Bratislava is like Tyrion Lannister from Game of thrones, small, often confused with being less grand, but in truth, a stocky package with great taste for wine and beer, love for some happening parties, abode to a grand castle and home to everything that adds up to a good toast to life.
Situated in the shadow of powerful countries such as Austria and Czech Republic, Bratislava is often visited as a day trip. But one can’t truly experience the city, unless one stays here at least a night or two.
Bratislava has a rich history and was once a part of the Hofsburg and Hungarian monarchy. It was also the place of coronation for the Hungarian kings. It was only after the breakup of Czechoslovakia, that Bratislava became the capital of the independent Slovakia. The city was also hugely destroyed by the Nazi invasion and much of what we see today was rebuilt after the Wars.
Apart from being a historical landmark, Bratislava is also known as being the new party capital of Europe, standing tall with its cousins, Prague and Amsterdam. Eager to see what all the fuzz was about, we hit the streets and lanes, to get a first hand at it.
Contrary to the poor reputation of Bratislava being a dull communist city, the vibe of the city was vibrant and cheery. A Street Jazz Festival was at play at the City Centre under the floodlights of the beautiful Town Hall. Locals filled the square, enjoying the symphonies and tapped their feet to the coordinated sounds of the saxophone, violin and trumpets.
Bratislava did live up to its image of a party hub and the streets were mostly lined by Bachelor, Hen and Stag parties. The best part- one didn’t have to rob a bank to have fun, especially if one compared it to its cousins! We hopped from one bar to the other and especially liked the Barrock and Hacienda pubs on the Sedlaraska street. Hacienda had a live music performance, with the lead singer performing chart busters and local favorites. If you get a chance, do go see him ( sorry I meant hear him!!). He had a gorgeous, of course, VOICE! Unfortunately I don’t have his name, but for reference, his picture is underneath 🙂
The next morning, thanks to our body clock being pretty snoozed from all the walking (of course) from the night before, that we set out of the Apartment only around Lunch. Having missed Asian flavours for soooo long, we walked towards the heavily recommended and the very acclaimed restaurant named, Soho- Bistro and Cafe. I asked the server to surprise me with a drink. She got me this beautiful lavender and berry lemonade, which was delicious! The Prawn and Chicken stir fry here were delectable. A fresh slice of melon served alongside the dish was a perfect end to our meal. This was one of my favorite restaurants in Slovakia and lived up to its accolades.
Battling with my food coma after a delicious meal, I ventured into the lanes of Bratislava. I was surprised to find that the streets were flushed with locals playing with colours- their version of Holi , where they celebrated with colors after running a marathon. I also saw a street performance of women dancing on the Telegu song- ‘Aa Ante Amlapuram’. I almost thought it was the Asian flavours in my belly making me crazy, but this was truly happening and it filled me with pride, for the wings of our culture had reached so far.
A lone soldier on the path of discovery, abandoned by my comrade who had been defeated by Chicken marinated in soy vinegar, I set out to climb the 100 or so ( felt like thousands) steps to reach the Castle. The view of the Old Town was spectacular from here. The view of the UFO Bridge was also nice. Although we did not visit the UFO Tower, but a unique observation deck stands on the bridge. As per claims, the deck offers visibility up to 100s of Kms and also has a plush resident bar.
As I trailed along the Castle, I witnessed a wedding procession at the St. Martin’s cathedral, which was the former coronation church.
A strawberry food festival, adorning savoury and sweet options, stood on stalls near the Old Town Hall filling the area around the Primate’s Palace ( where the treaty of Pressburg ( the earlier name for Bratislava) was signed after Napolean’s victory) with sinful aromas. There was also a street fair selling touristy magnets, earrings, chimes etc.
As a reward for my resilient courage to keep at the path, I decided to get some ice-cream. Koun Ice-cream is a local favorite and people stand in a que for hours to get a scoop. The speciality of Koun is that they serve homemade ice creams which are available in limited flavors and which changed daily. I joined the line and waited for my turn. The day’s specials included Mango, green tea, ricotta and figs, melon, lemon and cream! My resilience having been put to task enough, it was only fair that I was rewarded with, not one, but a bonus three scoops of ice-cream!!
Relishing the frozen delight, I walked towards the Michael’s Gate, which is the only preserved gate of the city fortification system dating back to the 14th century that stands today and whose walls shared the bricks with the Apartment where I was staying. The Euro cup madness was driving the streets crazy with people dressed in and hooting for their favourite teams.
That evening, we set off on a brewery crawl, for Bratislava is home to several microbreweries which stand in crevices of the city, tucked away in drinking caves with home made specialities. We visited two breweries and I recommend the dark option called the Bratislavský Bubák and the lighter option named Leziak option at Mestiansky Pivovar and the Pressburg beer at Starosloviensky Pivovar. Starosloviensky Pivovar had the feel of the mountains as the interior was lined with wooden arches and stools which made it very warm and cozy. A third brewery called Pivovarsky Richtar Jakub is also a local favourite but for the lack of capacity, we chose to simply note this place for the next time. The Nu Spirit Club is well known for its music and dance floor, however it did not live up to the madness it claimed.
Bratislava has some great cafes. Some worth trying are Urban Cafe for a late night cocktail or a latte, the Mondieu Cafe, serving some yumm sweet brioche French toast and eggs benedict and millet or buckwheat pancakes, and the Enjoy Coffee on the street near Michael’ Gate serving great Omelets, Crepes and of course coffee.
All in all, Bratislava is a high energy destination with options for all. Whatever reason brings you here, the city guarantees a good time. Come here with an open mind and you will be rewarded!