These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Bratislava

Pop.: 428,700, area code: 02, police: 0961 011-111, medical emergencies: 155, info centre: Klobučnícka 2, tel: 5443-3715, bis@bratislava.sk

    
 
 Photo: Ján Svrček

Slovakia's largest city, Bratislava played little brother to Prague for 70 years while the country was part of Czechoslovakia. Before that, it was a provincial Austro-Hungarian city, then called Pressburg (in German) or Pozsony (in Hungarian). For more on the city’s multicultural past, see Imagining Pressburg, pg 78.

In Bratislava, you see the whole of Slovak history: centuries of feudal rule, 70 years of co-government with the Czechs, 40 years of Communism, and 15 years of movement towards democracy and a market economy.

The beautiful Old Town is full of landmarks from the Austro-Hungarian era. It used to be much bigger - two-thirds of it was torn down in the 1960s to make way for New Bridge (Nový most, sometimes called the UFO bridge), which now defines the city's skyline as much as the Old Town's palaces and castle.

Bratislava is full of architecture from the Communist era. The Danube runs through the city, but the hundreds of giant concrete apartment buildings built in the 1970s south of the centre make an even bigger impression. See Sight unseen, pg 28, for more on Slovak socialist architecture.

Today, skyscrapers, dozens of restaurants and bars, and a Volkswagen factory that produces 280,000 cars a year mark Bratislava's first 15 years as an independent, capitalist country.

    
 
 Photo: Ján Svrček

But Bratislava is also different than the rest of Slovakia. For instance, it's easier to find a good pizza here than a good plate of halušky. And many Bratislava cafes could have been lifted straight out of Vienna. Bratislava residents have their own accent and they are more apt to borrow words from Czech. Bratislavans are also richer than other Slovaks, earning Sk21,000 a month, or 33 percent more than the national rate. They have an easier time finding work, as well: unemployment in the capital hovers around 4 percent, compared to 18 percent for the country as a whole.

The economic difference makes Bratislava the most expensive city in Slovakia, although you can still eat a good meal here for €3. On the up side, there are more museums, art-house movie theatres, concerts, and pubs than anywhere else in the country. A string of winemaking villages to the east are a short bus ride away. Behind these villages are the Small Carpathians Mountains, full of hiking trails, castles and castle ruins.

Plan at least two days to take in Bratislava, a week to enjoy it thoroughly.

History

Human beings first came to what is today Bratislava about 4,000 years ago. Celtic settlers arrived later, in the centuries before Christ. Roman soldiers, who built camps but no cities, eventually pushed them out. Slavs arrived in the fifth century, and later built an important fortress in the Great Moravian Empire.

Magyars (Hungarians) defeated the empire in 906 and seized control of Bratislava. In 1291, Pozsony, as Hungarians call it, became a royal city. Trade flourished, King Matthias Corvinus built a university (1465) and waves of German settlers arrived.

When the Turks defeated the Hungarians in 1526, the Hapsburg family took control of upper Hungary (Slovakia). Pressburg, the city's German name, became their coronation capital. Eleven kings and eight queens were crowned in St Martin's Cathedral over the next 250 years, and the city became an aristocratic, administrative and artistic centre (Beethoven, Lizst, Hayden and Mozart are said to have performed here.) In 1776, Empress Maria Theresa tore down Pressburg's southern gate to make room for expansion.

In 1783, King Josef II moved the throne to Vienna, ending Pressburg's golden age. In 1805, Napoleon and Hapsburg Emperor Franz I signed a peace treaty in the Mayor's Palace. But fighting erupted again four years later. In one battle, Napoleon's army fired hundreds of cannonballs at the Old Town, five of which remain lodged in Old Town buildings. Pressburg's decline continued, and at the turn of the 20th century, only 60,000 people inhabited the city. A flood in 1899 and fire in 1913 brought further damage.

Before World War I, Pressburg was home to more Germans, Hungarians and Jews than Slovaks, who constituted a mere 1 percent of the population, according to one Bratislava historian. After the war, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire broke apart, locals pushed to have Pressburg become a city-state, like Monnaco or Lichtenstein. But leaders of the new Czechoslovakia, which became a nation on October 28, 1918, were keen to have the Danube port city. The Allies supported them, and Czech legionnaires and Italian soldiers drove the remaining Hungarian forces out of Pressburg on January 1, 1919. Many Pressburg residents refused to swear loyalty to the new country, and fled instead.

Grateful to US President Woodrow Wilson for supporting the establishment of Czechoslovakia, Czechs and Slovaks renamed the city Wilson. The name lasted six months. In June 1919, 'Bratislava' was picked by the Czechoslovak parliament. Some sources say the city is named after the Great Moravian Emperor, Bratislav. Another explanation is that the name Bratislava is a variation of the city's original Slavic name, Preslava (or Braslava), which appeared on a coin issued around 1000AD. (The only known copy of the coin is damaged, which explains the two possible names).

Bratislava became a capital city for the first time in 1939, when Slovak Catholic priest Jozef Tiso declared Slovakia's independence from Czechoslovakia. Not much fighting took place in the city, although in 1945 retreating Nazis burned Bratislava's only bridge across the Danube. The Soviet Army built a replacement - the rickety looking, but evidently durable, Old Bridge, which still stands (it's the first bridge downstream from the UFO bridge - see below).

World War II changed Bratislava's demographics forever. After declaring independence, Tiso expelled thousands of Czechs who had settled here after World War I. As the war ended, tens of thousands of the city's Germans and Hungarians fled or were expelled. Thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps.

Replacing Germans, Hungarians and Jews were Slovaks migrating in from the countryside.

