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Bratislava

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Bratislava

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Hlavné námestie (Main Square), Bratislava Old Town

Bratislava[1] is the capital and largest city in Slovakia. It has a population of almost 450,000 and is the administrative, cultural and economical center of the country.


Understand

The same square during New Year's Eve celebration in 2006

Bratislava (before 1919 known as Prešporok in Slovak, Pressburg in German and English and Pozsony in Hungarian) has a very pleasant medieval inner city with tiny, narrow winding streets, surrounded by the biggest concrete block house complex (called "panelak", with blocks of flats; see Prague chapter for information about panelaks) in Central Europe called Petržalka that stretches on endlessly. So far, this looks no different from Prague. But Bratislava is an exception. It's so close to Vienna, it could practically be a suburb. Move further east and there are plenty of rural places. Farms, vineyards, agricultural land and tiny villages are situated just about 50 kilometers to the east of Bratislava, just like in the case of Vienna or Prague.

Today, Bratislava and its surroundings form the second most prosperous region in Central and Eastern Europe, with a per capita GDP of around 129.3% of the EU-25 average (after Prague).

History

After being an independent country till the 9th century, Slovakia was part of Austria-Hungary from the 10th / 11th century onwards until the empire's collapse after the First World War. Since then, it merged with Bohemia and Moravia to create Czechoslovakia from 1918 onwards, a country which Slovaks are widely proud of-- for example, most Czechoslovakian presidents, such as Aleksander Dubček and Gustav Husak, were ethnically Slovak.

During World War II, Slovakia was a formally independent Nazi puppet state, before being liberated by the Soviets to recreate a pro-Soviet Czechoslovakia. Between 1993 and 1998, the country's Prime Minister was the controversial official Vladimir Meciar, who did his country's image no favors.Finally Slovakia elected new officials, and that has made all the difference. The Slovaks are making an effort to be more international.

Bratislava was the capital (1536 - 1784), the coronation city(1563-1830) and the seat of the diet (1536 - 1848) of the Kingdom of Hungary for many years. Since 1960 it has been the capital of the federal state of Slovakia within Czechoslovakia and that country's second-largest and, since 1993, it has been the capital of independent Slovakia.

Although today, Bratislava's population are mostly Slovaks, from the 13th to the early 19th century, the majority ethnic group in the town were the Germans, who remained the largest ethnic group until the First World War. Hungarians formed another important group in the city in the 19th century, but after the First World War, many Germans and Hungarians left for Austria and Hungary respectively and the remaining Germans were evacuated at the end of World War II.

Get In

By plane

Bratislava's M. R. Stefanik International Airport (IATA: BTS) (ICAO: LZIB), has focused on attracting low-cost airlines recently and there are direct flight connections to Bratislava from many major cities around western Europe including London, Manchester, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Prague (which is now considered by many a major European city). Check out Sky Europe Airlines[2] for the greatest variety of flights from/to Bratislava. Ryanair[3] also has regular flights. Take bus No 61 (or N61 at night) for a direct connection to the Main Train Station (Hlavná stanica) or change at the Trnavské mýto to get to the city center (in order to get to the tram stop, use the underpass and the exit marked "Centrum"; take any tram that does not have the railway station as destination). You can purchase bus tickets in the tourist office in the arrivals terminal but they have only limited working hours. If the tourist office is closed, note that you will need Slovak coins in order to purchase a ticket in the vending machine. Be aware that the airport shops and kiosks are not very helpful when it comes to changing bills into coins. However, you can change bills into coins by "abusing" the coffee vending machine in the departure building. Insert a bill and press cancel, it will return the amount in coins (my thanks to a local police officer for this tip!). Bus drivers don't sell tickets in Bratislava (see "Get around" below).

Major, non-low cost airlines fly to the nearby Vienna International Airport (IATA: VIE) (ICAO: LOWW), which is at the eastern border of Vienna and approximately 60 kilometers from Bratislava. (There are three exceptions: CSA Czech Airlines [4] has direct flights to Bratislava from Prague, Lufthansa [5] from Munich, Aeroflot from Moscow) There are two bus lines connecting the airport of Vienna with the Bratislava Coach Terminal and Bratislava Airport. Buses are running almost every hour. Unfortunately, trains from Vienna to Bratislava do not stop at the Vienna airport, so if you wish to use the train, you have to go to Vienna city (15 minutes) first in order to board a train to Bratislava.

By train

The easiest way to get to Bratislava by train is from central Vienna (the Südbahnhof station or less frequently the Westbahnhof station). Trains leave Vienna almost every 30 minutes [6]. It takes 50 minutes to get from the Südbahnhof to Bratislava - Petržalka railway station situated in the southern residential area of the city, and some 70 minutes to get to the Bratislava - Hlavná stanica (main railway station) situated at the northern border of the city center. A return ticket purchased in Vienna costs 14 Euro for an adult or 7 Euro for a child, and also allows you use of all public transportation in Bratislava (as of April 2008). There is no customs since Slovakia is a member of the EU and Schengen.

