Bratislava is cheeky, cheerful, and super serious about all things ice cream.
This hard to describe, impossible to capture alive-ness is what I covet when I travel. I LOVE it when I discover a place that is decidedly ALIVE. Of course, I want to see the beauty and possibility in every location I visit and I always go in with a neutral set of expectations but there's nothing like the thrill of a destination that unexpectedly just blows you away. And that was Bratislava. I have never experienced a city more alive, more pulsating, filled with more joie de vivre than Bratislava.
It all started with a line, a long line filled with locals, tourists, families, young, old, and everything in between. A line so thick that we couldn't really see what everyone was lined up for. Was it ice cream or a cafe? Maybe a bakery or a take out window? No matter, I knew what to do.
I once faced a similar situation in Honolulu where I joined a crowd a locals determinedly queuing outside an unmarked white van. Persistence paid off and I was rewarded with my first taste of malasadas. I took one look at the line and the crowd in Bratislava and I knew these were my people, this was my tribe, and - most importantly - that this was my line.
When I finally emerged at the front, I confidently requested my choices - lavender and fig-ricotta. But Ryan's request somehow got muddled and he received the most elaborate, ridiculous, over the top ice cream we have ever seen. (It didn't help that he kept saying "yes" to every question the staff asked him). There was a homemade baked cone, chocolate, coconut, whipped cream, three kinds of fruit, sprinkles, nuts, cookies, chocolate syrup, a whole lot of ice cream - plus a jaunty paper umbrella! To his credit, Ryan made it through most of the cone.
These three were my favourite but represented just the tip of the iceberg of Bratislava's public art. Tiny dragons, an homage to Hans Christian Anderson, colorful puppet people, and a tiny 'monkey-boy' (plus a few more) rounded out our jovial tour.
- This list of the best ice cream and gelato in the city is a must read for anyone going to Bratislava.
- Two places that were on my list that I didn't get to try: Gourmet hot chocolate atCukraren na Korze and gourmet lemonade at Urban House. Try them on my behalf!
- We got a sneaky good deal at our hotel of choice, