Bratislava

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View over the city and Danube river from the castle
Danube in Bratislava
Hlavné námestie (Main Square), Bratislava Old Town

Bratislava or Pozsony in Hungarian and Pressburg in German, [1] is the capital and largest city in Slovakia. It has a population of almost 450,000 and is the administrative, cultural and economic centre of the country. Before 1919, it was known as Prešporok in Slovak.

Contents

Understand

The same square during the New Year's Eve celebration in 2006

Bratislava has a very pleasant medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets, a hill-top castle next to the river Danube, and many historic churches and buildings to visit. The old town is centered on two squares, Hlavne namestie (main square) and Hviezdoslavovo namestie (Hviezdoslav square, named after a famous Slovak poet). Of a rather different architectural character are some of the communist-era buildings found in the modern parts of the city; a prime example is Petrzalka housing estate, the biggest Communist-era concrete block housing complex in Central Europe, which stretches on endlessly just across the river. Move further east and there are plenty of rural places to explore. Farms, vineyards, agricultural land, and tiny villages are situated less than 50 kilometres to the north and east of Bratislava.

Today, Bratislava and its surroundings form the second-most prosperous region in Central and Eastern Europe, with a per capita GDP of around 167% of the EU-27 average (after Prague).

History

After the fall of the Great Moravian Empire, Slovakia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 10th century until the end of the First World War when the Treaty of Trianon created Czechoslovakia, a country which Slovaks are widely proud of - for example, some Czechoslovakian representatives, such as Alexander Dubček and Gustáv Husák, were ethnically Slovak.

Between 1939 and 1944, Slovakia was a German-controlled state. Then, it was conquered by the Soviets to recreate a new Czechoslovakia, but one that would be pro-Soviet and Communist this time.

This lasted until the fall of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, during the Velvet Revolution of 1989. In 1993, peaceful differences between Czechs and Slovaks when rebuilding their nation after the fall of Communism led to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia into two separate and independent nations: the Czech Republic, and of course Slovakia (Slovak Republic). To this day, Slovaks and Czechs have generally friendly relations, and the two nations cooperate together frequently on international issues.

Bratislava was the capital (1536 - 1784), the coronation city (1563 - 1830) and the seat of the diet (1536 - 1848) of the Kingdom of Hungary for many years. Since 1960, it has been the capital of the federal state of Slovakia within Czechoslovakia and, since 1993, it has been the capital of independent Slovakia.

Although today, Bratislava's population are mostly Slovaks, from the 13th to the early 19th century, the majority ethnic group in the city were the Germans, who remained the largest ethnic group until the First World War (in 1910, 42% were German, 41% Hungarian and 15% Slovak out of a total population of 78,000). Hungarians formed another important group in the city in the 19th century, but after the First World War, many Germans and Hungarians left for Austria and Hungary respectively, and the remaining Germans were expelled at the end of World War II.

Get in

By plane

Bratislava Milan Rastislav Štefánik Airport

Bratislava Airport (ICAO: LZIB, IATA: BTS) [2] The airport is the largest in the Slovak Republic and the home base of Danube Wings [3], though the budget airline Ryanair [4] flies the vast majority of seat capacity (80%). Additional carriers are Aeroflot[5] to Moscow, CSA[6] to Prague, Sun d'Or [7] to Tel Aviv (seasonal, budget flights), and LOT[8] to Warsaw.

Be aware at the security check in the airport, as staff is known to confiscate items such as 100ml aerosols against EU rules. Also, the airport staff take some regulations especially seriously. For example, you will not be allowed a small handbag/laptop bag AND hand luggage. If you are flying by RyanAir and have check-in luggage, do not let the small size of the airport fool you. Arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight, as the queue can get very long.

After leaving the terminal, take bus No 61 (or N61 at night) for a direct connection to the Main Train Station (Hlavná stanica) or change at Trnavské mýto to get to the city center (in order to get to the tram stop, use the underpass and the exit marked "Centrum"; take any tram that does not show the railway station as destination). Bus drivers don't sell tickets in Bratislava (see "Get around" below) so you need to get tickets in advance. Use the vending machines (there's one outside the departure building) but note that you will need euro coins as the vending machines don't take notes. You can also buy tickets in the tourist and exchange offices in the arrivals terminal, but they have only limited working hours. Be aware that the airport shops and kiosks are not very helpful when it comes to changing bills into coins. However, you can change notes into coins by "abusing" the coffee vending machine in the departure building. Insert a note and press cancel, it will return the amount in coins (thanks to a local police officer for this tip!).

