Travel: SNACK Guide to Bratislava

Travel: The SNACK Guide to Bratislava

Bratislava, famous as the setting for the B-movie slasher flick Hostel. So often, when we try to recommend it as a holiday destination Hostel is brought up. It wasn’t even filmed in Bratislava: it was filmed in Prague (see the December issue of SNACK for our Prague guide) and Český Krumlov in neighbouring Czech Republic. Admittedly, on both of our trips to Bratislava, we have slept in hotels rather than hostels but we’re sure the hostels are fine…

HISTORY

The city for years was known as Pressburg and had a mostly German population, but it was also Pozsony, the capital city of Hungary when the Ottoman Empire controlled most of Hungary from 1536 to 1784. Then the seat of power moved to Buda, which then joined with Pest in 1873 (see
SNACK Issue 3 for our Budapest Guide).

Before World War I the population was mostly German and Hungarian, and as a result of Nazi
annexation, the city was bombed by the Allies during World War II. Approximately 15,000 Jews were deported from the city to concentration camps and after the war ethnic Germans themselves were expelled to Germany. From 1948 1988, the city endured the hardships of communism, despite the western state of Austria being visible from various points within the city. Many people, successfully and unsuccessfully, attempted to cross the border into the west.

Czechoslovakia split, and in 1993 Bratislava became the capital city of newly independent Slovakia. In 2012, a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists crossing from just outside Bratislava into Austria was built, and in true ‘Boaty McBoatface’ style, an online poll to name the bridge resulted in ‘Chuck Norris Bridge’ coming top. Officially, it is the Freedom Cycling Bridge.

SHOP

Stará tržnica (Old Market, at Námestie SNP), was an unused building for a long time but now hosts a farmers’ market every Saturday and occasionally music events and exhibitions.  Kompot (19 Laurinská) specialises in original Slovak design pieces such as bags, T-shirts and home accessories. Slávica (also at 19 Laurinská) has jewellery and ceramics from independent designers. Artforum (20 Kozia) is a bookshop that only stocks titles picked by the staff, including English language books and they have a cafe too. etc. (1 Námestie Eugena Suchoňa) is a vinyl and book store owned by a former radio music director housed in a stunning 1919 building which is also the home of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra.

DRINK

One thing Bratislava is not short of is microbreweries so if you love beer then this city is
a must. There is also a Scottish pub, the Lochness, but there are better places to visit. For brewpubs, you can take your pick from: Beer Palace, Mestiansky, Starosloviensky, Vycap u Ernoho, Hostinec Richtár Jakub, Ružinov, Patronsky or Pivaren Stupavar.

Čierny Pes (Black Dog, 2 Na vŕšku) is down a quiet cobbled street near the medieval city walls.
Although the door is at ground level, this is a basement bar in vaulted rooms, which adds to the medieval feel. It’s cosy with cheap Slovakian beer, including gluten-free options. Just across the road and down a bit is Uisce Beatha (1 Na vŕšku). If you have a craving for Irish whiskey or Guinness then you should head here rather than the kitschy Irish bars on the main streets. Stag parties not welcome. They show live sports and have board games too. U Čerta (At The Devil’s, 2 Beblaveho) is a very quirky, atmospheric bar located just across from the city wall. Pay attention to the walls and ceiling and you may even see the devil (or at least a part of him).

If wine is more your thing, the local wine is plentiful and you probably won’t find any of it in the UK. Look for Ríbezlák, which is made from red and black currants and is produced just outside the city. Vcelovina is a type of mead (honey) wine. For grape wine the main red to look for is Frankovka
Modra and for whites/dessert wines look for Tokaj from the corner of Slovakia bordering Hungary. From our experience, the Slovakian Tokaj is not as sweet as Hungarian Tokaji.

Pinot u
Bruna (55 Rudnayovo námestie) is hidden away from tourists on the square at St Martin’s Church. Cosy and romantic, it has the added bonus of music played from vinyl and very few tourists.
But, if you really want to do Bratislava on a budget, head to the indoor Tržnica (Market, 112 Šancová). We had cups of wine, served in plastic cups for 40 cents, and there’s a choice of semipermanent bars, should you want to do a small but cheap pub crawl.

For coffee, we enjoyed thesimplicity of Kava.Bar (1 Skalná) where you can have yogurt or toast with your cup of ‘pick-meup’ and watch the trams pass by. Last but not least is Čajovna v Podzemí (Underground Tea Room, 9 Ventúrska), a tea room housed inside a bomb shelter, which proudly boasts that it’s the “only 1 in Bratislava” as if every city has one! The only other one we’re aware of is in High Wycombe.