Visitors can still see a lasting connection to the rest of the country. On Fridays, for example, thousands of locals leave the city by train and bus to visit relatives elsewhere.

Bratislava made another break with its Austro-Hungarian past in 1972 when 226 Old Town buildings were bulldozed to make way for the New Bridge. Altogether, through destruction or neglect, two-thirds of Bratislava's historical centre vanished in the 20th century. Meanwhile, city planners built sprawling housing developments marked by concrete high-rise apartment blocks. The biggest is Petržalka, the "concrete jungle" south of the Danube, where 170,000 people live.

Since 1989, the city has hit a new growth spurt. Scores of new restaurants and pubs have opened in Bratislava's centre. Private companies have added skyscrapers. City planners continue to renovate dozens of old buildings, helping to make Bratislava an island of prosperity. EU studies show that Slovakia's economy ranks 6th among the 10 countries that joined the EU in May, while Bratislava and its surrounding districts rank 2nd among all regions in the accession countries.

    The coronnation of Maria Theresa in St. Martin´s Cathedral.
 The coronnation of Maria Theresa in St. Martin´s Cathedral.
 Courtesy of the Museum of the City of Bratislava

Royal City Bratislava - Unification of Nations

On September 8, 441 years ago, Bratislava began its most famous era. The Ugrian Diet decided that the coronation ceremony of Maximilian would take place there on this day. In September this event will be commemorated in the Old Town with more than 100 people dressed in historical costumes creating the atmosphere of the old times. A ceremony in St Martin’s Cathedral, a procession through the streets, a knight’s tournament, and a feast in the Hviezdoslav Square will all take place.

Coming and going

Buses and trains connect Bratislava to most European capitals, all large cities in Central Europe and all Slovak cities and regions. Buses run 16 times daily to and from Vienna's Schwechat Airport, which is an hour away. Prague is six hours away by train, Budapest three and a half, Vienna one and Košice five hours. Cost-cutting airline Sky Europe (www.skyeurope.com) runs flights from Bratislava's M R Štefánik airport to 18 European cities, including London, Paris and Barcelona. Rival discount airline Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) has also opened service to London. AirSlovakia (www.airslovakia.sk) runs flights to and from Kuwait, Tel Aviv, Delhi and Birmingham, England.

Layout

Most of Bratislava lies north of the Danube (Dunaj). Europe's second-longest river flows east to west through Bratislava before turning, east of the city centre, south towards Hungary. The gigantic housing development Petržalka, a village before World War II, lies south of the river, across from the centre. Four kilometres east of Petržalka is the Slovak-Austrian border.

Staré mesto (Old Town), a fist-shaped maze of cobblestone streets and elegant old buildings, lies just north of the Danube. To the west, on a hill, is Bratislava's orange-spired castle, nicknamed "the upside down table." Below it, the turquoise steeple of St Martin's Cathedral, where Hungarian monarchs were crowned for 250 years, rises above the Old Town.

Fanning out from the Old Town, which has a radius of about 300 metres, are upscale residential neighborhoods, commercial buildings and concrete high rises. The needle-like television tower to the northeast marks the beginning of the Small Carpathian Mountains (Malé Karpaty).

Two kilometres east of the Old Town is the bus station (Autobusová stanica), in a quarter called Mlynské nivy. To get to the centre, take trolley bus 202 from the bus station to the last stop, and walk straight (west) for 10 minutes. From the train station, a kilometre north of Old Town, take bus 93 or 81 to the Zochová stop, and head south, through an underpass. Ten-minute and 30-minute bus/tram tickets are on sale at newsstands and in automatic vending machines. Punch them after boarding to validate them.

Places to visit

Bratislava Castle

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

To get to Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad), take bus 203 or 205 from Hodžovo námestie, where you can see Grassalkovich Palace, otherwise known as the President's Palace, the official residence of the Slovak President. Hodžovo is just north of the Old Town, opposite the enormous and expensive Hotel Forum.

The castle affords a birds-eye view of the Old Town and a commanding look across the Danube, over the concrete high-rises of Petržalka, and into Austria. Written records mention a Slavic fort on the Castle Hill by the 10th century. Today's castle was built in the 1430s, for King Sigmund of Luxembourg. It was rebuilt into a four-wing Renaissance palace in time for King Maximilian's coronation in 1563, and given its pointed turrets in renovations between 1635 and 1649.

After the death of Hapsburg Queen Maria Theresa in 1780, Joseph II, her successor, took the crown jewels and an extensive castle art collection to Vienna. The castle went into decline, and later became an army barracks for Austrian soldiers, who accidentally burned it down after a night of drinking in 1811.

The castle remained abandoned until the Communists began reconstructing it in 1958. They finished in time for the 1968 Law of the Czechoslovak Federation, which established Bratislava as the capital of a Slovak Republic, within federal Czechoslovakia. The castle was home to the Slovak Parliament until 1993, when deputies moved to a modern grey building next door.

A branch of the Slovak National Museum (Slovenské národné múzeum, open daily, 9:00 to 17:00, except Mondays) the castle's third floor has history, weapons, furniture and craft exhibitions. North of the castle, but still inside its outer walls, in Luginsland Bastion, is the Music Museum (Hudobné múzeum), which houses an assortment of Slovak folk instruments. It's open the same hours as the Slovak National Museum.

Below the castle

    
 
 Photo: Ján Svrček

Head down (east) through the castle's gate, towards the turquoise steeple of St. Martin's Cathedral (dóm Svätého Martina, open daily 8:00 to 11.30 and 14:00 to 16.30. On Sunday open only in the afternoon). Across the road from the cathedral, on the castle side, at Židovská 1, is a narrow Rococo burgher house called the Good Shepherd's House. Slovaks like to say the building, which is home to the Museum of Historical Timepieces (múzeum hodín) is the narrowest building in Europe. The collection - including a table clock carved from a single piece of wood - is worth a 20-minute detour. It's open Tues-Fri from 10:00 to 17:00 Sat-Sun from 11:00 to 18:00.

