The two cities of Bratislava and Vienna are both beautiful, intriguing and worth visitors time, but despite being the capitals of their respective countries (Austria and Slovakia duh!) they are only about 35 miles (56km) apart.
They are so close in fact that Ryanair flies into an airport known only to itself as Bratislava-Vienna. Anyway, this proximity means that visitors to one city can easily spend a day in the other and make it back in time for tea. I have written this post from the point of view of travelling from Vienna to Bratislava since that is the way I did it but it can be done vice versa.
Vienna – Bratislava by bus
As with everything when you are travelling, the first consideration is most likely to be cost if you don’t have much money and comfort if you do. Bearing this in mind the budget means of transport is, as always, the bus. There are several companies running buses along the short route, Eurolines is probably the most well known although their Austrian site is a pain to use. The Slovak one is useful though. The bus takes about an hour and a half and should cost up to twenty Euros depending on the time and season of travel. The bus means that the emphasis is firmly on the destination and not the journey which, while not unpleasant, is never anything more than bland.
Vienna – Bratislava by bus
The train is quicker than the bus, more comfortable and the journey more scenic. It can also be cheaper, advance tickets costing as little at nine Euros. That price goes up substantially if you cannot buy ahead, however. Both the buses and trains run regularly meaning that if you can’t plan ahead you aren’t going to be left hanging around for ages at the station.
Vienna – Bratislava by boat
The top end of the market is not, as is usually the case these days, taken by the plane. Flying between the two cities would in fact be completely pointless; you could walk the distance in the time it takes to go through security. The most pleasant means of transport is in fact the boat.
Both cities lie along the course of the river Danube as it winds its way through Europe and out into the Black Sea. Boats ply the course regularly, much more so in summer, and although it takes considerably longer the views and experience make up for it. The boats are generally full of contented looking people hanging over the railing and humming ‘Blue Danube’ to themselves. The price of the boat tickets is high since they are a tourist commodity and this puts many people off, one way to get around it is to take the boat in one direction and either the bus or train in the other.
“The Danube Toward Vienna” picture by Bill Barber