Having a weekend free with nowhere to go (rare), we used Eurowings Blind Booking and landed in Vienna, Austria. Having been there before, we searched a nearby trip and made plans to cross the border into Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava. We had just been talking about this city in how we should go there because it’s not really a place you hear many people say they are destined to see. Especially when you consider the full spectrum of European cities we have to choose from here. We were so glad we went.
From the Vienna airport, there is a Flix Bus outside that for 5 euro per person goes to Bratislava. There are two stops, Navy Most is closest to old town letting out by the castle under the bridge to the UFO tower, or there is the main bus station that is an easy 15-20 min walk to town. There is also Uber in Bratislava.
We stayed at a hotel in old town which was a great location to walk to everything. The only issue we had with hearing noise after the bars closed was actually one of the greatest moments; I wish I was awake enough to have gotten up and grabbed it on video from our window. A group of rowdy Scottsmen leave the bar in song, led by a bagpiper. You can not make this stuff up. They sang and played until they got yelled at to move on, then they didn’t stop, they continued on playing in a parade down the streets of old town. This does not happen in the US.
Apparently Bratislava was the site of the national finals for soccer that weekend so the city became more and more invaded with Scottish men in kilts. They were everywhere you looked at all hours of the day and night.
The theme song of our trip , however, was not a bagpipe song, it was Smooth Operator by Sade. Actually, any song of hers. We heard her every morning at breakfast and at least once in most all cafes and restaurants we went to. Maybe it’s good tourist/relaxing music?
Coffee and Cake
Something we didn’t know about Bratislava was their love of coffee and cake. Every street had multiple coffee and cake shops.Here were our favs:
Zeppelin – Friendliest service, with everything homemade. They gave us recommendations and descriptions of the traditional things to try. We’ll be back.
There is another bakery next to this too but they have a rope outfront blocking the door that says to wait to be seated. Waited, no one came. Then we walked by again and saw an old lady just move the rope and go in. So unclear what you are supposed to do there. It looked cool inside, museum-like with floor to ceiling painted murals. There were so many other places to go, we didn’t stop there this time, but now it is a goal to figure out what to do next time. Maybe we will just do as the old ladies do and move the rope.
Cafe Mayer – Old viennese style cafe from 1873. More formal feeling though you could walk in wearing anything. Beautiful professional looking desserts in the display to choose from.
Best Ice Cream: Luculus Ice Saloon – in the promenade near the U.S. Embassy and Bratislava theater. Get the cone. One of the best gelato stops outside of Italy.
Statue Hunting in Old Town – It’s easy to walk everywhere in Bratislava’s center. There are bronze statues illustrating different things through the city to look for too.
In town there is some shopping, souvenir shops, and there is also an old fashioned candy maker making hard candies onsite.Neat to watch. We of course bought some to bring home.
Free Walking Tour – Meets by the Statue of Hviezdoslav outside the U.S. Embassy twice per day for a free 2.5 hour walking tour of the city.
UFO Tower – Built in the communist era across the Danube River, looking at the city and castle on the other side. The construction demolished a synagogue, row of housing/businesses, and runs the highway bridge next to the historic St Martins Cathedral. It is very out out of place for the city. Cost is 7 euro to go up to the top for the view. There is a cafe and restaurant also that we thought actually had a better view than the very top did. We didn’t eat there, but were told by our walking tour guide that is was good though more expensive at about 200 euro for two persons.
Hrad Castle and Museum – We walked up and around the castle from the fortified wall and stopped in St Martins Cathedral on the way. It is free to wander around the castle grounds, but we did not pay to go into the museum inside. The castle is really new considering the majority of ruins to see in Europe, it was rebuild in the 1950-60’s.
Blue Church – Catholic church all painted in blue inside and out, including the roof tiles. It is art nouveau and a little reminiscent of Gaudi though not as magnificent in detail as his work in Barcelona.
Even though it is the euro in Slovakia, everything was truly inexpensive for craft beer and food compared to Germany especially.
- Pivovarský Hostinec Richtár Jakub – This was definitely a bit of a walk away from the center but really worth it. Great selection, service and we were the only people in there who weren’t local. They do serve some food snacks but we didn’t eat there.
- 100 pív craft beer bar & shop – Great choices in a small spot, we stayed here for a while to try a few different styles from chocolate chili guest brewers, to Slovakian local IPA.
- Stupavar Beer Pub – We saw an older couple from England we had seen in the 100 Piv craft bar earlier that day – guess they travel with the same idea. This craft brewers pub is in the first floor of an art gallery and office spaces on a side street in Old Town. You would never know its there. Great find.
- LE ŠENK craft beer cafe – Would have been great but it was too cold to sit outside, and they have a smoking area inside that seeped into the non-smoking area, so we couldn’t stay.
Food (with Beer)
- FABRIKA the beer pub – Great duck and traditional seasonal menu, ok in-house craft beer.
Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar – Recommended restaurant for traditional Slavic food by our guide, after we already ate there so that was good news, we chose right. There is more than one location too. We went to the one just outside of old town, all are in walking distance.
- Starosloviensky Pivovar – We tried to go here on the last day for lunch, but they were closed 😦 – next time.
- Urban House – Went with cocktails here not beer – loved the food. Not traditional but everything fresh with an industrial/modern eclectic vibe.
View photos here.