Down the street, heading away from the Danube, is the Museum of Jewish Culture (múzeum Židovskej kultúry) Židovská 17, open daily, from 11:00 to 17:00, and closed on Saturdays. Founded in 1991, the five-room museum chronicles famous Slovak Jews, such as J B Bettelheim (1811-1869), translator of the bible into Chinese, as well as the 70,000 Slovak Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Another Jewish sight is a short distance away. Head north on Židovská, to an overpass with tram tracks. Cross the overpass, following the tracks to the first tram stop. Take any tram going away from Old Town to the Mausoleum of Chatam Sofer, the first stop on the other side of the tunnel under the castle. A Bratislava (then Pressburg) native, Sofer (1762-1839) was considered one of the world's leading Talmudic scholars. Albert Einstein is said to have visited his original grave, which was bulldozed in the 1970s to make way for the tramline. The new mausoleum was finished in 2002. It's open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 14:00 to 16:00, from May to September. Call 0903-821-423 or 0904-127-545 to arrange out-of-season visits.

St Martin's Cathedral and around

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

Starting back at the Jewish museum, take a pedestrian bridge across the highway, and then turn right. Construction of the austere Gothic cathedral, where 19 Hungarian monarchs were crowned, began in the 14th century and lasted almost 200 years. A 300-kilogramme model of the Hungarian Crown tops the cathedral's 85-metre steeple. Inside is the bronze Statue of St Martin Giving Away His Cape(1733-35) by George Raphael Donner, a leading Baroque sculptor.

In the cathedral's crypt, which is closed to the public, is the empty coffin of Slovak nationalist leader and priest Andrej Hlinka. The body was secretly removed in the 1960's; either by Communists who considered Hlinka a fascist, or by Catholics who wanted to keep Hlinka's mummified corpse from falling into Communist hands.

Across from the cathedral entrance begins Kapitulská ulica, one of Bratislava's oldest streets, where monks from a seminary across from St. Martin's stroll around in robes. On the other side of St Martin's is a courtyard where broken windows in a crumbling building are filled with paintings. Across the way is Bibiana, an art museum for children, open daily, except Mondays, from 10:00 to 18:00.

Down a flight of stairs from the Cathedral, by the freeway, is a marble etching that marks a former 19th-century synagogue. The synagogue and most of the Jewish quarter were demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the New Bridge.

Michael's gate

Head east on Panská (the street Bibiana museum is on), away from the freeway, past a string of renovated buildings, and turn left on Ventúrska towards St Michael's Gate. On the way to the gate, check out the Gothic building at Ventúrska 3, where Academia Istropolitana, the first University in Slovakia, was founded in 1465. Today it's a university of dramatic arts.

Across from it is Pálffy Palace, (Pálfyho palác) where according to a plaque, 6-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dazzled Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in 1762. Today the palace is occupied by the Austrian Embassy. Through a passage on the left is the Church of the Clares Order (Klarisky Kostol), which has an intricate Gothic steeple. Once a convent, the church now houses a library, and is occasionally open for musical concerts.

Head up Klariská Street, and turn right onto Baštová, the narrowest street in the Old Town. At the end of Baštová is St Michael's Gate (Michalská brána), the only one of the city's five original gates still standing. According to legend, talking between the outer and inner gates is bad luck.

Michael's Gate is open Tues-Fri, from 10:00 to 17:00, 11:00 to 18:00 on weekends. A museum inside has an exhibit of weapons, including full suits of armor, swords, pistols and rifles. Climb to the top of the gate's tower for a sweeping view of the castle and Old Town.

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

After descending, turn left onto Zámočnícka, another narrow cobblestone street that curves around to the Municipal Gallery (Galéria hlavného mesta Slovenskej Republiky) in the Rococo Mirbachov Palác. Open daily from 11:00 to 18:00, except Mondays, the gallery holds changing exhibitions of modern Slovak art and a permanent collection of baroque art.

Main Square

Continue south from Mirbachov palác to Main Square (Hlavné námestie), lined by attractive burgher houses, many now rented by foreign embassies. On the east side of the square is Old Town Hall(Stará Radnica), home of the Town History Museum(Expozícia dejín mesta a feudálnej justície), open Mon-Fri from 10:00 to 17:00 and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 18:00. The museum has exhibits on royal artefacts, coins, musical instruments, pottery, maps, and a collection of grisly torture devices. Napoleon's army lodged a cannon ball in the hall's 13th-century tower in 1809.

A Statue of a Napoleonic soldier leans over a park bench at the centre of Main Square, installed in the 1990s as a tribute to an old Pressburg custom, known as Korzo, or promenade on Sunday, when the town's leading citizens walked to and from Michael's Gate to Hviezdoslavovo námestie, greeting each other and chatting.

Another Korzo statue, Schöne Náci, stands a dozen or so metres south of the square, on Rybárska brána. It depicts Bratislava native "handsome Ignatius," whose fiancé died in a concentration camp in World War II. As the story goes, Ignatius went mad over the loss, and spent the rest of his life walking aimlessly around the Old Town and grinning widely at strangers. A few more steps south is Čumil, a statue at the corner of Panská who likes looking up skirts from his spot in the manhole.

