This has been prompted by the significantly decreased numbers of hits this blog gets on Saturdays: OK, potential weekend readers, this is what I’ll bait you with – a weekend break guide to Slovakia!
Slovakia might be on that far side of Europe but it’s still very simple to distil a decent experience of the country into a long weekend (this is written assuming you check out of the office a little early on the Friday and don’t need to be back until the Monday evening; for those on tighter schedules – adapt as appropriate.)
Slovakia’s well-connected: see our Flights/Flight News section for more, in particular Slovakia’s Air Connections and also our post on possible flight options from the UK (including alternatives to Ryanair).
We recommend getting in late afternoon (possible from the UK on the afternoon flight from London Luton, among others). Whilst there are flights that get you in later (such as the flights from London Stansted or Birmingham International, among others) by the time you’ve retrieved your luggage and got into town and checked into your accommodation you’ll have frittered away the entire evening and restaurants will certainly be shut. Which would be a shame because our weekend break guide kicks off on Friday evening.
Where To Stay on a Weekend Break?
Time is slightly of the essence when you only have a few days to experience a destination and for this reason the hotels we’re recommending are Austria Trend, Skaritz or, for the best top-end stay, Hotel Marrol’s, which are all dead central and perfectly located for getting on with the sight-seeing. There are a fair few penzións (bed and breakfasts/guesthouses, as a rough translation) too but it’s the object of our Places to Stay section to give the scoop on all that, so check there.
Luggage deposited in room, it’s time to get out and catch a dose of the Bratislava VIBE. Start off with a stroll through the Old Town where all the historic buildings are beautifully illuminated and mosey on down through the winding streets to the Danube riverside: cue great views of the castle et al. Spectacular vistas induce hunger, so what better way than to combine the two by getting up high to go and eat? It’s a bit of a cliche, but the UFO (Slovak/International cuisine) is great for this (that’s the spaceship-like structure perched high above the city centre’s main bridge, Most SNP) so dine tonight either there or at the Lemon Tree/Sky Bar (Thai food). Make it a leisurely one and call it a night (or head to Dunaj for a nightcap): you can hit the town properly tomorrow if you so desire.
Breakfast time: and an Old Town haunt like Mondieu is perfect for watching the world spin by (be warned: it’s hard to find a decent place to eat right in the heart of the Old Town and this is one of the better spots). Then make the trip up to the castle – not to go in it, so much, as for the spectacular panorama from the ramparts. On the way back down, check out Bratislava’s Jewish Museum in the old Jewish quarter and – because you probably feel like a beer right now, right (?) check out either the nearby Le Schenk opposite St Martin’s Cathedral or the superb Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivovar near the Austria Trend Hotel.
Time for a riverboat trip. Most first-timers in Slovakia prefer the trip to Devín Castle,(departure 3pm April and September, 2:30pm May-August) upriver on the Danube looking out right over the Austrian border in a pretty spectacular location – but you can also head the other way to one of Eastern Europe’s most spectacular modern art galleries, Danubiana (departure at 2pm mid-June to mid-Oct). Once back invigorate yourself with an evening coffee in one of Bratislava’s coolest cafe-bars, Bistro St Germain.
Head to the medieval-themed (and typically Slovak middle/upper-end eatery) Traja Mušketieri. Then go for drinks with the bright young things at Dunaj (if you didn’t make it there yesterday) for live music and views over the burnished Old Town rooftops – or, if you’re fancying something slightly more classical, check what’s on at the wonderful, recently refurbished Slovak Philharmony. If you have energy left, hit Nu Spirit bar for experimental live music or Hlava 22 for Saturday night jazz (take a taxi here). Tired? If you’re not there’s something wrong with you…
It’s always cool to clock a city from a more off-beat perspective, so sign up for a tour with Authentic Slovakia to discover more about Bratislava’s (and indeed Slovakia’s) Communist past and little-heralded “authentic” sights off the typical tourist route.
Decision time. The thing with Slovakia is that interesting as Bratislava is, the real deal with this country (and the very best of it) lies in its remoter countryside. It’s tough to take in much of that in a weekend break but it’s still totally possible:
Option one: take the bus out to the village of Časta from where you can walk up to the striking castle of Červený Kameň – one of Slovakia’s largest, best-preserved fortresses. Follow it up with a hike in the surrounding hills (plenty of trails to try – see our post on a route from Červený Kameň to Zochava Chata where you can eat very well and, if your budget allows, stay over before hiking back the next morning). Get a bus back mid-morning on Monday: in time for your afternoon flight back home.
Option two: take a train from Bratislava to Trenčín, a gorgeous medieval city two hours’ journey from Bratislava. Stay over for the night at Hotel Elizabeth ensuring you see the famous Roman inscription on the cliff behind and head up for spectacular views from the mighty Trenčin Castle (the park behind the castle is also deserving of a stroll). More posts to come on Trenčín soon, but for the time being the intimate Italian at the base of the castle steps is a surefire bet for delectable evening food/drinks. Get a train back mid-morning on Monday, in time for your afternoon flight back home.
You see? A trip on Europe’s most fabled river, mighty castles of yore, a smattering of traditional Slovak cuisine interspersed with drinks with the city’s chic and hikes through the undulating and enticing mountain foothills of the Small Carpathians. How, weekend would-be Slovakia-goers, could you now refuse a trip out here?