Taxis are expensive (more than €30 for a 15-minute journey to the city centre) and even worse, taxi drivers do not respect the price you agreed with them in advance. Buses are cheaper - a single ticket to the city centre costs €0.70, and the bus takes 20 minutes to arrive.

Vienna International Airport / Wien Schwechat

Vienna International Airport (ICAO: LOWW, IATA: VIE) [9] is located ca. 40 km (25 miles) from Bratislava, near to the town of Schwechat in Austria, after which the airport is named. The airport is the home base of the flag-carrier Austrian [10] and the budget airline Fly Niki [11]. Most European airlines and a significant number of international airlines have direct connections to Vienna from their respective hubs. A quick summary of transport options:

Alternatives

Brno Airport has a very small albeit good selection of destination offerings. Budapest and Prague Airports are about a 4-5 hour journey but can mean substantial savings on intercontinental trips, especially to New York or Beijing.

By train

Most international trains stop at the main train station (Bratislava hlavná stanica) that has a good connections to buses. To get to the city centre, take bus 93 and get off at Hodžovo námestie or Zochova stops. Unfortunately, there is no tram connection starting from November 1, 2011 due to track damage. The other principal station is Bratislava-Petržalka, situated in a residential district, south of the river Danube. The station serves as a terminus for some of the trains from Vienna. Bus 80 (direction: Kollárovo námestie) departs from outside the station building or use the underground passageway in the station hall then hop on any of the buses that leave from the opposite side of the road. Buses 91 and 191 (direction: Nový most), 93 and 94 (direction: Hlavná stanica and Vazovova respectively) all go directly to city centre.

By bus

Coach lines connect Bratislava with all of Slovakia, a high number of Czech cities and a number of EU destinations, including London, Paris and daily buses also depart to Budapest. The most frequent international coach connection by far is Vienna though, with two lines running almost every hour from Vienna's Sudtirolerplatz near Sudbahnhof via Vienna International Airport: Blaguss [16] has tickets sold by the driver priced at €6, with stops in central Bratislava (beneath Nový most bridge) and Bratislava Airport. Slovak Lines [17] has buses that stop at the Coach Terminal and Bratislava Airport, for a cost of €7.70. The tickets can be purchased from the driver or booked online [18]). A trip from/to Vienna takes about 1.5 hours.

The Central Coach Terminal (Autobusová stanica) is at Mlynské nivy, at the eastern border of the city centre. To get to/from the main railway station (Hlavná stanica), take trolleybus No 210. If you need to get to/from the city centre, take trolleybus No 205 or 202 (the terminus is behind the Tesco department store at Kamenné námestie) or No 50, geting on/off at Šafárikovo námestie (close to the banks of the river Danube).

The bus terminal has a left-luggage office where you can store your bags for ca. €1 per item per day. There is also a bakery, a bar/canteen, a newspaper kiosk and several shops on the upper floor.

By boat

Regular tourist boat lines operate on the Danube from spring through fall on routes from Vienna and Budapest. You can find routes and schedules here [19].

Since June 2006 it is possible to get to Vienna using a high speed ferry boat [20] as well, yet the rates are higher compared to other means of transport. A one-way ticket from Vienna to Bratislava by Twin City Liner costs about €25-30 (whereas a return train ticket is less than €15). The Twin City Liner's boats travel at 60 kmph and the journey takes about 1 hour 15 minutes from Vienna to Bratislava and about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Bratislava to Vienna (almost as much as the train). Unlike the train though, which stops at stations distant from the center (about 2-3 km), the boat stops are in the very centres of both Vienna (Schwedenplatz) and Bratislava (Novy Most).

A good travel option is to continue down the Danube to Budapest by hydrofoil, a trip only moderately more expensive (roundtrip: € 27,00 , one way: € 17,00) than the train.