There are also many train lines from the Czech Republic (e.g. Prague) and some train lines from Poland, Hungary as well as the Ukraine and Russia that mostly end at the Hlavná stanica. Many bus and tram lines start here. To get to the Old Town, you can either take a bus or tram (No 13 is currently the best connection), or simply walk - which takes about 10 minutes.

Petržalka station is not a particularly good position for getting around, but generally it is better and quicker to get off at the Petržalka station and use the public transportation system to get to the city center. Take bus No 80 towards Kollárovo námestie from outside the station building. You can also use the underground passageway in the station hall and take any of the numbered buses that leave from the opposite side of the road when you exit. Get off the bus at the first stop after crossing the river for best access to the historic part of town or at the second stop to start you tour at the Presidential Palace. Buses No 91 and No 191 end right below the Nový most bridge and directly in the city center, below Bratislava Castle and St. Martin's Cathedral.

There are several other train stations in Bratislava but international travelers rarely have to get off the train at any of them.

By bus

The Central Coach Terminal is at Mlynské nivy, at the eastern border of the city center. Coach lines connect Bratislava with all of Slovakia, a high number of Czech cities and a number of EU destinations, including Vienna, London and Paris. Daily buses also depart to Budapest. Take bus No 210 to get to the main railway station (Hlavná stanica). If you need to get to city center, take bus No 205 or 220 to Rajská (the terminus is behind the Tesco at Kamenné námestie) or No 50 towards Aupark and get off at Šafárikovo námestie (close to the banks of the river Danube).

By boat

Regular tourist boat lines operate on the Danube from spring through fall on routes from Vienna and Budapest. You can find routes and schedules here [7]. Since June 2006 you can get to Vienna using a high speed ferry boat [8] as well, yet the rates are rather high compared to other means of transport. A good travel option is to continue down the Danube to Budapest by hydrofoil, a trip only moderately more expensive than the train.

By car

Bratislava lies on the border of two other countries and has a rather good road system. The town can be accessed by motorways (i.e. limited access highway) from northern Slovakia and Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary as well as Austria. As a result, you can pass the town without having to leave a motorway.

If you do want to stay, a parking information system is in place to lead you to the next free parking spot in the city. In the center of town you either can use one of the paid underground garages or buy a parking card from vendors in yellow vests and try to find a free spot in the streets. A parking card costs 10 SKK and is valid in the center of the city for 60 minutes on weekdays from 7am to 5pm only. Parking on the streets is free otherwise.

Nonetheless it may be a good idea to leave the car at the Aupark parking lot which also serves as a "Park and Walk" facility for tourists (note that the indoor parking facilities are closed from 11pm to 6am, the outdoor parking space is free to use 24/7). You can leave your car here and walk through the park and across the Danube to the city center, which is a 10 minute stroll, or just use public transportation. It is not recommended to leave the car in residential areas outside of the city center to avoid paid parking, as foreign cars may attract car thieves.

Get around

Generally, Bratislava is a walking city. The center is very small and cozy and you can easily walk from one side to another in several minutes. The city center is a pedestrian area but be aware of cyclists and occasional cars that use to drive rather quickly in between the walking people and outdoor cafes.

Public transportation

Nový most

If you need to travel outside of the center, use the trams or trolley buses if you need to get from one point to another quickly. Bratislava has a rather good public transportation system although a lot of the vehicles are quite old. Buses tend to be the slowest means of transportation. Stops normally don't need to be requested unless stated otherwise - request stops are marked "zastávka na znamenie". Bus doors are opened by the driver; tram and trolleybus doors usually have to be opened by yourself by pushing a green or yellow button at the doors.

Bus and tram drivers in Bratislava do not sell tickets, therefore you need to obtain a ticket prior to entering a bus or a tram. There are ticket vending machines at most stops in the town, however they work with Slovak coins only. No bills or credit cards can be used at the machines (which can be kind of frustrating if you need to buy a longer term ticket). If you purchased a return ticket in Vienna, it also serves as a pass for all public transportation and does not need to be validated.

Tickets are also sold in many newsstands and - very conveniently for travellers arriving by train, late in the evening or at weekends - in railway stations at the ticket counters (ticket counter 16 at the main railway station). You can also purchase tickets for public transport in every tourist information bureau [9]. Try asking for the Bratislava City Card [10] which combines a 1 to 3-day ticket with various discounts and is available at information bureaus. Here you also can buy normal 24, 48 and 72hr tickets.

As of February 2008, a normal 30-minute ticket costs 18 SKK, a 10-minute ticket costs 14 SKK and 60-minute one 22 SKK. Note, that during weekends and holidays the 30-minute ticket is valid for 45 minutes and the 60-minute ticket for 90 minutes.

