I like cafes. And perhaps part of the reason I like them, over, let’s say, restaurants, is because I like sitting in them with a coffee and a laptop, eking away hours stealing subtle glances at newcomers to see if they could become characters in my next book, or will at least add some interesting colour to the article I’m working on (all things that are very hard to do in restaurants). Looking like a writer in them, basically.
In a cafe like Štúr that’s easy. The very theme of the joint is, after all, the father of the Slovak language, Ľudovít Štúr (Shtoor, as it mistakenly gets spelt by some, is NOT the correct way of writing it). Štúr is Slovakia’s national hero, but unlike most national heroes he did not heroically prove himself in some conflict or other. Štúr’s war was with words. That was the crusade he fought. The crusade – whilst Slovakia was a reluctant but increasingly proud and distinct part of the Hungarian Empire – to get Slovak recognised as a language.
Štúr the cafe has been successful enough to build up its own mini-coffee-chain in Bratislava – a novel thing in itself for a city which, to its credit, has none of the soulless international coffeeshop chains like Starbucks. But it’s the original branch on Panská that I always go to.
I always sit at street level (if that’s full, I leave – there is a downstairs, with sofas to slouch on as you slurp, but I don’t like it so much) as close to the huge bearded likeness of Ľudovít (framed by stage curtains) as I can and gaze out at the crowds milling about on the cobbles (often tourists trying to get photographed in front of that inexplicably popular statue of The Watcher – the bronze fellow in the perpetual act of clambering out of a manhole cover).
I think that the Slovak national hero would have approved of the place. You can usually tell a good cafe from its unassuming facade, in my experience, and the old-fashioned pink-brown sign with Štúr’s solemn countenance gazing through the window glass is the very antithesis of flashy (this is also the reason those not in the know might pass by it oblivious). The waitresses that take your order are effortlessly urbane and welcoming simultaneously which gives the cafe a welcoming yet cosmopolitan feel. You don’t feel bad nursing your delicious espresso a couple of hours. No one will tell you it’s time to move on (even though the place does get busy and tables do fill up). The decor is simple, yet beautiful wooden chairs and tables are evocative of a decade – maybe quite a few ago now – of glamorous cafes frequented by artists, and writers of course, and people who thrashed out ideas as they hung out with drinks. And Štúr would undoubtedly love how the menu is laid out: in old Slovak, or in other words the nation’s language as he established it (none of the Czech-, German- or English-isms Slovak has today).
Regular double espresso is 2.20 Euros but there are some fancier, sweeter Štúr specials for only a fraction more (iced caramel and vanilla latte, as an example). Of the light lunches available, we love the cheese and spinach quiche most, whilst the cake selection (normally at least three types of cheesecake, including a chocolate one, and a divine lemon cake) will waylay you as you pass the counter on the way in long enough to have queues building up outside.
Štúr is 200 years old this very year. Honour him with a visit here!
MAP LINK: It’s not marked on Google maps but the pinpoint is to the exact location nonetheless.
LOCATION: – Panská 23.
OPENING: – 8am-midnight Monday to Friday, 9am-midnight weekends
BEST TIME TO VISIT: – Any time in daylight: not because it’s dangerous afterwards, but because daylight shows up the place for what it is: a wonderful street cafe with an eye out on the bustling activity of the city centre.
NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: 600m northwest of Štúr is another great cafe, Kava.bar