By kayak and canoe

Danube river is getting very popular for multi-day tours. Some people do their paddling all the way from Germany to Black sea (more than 2516 km), also known as TID. [21] Bratislava is well developed for paddling. There are several paddling clubs at "Karloveske rameno" with accommodation possible at Paddler Club [22] at river km 1872, near "Stary most" at r.km 1868. Free camping is possible along river shore; good places are around km. 1872 right, 1864-60 left.

By car

Bratislava lies on the border of two other countries and has a relatively good road system. The town can be accessed by motorways (i.e. limited access highway) from northern Slovakia and Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary as well as Austria. As a result, you can pass the town without having to leave the motorway at all. Together with countries like Austria and Czech Republic it's required to have a sticker on your windshield to drive on motorways. Stickers can be bought at any regular gas station - it's recommended to stop at the first gas station after crossing the border.

After entering the city, a parking information system is in place to lead you to the next free parking spot. In the center of town you either can use one of the paid underground garages or buy a parking card from vendors in yellow vests and try to find a free spot in the streets. The former is recommended on weekends as finding a parking place in the one-ways can turn into a real head breaking puzzle. If you do find a spot in the street and it's a weekday between 8AM and 4PM, a parking card may be necessary. You need them in the center of the city only, parking on the streets is free otherwise. You can purchase parking cards from vendors in yellow vests; they cost €0.70 and are valid for 60 minutes.

It may be a good idea to leave the car at the Aupark parking lot which also serves as a "Park and Walk" facility for tourists (note that the indoor parking facilities as well as parts of the outdoor parking lot are closed from 11PM to 6AM, the rest of the parking space is free to use 24/7). You can leave your car here and walk through the park and across the Danube to the city center, which is a 10 minute stroll, or just use public transportation. It is not recommended to leave the car in residential areas outside of the city center to avoid paid parking, as foreign cars may attract car thieves.

Renting a car is also an option, especially if you are visiting destinations outside of Bratislava. All major rental companies have a stall at the airport but most have a city office as well.

By Bike

Bratislava has nice surroundings for biking and an international bike route leads along Danube river (EuroVelo 6). The route from Austria via Bratislava down to Hungary is well marked but the town itself has not many biking routes and they are mostly ignored by car drivers. There are milions of ways though to bike in the Carpathian hills and along the rivers Danube and Morava. [23] Read some more in "Do" below.

Get around

Generally, Bratislava is a walking city. The center is very small and cosy and you can easily walk from one side to another in a few minutes. The city center is a pedestrian area but be aware of cyclists and occasional cars that use to drive rather quickly in between the walking people and outdoor cafes.

Public transportation

Nový most

If you need to travel outside of the center, use the trams or trolley buses if you need to get from one point to another quickly. Bratislava has a rather good public transportation system although a lot of the vehicles are quite old. Buses tend to be the slowest means of transportation. Stops normally don't need to be requested unless stated otherwise - request stops are marked "zastávka na znamenie" at the bus stop sign as well as on electronic information displays in most buses/trams. Bus doors are opened by the driver; tram and trolleybus doors usually have to be opened by yourself by pushing a green or yellow button at the doors.

A single-journey ticket costs €0.70. It's valid for 15 minutes and doesn't allow change - you need to stamp a new 15 min. ticket every time you change bus/tram. There is a transfer ticket available for €0.90 (valid for 60 minutes on weekdays and 90 minutes on weekends and holidays), which you can use for any number of travels within the specified time period. If you are staying for a holiday, consider buying one from a choice of longer term tickets valid for 1, 2, 3 and 7 days for €4.50, €8.30, €10 and €15 respectively.

You must validate your ticket in the validation machines on the bus/tram immediately after boarding (via any door). When it comes to proving that you have not exceeded the time stated on your ticket (e.g. 15 minutes on a 15-minute ticket), official schedule times are decisive - not actual travel times (do not give in to unfriendly ticket inspectors claiming the contrary). You can find out the scheduled travel times in the left-most column of the schedules, left of the stop name or via the internet (see below).

Bus and tram drivers in Bratislava do not sell tickets, therefore you need to obtain a ticket prior to entering a bus or a tram. There are ticket vending machines at most stops in the town. No bills or credit cards can be used at the machines (which can be quite frustrating if you need to buy a longer term ticket). If you purchased a return ticket in Vienna, it also serves as a pass for all public transportation and does not need to be validated.