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

Back on Main Square stands the Roland Fountain. The name is a mystery, since the statue at the centre is a likeness of King Maximilian II, built to honour his coronation. Roland was a knight in the court of Caesar Charles the Great. Legend has it that the statue comes to life twice a year. At midnight on New Year's, Roland spins and bows. At 15:00 on Good Friday, he circles the fountain with his sword unsheathed.

Don't miss the Laser Show that runs on Main Square, April to September, every hour between 21:00 and midnight. The show runs on the hour from 18:00 to 1:00 in winter. A 7-minute extended show runs at 22:00 in summer, and 20:00 in winter.

Primaciálny palác, SNP and Hviezdoslavovo squares

Through two arches in the Old Town Hall, on the eastern side of Main Square, is the massive and pink Mayor's Palace (Primaciálny palác), built in 1781 for Hungarian bishops and topped with a 180-centimetre-wide, 150-kilogramme metal top hat. Napoleon signed the Pressburg Peace Treaty with Austrian emperor Franz I in 1805 in the palace's Hall of Mirrors. The 17th-century English tapestries on display inside were found in 1903, hidden in the walls, stashed as Napoleon's army advanced on the city. The palace is open Tues-Sun, from 10:00 to 17:00.

Continue down Klobučnícka to Slovak National Uprising (SNP) Square (Námestie SNP). On the way is Stará Tržnica (Old Market). After decades of being a market, it was turned into a television studio in 1960, then back into a market in 2000. A wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables is sold inside.

Directly across the street from the Old Market, on the other side of the tram stop, is the A4 cultural centre. Here you can catch films, contemporary dance and music concerts as well as other events almost every day of the week. Go inside to the back left corner and ring the bell to find someone to ask what's on for the next few days.

SNP square, with its trams and traffic, isn't much to look at, but it is the place for important mass gatherings. An estimated 50,000 Slovaks celebrated there after Slovakia won the 2002 hockey world champions - thousands more than those who turned out when Communism fell.

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

Take a right around the corner at the bottom of the square, going past a building with signs advertising bingo, and head back into the Old Town. Follow Laurinská Street to where it turns into Panská (at the manhole statue), and take a left onto Hviezdoslavovo Square. At the eastern end of the square is the Slovak National Theatre (Slovenské národné divadlo), built in 1886. Tickets to operas and ballets there are on sale at a ticket office behind the theatre. Some seats cost only a few hundred crowns. (note: Slovaks get a discount, so have a Slovak buy tickets if you can.)

Reduta, south of the opera, is home to the Slovak Philharmonic. Its ticket office is open Monday to Friday. Reduta has an elegant neo-Baroque interior, with a beautiful concert hall, a casino and high-class restaurant. To the east is Hotel Carlton, rebuilt in 2002 after years of neglect.

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

Hviezdoslavovo Square itself was renovated in recent years. It has a statue of its namesake, Pavol Orságh Hviezdoslav, a 19th century poet, and an oversized chessboard with waist-high chess pieces furnished by the city. A few doors down from Hotel Carlton is the American Embassy. Since 2001, the embassy's armed guards and makeshift barriers have been a regular sight on the square.

Along the Danube

Follow tram tracks by Hotel Carlton around the corner, towards the Danube, to the Slovak National Gallery (Slovenská národná galéria), open daily, except Monday, from 10:00 to 17:30. A blocky red-and white communist addition obscures the building’s lovely arches. The gallery's collection includes Gothic statues, altar panels by Master Paul of Levoča, and paintings by 19th and 20th century Slovak masters. Admission is Sk80.

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

East a couple hundred metres, in the building with a massive lion statue, is the Slovak National History Museum, (Slovenské národné múzeum). It's open the same hours as the National Gallery. The natural history museum has permanent dinosaur footprints and anthropology exhibits, and changing exhibits. An Internet cafe is in the building's rear.

Walk upstream along the Danube for a closer look at New Bridge. A restaurant and cafe at its top has newly opened, along with an observation deck, open daily 10:00 to 22:00. Head downstream, along Vajanského nábrežie Street, to Šafárikovo námestie, where the main building of Comenius University (Univezita Komenského) sits. A famous photo was taken here of a man exposing his chest to the barrel of a tank during the 1968 Soviet invasion.

Head past Šafárikovo Square's fountain of boys catching ducks, onto Štúrova Street, then right onto Grösslingová, to see the Art-Nouveau Blue Church (Modrý kostol). Officially called the Second Church of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, it was built between 1910 and 1913 by a Budapest architect. Although small and relatively new, it is one of the prettiest churches in Central Europe.

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

Slavín and Kamzík Hills

Take trolleybus 203 from Hodžovo Square to the last stop, Slavín Hill. Slavín has a commanding view of the city and an obelisk monument to 6,000 Soviet soldiers who died pushing the Nazis out of western Slovakia. The hill is about half a kilometre north of the castle.

A 200-metre tower tops Bratislava's highest hill, Kamzík (440 metres). Take trolleybus 203 from Hodžovo Square, this time from the Hotel Forum side, to the last stop. The tower is 20 minutes away. A restaurant inside has a spectacular view.

Places to eat

Cafe De Zwaan, Panská 7, a Eurocrat hangout that serves Belgian beers and French fries with mayonnaise. Also does good soups and steaks. Prices similar to the Dubliner.

Čokoláda,

    
 
 Photo: Brain Jones

Michalská 6, this small cafe serves 60 kinds of hot chocolate and many types of specialty chocolate.

Elixír 14, Štefánikova 14, maybe the king of vegetarian restaurants. Serves good soups and a mixture of local, Mexican and Indian dishes in a homey atmosphere. Don't miss the Mexican beans with tempeh. Excellent service.

