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Bratislava - Eating and sleeping
Slovak cuisine is a mélange of central European influences, taking a bit of everything from its neighbours: goulash from the Magyars, strudels from the Austrians, and home-kneaded dumplings from the Germans. Slovak chefs are expertly trained in the meat, potato and cabbage school of cooking; however, it’s easy to find something lighter in the many restaurants with international menus, offering cuisine from Italy to India, France to Vietnam. Many traditional Slovak restaurants also now offer lighter versions of the sturdy, traditional dishes. Slovak cuisine is not as stodgy and bland as that in the Czech Republic and due to the culinary influence of southern neighbours, it has a perkier, spicier tang. A hundred years ago, most Slovaks lived on and from the land and robust peasant cooking still dominates the national psyche. This is the land of cabbage, caraway seeds, cheese, wheat flour, potatoes and endless variations on the theme of pork. However, after a day cycling along the Small Carpathian Wine Route or visiting castle ruins, such hearty fare can be just the thing.
After 1,000 years under Hungarian domination and 40 years of communism, Slovakia’s restaurant culture remains in its infancy, although in Bratislava they have caught on quickly with new, exciting restaurants opening every month.
Bratislava Old Town is a wall-to-wall eat-out city with cafés, bars, cocktail venues, restaurants, self-service canteens, stand-up buff et stalls – you’re totally spoilt. Slovak, international, Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese – there’s a great choice and it’s doubtful that you’ll need to book (apart from at the ‘flavour of the month’), as if your intended eaterie is full, just totter two yards along the pavement and you’ll find another option.
A few interesting restaurants are dotted about in the tightly packed district beneath the Castle; others outside the Old Town walls are more spread out. Restaurants line up on one side of leafy Hviezdoslavovo námestie, and there has been a resurgence of café and bistro life in the up-and-coming district surrounding the Little Blue Church. Along the streets; Dunajská and Grösslingová, heading east towards the main bus station, you will be spoilt for choice. Basically, all restaurants, with the exception of Altitude on top of Kamzík Hill are within walking distance. A trio of restaurants is located south of the river in Sad Janka Kráľa park, and walking back to your hotel across Most SNP on a fragrant spring evening is a lovely way to round off the day.
For a relatively small city, Bratislava has more than its fair share of hotels competing for tourists, business visitors and local travellers. This makes for a healthy atmosphere with each hotel, pension and hostel trying to outdo the others in terms of facilities, prices and bathroom freebies. There is still a wide variety of accommodation, however, giving the visitor a good choice when considering location, amenities, even theme, as with the gimmickyyet- fun Film Hotel.
There are some excellent four-star hotels in Bratislava and the city now has several five-star hotels: the Arcadia in the Old Town; the Grand Hotel River Park, part of a luxury retail, apartment and entertainment complex hanging right over the Danube west of town; and the Sheraton adorning the Eurovea luxury complex by the Apollo Bridge. Hotel Albrecht is a new five-star boutique hotel in an elegant manor house located in the hills above the castle.
As far as the other four-star hotels are concerned, there is something to suit all tastes, with a range of facilities, styles and locations. Some of the established, more traditional top-class hotels are situated on the banks of the Danube, with a view of the river. Some smaller, yet no less chi-chi, guesthouses are found in the hilly residential area north of the city’s Old Town heart.
At the other end of the price spectrum, Bratislava has a relatively good choice of budget pensions and hostels, as well as AirBnB private apartments that are really taking off. You may also come across the garni hotel, a term oft en used in central Europe for a hotel with no restaurant, but which offers breakfast. The hotels situated towards the airport in sprawling housing districts such as Ružinov tend to cater for business travellers, and have a good range of services such as high-speed internet connections and fitness centres; however, they offer bargain rates at weekends for the leisure traveller and are popular with young families on a tighter budget.