Thanks to a large pedestrian core, its dozens of sidewalk cafes and restaurants are in calmer and more scenic settings than most of Vienna’s, and its architecture rich in period.
For budget travel, it’s quite easy to eat and sleep in Bratislava for a third of the price of Vienna’s hotels and restaurants, and still be within easy reach of Vienna’s sights – by public transportation.
Bratislava is also your gateway from Vienna to the rest of Slovakia, with its rivers, valleys and forested hills, and a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
A very simple and inexpensive way to travel, trains run via two different routes many times all day (most from Vienna’s Sudbahnhof, some from Westbahnhof). Either route, however, brings you to a train station that is close to Bratislava’s historical centre, well-connected by public transport, and costs less than 10 euros.
Direct from Vienna’s International Airport at Schwechat, for the price of a few euros a bus will bring you to Bratislava’s main bus station in about an hour; buses leave at one- to two-hour intervals close to the half-hour. Some buses also run from the Vienna city centre.
The mode of travel most likely to leave a lasting impression, along the grand Danube, runs from early April to late September, with some lines running in October as well.
Although parking is a challenge in the city centres of both Vienna and Bratislava, of course it is the only way to get to some of the choicest locations. The main Austrian routes into Bratislava are routes A4 / A6 or B9.