Bratislava, Slovakia is a 1hr 45m bus ride from Brno, Czech Republic. We stayed three days in Bratislava at the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel. The weather was clear, dry and hot for the last week of July. Great for photos, but kind of uncomfortable for walking around Old Town with its limited greenery. Walking along the Danube River seemed like that might be a cooling option, but that walk offered limited shade and turned out to be just as hot as other places. One of the best places to stay around and dine turned out to be at the outdoor cafes under the trees on Hviezdoslavovo namestie pedestrian street directly in front of the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Bratislava tourism draw in large part is due to cheap alcohol and food. Kelley’s initial reaction after 10 days in Czech Republic is prices in Bratislava are higher than Prague and Brno. Part of that is due to Slovakia using euros compared to Czechia still using its own currency called ‘crowns’.
View from Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel Bratislava of young man passed out in the grass getting sunburned in the 90 degree heat at 11am. His cell phone was laying in the grass behind his back. At one point I saw him roll over, so not dead.
Beware of taxi scammers
We arrived in Bratislava at the international bus station around 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon. Our Student Agency bus tickets for the 130km trip cost 7.90 EUR each online when I bought them the morning we left California.
Kelley had been having knee pain from long walks across Prague and Brno during the previous week. I promised to take us by taxi to the Radisson. I hate taking taxi rides. And I have never used Uber or any ride sharing service. Public transportation or my feet generally get me where I want to go.
I had read about taxi driver scams in Bratislava before my first trip to Slovakia last year. The basic deal is taxi drivers are loosely regulated.
Last Christmas we paid 10 EUR including tip for taxi service from the Radisson hotel to the international bus station AS Mlynske nivy, a distance about 2 miles.
I tried my iPhone Uber app, but could not get logged into my account. I tried a taxi service automated kiosk inside the bus station to order a taxi. And waited for a text response confirming my order, And waited, and waited.
I considered calling the Radisson Blu hotel to ask them to order a taxi. But I didn’t.
Outside I walked up to the first taxi I saw and said ‘Radisson Blu’ and we were quickly off. No funny routing or detours around Bratislava and surprisingly little traffic.
The meter read 24 EUR when we arrived at the Radisson Blu. I gave the driver 25 EUR and he offered no change or receipt. He looked like a guy who would have no qualms punching me out if I complained. And he certainly knew where I could be found.
I berated myself for not having called the Radisson Blu in the first place to order a taxi. There are advantages to staying in a nice upscale hotel.
Our ride on Monday back to the AS Mlynske nivy bus station was in a Radisson Blu ordered black Mercedes with a driver who reminded me of the Transporter movies. The price was 8.50 EUR and I gladly gave him 10.
We spent four nights at the Radisson Blu Bratislava the week before Christmas 2016. Our favorite place to eat and drink that trip was Cafe Prolaika, 200 meters from the hotel on Palackého street. We had good meals there and 1.30EUR pints of Bernard lager was the cheapest beer price we found in Bratislava that trip.
I was determined to put the taxi rip-off out of my mind and not stew over making another rookie traveler’s mistake. My wallet was stolen at Prague Airport ten days earlier within minutes of arriving in the country immediately after I bought bus tickets and boarded a public bus to the city.
A good meal at Cafe Prolaika was just what we needed.
Turned out Cafe Prolaika’s kitchen was closed for their last night open before taking two weeks summer vacation.
Still, beer was cold and tasted good sitting at a table on the sidewalk. We were amazed by the number of baby strollers pushed by us while we drank a couple of Pilsner Urquell pints at 1.80 EUR.
Refresh Music Club and Restaurant
Eventually we ended up at Re:fresh Music Club and Restaurant for dinner and beer. Refresh restaurant is ranked #20 of 1,182 on TripAdvisor. They serve vegan food selections, along with hamburgers and fries. We enjoyed our meals and music at the place.
Re:fresh is a reminder that Bratislava was known as Pressburg through most of its history. Pressburg (Bratislava) became the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1536 after the Ottoman invasion occupied Budapest in Hungary.
Haviezdoslavovo namestie Bratislava
Old Town Bratislava is largely restaurants, pubs and tourist shops. Our primary objectives for three days in Bratislava were eating, drinking and shopping.
Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel is a prime city location for stepping outside onto Haviezdoslavovo namestie and into the activity buzz of Bratislava. The low price of this hotel, frequently under $100 per night, combined with its city center location for a tourist makes it a very attractive hotel for a tourist.
