Slovakia’s quaint capital city offers an ambitious gastronomic movements, world-class wines and all the cobbled-fairytale beauty of your typical Eastern European city. So, what should one do when faced with 48 hours in Bratislava?
The Sheraton Bratislava. Located in a buzzing, lively part of the city, this is a little slice of luxury where the rooms are gorgeous, the hotel bar oozes glamour, and the welcoming staff epitomise fantastic Slovakian hospitality. After a night in one of their SweetSleeper Beds you’ll be ready for a big day – and the buffet breakfasts are top-notch too.
If you’re visiting Bratislava for a romantic break (and it really is a great place to do so), then one hotel that is guaranteed to be a hit is the Hotel Danubia Gate. This charming family run hotel is intimate, cosy and the service is second-to-none. The real clincher comes from the Deluxe Suite – a luxuriously equipped room that should really cost twice the amount it does. Enjoy three plasma TVs (one above the bed, one in the bathroom), squishy sofas, a giant bed and, the crowning glory – a jacuzzi. There are also jazzy neon blue lights to funk up bath-time. After a day of exploring, it’s the perfect place to unwind.
Get your first taste of Bratislava with a wander along the Danube. Restaurants place tables into the streets and stall holders set up shop. In the winter kick up the snow and follow the steel-grey river into town. The best way to get your bearings and see the sights is by Old Timer. For twenty euros you can board a cherry red bus outside the National Theatre, embarking on a ninety minute tour. Take in sites that include Old Town, the courtyard of the Medieval Castle, several palaces and a super view of the city.
Head down the hill and spend a while exploring the cobbled streets and hotchpotch buildings that make up Old Town. There are a variety of lovely little shops, cafes and eateries, and suddenly and every so often you will come across a beautiful church or spacious square.
Late afternoon is a lovely time for a stroll around the gardens and parks near Grassalkovich’s Palace. Bratislava has a wealth of monuments, statues and fountains that are fun to seek out, and the buildings themselves are both imposing and attractive. If it’s Christmas time then it’s essential to visit the Christmas Market and have a mulled wine. Not only is it as quaint, traditional and festive as the Austrian version, but also far less busy.
Book the Bratislava City Highlights Walking Tour.
Wander the short distance up to Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivovar restaurant, located at Drevená 575/8. They brew their own beer – you can see the shining copper still through the window – and it’s a favourite with locals and tourists alike. The beer is strong and refreshing, while the food is hearty and showcases some Slovakian specialities. We recommend the Wurst served with onion and mustard, the Pickled Ermine cheese, and the gargantuan ribs. Bring an appetite though.
Alternatively try the Bratislava Flagship Restaurant for wholesome food. It’s set out a bit like Olde Beer Halls of Yore, with robust tables and dark wooden beams. If you’ve never had garlic soup before now’s your chance – it’s delicious, and served inside a bread bowl that can be scoffed afterwards. Other essential items to try include the bryndza dumplings with bacon. Total comfort food.
Wander up the hill until you come to the imposing Victory Gates of Bratislava Castle. It is decorated with military sculptures such as helmets, banners and weaponry, and then take in that incredible view of the city stretching below you. The striking building is eggshell white, with warm terracotta tiling, and the oldest part still standing is the Crown Tower that dates back to the 13th Century. The Castle is now used by parliament for state representation, and it often holds exhibitions.
Must Go Wine-Tasting
Slovakian wines are a top-class tipple, and there are many places that specialise in a number of varieties. For an intimate setting with a great array, head to Grand Cru Wine Gallery, tucked away on Zámočnícka street. Martin will guide you through the wines, and give you a commentary on what you’re drinking. Try the Tramin Cerveny – crisp, dry and aromatic – while lovers of sweeter wines might enjoy the Devin, which is bursting with tropical fruit flavours.
The UFO Restaurant so called because it’s set in a spaceship shaped building rises over 85m above the Danube. The views are spectacular, so if you can get there for sunset then you’re in for a treat. And if you thought Eastern European cuisine was all rich, heavy stodge then you’re mistaken, because UFO is taking fine dining to new, well, heights. The chef is a genius, balancing flavours the way acrobats balance on tightropes, and your taste buds will be singing. For the real experience, go for the degustation menu – seven courses that include the likes of pork knuckle broth, venison rack with glazed chestnuts and Mangalitsa tenderloin with potato dumpling, which also comes with wine pairings. And, for those wanting something a little more exotic, the alternative menu is a daring fusion of Asian and Mediterranean dishes, such as Ocean Perch with Yuzu sauce.
It’s chic, sleek and glamorous – surrounded by stars and loved by the stars, since celebs like Jay-Z and several ice hockey professionals have eaten here. Plus, there’s an incredible cocktail menu that lives up to anything London has to offer. And, if you’ve got the taste for a night on the sauce after that, we recommend ending your evening at Sky Bar, where more mixology maestros will woo you well into the night.
Alternatively see the night out with a bang by visiting Fou Zoo. This extraordinary restaurant offers some of the best Pan-asian cuisine you’ll have tried outside of the Far East, and the decor itself is beautiful. Fou Zoo literally translates to ‘Wind’ and ‘To Create’, and you can eat meticulous and delicious sushi in the surroundings of a zen garden. The harmony of gastronomic excellence and relaxing ambience, combined with staff who are some of the most attentive you’ll ever meet, make this a really special place. Fou Zoo also offer a stunning Liquid Kaiseki menu, showcasing some intriguing and unique mixology techniques. More cocktails, then.
Must Go To A Museum
There are a plethora of museums to discover. The most notable are the Slovak National Museum and the Museum of City History. More niche subjects include the Museum of Clocks or the Pharmaceutical Museum. There are also a host of super art galleries to peruse, including the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Gallery – one of the youngest museums of modern art where leading international artists display their works.
Must Go On An Excursion
Get a little way out of the city and head towards Devin Castle. It’s under half an hour by car, or in the summer months there are boat trips you can take along the Danube. The castle itself is impressive, situated atop a cliff and with beautiful ruins that make for a lovely afternoon of exploring. Make sure to visit the Maiden Tower, separated from the main castle and balanced on a lone rock. This tiny watchtower is the catalyst of many myths and legends about young women who have been imprisoned and, lovesick, leapt to their deaths.
Rebecca Anne Milford flew Ryanair in February for £53, while a weekend in March is about £65 from Stansted, and takes only 2 hours.