Bratislava, Slovakia – May 1999
As all of you know, European countries are dominated by their capitals.
Slovakia is represented by Bratislava and benefiting from its place between
Vienna and Budapest, Bratislava is slowly receiving the attention it
Calling itself (as all central European capitals do) the heart of
Europe, Bratislava remains in the inner circle of Central European society
through its history.
If you are not familiar with geography and history of Slovakia and you feel
like you could absorb more than I am offering in the following article,
there is a complex web page that will give you the satisfaction. Here you will find general information, news, economy,
business and links to government, sports, recreation, media (in English).
I’ve been living in Bratislava my whole life and I can tell you that
especially the last 10 years were so dynamic that one cannot stop wondering.
Eastern Europe has been dramatically changing and before long there will be
no difference between West and East.
However, for all of Bratislava’s rich
past, as far as architecture, 50 years of communism left its indelible mark.
The most obvious scar is the SNP Bribge, with its spaceship-like saucer
hovering over the Danube. As well, the view from Bratislava castle cannot be
called beautiful since the endless concrete housing blocks of Petrzalka
(often called Legoland by visitors) across the Danube fill the eye, and the
Slovnaft refinery blackens the sky. It is from here that the contradictions
between old and new can best be pondered.
Contemporary Bratislava is a bustling place. From the pedestrian shopping
street, Obchodna ulica, which slopes up to the castle, across the cobble
stone alleys of Old Town, new, slick and often Western shops are springing
up (though every second one is a shoe store) all over.
Michalska ulica –
found by spotting St. Michael’s Gate – is where to find the finest stores,
including Levi’s, United Colors of Benetton as well as fancy perfume stores
and a courtyard with stores full of fashionable clothes. “Big Ben” is an
excellent English-language bookstore with a ton of titles, hidden
under an arch.
Watch out for your belongings, especially when shopping and
traveling by local transportation! Bratislava is safe as long as you use
your common sense. Don’t exchange money on the street, don’t play street
games, keep your wallet and passport on your body and you will have no
When tired of sightseeing and shopping, I would recommend you stop for a
cup of coffee in Gremium Cafe, just a few steps from Opera house. This
trendy beer/wine spritzer place is worth a visit. Occasionally, some
youngsters will play the piano which gives the place a special atmosphere.
Deeper into the center, a new landmark pub has some of the best ambience in
the city. The Dubliner or just the “Irish Pub” is one of the most expensive
pubs in Bratislava but still it’s cheaper than anywhere in Western Europe.
Lots of foreigners hang out there, warming on cool spring days with an
awesome fireplace, while drinking beer. The cheapest Guinness can be found
There is no shortage of places to sit down and relax in Bratislava. An
outdoor beer garden is always near, even in the early hours when men off the
night shift or on their way to work grab a mug.
Perhaps even more than the wine cellar, the beer hall is a symbol and
substance of Slovak nation. The beer halls round out the Slovak experience.
Pubs are known here informally as krcma (tavern), senk (roadhouse), pajzel
(any dirty smoke-filled room where beer is consumed by the gallon) and vycap
(the lowest sort of dive).
To get a feeling of once one of the biggest beer
halls in central Europe, stop by in Mamut at Cintorinska street. Another one
with friendly staff and stuffed animals on the wall is called “U Eda” in
the heart of Old Town at Biela ul. 5. (A mug of beer there will cost you 20
Restaurants are still an adventure, and you can find everything from
cafeterias to five-star restaurants with prices lower than what you would
expect in the West – with a few exceptions.
Remember that in most cases the
extras (rice, potatoes, salads) get added to the bill. The standard advice
for tipping is to round up, which still leaves a lot of questions: a bill of
77 Sk can be safely rounded to 80, 90, or 100 Sk, depending on the level of
There are plenty of restaurants offering Slovak cuisine as well as
Austrian, American, Arabic, Greek, French, Chinese…Slovenska pivnica at
Dunajska 18, (across from Tesco department store) serves terrific food. The
wooden interior and music from Wednesday to Saturday top it off. I would
advise not to hang around during the day though, as many mafia-like gorrilas crowd
Bratislava was the last capital in Central Europe to be bombarded by fast
food. From my experience, I know how tourists like it, and so here there are:
Pizza Hut at Drevena 8 (Next to Hotel Forum), McDonald’s at Obchodna Street
and at Namestie SNP. Ice cream stands, fruit stands, as well as craft booths
can be found all over the city center.
Although Bratislava has only a few pure dance halls, remember that anywhere
the beer is flowing, dancing can break out! If you want to feel the beat of
Eastern Europe, go to Duna Club, a trendy underground place (it used to be a
bunker) next to film club Nostalgia. It is filled with students and will be full on
weekend nights, so come earlier to get in.
“Steps” is another cool bar/disco
is just a few meters from the Presidential Palace. Steps manifests the
advent of choice: One room is a mini beer hall, another passes as a pick-up
bar and the third is for those who want to boogie. The DJ plays mostly 80’s
music and recently the place has been run over by teenagers. If you prefer an
older crowd, go to Krater Pub and Cafe, a pub with live music during Friday
concerts, as well as adult entertainment such as striptease. Modern 90’s
interior is one of the best in Bratislava.
The weather is getting better and better and so if you want to swim, the
most popular “beach” is Zlate Piesky at the edge of the city on Trnavska
cesta which is the start of E571 or at the end of the #2 and #4 tram lines.
There is also camping where bungalows (2 + 1) will cost you 920 Sk. As far
as the public transportation goes, I would suggest to buy a day pass for 45
Sk (app. 1 USD), otherwise you need to get tickets (10 Sk each) and stamp
one every time you get on a bus or tram. You are most likely to be caught
when riding without a ticket and then it will cost you 1000 Sk (unless you
try to negotiate / bribe them).
You should not have a problem with finding a reasonable place to stay overnight in Bratislava since there are 6 big youth hostels and plenty of
hotels. However, most of them operate as student dorms from September to
June and therefore have limited number of beds for tourists. Youth hostel
Bernolak at Bernolakova Street is centrally located and therefore most of
the backpackers stay there. There is a swimming pool in the hostel and a
disco on the weekend. Rooms have showers and cost 270 Sk per bed/night.
May Events in Bratislava
music in most of the theatres and halls of Bratislava.
I hope I have kindled your interest in visiting Bratislava and the rest of
Slovakia. My country has a lot to offer. It has not been overrun by tourists
and it retains quite an exotic air. It has some beautiful landscape that I
haven’t yet talked about.
Since two thirds is laden with mountains, there are
infinite possibilities for hiking. Charming medieval towns are scattered
throughout the country, the people are quick with a smile and go to great
lengths to be hospitable.
Unfortunatelly, Slovakia is changing and getting
westernized and therefore you should be quick to feel the beat of Eastern Europe.
My name is Marek.
I am a student in my 3rd year at the University of
Economics in Bratislava.
I traveled with an international organization, Up
with People, two years ago and since then I want all the young people to
travel and see the world outside of their city.
Since Eastern Europe is
changing fast, my friends and I decided to organize “Travel&Party’99”. Hereby,
we are offering you a trip in either June or July. Over 8 days you
will travel and explore sites (that you would never likely be able to find on your
own) in Prague and Slovakia.
Moreover, you will party with international
students on a party bus for a student price. Our goal is not to make money
but to have a great feeling of accomplishment when you thank us at the end.
For more information about TRAVEL&PARTY’99 check out the
or e-mail us.