You must validate your ticket in the validation machines on the bus/tram immediately after boarding (via any door). When it comes to proving that you have not exceeded the time stated on your ticket (e.g. 30 minutes on a 30-minutes ticket), official schedule times are decisive - not actual travel times (do not give in to unfriendly ticket inspectors claiming the contrary). You can find out the scheduled travel times in the left-most column of the schedules, left of the stop name or via the internet (see below).

There are 3 main interchange points in the close city center where you can get a bus or tram nearly to anywhere else:

  • Hodžovo námestie (Presidential palace) for northwest- and east-bound bus connections
  • Poštová (down the ped area below Hodzovo namestie) for trams
  • Nový most (close to the St. Martin's Cathedral and the Danube banks) for trams and for west-bound buses as well as bus connections to Petržalka.

Main tram, bus and trolley lines operate from 4.30AM to approximately 11.30PM. If you need to travel by bus at night, go to the main railway station which is the main night line interchange point or use the bus stops at the Presidential palace (Hodzovo namestie). All night lines have common departure times from the main railway station at 11.30PM and then every 60 minutes for every line and outbound direction until 3.30AM. Some lines have an extra outbound departure at midnight. Note that you need to use a total of 44 SKK in tickets (2 60 minute-tickets) in night lines and that every stop needs to be requested. Also note, that especially the buses around midnight on Fridays and Saturdays tend to be very crowded on some lines as young people return from clubs.

You can get all relevant information about public transportation in Bratislava including schedules, maps and an online route planner at imhd.sk [11]. Although this is not the site of the transportation company, it always contains official and most up-to-date data.

If necessary, it is also possible to walk to the Petrzalka station from the city (some 25 minutes). The path is clearly marked now but note that Petržalka is just a little more than the biggest block flats housing estate in Central Europe. Head for the bridge with the UFO-like looking tower atop it (Nový most). Once you reach the bridge, you will notice that there is a walkway running along the underside of it, for pedestrians. Once on the other side of Danube river, follow the right hand-side of the bridge with a walkway made of red paving. This will lead you to the station. Alternatively, you can walk through Bratislava's equivalent of the Central Park called Sad Janka Kráľa and visit the Aupark Shopping Mall at the park. Once exiting the Aupark on the other side, turn right and follow the street to get to the pavement mentioned above. The route is very safe during the day, but for typically western-looking tourists, it might be dangerous at night (although not more than in any other European "panelák" (see above) housing estate). Take some guide, when needed. If you want to walk from the station to the city, turn right outside of the station building and follow the path described above in reverse direction.

See

St. Martin's cathedral
Franciscan church, interior
Bratislava Castle
Historical building of the Slovak National Theater
  • St. Martin's cathedral (Dóm sv. Martina)
  • St Clare's Church (Kostol sv. Kláry) On Klariská Str.
  • Church of the Annunciation (Kostol Zvestovania / Františkáni / Františkánsky kostol).
  • Church of the Holy Savior (Kostol Najsvätejšieho Spasitel'a)
  • Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad)
  • Slavín On the top of the hill behind the castle, overlooking the entire city, this is a monument in memory of Soviet casualties in the liberation battle of Bratislava in WW2. It is actually a cemetery and thus rather quiet with good outlook at the city. On warm nights it's a very romantic place, allowing you to sit in the shadows of the monument and looking at the traffic below.
  • Roland Fountain (Rolandova fontána) Built by stonecutter Andreas Luttringer and commissioned by Hungarian king Maximilian in 1527, this was the first fountain in Bratislava.
  • Primate's Palace (Primaciálny palác)
  • Grassalkovich Palace (Grassalkovičov palác)
  • Mirbach Palace (Mirbachov palác)
  • Palffy Palace (Pálffyho palác)
  • Academia Istropolitana
  • Slovak National Theatre (Slovenské národné divadlo)
  • Michael's Gate with Tower (Michalská brána)
  • Farmaceutické Múzeum (Pharmacological Museum)
  • Slovak National Gallery (SNG) [12]
  • Bratislava City Gallery (GMB) [13]
  • Milan Dobes Museum [14] This small museum features modernist Op-art. It lies in the city center and is recommended to all of you interested in the development of modern art.
  • Main Indoor Market (Trznica at Trnavske Myto)
  • Obchodná Street
  • Slovak National Museum (SNM) [15]
  • Bratislava City Museum [16]
  • Chatam Sofer Mausoleum and the Jewish Cemetery [17] If you are interested in Jewish life in Bratislava.
  • Slovak Radio Building Its main building is a peculiar 60 meter high reversed pyramid from the communist era and a landmark in sharp contrast with the building of the Slovak National Bank just across the sreet.
  • The Presidential Palace In proximity to the old town, a nice palace surrounded by a park. In front of it you will see the Slovak National Guard.
  • The Blue Church A must-see. A beautiful Jugenstil church.

Do

Take a stroll through the center of the town. Bratislava has one of the smallest historical centers around but the charm is more concentrated. The streets have been renovated in late 1990's, bringing life back here. Since then a multitude of cafes, bars and restaurants of all kinds have opened here, accompanied by a few souvenir shops and fashion stores. In warm days almost every cafe has an outdoor section in the street, boasting with life and giving the city a unique feeling of cozyness.

