First thing to know if visiting Bratislava, Slovakia during the Christmas holiday season is Christmas Eve December 24 is the major holiday for presents and family dinner. Christmas markets begin closing down in the early afternoon December 23. Most businesses are closed on December 24. Only tourist souvenir shops, hotels and a small number of cafes and restaurants were open on December 24 as I walked a couple miles around the central tourist zone area of the city. Apparently more businesses open for Christmas Day December 25.
Bratislava Christmas Market
Crafts, clothing and souvenirs comprised a portion of Christmas Market stalls, but in Bratislava the primary business activity for the Christmas Market were food and alcohol stalls selling a variety of hot grilled meats, potatoes, desserts and hot mulled wine and punch.
Grilled sausages, pork and chicken, potatoes and desserts were available in several stands. Typical prices were 4 to 5 EUR for meat with bread.
A variety of alcoholic hot punches seemed to be in high demand and typical prices were 2-4 EUR for a cup. The price for food ranged from 1 EUR for a plain potato pancake and 2-3 EUR for flavored and stuffed potato pancakes.
High tables for standing only lined the center of the Christmas Market between booths and the lively scene was the dominant social gathering place in the city center for friends and families. While hundreds of people were gathered in two Christmas Market areas, most pubs and cafes in the area were empty of any patrons.
The temperature was around 25 degrees on the two nights we walked around Christmas Markets. We preferred to sit in the warmer environment of a pub with a beer. There was no beer being sold at the Christmas Market as far as I could see.
After visiting two pubs where Kelley and I were the only patrons, within 100 meters of the two town center Christmas Markets, she came up with a pub rule that we would only drink in a place with at least five patrons. With more than 50 pubs and cafes within a 10 minute walk of our hotel, that rule allowed us to selectively weed out more than 80% of the available drinking establishments.
The Christmas Market areas were definitely the most happening scene in town. Christmas Market activity appeared heaviest between 6 and 8 pm.
Our room at the Radisson Blu Carlton Bratislava overlooked one of the Christmas Markets. We heard Christmas carols, nearly all in English, playing all day and into the night over loudspeakers in the market. At times I felt like I was in a U.S. shopping mall.
Radisson Blu Carlton Bratislava
Bratislava has a large pedestrian area in the alleys of the historic city center with many shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. One of the cool features present at night in the city are lasers along some of the main alleys with one green ray of light shining from St. Michael’s Gate, the only remaining medieval gate for Bratislava.
St. Michael’s Gate Bratislava
Bratislava in the winter Christmas season is quite a different experience than the summer drunken madness I witnessed in September. No large group stag parties of drunk Britons filled the streets. Pubs have been calm, mostly occupied by a few locals, if not totally dead. Many of the restaurants and pub windows revealed only employees inside, sitting around talking or reading books.
The historic town center is a compact area of a dozen or so streets and everything most tourists need is within ten minutes walk of hotels like Radisson Blu Carlton or Crowne Plaza Bratislava. It seemed most of the locals venturing into the city center the pat couple days spent their pre-Christmas evenings outside at the Christmas Market socializing.
Next: Bratislava food and drink prices.
Trip Report: December 2016 Vienna – Bratislava – Krakow