Besides vending machines, tickets are also sold in many newsstands and - very conveniently for travelers arriving by train, late in the evening or at weekends - in railway stations at the ticket counters (ticket counter 16 at the main railway station). You can also purchase tickets for public transport in every tourist information bureau [24]. Try asking for the Bratislava City Card [25] which combines a 1 to 3-day ticket with various discounts and is available at information bureaus.

There are 3 main interchange points in the close city center where you can get a bus or tram to nearly anywhere else:

Main tram, bus and trolley lines operate from 4:30AM until approximately 11:30PM. If you need to travel by bus at night, go to the main railway station which is the main night line interchange point or use the bus stops at Presidential palace (Hodzovo namestie). All night lines have common departure times from the main railway station at 11:30PM and then every 60 minutes for every line and outbound direction until 3:30AM. Some lines have an extra outbound departure at midnight. You will need a night ticket for €1.40 in night lines. When traveling by night lines, please remember that every stop needs to be requested. Also note that especially around midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, the buses tend to be very crowded on some lines as young people return from clubs.

You can get all relevant information about public transportation in Bratislava (including schedules, maps and an online route planner) at imhd.sk [26]. Although this is not the site of the transportation company, it always contains official and up-to-date data.

If necessary, it is also possible to walk to Petrzalka station from the city (some 25 minutes). The path is clearly marked now but note that Petržalka is just a little more than the biggest block flats housing estate in Central Europe. Head for the bridge with the UFO-like looking tower atop it (Nový most). Once you reach the bridge, you will notice that there is a walkway running along the underside of it, for pedestrians. Once on the other side of the Danube river, follow the right hand-side of the bridge with a walkway made of red paving. This will lead you to the station. Alternatively, you can walk through Bratislava's equivalent of the Central Park called Sad Janka Kráľa and visit the Aupark Shopping Mall at the park. Once exiting Aupark on the other side, turn right and follow the street to get to the pavement mentioned above. The route is very safe during the day, but for typically western-looking tourists, it might be dangerous at night (although not more than in any other European "panelák" (see above) housing estate). Take a guide, if needed. If you want to walk from the station to the city, turn right outside of the station building and follow the path described above in reverse direction.

See

St. Martin's cathedral
Franciscan church, interior
Bratislava Castle
Historical building of the Slovak National Theater

Do

Take a stroll through the centre of the town. Bratislava has one of the smallest historical centers around but the charm is more concentrated. The streets have been completely renovated over the last ten years, bringing life back here. Since then a multitude of cafes, bars and restaurants of all kinds have opened here, accompanied by a few souvenir shops and fashion stores. On warm days almost every cafe has an outdoor seating section in the street, bustling with life and giving the city a unique cozy feeling.

When it comes to sightseeing, Bratislava castle generally is a must but the castle itself is closed for renovation until 2011 and though the view from the ramparts are nice, you could try visiting the Slavin memorial for some really astounding views of the city. It's a calm and romantic spot but beware, it can get really windy up there. The City Museum located in the Old Town Hall offers visitors climbing up the steep stairwells of the clock tower or seeing the town's historical dungeons, an exhibition that was quite outdated but still scary in 2008.

In summer, you can also visit Bratislava Zoo [33], providing a nice walk between the animal enclosures, the latest addition being some rare white tigers. The facilities of the zoo are slowly being renovated to attract more visitors and the zoo is a favourite for families on sunny days. You can also go to the Botanical Gardens of Comenius University (Botanická 3, take trams No 1, 4, 5, 9 or 12 to stop Botanická záhrada) for quiet and peaceful strolls in this green space.