When it comes to sightseeing, Bratislava castle may be a must but try visiting the Slavin memorial for some really nice views of the city. Beware, it can get really windy up there. If you want to feel safe, try climbing up the steep stairwells of the clock tower and see the town's historical dungeons at the City Museum located in the Old Town Hall.

In December, be sure to indulge in the scents and flavors of the traditional Christmas Market in front of the Old Town Hall. The market compared to the ones in Prague and Vienna is smaller but has a friendlier, almost family-like atmosphere and people of Bratislava love to meet here for a drink and a bite.

In summer, you can also vist the Bratislava ZOO [18], providing a nice walk between the paddocks, the latest addition being some rare white tigers. The facilities of the zoo are being slowly renovated to attract a bigger crowd and the zoo is a favorite for families on sunny days. You can also go to the Botanical Gardens of Comenius University (Botanická 3, take trams No 1, 4, 5, 9 or 12 to stop Botanicka zahrada) for quiet and peacful strolls in the greens.

For a relaxed afternoon in the park, head either to the Sad Janka Kráľa park (on the right hand side bank of the Danube and next to Aupark shopping centre}, one of the oldest parks in central Europe, relax at the embankments on both sides of the river or head to the Horský park (Forest Park) north off Slavin memorial for a civilized stroll through the forest. There's a small café here as well as a pub, the latter mostly populated by students from the nearby campus. For a more outdoorsy experience, hop on bus No 203/213 to Koliba and walk up to Kamzík (takes about 30 minutes uphill) or try the newly renovated facilities of Partizánska lúka and Snežienka, all with extensive picknicking areas and loads of fireplaces for grilling. The area is several kilometers long and you can either walk here from the terminal station of bus No 212 (Vojenska nemocnica) or take a bus to Patronka and use bus No 43 driving up the area and back every 15-30 minutes (depending of time of day, year as well as wheather). Only cars with a permit can enter the area but there is a parking lot at the entrance, close to a bus stop. Snezienka's grass fields and the top of Kamzik hill are connected with a chairlift, operating Thursdays through Sundays and on holidays, the price for one ride being 80 SKK as of January 2008.

Culture

Bratislava is home of the world famous Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra [19] so if you love classical music, you should consider visiting one of their concerts in the historic Reduta building. For more cultural indulgence, the Slovak National Theatre [20] offers a wide selection on ballet, opera and theatre performances. Although most of the activities have been moved to a city-district-in-the-making at the banks of the Danube, some performances are still being held in the historical theatre building, which gives them a unique feeling but a higher pricetag as well. The old theatre building is right in the middle of the city at Hviezdoslavovo namestie. The new theatre is accessible by bus No 88 from the Coach Terminal at Mlynske nivy (get off at Landererova) or by buses No 50, 70 and 78 (stop is called Wüstenrot). None of these stop directly at the theatre though so you should count with a 5-10 minute walk from the bus stop to the theatre. You cannot miss the building as it is of unmistakably communist megalomaniac design covered in white marmor. The entrance is facing the Danube so you need to walk around the building to get in. Note that the riverside is being developed currently and the whole area is one big - although very clean, hats off - construction site and will stay so at least until end of 2009.

For museumgoers, Bratislava is the place to go, with some bigger and loads of small museums around town (see a listing here [21]). The most noticeable ones are:

  • Natural Science Museum, Vajanského nábrežie 2, phone {+4212}59349122 [22] - echoing the communist era, the natural science exhibitions have an interesting collection of artifacts and is slowly being transformed into a modern era exhibition,
  • National Museum at the foot of the Castle Hill, Žižkova 14, phone {+4212} 59207273 [23] - a unique exhibition on ancient Egypt is being held here until end of August 2008, together with permanent archeological collections and more,
  • Bratislava Castle, phone {+4212} 54411444 [24] - including the museums of history and music as well as a small viewing tower,
  • Museum of City History in the Old Town Hall, phone {+4212} 59205130 [25] - don't miss the city dungeon and the exhibition on medieval justice which is a little outdated but still quite scary :)
  • Gerulata, Gerulatska ul. [26] - this is an ancient Roman military camp with archeological finidgs on display. If you're into all things Roman, you should also consider a visit to the nearby Carnuntum [27] which has a large archeological site and is only a few minutes by car from Bratislava,
  • Museum of Transport, Šancová 1/a, phone {+4212} 52444163 [28] - with a display of historical vehicles, situated in the first railway station in the city, very close to the current Main Railway Station,
  • Museum of Trade, Linzbothova 16, phone {+4212} 45243167 [29] - this museum has some remarking pieces of historic advertising plates and other artifacts.

