Day trip from Vienna: Bratislava or Melk?

When you only have one day to dedicate to a day trip, it can be difficult to decide which city to go to.

While in Vienna, there are two great options: Melk and Bratislava. Both an hour away and both beautiful cities. But how do you know which one to go to?

A view of houses and nature in Bratislava


Visit if you prefer being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a city, want to have a day packed with sightseeing and engaging activities. Visit if you want to surround yourself with a quiet, peaceful and quaint atmosphere full of nature, charming streets, and a beautiful abbey.

Both Bratislava and Melk are approximately 1 hour away from Vienna, making them perfect destinations for a day-trip.

Melk and Bratislava on a map


Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia, bordering Austria and Hungary, and situated along the River Danube. It is the capital of Slovakia and is one of the smaller capitals of Europe. But although smaller than the others, Bratislava is still filled with an abundance of vibrancy and life – making it the perfect destination for an adventure.

Looking towards the River Danube in Bratislava
The River Danube in Bratislava
The River Danube

Old Town

One of the distinguishing features of Bratislava is its Old Town. The Old Town is filled with charming narrow lanes, buildings which seem to hold hundreds of years’ worth of stories, and cobble-stone lined streets. It is truly the center of Bratislava’s mosaic history.

A glimpse of Bratislava from up high

The Old Town is typically fairly busy and filled with local residents and tourists alike, but you’ll always be able to find a corner or two that’s quiet for a little breather.

Store front in Bratislava
A quiet and empty street in Bratislava
Bratislava castle

The Bratislava castle is a landmark of Bratislava and one of its dominant features. From most parts of the city, chances are you will be able to spot it. It stands tall above the town and seems to have been taken straight out of a fairy tale.

Bratislava castle
The Bratislava Castle

As with most tourist attractions and sightseeing spots, the Bratislava Castle gets busier throughout the day, so try to go earlier if you want to avoid the crowds.


Melk is a calm and laid back Austrian town located on the banks of the River Danube.

The city or Melk
Houses lining the streets in Melk

If you are looking for a picturesque place to disconnect with the busy world around you, this town is it.

Walking around is absolutely easy since everything is within walking distance. Although there aren’t many sightseeing spots, there is one that you can visit: the magnificent Melk Abbey.

Melk Abbey seen clearly in the distance
A glimpse of the Melk Abbey
Melk Abbey

The Melk Abbey was constructed in the early 1700s and is an incredibly rich and stunning structure. From wherever you are in town, look up and you’ll see it. The Abbey is situated above the town and overlooks the River Danube.

Photo captured by Shannon Crane

No filming, photography, or the use of mobile phones is allowed in the interior of the Abbey, for which I am thankful. This provides an environment that is conducive to reverence. Most famous churches that I have visited before have become what I can best describe as tourist attractions – where people do not pay heed to their actions and do not view the spot they are in as a spiritual place. That has not happened to the Melk Abbey.

A view of a passageway in the Melk Abbey
Enjoy the calm atmosphere

One of the highlights of Melk is its calm atmosphere. You can immerse yourself in nature, walk by the river, or take a stroll down the small streets. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

A quiet street in Melk lined with beautiful buildings
A house in Melk with vines growing on it

Have you ever been to Melk or Bratislava? If you have, which did you like best? If you haven’t, which would you prefer to go to?

For more adventures in Austria, click here.

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