Fast Food Teta, Dunajská 2, a classic lowbrow Slovak lunch buffet inside a good grocery store of the same name. Serves potato salads, cabbage soup and potato and pork dishes for Sk30-Sk80.

Govinda, Obchodná 30, a Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant, serves a daily special for Sk110 that includes rice, salad, chutney and stir fry or stew. Served cafeteria style, but in a restaurant-like setting. Seconds are free.

Grémium, Gorkého 11, a two-story restaurant around the corner from the national theatre. The menu is a mix of European, Slovak, and quasi-American. The Buffalo chicken wings lack the proper sauce, but the roll of paper towels that comes with them is just right. Giant-screen TVs in the downstairs section play sports from around the world and a betting office is built right into the restaurant. Seating is also available in two quieter rooms upstairs.

Kebab House, Michalská 15, just under Michael's gate you can grab a kebab or falafel sandwich until 22:00 daily.

    
 
 Photo: Brain Jones

Medusa, Michalská 21, in the shadow of Michael's gate, is almost as stylish as Mezzo Mezzo but much less expensive. A variety of good pasta dishes cost around Sk200 each.

Mezzo Mezzo, Rybárska brána 9, stylish bar restaurant near the national theater that serves Euro haute cuisine. Good service. Good Caesar salad. A full meal costs about Sk600.

    
 
 Photo: Martin Janoško

Pizza Mizza, Tobrucká 5, an Italian restaurant, claims to serve the biggest pizzas in Bratislava and at 50-centimetres across, they probably are. Stylish furniture, paintings of monkeys and giant-screen VH1 make for an inspired atmosphere.

Prašná Bašta, Zámočnícka 11, a spot popular with local artists and tourists alike that serves reasonably priced, well-cooked central European food. Gargoyle statues and classic Bratislava photos adorn its cosy interior, and good jazz or blues music is almost always playing on the stereo.

Roland Café, Hlavné nám 5, this Viennese-style cafe on the main square serves coffee and cake for about twice the normal Bratislava price. The syrupy hot chocolate is worth every penny. Entrees, such as Schnitzels, start at around Sk200.

Slovak Pub, Obchodná 62, a cavernous pub/restaurant that packages the koliba, or mountain cabin, feel for tourists and students. Good halušky and cabbage soup at reasonable prices. Wood-burning stoves are nice in the winter. Try Dobré pivko Svätý Jur, an excellent microbrew.

Sole Mio, Grösslingova 31, has friendly staff that cooks pizzas in 10 minutes. Eat in or take out. Good tiramisu. No table service.

Tempus Fugit, Sedlárska 5, a chic and modern interpretation of a "12th to 15th century interior". Unobtrusive but very attentive wait staff. Like the interior, the dishes are delicately and delightfully presented, yet hide a medieval richness. Budget Sk800 to Sk1,000 for a full meal with a drink.

China Restaurant, in a courtyard off Laurinská 4, near Main Square, is one of Bratislava's best Chinese restaurants. Good sweet-and-sour soup. Budget Sk200 to Sk500 for a full meal.

    
 
 Photo: Martin Janoško

The Dubliner, Sedlárska 6, Bratislava's original ex-pat hangout and the first Irish pub in Slovakia. Despite increased competition, the Dubliner is still the place for shepherd's pie and a pint of Guinness. Full meal costs between Sk200 and Sk500.

U Majora Zemana, Vysoká 37, a cozy, quasi-Italian place where waiters dress in police uniforms and you can see the chef making your pizza.

UFO, atop the Nový most, this new restaurant and café is destined to be a favourite stop for visitors. Expect quality (pricey} cuisine and the best view Bratislava has to offer. Open late Saturdays.

Vegetarián Jedáleň (Vegetka), across from Laurinská 5, serves good vegetarian lunches, cafeteria style, for less than Sk100. Open weekdays 11:00 to 15:00.

Winky Palacinky and Bageteria B&H, are in Old Market (Stará tržnica), on SNP Square. Winky serves good Slovak-style crepes, with such fillings as sheep cheese, baked beans and ground walnuts with honey. B&H makes good subs. Food from both places is to go.

Entertainment and Places after dark

Kam v Bratislave, a monthly flier available in newsstands, lists concerts, plays, and films. The weekly newspaper The Slovak Spectator, on sale at newsstands in Bratislava, lists movie times, concerts and other cultural events. Or read it on the web at www.spectator.sk. See above for information on buying tickets to operas, ballets and classical music concerts held on Hviezdoslavovo Square. Also check out SPEX, the Spectator's monthly lifestyle magazine, for culture tips.

    
 
 Photo: Martin Janoško

Two American-style malls have multiplex cinemas that show English language films, with Slovak subtitles. Take any number of buses from Hodžovo Square to the first stop over the bridge to the Aupark mall. Take tram 4 or 6, from in front of Tesco department store, by SNP Square, to Polus City Centre mall. East of SNP Square, Filmový Klub ic.sk behind the Tesco Department store shows seven art-house movies a day, many of them in English.

The basement of Filmový Klub ic.sk turns into a hip dance club after hours. Manana bar and club, on Kollárovo nám 15, plays a mix of Latin, pop and techno music, and holds Latin dance lessons several times a week.

    
 
 Photo: Eric Smillie

Cirkus Barok, a boat bar and dance club on the Danube, just east of the New Bridge, is usually packed with half-naked revellers. It's open till 4:00, 6:00 on weekends.

A good spot for a glass of wine or a beer is the trendy Café Verne, Hviezdoslavovo nám 18, outfitted with antique furniture and quirky dioramas. The Dubliner, Sedlárska 6, serves cold pints of Guinness.