For a taste of visual arts, pay a visit to the National Gallery [30] at the embankment between the Stary most and Novy most with permanent collections of Slovak and European medieval art pieces, although the temporary exhibitions tend to be far more interesting. Bratislava City Gallery [31] is also a good pick to see displays of historical fine arts, painintgs and sculptures along with interesting temporary exhibitions. If you like modern art better, pay a visit to the Danubiana Art Museum [32] on the southern edge of Bratislava but be aware that it is too far for a stroll, with little to none public transport connections and is best reached by car or taxi.

Every year in the weekend around April 24 Bratislava celebrates a festival called "Bratislava for All", giving locals and visitors alike the possibility to visit most of the facilities governed by the city for free or a reduced fee, this including most of the museums and galleries. In May, the city's museums and galleries keep their gates open to visitors until late at night, this being called the "Night of Museums and Galleries".

Sports

Bratislava has a big selection on sports on offer, starting with general fitness centres big and small and ending with a mountain bike downhill trail and a small ski center. From spring to fall, inline skating is a very popular activity, especially southwards on the banks of the river. You can use the right hand side embankment starting at the Stary most bridge and the left hand side starting at the Pristavny most bridge and right down to Gabcikovo, totalling in more than 100 km of dedicated tracks. The tracks are lined with small open air pubs serving draft beer and Kofola while within city limits and there are villages in reasonable intervals. Generally, the right hand side embankment is better equipped, with parts of the trail separated into rollerblading and biking tracks, more resting spots as well as inline skate rental shop. The portion between the intersection of Dolnozemska and Kutlikova streets and the start of the Danube canal in Cunovo is most popular as it is easily accessible and reasonably long (approx 15 km). Be aware that the causeway is shared by roller bladers and bikers as well as the occasional car (although cars are prohibited on the tracks). Also keep in mind that especially the most popular portion described above is a popular place some people to show off muscles and swim siuts rather than skating abilities and it can be crowded on sunny afternoons. The portion beyond the Cunovo dam is very calm, quiet and has a seaside kind of atmosphere with better surface and less people but also no resting spots apart of the three villages halfway to Gabcikovo. If you like meeting new people while sight-seeing and skating, make use of the Bratislava-inline rides [33], taking place every Friday night in summer.

As the Danube causeways are shared and portions are separated for bike riders, they are a very good place for a small bicycle trip as well. To shorten the trip a little, you can use the ferry between the villages of Vojka and Kyselica and maybe combine it with a good lunch at the fish restaurant in Vojka. The ferry is free of charge as it is the only way for the people of Vojka and the two neighboring settlements to get to the hospital in Samorin at the other side of the Danube canal. Departure times can be found here [34]. Another good option includes the Morava river biking trail starting unter the castle Devin. BicyBa [35] has guided tours and a bike rental service. Bratislava does not have a network of bicycle routes, most of them start at the outskirts of the city. With a few exceptions it is necessary to use normal traffic roads to get to a starting point. In summer, it is possible to use the bike bus No 128 going through the center westbound. The schedule can be found at imhd.sk [36]. Bratislava's rudimentary bike trails are seamlessly linked with the Austrian network though, enabling you to get by bike to Vienna but as well as far as Passau, Germany using the Danube Bike Trail.

If you are more into mountain biking, Bratislava has plenty of options due to its being set at the foot of the Small Carpathians mountain range. There is a wide selection of routes of all difficulty levels and on all surfaces available. STaRZ, Bratislava's sports facility coordinator, has a website on cycling in and around Bratislava [37] and you can get information from any tourist information point. The routes are marked and sometimes overlap with hiking trails. It should be safe to drive anywhere including hiking trails as long as you drive respectfully with regards to other bike riders and hikers. Be aware though that - though barely someone respects this - driving on hiking trails is prohibited by law in Slovakia. For a nice downhill experience, there is a downhill trail called Rohatka [38], leading from the top of the Koliba hill down to the valley of Zelezna studnicka. To get there, you can use the chairlift described above.

For those who like swimming, be aware that there are only a few indoor swimming pools in the city and only a single olympic size pool at Pasienky Indoor Pool. The situation gets better in the summer where you can use several lakes, the biggest one of them being Zlate piesky on the eastern outskirt of the city. Zlate piesky include a small water park and a camping site [39] with bungalows and it is reasonably to be reached by public transport (trams No 2 and No 4 and bus No 53, you can also use the free-of-charge Shopping Palace Bus ending at Tesco, just a 5 minute stroll from Zlate Piesky). The lakes in Rusovce and Cunovo in the southern part of the city are also popular spots for swimming and sunbathing. Although swimming here is officially not allowed, it is tolerated by the police. Because of the above, there are no facilities whatsoever at Rusovce or Cunovo lakes and swimming here is at one's own risk only.

You can also go play squash, tennis or bedminton in Bratislava. The widest range on sports available can be found at the National Tennis Centre [40] at Vajnorska, where you can play all mentioned above plus there is a fitness center available. The NTC is easily accessible by trams No 1, 2 and 4. Golem in Aupark [41] is a well equipped and relatively expensive fitness center with several squash courts, another alternative is the Fanatix club at Dunajska [42] which is better equipped for squash and only has a smaller fitness room. Check with the tourist information bureaus for other options to sport and sweat, there are plenty.

