Once again, Christmas—the most wonderful time of the year—is upon us; and Bratislava just burst into life with festive crooners singing jovially of snow, sleigh-bells and chestnuts roasting on open fires. Ridiculously cute wooden cabins have sprung up around Historic Market Squares, and glittering fairy-lights brighten the dark December skies. Yes, the Bratislava Christmas Markets are here again.
Bratislava, a small capital city, is not most people’s first choice, and maybe it’s true that the Bratislava Christmas Markets can’t compete with more flashy cities, like Munich, Brussels, or Prague. Not to see them, however, would be to miss out.
Bratislava Christmas Markets are Smaller and less well-known than other markets
Bigger is not always better. Bratislava’s diminutive stature is an advantage for the Christmas markets: it’s busy enough to feel suitably festive, but without the large crowds that the more significant city markets attract. Less time queueing means more time drinking!
Fewer trinkets – more booze
Let’s face it, the festive items on sale at most Christmas markets sure are pretty, but they are grossly overpriced and can look a bit weird once you get them home.
So, forget those. Bratislava’s markets focus on what people really want: booze. You may have heard of mulled wine, glühwein, glögg, or grog – it’s called many things, but here in Slovakia, it’s called punč.
Wide range of flavours
Not only is Slovak punč cheap, but it comes in many flavours: orange, strawberry, jasmine & lemon, black cherry, mate & mint… you can have it with Amaretto, Jägermeister, rum, and even Absinthe… the list goes on. Word of warning: just because you can have something doesn’t always mean you should – or, at least, don’t have any plans the next morning!
Over the border in Austria, you’ll be paying at least €4.50 a glühwein, but in Bratislava, you can get it for as little as €1. If you pay more than €3, then you’re getting some pretty strong spirits with it.
Most people are unfamiliar with Slovak cooking, so the food on offer is unique. You can try zemiakové placky: delicious potato pancakes fried in goose fat and topped with bacon, cheese and cream; klobása: a large grilled sausage; or cigánske pesničky: a ‘Slovak chicken burger’. As Bratislava sits close to the Hungarian border, you can also find Lángos: oversized fried bread rounds loaded with garlic and cheese. As with all the best things in life, it’s best not to think about calories.
Bratislava and Vienna are the two closest capital cities in the world, with Vienna airport only 45 minutes away from Bratislava. Moreover, Bratislava has its own airport, which means that you can easily reach Bratislava from the rest of Europe.
Easy to combine a trip to the Bratislava Christmas Markets with other European Cities
Vienna is an hour from Bratislava, Budapest is just over two hours, and Prague is only four hours away. Public transport between these cities is cheap and efficient. There are also markets in other towns and cities less than an hour away, such as Schloss hof (Austria) Brno (Czechia) and Györ (Hungary). It would be effortless—not to mention hugely enjoyable—to combine a visit to the Bratislava Christmas Markets with other Christmas markets in the region.
How to Get to The Bratislava Christmas Markets
From Vienna Airport:
Most major European airlines fly to Vienna Schwechat airport. Then take a Regiojet, Slovak Lines or Flixbus from right outside the airport direct to Bratislava city centre (45 minutes, €5-8).
You can also pre-order a taxi for as little as €45 online. Just don’t arrange one once you arrive at the airport as this will set you back more than €100.
From Bratislava Airport:
Wizzair and Ryanair fly from many European cities directly to Letisko M. R. Štefánika (Bratislava airport).
You can take a local bus from outside the airport. You will need a ticket which is valid for 30 minutes (€0.90). This will take you to the train station, Hlavná Stanica, where you can either change to a bus into the town centre, or walk (20 minutes)
Uber operates in Bratislava and will cost around €8-10 to reach the town centre. There are taxis outside the airport, but they are likely to charge €20 or more.
What are you waiting for?