For a relaxed afternoon in the park, head either to Sad Janka Kráľa park (on the right bank of the river Danube and next to Aupark shopping centre), the oldest public park in central Europe, relax at the embankments on both sides of the river or head to Horský park (Forest Park) north off Slavin memorial for a civilized stroll through the forest. There's a small café here as well as a pub, the latter mostly populated by students from the nearby campus. For a more outdoorsy experience, hop on bus No 203/213 to Koliba and walk up to Kamzík (takes about 30 minutes uphill) or try the newly renovated facilities of Partizánska lúka and Snežienka, all with extensive picknicking areas and loads of fireplaces for grilling. The area is several kilometers long and you can either walk here from the terminal station of bus No 212 (Vojenska nemocnica) or take a bus to Patronka and use bus No 43 driving up the area and back every 15-30 minutes (depending on time of day/year as well as weather). Only cars with a permit can enter the area but there is a parking lot at the entrance, close to a bus stop. Snezienka's grass fields and the top of Kamzik hill are connected with a chairlift, operating Thursdays through Sundays and on holidays, the price for one ride being approx. €3.

In December, be sure to indulge in the scents and flavours of the traditional Christmas Market in front of Old Town Hall and on the Hlavne namestie (main square). The market - compared to the ones in Prague and Vienna - is smaller, but has a much friendlier, almost family-like atmosphere and feels much more traditional and less overtly commercialized than others in the region. The people of Bratislava love to meet here for a drink and a bite to eat; try the 'varene vino' (mulled wine).



Culture

Bratislava is the home of the world famous Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra [34] so if you love classical music, you should consider attending one of the concerts in the historic Reduta building. For more cultural indulgence, the Slovak National Theatre [35] offers a wide selection on ballet, opera and theatre performances. Although most of the activities have been moved to a city-district-in-the-making on the banks of the Danube, some performances are still being held in the historical theatre building, which gives them a unique feeling but a higher price tag as well. The old theatre building is right in the middle of the city at Hviezdoslavovo namestie. The new theatre is accessible by bus No 88 from the Coach Terminal at Mlynske nivy (get off at Landererova) or by buses No 50, 70 and 78 (stop is called Wüstenrot). None of these stop directly at the theatre though, so you should count on a 5-10 minute walk from the bus stop to the theatre. You cannot miss the building as it is of unmistakably communist megalomaniac design covered in white marble. The entrance is facing the Danube so you need to walk around the building to get in. Note that the riverside is currently being developed and the whole area is one big - although very clean, hats off - construction site and will remain that way at least until end of 2009.

For museum-goers, Bratislava is the place to go, with some bigger and loads of small museums around town (see a listing here [36]). The most recommended ones are:

For a taste of visual arts, pay a visit to the National Gallery [45] at the embankment between Starý most and Nový most with permanent collections of Slovak and European medieval art pieces, although the temporary exhibitions tend to be far more interesting. Bratislava City Gallery [46] is also a good pick to see displays of historical fine arts, paintings and sculptures along with interesting temporary exhibitions. If you like modern art better, pay a visit to the Danubiana Art Museum [47] on the southern edge of Bratislava but be aware that it is too far for a stroll, with little to no public transport connections, and is best reached by car or taxi.

Every year in the weekend around April 24 Bratislava celebrates a festival called "Bratislava for All", giving locals and visitors alike the possibility to visit most of the facilities governed by the city for free or a reduced fee, this including most of the museums and galleries. In May, the city's museums and galleries keep their gates open to visitors until late at night, this being called the "Night of Museums and Galleries".

If sports are your thing, know that ice hockey is the national sport of Slovakia. The local hockey team, HC Slovan Bratislava, plays games frequently throughout each year beginning in September and concluding in the spring of the following year. Home games are played at Orange Arena (also known as Ondrej Nepela Arena), Odbojárov 9. Many Slovaks are passionate about both watching and playing ice hockey. The stadium can be reached easily by public transport.

Learn

Slovak is the official language of Slovakia and is the primary language used in Bratislava. It is related to Czech and the two languages are mutually intelligible to a certain extent, leading some foreigners to assume incorrectly that they are dialects of each other. Czech and Slovaks have historically been able to understand each other without the need of a translator, although young people in both countries have less exposure to each other's language nowadays and hence their understanding may no longer always be perfect. Russian is also understood quite well by the older generations, but few Slovaks will be pleased to be addressed in Russian. You will do better trying to speak English or German among the younger population, or in fact with almost anyone. However, learning to say some Slovak words (even if it's just a few phrases) will surely endear yourself to the locals. Try "Dobrý Deň (DOH-bree dyen)," literally "good day" which is the universal greeting. To ask for something say "Prosím si... (pro-seem see)" or to say Please, simply "Prosím" (pro-seem). Thank you is "Ďakujem" (DYA-koo-yem), or "Diki (dee-kee)" for short.