In winter, visitors of Bratislava can practice their ice skating skills on various outdoor skating areas including some of the inner city lakes. There are also 3 indoor ice skating stadiums in the city, two of them reasonably close to the city center. The main one on Trnavska (good access from Trnavske myto, bus stop Zimny stadion) is used for Slovak Ice Hockey League matches as well as skating for the general public, entry is 45 SKK per 2 hours, you also can rent skates. Opening times for the public are limited so it is best to check with the tourist information bureau in advance. Another indoor ice skating area is at Ruzinovska street (trams No 8, 9 and 14) and on Harmincova street in Dubravka (bus No 34 and 83). Skiing is also possible in Bratislava as there is a small ski center on the top of Kamzik hill. There is only a single ski lift though and snow is sporadic. A better option could be Pezinska baba, some 40 km north of Bratislava in the Carpathians. Besides that, the Slovak rail company has a special ski promo in winter, offering very good value packages of train ticket and 1-day-ski passes for ski resorts in Slovakia as well as some in Austria.

Learn

Czech and Slovak are the de-facto official languages of Bratislava. Both languages are very similar and mutually intelligible to a wide extent, leading foreigners to assume incorrectly that they are dialects of each other. Both are universally understood, as Czech and Slovaks have historically understood each other without the need of a translator. Russian is also widely understood, and, overall, more people speak Russian as a foreign language than English. However, learning either Czech or Slovak (even if it's just a few phrases) will surely endear the locals.

Work

Buy

Tourists seeking duty-free goods should be warned to make their purchases before returning to the airport as the duty-free goods available in the departure lounge are roughly double the cost of identical goods purchased in the local supermarkets.

  • Shop in the large and expanding shopping malls - Aupark [43], Polus City Center [44], Avion [45], Shopping Palace [46] or Danubia [47].

Eat

The Paparazzi statue [Photo: Rolf Palmberg]

Bryndzové halušky (small, spaetzle-like dumplings with sheep's cheese), potent garlic soup (but perhaps not on a date) and Slovak white wine (due to its cooler climate, Slovakia's reds pale in comparison with some of Europe's other offerings). Schnitzels, goulashes and other typically Central European foods. Fresh vegetables are more common here thanks to the large amount of land given over to agriculture.

Drink and eat in one of the many restaurants in Old Town. Try Prašná bašta [48] for tasty meals, Pizza Mizza [49] for the biggest pizza in the town or Paparazzi [50] for classy (and expensive) Italian meals. Paparazzi's customers, by the way and appropriately enough, are under constant surveillance by a statue equipped with a robust camera. San Marten is another restaurant with great food and excellent service at affordable prices. For good and reasonably priced halusky, the unique Slovak national meal, visit the 1st Slovak Pub [51] at Obchodna street. There's a lot of restaurants in Bratislava so there is plenty to pick from.

Interestingly, it is rather hard to find a Slovak restaurant among all those Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian and other eateries so if you're in for a real Slovak meal, go either for the Slovak Pub or the fancy and expensive Slovak Restaurant at Hviezdoslavovo namestie [52], the former being the better pick in terms of pricing and atmosphere, the latter in terms of food. A very new addition is the Presburg restaurant at Michalska [53], completing the Slovak trio with prices in the mid-range or slightly above.

Of course, junk food can be found in Bratislava, too. Check Bratislava's special junk food - richman which is a big bread roll filled with cabbage and cheese and/or meat with mayonnaise. A Richman stand is for example on Kamenné námestie, in front of the Tesco. You can also try a sub sandwich from one of the many cafeterias in the city, a good one is on Šafárikovo namestie or in the Stará tržnica hall. Another excellent cafeteria is on Zelená Ulica between Ventúrska Ulica and Hlavné námestie. A big sandwich, a bageta (from the French baguette) with cheese, ham and eggs would cost you the equivalent of 1.50 euros.

Another specialty in Bratislava (but also available in other regions of Slovakia) is treska. It is a cold salad made of Codfish with mayonnaise. There are vegetables like onions, carrots and other in the salad too. It has a very typical taste, somewhere between sour and bitter - you should try it! You can buy it fresh in most "Lahôdky" shops, which means somewhat like "delicacies", but generally stands for old fashioned fast food shops - they sell rather salads, soups, etc instead of hamburgers of French fries. Treska tastes very good with rolls. If you like the taste of Treska, you can buy it also packed and take home.

If you're low on cash and want to self-cater, there's a huge Tesco supermarket on Kamenné námestie (at the junction of Štúrova and Špitálska) directly in the city. You could easily have lunch consisting of a couple of bread rolls, ham, cheese, fruit and maybe a cake or two, for the equivalent of three or four Euros. New American-type shopping malls with big cinemas and of course food courts within the reach of the center are the Aupark at the right Danube bank (next to the Sad Janka Kráľa park, some 10 minutes from the St. Martins's Cathedral) and the Polus City Center on the Vajnorská Street to the north of the city (some 10-15 minutes from the city by tram).

