Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is one of Europe’s smaller capitals and perhaps one of the least well-known. I heard from a number of people before I went that you can’t possibly spend longer than a day there without feeling restless, and indeed I think it would make the perfect day-trip from nearby Vienna. However, I spent 3 days there and never found myself bored – and a number of the main sights were closed since we visited over Easter Weekend – although I must admit I was after a far more leisurely trip than what I’m usually after.
If you’re looking for a relaxed weekend break and want to explore somewhere new, base yourself in the heart of Bratislava’s pretty, pedestrianized old town – the perfect blend of history and hedonism – and explore, eat and drink to your heart’s content.
Koliba Kamzik is an excellent choice to sample traditional and very affordable fare in a cosy and charming setting. We had to try Slovakia’s national dish – Bryndzové halušky – potato dumplings in a salty, soft sheep cheese, usually sprinkled with fried bacon; it is definitely different but oddly satisfying. My deer steak main, one of the house favourites, was excellent.
Urban Bistro is an ultra-cool café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We really enjoyed a simple breakfast in a laid-back and young atmosphere.
Slavin Memorial sits on a hill overlooking the city, the impressive central obelisk more than 39 metres high, commemorating Bratislava’s liberation by the Red Army in April 1945. It is also a cemetery for 6,845 Soviet soldiers who died during the battles for the city and the surrounding region that took place in the final weeks of World War II. If you can take the climb, it is definitely worth checking out.
Ok, fellow burger lovers, listen up. You might want to take a trip to Bratislava for this alone. I finally found a burger to dethrone Patty & Bun in London and Pop’s Place in Ljubljana on my best burgers list; Roxor BRGR & BEER in Bratislava. The place itself is very basic; you do not go here for a leisurely meal or ambience – I sat looking at a fridge and gas tank – it is clear that people are here for one thing and one thing only; the fantastic burgers. Make a reservation and enjoy the beauty of a perfect bun (take it from a baking and bread aficionado like me) and patty, and the spot-on flavour combinations of their Premium Burger.
Michalska Cocktail Room is a truly unique bar; this speakeasy-style cocktail haven is ‘hidden’ behind an unmarked cabinet door above the previously-mentioned Urban Bistro, so only those who know about it can go there. Make a reservation, ask to be pointed in its direction at Urban Bistro, and sit back and enjoy one, or many, of their intricate cocktails in a beautiful space to the sound of jazz.
Just a 20 minute bus ride from the city centre, Devín Castle is a great excursion choice, especially on a beautiful day. Built on the top of a high crag, it towers over the small village of Devín and the stunning scenery of the confluence of the Danube and the Morava rivers. The site has been settled since prehistoric times but the castle was destroyed by Napoleonic troops in the early 19th century. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and has remained a romantic ruin till today.
Mecheche serves up delicious tapas and larger dishes alike together with a variety of cocktails, making it an enjoyable night out. We really loved the number of perfectly executed tapas we chose, although I must admit the place feels a little ‘cold’ in its dark and ultra-minimalist industrial design.
Our favourite breakfast was undoubtedly at the popular Mondieu. We couldn’t possibly limit ourselves to just two of the omelette croissant, egg, bacon and maple French toast and strawberry and pecan French toast. It was as delicious as it looks.
You can spend hours going through the Bratislava City Museum, which documents the history of the city from the Medieval ages including the history of crafts and trade, coronation ceremonies, science, technology, culture, sacral arts, nobility, national revival and industrial development. One of the main draws is the Town Hall Tower, which offers a great view over the old town and of the Castle.
Bratislava’s UFO Tower dominates the skyline, one of the city’s most popular landmarks. ‘Floating’ on the pillar of the New Bridge, the UFO offers a 360 degrees observation deck, restaurant and bar, and is just a short walk over the Danube from the old town. Restaurant-goers can ride the elevator to the top for free, but those just visiting the bar, like us, must pay the observation deck fee nonetheless. I definitely suggest whiling away some time having a few drinks with the best view in Bratislava.
Five Points is another breakfast stop worth checking out. I had an excellent Mexican shakshuka washed down by one of their original selfiecinnos.
The Blue Church, officially the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, is Bratislava’s famous art nouveau building. Both the interior and exterior of the church are painted in shades of pale blue and decorated with blue pottery. Easter Sunday mass was going on inside when we visited, so I have no pictures of the pretty interior, but try visit during the brief time when it is open as it is worth viewing.
Foodstock is a small vegan eatery offering a very limited fusion menu. We really enjoyed a light lunch of crispy gyoza and falafel with a selection of flavoured hummus.
Literárna čajovňa a kaviareň is a simple, inviting sanctuary for tea lovers, offering a wide selection of teas from all over the world. Those who speak Slovak also have a number of books to keep them occupied.
Bratislava Castle, sitting on a hill above the old town, dominates the city. The castle hill was populated as early as the late Stone Age, with the castle itself being built in the 9th century but having undergone various reconstructions and renovations. Various exhibitions of the Slovak National Museum are open to the public at the castle, but the main draw, and what we went for, is the panoramic view over Bratislava from the castle hill area.
Unfortunately we had a reservation at Modra Hviezda which we did not manage to make; I therefore cannot comment on the food but you might want to check out this very well-reviewed traditional Slovak restaurant close to Bratislava Castle. We also wanted to check out the Bratislava City Gallery which displays its collections in two historical buildings, Mirbach Palace and Pálffy Palace (especially the popular photo spot ‘Passage’ by Matej Krén in the latter, consisting of almost 15,000 books, which, together with mirrors, create an illusion of endless space), but it was closed over Easter weekend. The Baroque-classicist Primate’s Palace is also worth checking out according to reviews, another one we missed due to our visiting time.
Until the next adventure!