Alligátor pub, Laurinská 7, has rock and blues concerts, and is open till 4:00. Piano bar bar, down the street, at Laurinská 11, is a cozy place to have a beer. Next door is Café Studio jazz club. Its nightly jazz and blues concerts are listed on a chalkboard out front.

Trendy Buddha Bar, on Medená 16, serves wine, beer and specialty teas in a cellar along with smooth jazz and house beats. Veľkí Františkáni, near Main Square, on Františkánske nám 10, is a good cellar pub/restaurant with live Roma (gypsy) music every night but Sunday.

Malí Františkáni, SNP Square 24 (across from McDonalds), is a classic underground Slovak restaurant/pub that caters to night owls. It's open from 10:00 to 6:00, and serves excellent bean and cabbage soups. Hviezda non-stop jedáleň, down the street from the President's Palace on Nám 1 mája 15, is a decent cafeteria open 24 hours a day.

Other useful places

Tesco Department Store, off SNP Square, has a wide selection of consumer goods, a large grocery store, and newspapers and magazines in English. Go to the Interpress newstand, on Sedlárska 4, for a bigger selection. Or read most of the same papers for free at the British Council, Panská 17. The Council's reading room is open weekdays, 13:00 to 19:00, to 17:00 on Friday. Eurobooks, on Jesenského 5, east of Hviezdoslavovo Square, is a good English-language bookshop.

Bratislava's main post office, on SNP 34, is open weekdays to 20:00. The American Embassy is in a well-guarded building on Hviezdoslavovo Square.

Stop by wine shop Vinotéka sv. Urbana, Klobučnícka 4, for a wide selection of Slovak wines.

Bratislava has dozens of Internet cafes, including one at Baštová 9, and one on Obchodná Street in Slovak Pub. A cafe at Rázusovo nábrežie 2, along the Danube, is in the same building as the Slovak National History Museum.

For souvenirs and gifts, check out ÚĽUV shops on Obchodná 64, SNP Square, next to McDonalds, and Michalská 4. Úľuv is a state-run cooperative with an assortment of Slovak handicrafts.

    
 
 Courtesy: Next Apache

Pick up a good read at the used bookstore Next Apache, Panenská 28, open 9:00 to 22:00 weekdays and 10:00 to 22:00 weekends. Their cozy cafe is a good place to meet the local expatriates and learn the joke behind the store's name.

The Small Lutheran Church (Malý evanjelický kostol) on Lýcejna where meets with Panenská 26/28 holds open English-language services on Sundays at 9:30. The church also provides a Sunday school for children.

Places to stay

Lodging in Bratislava

Names are listed first, followed by the address, telephone number and other relevant contact information, and then the price for Slovaks and foreigners.

CC = credit cards accepted.

Autocamp Zlaté Piesky, Senecká 2. Tel/Fax: 02 4425-7373, kempi@netax.sk. www.intercamp.sk. Bungalow: Sk840-1,030. Apartment (2+2): Sk1,400. Zlaté Piesky is a large lake outside the centre where small cabins can be rented.

Botel Fairway, Nábrežie arm gen L Svobodu. Tel: 02 5441-2090, Fax: 02 5441-2711, botel@fairway.sk. www.fairway.sk. Single: Sk1,800, Double: Sk2,400. Breakfast included. CC. Sleep on the Danube River in this boat-hotel near the Old Town.

Botel Grácia, Rázusovo nábrežie. Tel: 02 5443-2132, Fax: 02 5443-2131, hotel@botel-gracia.sk. www.botel-gracia.sk. Single: Sk2,045, Double: Sk2,790, Apartment Sk8,000. Breakfast: included. CC. Another boat-hotel, located in front of the Slovak National Gallery near the Old Town. Rooms are clean and comfortable, staff is friendly and fluent in several languages, and summer evenings here are unforgettable while sitting on the outside deck-restaurant.

Holiday Inn, Bajkalská 25/A. Tel: 02 4824-5111. Fax: 02 4824-5112. holidayinn@holidayinn.sk. www.holidayinn.sk. Single: Sk5,000, Double: Sk5,000, Apartment: Sk8,400. Breakfast: included. CC. It's a bit outside the city centre, but has all the amenities you'd expect from a Holiday Inn.

Hotel Astra, Prievozská 14/A. Tel: 02 5823-8111. Fax: 02 5823-8222. hotel@hotelastra.sk. www.hotelastra.sk. Double: Sk1,200, Apartment: Sk2,500. Breakfast: Sk100. CC. Near the central bus station.

Hotel Barónka, Mudrochova 2. Tel: 02 4487-2324. Fax: 02 4488-5400. office@baronka.sk. www.baronka.sk. Standard - Single: Sk1,590, Double: Sk1,890-2,290. Double Deluxe: Sk2,690, Apartment: Sk2,990-4,000. Breakfast: included. CC.

City Hotel Bratislava, Seberíniho 9. Tel: 02 4341-1592. Fax: 02 4342-4478. hotel@hotelbratislava.sk. www.hotelbratislava.sk. Standard - Single: Sk2,300, Double: Sk2,700. Business - Single: Sk3,300, Double: Sk3,700, Apartment: Sk4,700. Breakfast: included, CC. A big hotel located in the suburb of Ružinov.

Hotel Arcus, Moskovská 5. Tel: 02 5557-2522, Fax: 02 5557-6750. bratislava@hotelarcus.sk. www.hotelarcus.sk. Standard - Single: Sk1,800, Standard - Double: Sk2,600. The hotel belongs to the "garni" category being without a restaurant.