Work

Slovakia is a member of the European Union, therefore, any citizen of a European Union, European Economic Area country or Switzerland can work and live there without restrictions.

Buy

Tourists seeking duty-free goods should be warned to make their purchases before returning to the airport as duty-free goods available in the departure lounge are roughly double the cost of identical goods purchased in local supermarkets.

Eat

The Paparazzi statue

Bryndzové halušky (small, spaetzle-like dumplings with sheep's cheese and topped with pieces of meat) is the national dish of Slovakia and recommended to try. Potent garlic soup (but perhaps not on a date) and Slovak white wine (due to its cooler climate, Slovakia's reds pale in comparison with some of Europe's other offerings), schnitzels, goulashes and other typically Central European foods. Fresh vegetables are more common here thanks to the large amount of land given over to agriculture.

Drink and eat in one of the many restaurants in Old Town. Try Prašná Bašta [53] for tasty meals, Pizza Mizza [54] for the biggest pizza in town or Paparazzi [55] for classy (and expensive) Italian meals. Paparazzi's customers, appropriately enough, are under constant surveillance by a statue of a man equipped with a camera at the ready. San Marten is another restaurant with great food and excellent service at affordable prices. For good and reasonably priced halušky, the unique Slovak national meal, visit the 1st Slovak Pub [56] on Obchodna. There are a large number of restaurants in the center of Bratislava in all price ranges so there are plenty to choose from.

Interestingly, it is rather hard to find a Slovak restaurant among all the Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian and other eateries, so if you are looking for a real Slovak meal, head either to the Slovak Pub or the fancy and expensive Slovak Restaurant in Hviezdoslavovo square [57], the former being the better pick in terms of pricing and atmosphere, the latter in terms of food. A very new addition is the Pressburg restaurant in Michalska street [58], completing the Slovak trio with prices in the mid-range or slightly above.

Of course, junk food can be found in Bratislava, too. Try Bratislava's special form of junk food - a richman which is a big bread roll filled with cabbage and cheese and/or meat with mayonnaise. Richman stands can be found on Kamenné námestie, in front of the Tesco building, and in Safarikovo square. You can also try a sub sandwich from one of the many cafeterias in the city, a good one is found in Šafárikovo namestie. Another excellent cafeteria is on Zelená Ulica between Ventúrska Ulica and Hlavné námestie. A big sandwich, a bageta (from the French baguette) with cheese, ham and eggs would cost you about €1.50.

Another specialty in Bratislava (but also available in other regions of Slovakia) is treska. It is a cold salad made of Codfish with mayonnaise. There are vegetables like onions and carrots in the salad too. It has a very distinct taste, somewhere between sour and bitter - you should try it! You can buy it fresh in most "Lahôdky" shops, which means something like "delicacies", but generally stands for old-fashioned fast food shops - they sell salads, soups, etc instead of hamburgers or French fries. Treska tastes very good with rolls. If you like the taste of Treska, you can also buy it packed to take home.

If you're low on cash and want to self-cater, there's a huge Tesco supermarket on Kamenné námestie (at the junction of Štúrova and Špitálska) directly in the city. You could easily have lunch consisting of a couple of bread rolls, ham, cheese, fruit and maybe a cake or two, for three or four Euros. New American-type shopping malls with big cinemas and of course food courts within reach of the center are Aupark on the right bank of the Danube (next to Sad Janka Kráľa park, some 10 minutes from St. Martins's Cathedral) and Polus City Center on Vajnorská Street to the north of the city (some 10-15 minutes from the city by tram).

You can get a nice view and can meet some local celebrities at the übercool and very expensive UFO restaurant and disco [59] on top of Nový most bridge.

In December, don't miss the Christmas market in front of the Old Town Hall. The traditional foods of the Christmas market are roasted pork or chicken sandwich burgers ("ciganska pecienka") with mustard and onions, potato pancakes ("loksa") with various fillings ranging traditionally from plain ones with goose fat, with garlic or goose liver to poppy seed, nut or chocolate. Bread with pork fat and onions is also popular. Also there are a few stands which offer specialities from other european countries. You can wash down the food with a cup of red or white mulled wine or a small cup of honey wine, also tea with or without rum is available, as well as grog or other "hot mixed drinks" like the Červený medveď (red bear).