For a special dining experience, take a cab to the TV tower on Kamzik and have a lunch at the Veza restaurant [54]. It has a slowly rotating floor enabling you to see a 360 degree view of the city and its surrounding. Be sure to call in first though as the mechanism is very old and often broken. You also get a nice view and can meet some local celebrities at the übercool and very expensive UFO restaurant and disco [55] on top of the Novy most bridge.

In December, don't miss the Christmas market in front of the Old Town Hall. The traditional foods of the Christmas market are roasted beef or chicken sandwich burgers ("ciganska pecienka") with mustard and onions, wheat flour tortillas ("loksa") with various fillings ranging traditionally from plain ones with goose fat, with garlic or goose liver to poppy seed, nut or chocolate. Bread with pork fat and onions is also popular. You can wash down the food with a cup of red or white mulled wine or a small cup of honey wine.

Drink

Try Kofola, Slovak & Czech soft drink having similar color to Coca Cola, but lower on sugar and caffeine. Some places serve "draft Kofola" which indeed is draft from a barrel in a way similar to beer (until recently it has actually been co-produced by a Bratislava brewery). Some Slovaks say draft Kofola is even better than bottled and that it is best enjoyed outside in the sun, for example after a hike or a bike or rollerblade ride. Kofola is a popular alternative to beer if you want to hang out but don't want to drink alocohol. Vinea is another genuine Slovak soft drink made from grapes, offered both in "white" (green grapes) and "red" varieties (red grapes) and even in a rather sweet and maybe not-so-tasty "soft" version without carbon dioxide.

There are quite a few Slovak beer brands, e.g. Zlatý bažant, Šariš, Smädný mních, Topvar. Stein beer is a local variety which until very recently has been brewed practically in the city center.

Best pubs offering Slovak beers in the Old Town: [email protected], Bar [email protected], [email protected] All of them are quite cheap (about 1 EUR per half-liter glass of beer).

For cocktails try [email protected] (160-190 SKK/drink) - modern ambience [56]. Also for cocktails, check out Grandes Melones, just off Laurinska. Amazing drinks for around 170 SKK, friendly staff, and air conditioning. Don't be put off by the name, you could spend days in this place. Also worth a mention GMT bar, very nice cocktail menu with waitress service if you can find a table. Ensure you wear a shirt at the weekends!

Gay/Lesbian

Although some cafes are considered gay inclusive, there are three bars dedicated to the gay and lesbian crowd in Bratislava, all of them in the city center, close to the Presidential Palace:

  • Apollon Gay Club on Panenska ulica (the entrance is in the dooryard of a townhouse), +421 915 480 031, [57].
  • Barbaros Cafe on Vysoka 14 (at the crossing behind Tatra Banka and Volksbank), +421 903 461 717,
  • 4 Pink's on Hurbanovo namestie (opposite of the Holy Trinity Church). The bar opened early August 2006 and is not really known yet.

Sleep

Budget

  • Downtown Backpackers Hostel, Panenská 31 (street), tel. +421 2 5464 1191, [58]. Dorms at 600Sk night per person. Double rooms at 800Sk/night per person. 20 min. walk from station.
  • Hostel Blues, Spitalska 2, +421 905 20 40 40, [59], great central location and dorm beds from 380 SKK/person and night in winter and 480 SKK/person and night in summer.
  • Patio Hostel, Spitalska 35 (street), tel. +421 2 529 257 97, [60]. Close to the Kamenne namestie and the city center
  • City Hostel, Obchodna 38 (street). Very centrally located on a minor shopping street
  • Pension Gremium
  • Hotel Junior, Drienova 14 (street),(Ruzinov), tel. 4333 8000, fax 4333 8065, Email: [email protected], [61].
  • Hotel Rapid
  • Sport
  • Hotel Turist Bratislava, Ondavska 5 (street), (Ruzinov), tel. 55 57 27 89 or 55 41 05 09, fax 55 57 31 80, Email: [email protected], [62]. Double rooms at 17 Euro per person, triple rooms at 14 Euro per person, near Ice rink (Zimny Stadion), 10 minutes by bus to city center. €28/34/42. (singles/doubles/triples)
  • Bernolák Hostel Bernolákova 1, Telephone: 52 49 71 84. This 12-story tall hostel is located near the city center and offers clean, comfortable beds starting at around 130 Sk, or about 5 USD.
  • Hostel Juraj, Karpatska 28, Telephone: 421 902 305711, [63]. A small cozy hostel located really close to train station and less than a 15 minute walk from the city center. Juraj, the owner, is a really friendly man who speaks amazing English and will pick you up from the train station, offer to do your laundry, and provide a great atmosphere. Beds from 500 Sk/night.
  • Hostel Possonium, Šancová 20, +421 / 2 / 207 200 07, [64].