Hotel Danube, Rybné námestie 1. Tel: 02 5934-0000. Fax: 02 5441-4311. danube@internet.sk. www.hoteldanube.com. Business Single: Ä185, Business Double: €205, Executive Single: €215, Executive Double: €235, Apartment: €300-350. Breakfast: included, CC. Weekend discounts. One of the elite hotels in Bratislava, found at the eastern end of the newly reconstructed Hviezdoslav Square.

Hotel Devín, Riečna 4. Tel: 02 5443-3640. Fax: 02 5443-0682. reservations@hoteldevin.sk. www.hoteldevin.sk. Single: Sk6,400, Double: Sk6,800, Apartment: €250. Premier Apartment: €399. Breakfast: included, CC. Next door to Hotel Danube. Classy hotel with live music on the patio restaurant every Thursdays during the warmer months.

Hotel Dukla, Dulovo námestie 1. Tel: 02 5596-8922. Fax: 02 5596-9379. www.hoteldukla.sk. Economy - Single: Sk3,400, Double: Sk3,700, Business - Single: Sk3,740, Double: Sk4,250, Apartment: Sk5,000-5,400. Apartment Diplomat: Sk12490. Breakfast: included, CC. A pretty good terrace restaurant on the second floor.

Hotel Echo, Prešovská 39. Tel: 02 5556-9170. Fax: 02 5556-9174. recepcia@hotelecho.sk. www.hotelecho.sk. Single: Sk1,400, Double: Sk1,740, Apartment: Sk2,100. Breakfast: included, CC. Modern hotel and quite affordable for this city.

Crowne Plaza, Hodžovo nám 2. Previously named Hotel Fórum, this hotel has been renamed and renovated. It frequently hosts government delegations and top-level state and diplomatic conferences. It is close to everything - the Presidential Palace, the main shopping strip, the main town squares. It will open again on August 1, 2005. Check www.crowneplaza.sk for prices and more information.

Downtown Backpacker's Hostel, Panenská 31. Tel: (02) 5464 1191. info@backpackers.sk. www.backpackers.sk. Dormitory: Sk600-540, Double Sk800-720. Reduced prices are for Hostelling International cardholders. Facilities include bar, info on local sights, 24-hour internet, washing machine, kitchen and summer patio.

Hotel Ibis, Zámocká 38. Tel: 02 5929-2000. Fax: 02 5929-2111. h3566@accor-hotels.com. www.ibis-bratislava.sk. Double: €65-82. Breakfast: €8. CC.

Hotel Incheba, Viedenská cesta 7. Tel: 02 6727-2000. Fax: 02 6727-2542. Single: SK1,250-1,700, Double: Sk1,500-2000, Apartment: SK2,200-2,500. Prices depend on whether or not an exhibition is taking place. Breakfast: Sk150. CC. Located next to the Bratislava exhibition centre on the Petržalka side of the Danube.

Hotel Junior, Drieňová 14. Tel: 02 4333-8000. Fax: 02 4333-8065. recepcia@juniorhotel.sk. www.juniorhotel.sk. Single: Sk1,500-1,860, Double: Sk1,700-2,160, Apartment: Sk1,960-2,460. Breakfast: included. CC. Located on the shore of a small lake in the suburb of Ružinov.

Hotel Kamila, Čierna Voda 611. Tel: 02 4594-3611. Fax: 02 4594-3631. hotel@kamila.sk. www.kamila.sk. Single: Sk3,990, Double: Sk4,490, Apartment: Sk5,700. Business double: Sk4,890. Breakfast: included. CC.

Hotel Kyjev Bratislava, Rajská 2. Tel: 02 5964-1111. Fax: 02 5292-6820. rezervacia@kyjev-hotel.sk. www.kyjev-hotel.sk. Single: Sk2,000, Double: Sk2,600, Apartment: Sk3,900-6,900. Breakfast: included. CC.

Hotel Marrol's, Tobrucká 4. Tel: 02 5778-4600. Fax: 02 5778-4601. www.hotelmarrols.sk. Quality - Single: Sk6,700, Double: Sk7,300. Executive - Double: Sk9,600, Apartment: Sk11,200. Executive apartment: Sk19,200. Grand apartment: Sk21,900. Breakfast: Sk300. CC.

Hotel Medium, Tomašíkova 34. Tel: 02 4820 6522. Fax: 02 4820-6511. hotelmedium@hotelmedium.sk. www.hotelmedium.sk. Single: Sk1,800, Double Sk2,040-2,380. Apartment: Sk3,000. Breakfast included. One of the cheaper hotels in Bratislava.

Hotel Miva, Bzovícka 38. Tel: 02 6382-2556. Fax: 02 6382-8021. hotel@mivacentrum.sk. www.mivacentrum.sk. Single: Sk1,500, Double: Sk2,010, Apartment: Sk4,200. Breakfast: Sk50. CC. Located on the outskirts of Petržalka.

Hotel Nivy, Líšcie nivy 3. Tel: 02 5541-0390. Fax: 02 5541-0389. hotel@hotelnivy.sk. www.hotelnivy.sk. Double: Sk1,400, Apartment: Sk2,700. Breakfast: Sk100. CC. A swimming pool and fitness-centre inside.

Hotel No. 16, Partizánska 16/A. Tel: 02 5441-1672. Fax: 02 5441-1298. hotelno16@internet.sk. www.hotelno16.sk. Single: €100-106, Double: €110-130, Apartment: €275. Breakfast: included. CC. A cosy, exclusive hotel in a quiet tree-lined neighbourhood 10 minutes from the downtown and the castle.