Old Slovak National Theater 1920 historical building.
One morning I joined a 10am Bratislava Free Walking Tour. These are informative tours of the main tourist attractions, but I remembered most of the stories from a tour last year. For me the tour was mainly a photo opportunity.
Hviezdoslav statue in front of Radisson Blu Carlton is the meeting point for Bratislava Free Walking Tours.
St. Martin’s Cathedral Bratislava
Dóm svätého Martina – St. Martin’s Cathedral Bratislava
St. Martin’s Cathedral was the coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from 1563 to 1830. Hungary’s capital relocated from Budapest after the Ottoman Empire seized the city and occupied it for 140 years from 1541. It was 1718 before the Kingdom of Hungary was free from Ottoman rule.
Most of the Jews of Bratislava were murdered during the Holocaust.
The historical Jewish district of Bratislava was nearly entirely eliminated when the Soviet government built Most SNP bridge through the former Jewish street 1967-1972.
Slovakia allied with Germany during WWII and most Jews of Bratislava were imprisoned in a labor camp across the Danube and killed. Slovakia also served as a major land transportation route for Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz in June 1944.
The night before we had walked Most SNP bridge at dusk to try and go to some Danube party boats for drinking. Prague was big time into party boats on Vltava, but Bratislava seemed to have most pub boats on the other side of the river from Bratislava Old Town.
A plaque at Restauracia Leberfinger on the other side of the river near Most SNP bridge written in Czech, Slovak, German and Hebrew shows the word Pamataj – Remember.
Most SNP bridge (1967-72) was built through the historical Jewish quarter of Bratislava.
UFO Tower on SNP Most
UFO Tower Restaurant and Bar
- UFO is 95 meter tower from base of bridge to observation deck.
- 130 person restaurant capacity.
- 60 person standing capacity for bars.
- UFO cupola diameter 32 meters.
- Horizon visibility from observatory 100 km.
- 1 elevator, lift capacity 10 persons and 450 persons/hour.
- Bar Open Hours 10:00-23:00 daily
- Restaurant Open Hours 12:00-23:00 daily
- Adult Admission 7.40 EUR
- Child Admission 3.95 EUR 111cm and up to 14 years old
- Child under 111cm free.
- Students and Groupd 4.95 EUR.
- Disabled and Tour Guides free.
We walked up to Bratislava Castle for the Be Free Tour, where I learned some new details about the city and region.
Personally my beer taste preference is Central European lager, but there are several craft beer options in Bratislava like Le Senk Craft Beer Cafe on the route to the castle.
Bratislava Castle gate
Kelley wanted to walk through Sad Janka Kráľa park, an historic public park built 1774-76 on the Danube floodplain. We crossed Most SNP bridge Saturday evening at dusk. There are walking paths on both sides of the bridge below the roadway. After beer at Leberfinger pub, the park was too dark to wander off into the unfamiliar landscape of Petržalka.
Petržalka is the largest residential district of Bratislava. This part of the city of Bratislava borders Austria.
Petržalka, named Engerau during World War II, was occupied by the German Third Reich. The area was the site of labor camps for around 2,000 Hungarian Jews in the last months of WWII from Dec 1944 to March 1945. One of the labor camps was Leberfinger.
Refresh Music Club tolerance sign at entry door to basement club.
We never made it to the Pivovar Brewery Boat on the Danube Saturday night or the flashing lights reggae sounds of the nightclub to the right of Most SNP. We had already filled up on beer after stopping at Restauracia Leberfinger.
That plaque on the wall at Leberfinger pub led me to the discovery of history surrounding Petržalka.
In the 1970s and 1980s, one of the largest housing estates in the Communist bloc was built on the site of old Petržalka.
Petrzalka in the distance viewed from Bratislava Castle. I will definitely explore the other side of the Danube River landscape if I get back to Bratislava.
New York Times – The Monoliths of Bratislava Lisa Schwartzbaum(Oct 30, 2015).
From 1531 to 1783 Pressburg Castle was the official seat of the Kingdom of Hungary. The Kingdom of Hungary authority moved back to Budapest in 1784.
Pressburg Castle was bombarded by Napoleon in 1809. The castle burned down in 1811, while being used as a garrison for soldiers. Bratislava Castle lay in ruins until 1953 when it was partially restored.
The current castle is a product of restoration from the past decade.
Sometimes Bratislava Castle is called ‘table top’ castle due to its inverted table design of four square corners with towers.
Images from Old Town Bratislava is part 2 of my photo essay.