13 Dec 48 Hours Exploring Bratislava in December
When we planned a couple of days in Bratislava, Slovakia, last December during our European Christmas Market explorations, I had no idea how much we would both fall in love with the city. Our short visit of just 48 hours was packed with festive Christmas Market strolls, a stop at the castle, clock towers and statues in old town, cute cafes, cozy pubs, and even a speakeasy.
We were all about relaxing and soaking up the Old Town atmosphere on this trip, so we spent our two days in the city lazily strolling around town and finding delicious food to fill our bellies. And after a very busy and hectic year, relaxation was just what we needed. Here’s how we spent a chill 48 hours exploring Bratislava in December:
The Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel Bratislava is located right in the heart of the cities historical quarter, and lucky for us, we had enough Club Carlson reward points to enjoy a free two-night stay at the hotel. It was a gorgeous property and our room sat overlooking Hviezdoslav Square which was right out the hotel’s front door.
The square is home to one of the larger holiday markets in Bratislava and we loved peeking out our window to watch all of the action after we were in for the night. We loved how convenient the location of the Radisson Blu was—it was in the heart of the action, and basically everything we did during our stay was a short walk away from the hotel. You really can’t get better than that!
Exploring the Old Town and Bratislava’s Famous Statues
We spent many hours just wandering the streets of the historic quarter of Bratislava. From the Christmas Markets to the quirky statues to the charming architecture, there was always something interesting to catch our eyes. I loved the small alleys that twisted their way through the historic quarter, especially with the streets lit up and festive for the holidays.
There are several famous statues located throughout Bratislava, so we couldn’t resist looking for a few of them. We spotted “The Watcher”, which is a worker hanging out in a manhole, “Schone Naci”, which is a silver statue portraying the man Ignac Lamar, and “Napoleon Soldier”, which is a statue of a soldier leaning on a bench. Each statue has a legend to go along with it and there are several others hiding around town. They are fun to seek out when going for a relaxing stroll around town!
The Christmas Markets in Bratislava were some of our favorites from the entire trip. We visited the Hviezdoslav’s square (the market that was right outside of our hotel), Old Town Hall’s court, and the market that spans both Frantiskanske square and the Main square.
While the markets all had handmade crafts and lots of beeswax products available for sale, the main focus of the markets seemed to be food and drinks. So, of course, we had to sample plenty of the treats that we found. We tried a Ciganska Pecienka, which is basically a chicken (or pork) sandwich with mustard and onion, a Bratislava roll, lokše (potato pancakes) with Nutella, a Trdelnik (chimney cake), Medovina, a honey wine, and Punc, which is a fruit punch with actual fruit pieces in it.
Our favorite was the market at the Main square—we were able to see the views of this market from above when we went up the tower at the Old Town Hall. Afterwards, we caught a gospel choir concert while we were sampling some of the delicious treats mentioned above. Even though it was chilly outside, the festivities sure left us feeling warm!
Besides eating all the treats at the Christmas Markets, we also made it to four different restaurants. There were so many great sounding restaurants in Bratislava, so it was hard to narrow down our choices, but we ended up loving all of the spots we visited. Two of the restaurants were more trendy cafes while the other two were pub style and served traditional fare.
On our first night in town, we wanted to try some traditional Slovakian fare, so we made our way to the Slovak Pub. The restaurant is located on the second floor of a building and there are several rooms filled with tables. We sat in the first room right next to a window overlooking the streets below. Our table was cozy and the bench was lined with throw pillows to keep us warm and toasty.
I ordered the beef goulash with homemade bread dumpling, and Micah ordered the chicken schnitzel stuffed with ham and cheese. Both entrees were great and it was a delicious way to kick off our visit to Bratislava.
The next morning, we had breakfast at a cute café called the Urban House. The café serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, pies, and desserts, as well as coffee, beer, wine and cocktails.
I ordered the poached egg on avocado toast, and Micah decided on the English breakfast. We also got a pot of drip coffee for two—it was nice to find delicious drip coffee in Europe—something we always seem to have a hard time finding there!
Bratislava Flagship Restaurant:
We decided to go for a traditional dinner again our second night in town, so we made our way to the Bratislava Flagship Restaurant. The restaurant is located inside of a beautiful building and we dined on the first floor of the main room. There are many large tables throughout the restaurant but somehow it still maintained a cozy feel. This time around, I tried the cauldron goulash with bread and Micah stuck to ordering the chicken breast schnitzel. We almost decided to spring for dessert here too, but we ended up heading back to the Christmas Markets for a sweet treat before calling it a night.
For breakfast on our last morning in Bratislava, we went to the Urban Bistro, which is the sister café of the Urban House that we visited the previous morning. It also serves as the entrance to the speakeasy mentioned below! This café was just as cute as the other location, but quite a bit smaller in size.
I tried the eggs benedict and Micah had the pancakes with berries on top. I also couldn’t resist ordering one of the specialty teas on offer, so I ordered a glass of the jasmine passionfruit iced tea. Yum!
Located up an unmarked stairway inside of a bistro, you will find a wicker armoire next to the toilets. If you dare open the closet and make your way inside, you will enter a swank speakeasy reminiscent of a 1920’s prohibition bar. Grab a table in the dimly lit bar and peruse the seasonal cocktail menu for a range of innovative flavors and combinations.
Michalska Cocktail Room is located inside of the Urban Bistro right in the heart of Bratislava’s historic quarter. Reservations are possible prior to 7:30 p.m., or you can just show up early like we did and for a chance at an open table. We visited at around 6:00 p.m. on a weeknight and practically had the place to ourselves when we arrived, but it was starting to fill up by the time we left. I ordered a drink called “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” which was delicious and made up of Genever, Aperol, Verjus, Prosecco, Rhubarb and Rosehip Espuma. A stop at the cocktail room was a great way to warm up before heading out to the Christmas Markets for the evening.
Our visit to the Bratislava Castle didn’t actually see us going inside for a look around, but we did explore the grounds around the castle. We walked around the castle, through the gardens, and took in the views of the city from a fantastic vantage point. If you want to venture inside of the castle, you will find collections of the Slovak National Museum.
Old Town Hall and Tower
I love getting views of a city from up high, so observation decks are always on our itinerary if at all possible. We didn’t go to Bratislava’s UFO Tower on this visit, but we did manage to visit the Old Town Hall and climb the tower. We made it inside the museum just in the nick of time—the tower closes at 5:00 p.m. during the week. Thankfully, we arrived at 4:00 p.m., so we were able to climb to the top before they closed for the evening. The Museum of City History is located inside the tower, but unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to look around. Once we made it to the top of the tower, we got to see the sunset and the markets all lit up and pretty below us!
While there are still plenty of things I’d like to see and do in and around Bratislava, this short visit was a wonderful way to introduce us to the beautiful country of Slovakia. We had a great time exploring Bratislava in December and hope to return again someday in the summer to see even more!