This post was composed by Temporary Nomad Adam Noe:
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is not the typical European city that many Americans dream of visiting. We often think of Paris, Barcelona and Rome. These are some of the greatest cities in the world and should not be missed on any European adventure but if you like to venture off the beaten path of the typical tourist, Bratislava is a gem.
Bratislava is only a short train or bus ride from Vienna and is worth spending a few days in to see the beautiful old town, Bratislava Castle and to enjoy good a cheap local food, wine and beer. Your dollar goes very far in Bratislava although you aren’t actually going to open your own hotel for a nickel. You will, however, find large beers under 2 Euro each which is almost unheard of in Europe!
Here’s what we did:
Day 29 (8/21/16): We arrived in Bratislava and walked about 20 minutes from the Train station to our AirBnB rental. The train station doesn’t make the best impression, especially coming from Vienna, but as you get close to the city center you start to see a big difference. We stayed in a very nice and inexpensive apartment right across the street from the Presidential Palace. We stayed at the apartment for a little while to wait for our friend Claudia to arrive as she did not take the train with us. Once she arrived we went out to get some traditional Slovak food at the Slovak Pub. Traditional foods are meat and potato dishes with a very different tasting cheese. The sausages were very good but I wasn’t in love with the very rich and creamy cheese, however I was glad to try their traditional dish. The girls tried the Slovakian take on Perogi and I thought they were excellent! We were shocked how inexpensive the food and beer was at this highly-rated restaurant (per Tripadvisor). After dinner we were all pretty tired so we went back to rest and prepare for the next day.
Day 30 (8/22/16): Surprise, surprise…Europe, as usual, is closed! We’ve encountered this a lot on our travels and it never ceases to amaze me that Europe almost seems to not want to take your money! We hiked up the hill to Bratislava Castle and once at the top found it to be closed on Mondays (for your travels it is open every other day of the week). The castle sits atop a hill overlooking the city and the river so we got a great view before it started to lightly rain and we decided to go back down the hill to check out their church, which was also closed! After yet another rejection we looked up some local breweries and wine cellars and decided that we would make our own brewery and wine tour of Bratislava. This turned out to be a great decision as we found some amazing beer at three local breweries (Castle Brewery was our favorite and the food was delicious), and got to go into the basement of a building in old town to do a wine tasting.
Day 31 (8/23/16): We returned to the castle and it was open with one small caveat, the Prime Minister of Norway also happened to be visiting to sign a treaty so one part of the castle was off limits, which Justin and I decided to ignore and ended up above her in the same stairwell as she entered! She had a large entourage and motorcade as well as some very interestingly dressed bodyguards. Her guards were quite the hit with the ladies, taking pictures with them while the Prime Minister was inside the castle. They may wear funny outfits but they’re doing something right! As far as the castle goes, it’s different than a lot of European castles and palaces. It is undergoing a complete restoration from near collapse due to being left to rot for years. The castle is mostly restored but the gardens are still undergoing work. They have excellent art exhibits inside the castle and any trip to Bratislava would be a waste without visiting this beautiful site. After visiting the castle we walked around the old town and its fortress walls, along the river and ended up near our apartment to take a stroll through the Presidential Gardens behind his palace. There are daily ‘changing of the guards’ at his palace but we missed the time. Afterward we went out for a nice dinner at a café we walked past before heading back to our place.
Overall I think Bratislava is one of those places that you shouldn’t bypass if you’re nearby. It’s not a huge city but it has a beautiful, historic old town, great food, is extremely affordable, and has some great historic sites. It also has the benefit of not being a tourist trap, yet. Go now before the word spreads!