EAT

Budget:  Palacinka Lacinka (18 Šancová) is a timewarp of a place. You can’t really see inside, so take the plunge and open the door to a tiny room furnished sparingly with just a few tables, chairs and a small counter. And, no English menus…well, at least until you ask! Just under 50 sweet and savoury toppings are available, including at least two for diabetics. Prices start at a mere 17 cents
for a pancake.

Mid-price:  Altitude. Located just outside the city at the Kamzik TV tower, 439 meters above sea level, is this revolving restaurant — a first for us. We were told that you can see the Alps on clear days, but it rained and was overcast when we visited. We booked an Uber to the tower from our hotel (about £5 each way) as it‘s a bit of a hike from the nearest bus stop.

Splurge: Above the Most SNP (Slovak National Uprising Bridge) you’ll notice a curious feature,
what looks like a UFO perched on the southern tower and here you’ll find  UFO. watch. taste.
groove. The views are the best of any restaurant in the city; while the food is excellent but very
expensive. A 3-course lunch for two is €100+.

CULTURE

Bratislava Castle sits prominently on a hill overlooking the old town and the Danube. You
can pay to view the exhibitions and Museum of History or simply walk up for a free view over the
city. For an even better view, head to the other side of the river to the aforementioned  UFO. If you don’t want to pay for the overpriced food you can just pay to ride the elevator to the observation deck for a 360-degree view. You’ll likely get great photographs of the castle from here.

High above Bratislava is Slavín (Pažického), a memorial monument and military cemetery. It is the burial ground for the fallen Soviet Army of World War II. Slavin has great views over the east of the city and Slovakia. Bratislava is also known for its amusing statues which you’ll find dotted around the old town. Look out for Man at work – Čumil,  Schöne Náci  and  Napoleon’s Army Soldier which are all on the same stretch of road. The Blue Church (Bezručova), officially known as  Church of St. Elizabeth is a stunning Art Nouveau catholic church. If the doors are open, be sure to have a look inside. On the day we visited only the outer door was open which at least allowed us to view the church through an internal door window.  St Michael’s Gate (Michalská Utica) was once part of the medieval fortifications and is the only city gate that still exists. Originally built around 1300, the baroque style gate was reconstructed in 1758.

TOURS

Authentic Slovakia run a number of tours in the city and we took part in two. The village pub
crawl to four backwater pubs outside the city is great if you like to use Untappd to surprise your
friends by checking in beers from random remote pubs (all drinks and transport are included in the price). For our second tour, we travelled around in an old battered Skoda amongst communist
buildings and landmarks, taking in the city’s history from before the iron curtain fell. We visited Petržalka, the largest and most densely populated housing estate or ‘scheme’ in Central Europe. This covers 2,000+ hectares and houses over 100,000 people. The tour finishes with a  beer in a working man’s pub which probably hasn’t changed since it opened in the 60s. Find out more at authenticslovakia.com

SLEEP

Hotel Galeria Tachyon is the most eyecatching place to stay. Inside, the reception and rooms are all colourful…as if painted by children on drugs. It’s just behind Hlavná Stanica, the main train (and bus) station. We’ve mentioned some microbreweries already, but how about a brewery you can stay in? Dunajský Pivovar is unique in that it’s not just a brewery, hotel and restaurant but also a boat moored on the river Danube. It’s situated just across the water from the old town, a 20 min walk away. The food is a mix of traditional and western cuisine and they have three or four beers on a time. Loft Hotel is home to Fabric brewery and restaurant. Their menu is more a pub-grub type affair; focused on burgers, fish & chips and ramen (strangely). In addition to their own beers, they also have over two-hundred wines. Although it’s also outside the old town, it’s only a 10-min walk to Hlavná Stanica.

GET THERE

Fly to Bratislava airport from Edinburgh with Ryanair. The 61 bus from the airport runs every 20 mins and takes around 23 minutes to get to Hlavná Stanica, which is situated a little outside the old town. From here you can take tram 1, bus 93 (single ticket is around €1) or walk 15–25 mins
into the old town.

TOURIST INFORMATION

visitbratislava.com

  • Writes about food and travel at Foodie Explorers website. Can be mostly found cuddling cats, watching crime documentaries and drinking a beer.

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