My parents retired this year (I’m literally sick with jealousy, already they’re planning their travels) and as a celebration of that they treated my brother and I, as well as Adam, to a break away. After throwing around a few destinations Bratislava, Slovakia, was eventually booked for late October and we were soon off.
We had an early start to the day, flying from Stansted at 8.30am and arriving at Bratislava at 11.45am. My Mum had her hand luggage checked in when leaving England but baggage collection was so quick that the suitcase was already there by the time we got to the carousel.
From the airport we caught the route 61 bus into town. The bus stop was easy to find but there was a bit of a fuss at the ticket machine as they didn’t accept our money. We ended up putting them on card so it wasn’t too much of an issue. The tickets are priced by time slot, so for example you can buy a ticket that covers half an hour of travel, an hour etc. My research told me the journey would last 25 minutes but we erred on the side of caution and bought a 45 minute ticket. The tickets are then validated as you enter the bus.
The journey took about half an hour and dropped us off at the main train/ bus terminal. From the station to our first destination, our lunch reservation, it was a 25 minute walk. It took a tad longer as we kept stopping to take pictures! Our route took us through St Michael’s Gate, the only city gate from the old medieval fortifications, first built around 1300 and also by the old Slovak National theatre building.
I’d made us a reservation at the well reviewed microbrewary, Beer Palace. The restaurant was large but cosy, giving us more than enough room for our suitcases which we’d yet to drop off. The service was really good, with our waiter able to recommend us all beers to suit our personal tastes.
For lunch I went for Halusky, a gnocchi in a rich cheese sauce topped with roasted bacon. The bacon was like no other I’d ever had in my life, it was divine! Everyone else chose the pierogi, dumplings filled with sheep’s cheese and spinach. Everyone was incredibly pleased with their choice. It was amazing value as our total meal came to less than 10 euros each.
We then walked to our apartments, the Keglevich Palace Beethoven apartments. They’d been a last-minute booking as our previous booking had cancelled but it all worked out well as the apartments couldn’t have been any better located, right in the heart of the old town. The apartments were clean, the check in process was easy and we had plenty of space.
We walked down Laurinska Street, which is the main tourist strip and has lots of cute little shops. We discovered a pretty impressive candy shop which was fun to explore. We were already discovering the beautiful architecture of Bratislava, it was so quaint and already the place was so surpassing my expectations.
The city has a rather eclectic mix of statues, from ‘Cumil’, the man at work to the Napoleon you’ll find in the main town square and it really is one of those cities where you find something new with every turn you take. In the 10 minute walk we took to the main castle we found charming alleyways, decorated doorways and cute cobbled streets.
On the way to the castle you walk through the old city walls, built at the end of the 14th century, but from them you can see modern Bratislava beyond.
The walk around the castle was a beautiful one, as the castle sits on a rocky hill directly above the Danube, therefore offering visitors amazing views. We spent about an hour in the gardens, which are free to enter.
The Castle has a huge part in history, not just for Slovakia but for Hungary, who had 11 kings and 8 queens crowned there and until 1784 the Hungarian crown jewels were kept at the castle. A fire in 1811 gutted the castle but in 1957 works eventually began to restore it and it now houses the Slovak National Museum.
Walking back down from the castle we walked down Kapitulska street, which housed some adorable pastel houses, and onto St Martins Cathedral, which is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. Once again the Hungarian history plays a part too as this was the coronation church of a number of Hungarian royalty.
Bastova street was another charming find, a long winding backstreet with St Martin’s Gate peeking out from behind and then it was just a few minutes walk to Hlavne Namestie, the main square. Within the square you will find a fountain, constructed in 1572 in order to provide a public water supply, and the oldest town hall in the country with a tower dating back to 1370.
We were enjoying our walk around Bratislava, a remarkably easy city to get around, but the cold temperatures drew us to the Antique American Bar, situated in the heart of the old town. We absolutely fell in love with this bar, it had a lovely ambience and I enjoyed some of the richest hot chocolate.
We quickly stopped at the Billa supermarket and picked ourselves up breakfast for the next few days, refreshed ourselves and then headed out for dinner. I had made a reservation at the Slovak Pub, a seemingly popular choice that I had noticed popping up quite a lot during my research. The reservation was needed and we spent the next couple of hours enjoying our meal.
Slovakian food perfectly suits itself to the cold weather and we all started our meal with a traditional garlic soup, served in a bread bowl. It was absolutely delicious, warming, and perfectly washed down with cheap house wine. For my main I went for a paprika chicken, something I’d enjoyed whilst in Hungary and it was delicious.
Strolling back to our apartment we noticed a mysterious green laser running through the town. We were quite curious so ended up following it as it bounced from building to building, eventually ending…just on a random building. We were quite disappointed!
Our first day in Bratislava had already allowed us to see so much of this endearing place, I feel bad us British have reduced it to a popular stag do destination because clearly, it was so much more than that!
Steps walked: 22,168