Bratislava is much smaller than other capitals in the region like Prague, Vienna or Budapest. Most places of interest to tourists are concentrated in the Old Town (Staré Mesto), which also has the best selection of accommodation options and generally is the best area to stay.
Best Areas to Stay in Bratislava
When you look at a map of Bratislava, the most obvious feature is the river (Danube). Almost everything interesting can be found on the northern side of the river. In the south it is mostly densely populated residential districts and industry. Rule number 1: Stay north of the river (but make sure you visit the south bank at least once, ideally some evening, for the best views of the castle).
The Old Town is situated immediately next to the river on the northern side. It also has a very clear border in the west – the hill with Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad). Generally anything behind this hill is of little interest to most tourists. Rule number 2: Stay east of the castle.
In the west the border of the popular tourist area is less clear, but I would say it’s Karadžičova street (the biggest street in this area) and Mlýnske Nivy bus station. You will find a few good hotels behind these and it’s not too far to walk to the main tourist district, but I would still recommend to stay west of Karadžičova.
In the north it’s even less clear. There are two larger blocks of parks on this side, which stretch roughly from the bus station to Hodzovo namestie (square), and most visitors prefer to stay south of these.
Best Places to Stay within the Old Town
The area I’ve just described – the Old Town – is quite small, roughly 15 minutes to walk from one end to another. Within this area, some of the best neighbourhoods and places are the following:
Just at the foot of the castle. It feels a bit quieter than the others, kind of hidden away from the busy city life, but just a few minutes’ walk from it. The best street is Zámocka (Castle street), which doesn’t really have classical big hotels, but several higher end apartments in nice historical houses. One downside: the higher section of the street is quite a climb. One bigger hotel, which is perfectly located at the start of Zámocka street (between Old Town and castle) is Ibis Bratislava Centrum.
Another really nice area is the most central one – the streets between three big squares: Župné námestie in the north-west (the one with Ibis hotel above), Námestie SNP in the north and Hviezdoslavovo námestie in the south near the river. All these three squares have tram stops, so public transport connections are good, but other than that the streets between them are almost exclusively pedestrian and packed with churches, historical buildings and restaurants. This is really the heart of the country, so it’s not the cheapest, but if you have the budget, you won’t be disappointed.
Where to Stay on a Budget
If you do have limited budget and are looking for cheap, but nice places to stay, here are a few recommendations.
A good hostel at start of Zámocka (the Castle street) is Art Hostel Taurus – I stayed there some years ago and the best thing was that it had lots of space, no bunk beds. Spotless clean too, and lots of places to sit and talk to others in the common areas.
Patio Hostel – Near Námestie SNP in Old Town. A nice benefit is the use of washing machine and dryer free of charge. There is a supermarket right across the street.
Hostel Mansard – In Obchodna street near Námestie SNP. Guests get free coffee, tea and fruit all day, as well as a discount to the restaurant which is situated in the same building.
Freddie next to Mercury – An obvious choice for Queen fans, located outside the Old Town (15 minutes’ walk) near the central train station. It benefits from large terrace and garden, especially good in summer.
Budget Hotels with Private Rooms and Bathrooms
Old City Hotel – One of the most popular and most centrally located cheap hotels in Bratislava – in Michalska street in the middle of the area between those three squares. You are unlikely to find a better budget deal in this area.
Garni Hotel Virgo – A stylish, romantic, but affordable hotel with Baroque style furnishings, located between the castle and Presidential Palace.
Film Hotel – A film themed hotel (lots of old film photos everywhere) located in a beautiful corner of Old Town (near Kollárovo námestie behind Námestie SNP). A 3 star hotel, but usually among the cheapest in Bratislava.
Besides hotels, there are a very high number of apartments in or around the Old Town. If you don’t need the comfort of 24/7 hotel services and actually prefer a bit of privacy and independence, they are often a surprisingly affordable alternative – typically from EUR 40/night up, although you may find an occasional deal around EUR 30. One downside is that the capacities in individual apartments are of course much lower than in hotels, so the best ones will be taken if you are booking late.
Best Luxury Hotels in Bratislava
The number of 5-star or luxury hotels is relatively low in Bratislava, but on the other hand they are generally a bit cheaper than in other European capitals. Here are the best of the best:
Marrol's Boutique Hotel – Considered the best hotel in Bratislava by many. It offers a wide range of 5-star amenities, has an excellent restaurant, a summer terrace and a fire place in the lobby for winter evenings.
Grand Hotel River Park (formerly Kempinski Hotel) – This one is not in the Old Town, but on the riverfront on the other side of the castle. 10 minutes’ walk on the Danube promenade or short taxi/tram ride to Old Town. Lots of space and wonderful views, especially from the higher floors (these great views are also available from the gym or pool).
Arcadia Hotel – This one, a vintage style luxury hotel, is in the heart of Old Town. Also has a spa area and a stylish restaurant. One downside: Expensive parking.
Tulip House Boutique Hotel Bratislava – Also central Old Town location, near the river. Offering good value spacious suites with comfortable beds in an old style (Art Nouveau), but modernly equipped building. One downside: The guest reviews often mention poor breakfast choices.
Unusual Places to Stay in Bratislava
If you want something a little different, there are several botels (hotels on ships) on the river in Bratislava city centre. There are four of them (as far as I know) – you can find them below ordered roughly from cheapest to, well, less cheap.
Botel Marina – On board a ship anchoring on the river near Bratislava Castle. You can see the river flowing outside your window. Although it’s a ship, the rooms are relatively spacious and WiFi works fine.
Botel Gracia – This one is the closest to Old Town, 2 minutes’ walk from Hviezdoslavovo namestie on the eastern side of the New (“UFO”) Bridge.
Botel Pressburg – This one is to the west from the castle, but still only 10 minutes’ walk to the heart of Old Town. For many people it will be the best, mid-range option. Pressburg is the German name for Bratislava.
Botel Dunajský Pivovar – This is usually the most expensive, but also the highest rated of the botels. This ship is anchored on the other (southern) side of the river, so getting to the Old Town requires a bridge crossing, but you get compensated by great views of the castle, which only the south bank can offer. The hotel’s name means Danube Brewery and yes, there is a brewery on board.