Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. With a lot of history it is easy to see why it appeals to people from all over the world as a city to visit. For us Brits it’s super easy to fly in and out of such cities for long weekends and short breaks. For international travellers I appreciate that this is not easily done. If you did want to make the most of being in that part of Europe, Bratislava is a mere 67 km from Vienna and 200 km from Budapest with good public transport links, meaning there is lots to do and see in that part of Europe.
Having never been to Slovakia before we chose Bratislava as the city we wanted to visit the most. Not many English airports fly there so we made our oh so familiar 3 hour road trip to London Stansted airport, we parked in the onsite Green Carpark via Holiday Extras, although it is the furthest carpark from the terminal it is still only a five minute walk to check in This coupled with low rates make it a great place to park when flying from Stansted and we will be using it again later in the year when we fly to Rhodes. Early morning flights can be a killer and even though the airport was packed with excited people ready for their breaks, we sailed through security leaving us enough time for some breakfast, because come on no one want to pay the prices on Ryanair (sorry Ryanair).
With a flight time of 1 hour 45 minutes we touched down at Letisko M. R. Štefánika (Bratislava Airport) and jumped in the first taxi we found and didn’t even ask the price, 20 minutes later and €30 lighter(!) we arrived in central Bratislava at our beautiful hotel the Tulip House Boutique Hotel. Once we’d checked in and dropped our bags off in our room we were ready to explore.
Our first stop was at the Bratislava Tourist Information Centre to pick up a couple of 48 hour Bratislava Cards, which gave us unlimited public transport use, entrance into a number of museums and a guided tour of the city. Cards and accompanying guidebook in hand we headed to Hlavne Namestie, which is the main square of the city. We grabbed a table outside at the Cafe Mayer and ordered a couple of the local beers – Zlatý Bažant which were perfect as the temperature was hitting a whopping 35 degrees. One beer turned into two and two into three as we formulated our plan of what to do and what to see. The afternoon slipped by and the fact that we both had horrendous colds (sorry to anyone that may have been on our flight) we decided on a siesta, or whatever the Slovakian equivalent is.
One power nap later and we were ready to see what the nightlife of Bratislava had to offer. Passing through the only remaining city gate – St Michael’s Tower and into the the main area with street after street lined on each side with bars, that’s when it became obvious that it is, in fac,t quite a party town. Within five minutes of leaving the hotel we had already spotted at least three British stag parties (i.e groups of semi drunk and semi naked men) and one German one, all members of which were drinking coke(!) With the drinks flowing and the Wales v Northern Ireland Euro 2016 football match streaming from every TV set in every bar in the city, the atmosphere was electric.
Following breakfast we wandered the streets taking in the beautiful mix of architecture. We decided to head to the waterfront to see what that had to offer us. As we headed through a residential area we were greeted with the sight of the most beautiful blue church which we googled to find out that it is St Elisabeth Church located on Bezrucova 2. As we got closer we realised there was a service in progress it must have been standing room only inside as people were spilling onto the streets.
We continued our journey to the Daube and onto the Starý Most (Bridge). From here we got a great view of the Most Slovenského národného povstania (Bridge) which is locally known as the UFO bridge due to its design and also Bratislava Castle nestled high on the hill side. We followed the path along the edge of the Danube and were surprised not to find bars and restaurants as it would make a great location and offer great views especially when the sun is shining.
We headed back into the old town passing the Ludovit Stur Statue and grabbed a quick pint of Zlatý Bažant before joining our tour guide L’ubica outside the Tourist Information Centre for our one hour walking tour of the city which was free as we had Bratislava City Cards. She explained the history of the main buildings we saw and was always on hand to answer any questions we had. It was nice way of spending an hour and getting to know more about this fascinating city.
Showered and changed we headed out that night to watch the Germany v Slovakia Euro 2016 football game. The bars were full of Slovakians cheering for their team. We watched the football then grabbed a table outside a bar. We were then approached by two guys who proceeded to buy us drinks and offered to take us to Vienna. Maybe they were just nice guys but something about them didn’t ring true and Mr ESLT genuinely thought our organs were going to be harvested. Needless to say we’re still here now to tell the tale so all’s well that ends well I guess.
I’ll be honest we had a lazy morning. Between coughing and sneezing we eventually managed to get showered and dressed. We google mapped how to get to Bratislava Castle and were pleasantly surprised to find out it was only a 20 minute walk. What google maps failed to inform us was that the last 5 minutes is up hill. With blocked noses and heavy chests we hauled ourselves up there and even though we needed a little sit down when we reached the top, the castle and the views over the Danube it offers are worth it.
Bratislava is the main castle of Bratislava. The massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava. Because of its size and location, it has been a dominant feature of the city for centuries. It seems to be going through a a bit of renovation at the moment and we couldn’t walk all the way around it. There also didn’t seem to be anyone around to ask about anything. All that coupled with signs saying ‘Ticket Office’ pointing to brick walls and the fact that the weather had come in cold and drizzly, we snapped some pictures and headed (thankfully) back down the hill and back into the old town.
We grabbed a table outside Restaurant Roland in Hlavne Namestie and ordered a couple of Zlatý Bažant and couple of schnitzels (what came was enough to feed 10 of us). As a guy walked past us to sit on the next table Mr ESLT commented, maybe a tad too loudly ‘he looks like Yannus, the lead singer from the Foals (a British band)’ I followed his gaze and in fact it was Yannis and the rest of the band. A quick Goole search showed us that fresh from Glastonbury a couple of nights previously they were now in Bratislava and playing a gig that night. Having seen them in Leeds earlier this year I knew it was going to be a great gig for everyone attending. Trying not to be a fan girl and boy we let them drink their drinks in peace all the while thinking ‘ask for a photograph!’
England played Iceland in the Euros that evening and we’ll say no more about that! I still don’t think Mr ESLT has got over it!
As with the last day of any break, it rolls around oh too quickly. With four hours to kill we dawdled through the streets snapping selfies as we went. Making our last stop the first bar we had visited on our first day this time for a couple of cokes rather than Zlatý Bažants It felt like we had DONE Bratislava and our journey had come full circle. We Ubered it back to the Airport for €7 (yep €7) not the €30 that we had paid in our haste upon landing to a random taxi guy (will we ever learn?!)
All in all we loved Bratislava although I think if we had been fighting fit we could have possible condensed what we did into 2 days, 3 days maximum. Saying that though it was nice to go at a steady pace, we normally hit the ground running when we visit somewhere new and need another break to get over our break. Oh and of course our colds cleared up the day we got home 🙂
- Car parking provided on a complimentary basis from Holiday Extras
- Bratislava Cards provided on a complimentary basis from Visit Bratislava