Drink

Bars

Try Kofola, a Slovak & Czech soft drink with a similar colour to Coca Cola, but lower in sugar and caffeine (and carbonation). Some places serve "draft Kofola" which indeed is draft from a barrel in a way similar to beer (until recently it was actually co-produced by a Bratislava brewery). Some Slovaks say draft Kofola is even better than the bottled version and that it is best enjoyed outside in the sun, for example after a hike or a bike or rollerblade ride. Kofola is a popular alternative to beer if you want to hang out but don't want to drink alcohol. Vinea is another genuine Slovak soft drink made from grapes, offered both in "white" (green grapes) and "red" varieties (red grapes) and even in a rather sweet and maybe not-so-tasty "soft" version without carbon dioxide.

There are quite a few Slovak beer brands, e.g. Zlatý Bažant, Šariš, Smädný Mních and Topvar. Stein beer is a local Bratislava variety which until very recently was brewed practically in the city centre. There are three micro-breweries offering beer in Bratislava, Mestiansky Pivovar, Richtar Jakub and Patronka.

If spirits are more your thing, perhaps you will enjoy Slivovica, a fruit-plums brandy of high quality that is associated with Slovakia.

The best pubs offering Slovak beers can be found in the Old Town: Kristian in Michalska street, Bar Parada in Hviezdoslavovo square, or AeroPressoDepresso in Venturska street. All of them are quite cheap (about 1 EUR per half-liter glass of beer).

Clubs

Larger clubs in Bratislava include Loft[60], KC Dunaj[61], Duplex[62] and SubClub[63], the latter a former nuclear bunker located under Bratislava Castle. There are many smaller bars with dancefloors closer to the centre, such as Radost[64] on Obchodná street, next to the Slovak Pub.

Gay/Lesbian

Although some cafes are considered gay inclusive, there are at least two bars dedicated to the gay and lesbian crowd in Bratislava, all of them in the city center, close to the Presidential Palace:

Sleep

Accommodation prices usually do not include city tax. For the year 2009 the city tax is €1.65/person/night. Students up to age 26 and youths up to 18 do not need to pay city tax.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Contact

Telephone

When making international calls, you need to dial 00, then the country code of the country you are calling. The international code of Bratislava is +421 2, the national one is 02. You don't need to use any of these when making local calls. There mostly are cardphones in phone booths, coin phones are located e.g. in front of the telecoms office (T-Centrum) on Namestie SNP (Dunaj department store) or at Kolarska ulica. You can purchase phone cards at most newspaper kiosks and in any of the T-Centers.

Phone numbers beginning with 090, 091 or 094 are mostly mobile numbers. All of Bratislava is covered with a GSM network, the operators being Orange[93], T-Mobile[94] and O2[95]. In parts of Bratislava (mostly up on the hills), mobile phones sometimes switch to Hungarian or Austrian providers, so it is better to check the network name before dialing. For best mobile roaming rates, check [96].

Internet

You can use internet for free at the information bureau in the old town.

There are several internet cafes in the city, most of them hidden. You can try to get to one of the internet access portals in the T-Centrum on Namestie SNP or in Aupark Shopping Center.

If you have a notebook computer, you can use multiple wireless hotspots throughout the city. Some of them are paid and you need to obtain a user name and password [97] in order to use them. Some hotels, cafes and restaurants provide free Wi-Fi to their customers. Besides that, the heart of the city center (Hlavné námestie, Františkánske námestie, Primaciálne námestie) is covered by a small public wireless network provided by the city council and this is free to use. There are also other places with free Wi-Fi throughout the city. A full list of these can be found on the website of the Slovak Telecoms Office [98].

Stay safe

Bratislava is generally very safe by European and American standards, safer: it is quite small and the crime rate is low. There is a significant police presence in the city, especially the historical parts, and it is generally not a problem to walk through the city at night. However, walking alone after dark, like anywhere else in the world, is not recommended.

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WikiPedia:Bratislava

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