If all youth hostels are booked up don't hesitate to ask if they know of any alternative accommodation, on arrival in Bratislava we could not find a bed, but the Downtown Backpackers Hostel sorted us out with accommodation which is usually a student flat but was being rented out to backpackers during the summer season for 18 euros a night for a double room.

Mid-range

  • Hotel Echo
  • Hotel Holiday Inn
  • Hotel Kyjev, Rajska 2 (street), Bratislava (Stare Mesto), tel. 59 64 22 11 or 59 64 22 13, fax 52 92 68 20, [email protected], [65]. Double rooms range between 1800-2200 SK (ca. 60 Euro) with a big breakfast buffet, city center location, just a short walk from the Old town. This was the choice hotel of Soviet dignitaries in the past. It has seen better days, but the Soviet atmosphere and the strange quirks (like the old bulletholes in the door of room 1205) make it well worth a stay, just for the experience.
  • Botel Marina, +421 (2) 5464 1804, [66].
  • Venturska Residence, [67], Venturska 3 (street), tel. +421 2 54411240, Email: [email protected] The newly refurbished holiday apartments located in the very heart of the Old Town. Rates starting at EUR 68.-- per night.
  • Aston Business Hotel, [68].

Splurge

  • Crowne Plaza (former Forum)
  • Danube
  • Devin
  • Hotel Perugia, near the main square, [69].
  • Marroll's, Tobrucka ul.4, 81102 Bratislava 1, Slovakia, tel. +421 2 57784600, [70].
  • Radisson SAS Carlton, [71].
  • Michalska Brana, in the very city center - no car access, [72].
  • Hotel Hradná Brána, Slovanské nábrežie 15, Tel: 00421-2-601 025 11, [73]. First class, newly opened hotel Hradná Brána is located in the unique panoramic surroundings with the view over the vivid omination of the Devín castle. By its own comfort and exclusivity it belongs to one of the highest standard hotels. It provides accommodation, restaurant, congressional and relaxation services on a high level.

Contact

Telephone

When making international calls, you need to dial 00, then the country code of the country you are calling. The international code of Bratislava is +421 2, the national one is 02. You don't need to use any of these when making local calls. There mostly are cardphones in phone booths, coin phones are located e.g. in front of the telecoms office (T-Centrum) on Namestie SNP (Dunaj department store) or at Kolarska ulica. You can purchase phone cards at most newspaper kiosks and in any of the T-Centers.

Phone numbers beginning with 090, 091 or 094 are mostly mobile numbers. All of Bratislava is covered with a GSM network, the operators being Orange[74], T-Mobile[75] and O2[76]. In parts of Bratislava (mostly up on the hills), mobile phones sometimes switch to Hungarian or Austrian providers, so it is better to check the network name before dialing. For best mobile roaming rates, check http://www.roaming.gsmeurope.org/

Internet

You can use internet for free at the information bureau in the old town.

There are several internet cafes in the city, most of them hidden. You can try to get to one of the internet access portals in the T-Centrum on Namestie SNP or in the Aupark Shopping Center.

If you have a notebook computer, you can use multiple wireless hotspots throughout the city. Some of them are paid and you need to obtain a user name and password [77] in order to use them. Some hotels, cafes and restaurants provide free wireless internet access to their customers. Besides that, the heart of the city center (Hlavné námestie, Františkánske námestie, Primaciálne námestie) is covered by a small public wireless network provided by the city council and this is free to use. There are also other places with free wireless internet access throughout the city. A full list of these can be found on the website of the Slovak Telecoms Office [78].

Stay safe

Bratislava is generally very safe by European and American standards, safer than most Western European cities, because it is quite small and criminality is low. There is a significant police presence in the city, especially the historical parts, and it is generally not a problem to walk through the city at night. However, walking alone in the suburbs after dark is not recommended.

Cope

Note that prices for train tickets from Austria to Slovakia bought in Austria (ÖBB, Österreichische Bundesbahnen) are considerably higher than the same ticket bought in Bratislava (ŽS, Železničná spoločnosť).

Get out

  • The castle Červený kameň is located about 30 km from Bratislava.
  • Do like locals and hike in the Small Carpathians mountain range. Bratislava lies on the southest slopes of this friendly mountains. Hiking routes are well indicated.
  • Visit the Small Carpathians Wine Region; on southern slopes of Small Carpathians there are extensive vineyards and typical wine villages and towns like Rača, Pezinok or Modra. If you are more interested in local wines, follow the Little Carpathians Wine Route.
  • The Mutěnice Wine Region near the Slovak border in the Czech Republic is well worth a weekend visit. It has some of the best wine in the Czech Republic and many great small cellars to visit. You'll need to take a train to Břeclav and then from there to Hodonín.
  • The Carnuntum archaeological park is located 25 km from Bratislava, across Austrian border. The site offers excavations of an ancient Roman city. It is worth a one-day visit.
  • Lednice-Valtice is a UNESCO World Heritage site containing one of Europe's largest Palacial parklands
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!