Hotel Perugia, Zelená 5. Tel: 02 5443-1818. Fax: 02 5443-1821. info@perugia.sk. www.perugia.sk. Single: Sk4,280, Double: Sk5,080. Apartment: Sk5,660. Breakfast: included. CC. A small, classy hotel in the heart of the Old Town, just off the Main Square. This is the best buy in town for tourists willing to pay over a hundred dollars a night. Rooms are full of period furniture and walls are hung with original art that can be purchased. The hotel is in a pedestrian zone, so parking can be a problem.

Hotel Sorea, Kráľovské údolie 6. Tel: 02 5441-4442. Fax: 02 5441-1017. hotel@sorea.sk. www.sorea.sk. Economy Single: Sk1,400, Economy Double: Sk1,600. Standard Single: Sk1,760, Standard Double: Sk1,960, Standard Apartment: Sk3,000, Business Single: Sk2,400, Business Double: Sk2,600, Apartment: Sk5,000. Breakfast: Sk200. CC. Near the river Danube.

Hotel Tatra, Námestie 1 mája 5. Tel: 02 5927-2111. Fax: 02 5927-2135. recepcia@hoteltatra.sk. www.hoteltatra.sk. Standard Single: €96, Standard Double: €116, Luxury Double: €129, Apartment: €189. Breakfast: included. CC. A recently reconstructed hotel near the centre, Tatra is in a complex that houses a cinema and a dance club.

Hotel Turist, Ondavská 5. Tel: 02 5557-2789. Fax: 02 5557-3180. hotel@turist.sk. www.turist.sk. Single: Sk1,150, Double: Sk1,350. Breakfast: Sk60-90. Friendly and helpful staff.

Penzión Caribic’s, Žižkova 1/A. Tel: 02 5441-8334, Fax: 02 5441-8333. caribics@stonline.sk. www.caribics.sk. Single: Sk950, Double Sk1,800, Apartment Sk2,900. Breakfast included. While the quality and prices of the cuisine have made Caribic~s renowned restaurant, the standard of the accommodation is at level of a boarding house for tourists with corresponding prices.

Penzión Grémium, Gorkého 10. Tel/Fax: 02 5443-0653. www.gremium.sk. Single: Sk950, Double: Sk1,650, Apartment: Sk1,850. Breakfast: Sk67-157. CC. Above the Grémium pub in the Old Town. Good price for Bratislava.

Penzión Chez David, Zámocká 13. Tel: 02 5441-3824. Fax: 02 5441-2642. recepcia@chezdavid.sk. www.chezdavid.sk. Single: €64, Double: €88, Apartment: €130. Breakfast: included. CC. Just under the castle, Penzion Chez David has a superb Jewish restaurant.

Radisson SAS Carlton Hotel, Hviezdoslavovo námestie 3. Tel: 02 5939-0000. Fax: 02 5939-0010. reservation.bratislava@radissonsas.com, www.carlton.sk. Standard: €192-240, Business: €227-275, Junior Suite: €324-336, Executive Suite: €468-480. Breakfast: included for all rooms other than Standard. CC.

Best Western Hotel West, Koliba Kamzík. Tel: 02 5478-8692. Fax: 02 5477-7781. hotel@hotel-west.sk. www.hotel-west.sk. Standard: Sk3,300, Business: Sk3500, Executive: Sk4,000. Apartment: Sk5,000-6,000. Breakfast: included. CC. High-class hotel located on top of Koliba, the big radio tower on top of the hill. Great for a retreat from the city bustle, especially if you have a car.

YOUTH HOSTELS

Aside from Downtown Backpacker's Hostel (see above), Bratislava's youth hostels are college dorms that are empty during the summer. Prices are generally around Sk300 a bed.

Youth Hostel Bernolák, Bernolákova 1. Tel: 02 5249-7721. Available from June 15 to end of August. A knowledgeable staff can point you to the best sights or where to find the nightlife. There's a swimming pool in the hostel and a disco on the weekend.

Youth Hostel Družba, Botanická 25. Tel: 02 6542-1968. Many students, including foreign ones, call this home. The Danube is a two-minute walk away.

Youth Hostel Ing. M. Nešpora, Svoradova 13. Tel: 02 5441-4843. Fax: 02 5441-4843. Near the castle.

Youth Hostel Mladá garda, Račianska 103. Tel: 02 4425-3065. Fax: 02 4445-9690. Experience the true atmosphere of the architecture of Socialist Realism.

Youth Hostel N. Belojanisa, Wilsonova 6. Tel: 02 5249-7735.

Outside Bratislava

Modra

Penzión Club M.K.M., Štúrova 25.
Tel: 033 647-2009.
Fax: 033 647-5576.
Single: Sk630, Double: Sk1,260, Apartment: Sk1,800-2,200. Breakfast: Sk100.

Horský hotel Zochova chata, 900 01 Modra.

Tel: 033 647-0280. Fax: 033 647-0223. info@zochova-chata.com, http://zochova-chata.com. Double: Sk1,050, or Sk550 (no bathroom), Apartment: Sk1,800. Breakfast: Sk80.

Pezinok

Hotel Limbach, 900 91 Limbach. Tel: 033 647-7281. Fax: 033 647-7361. riso@hotellimbach.sk. www.hotellimbach.sk. Single: Sk1,500, Double: Sk1,800. Breakfast: included. CC.

Motel na vrchu Baba, Baba, Pezinok. Tel/Fax: 033 640-3636. Double: Sk1,200. Breakfast: included.

Stupava

Hotel Stupava,
Nová ulica 1588.
Tel: 02 6593-4108.
Fax: 02 6593-3334. hotelstupava@rmplus.sk
www.hotelstupava.rmplus.sk. Single: Sk1,600, Double: Sk2,000. Breakfast: included. CC. Located 15 min from Bratislava. Extensive sports and wellness facilities.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2005, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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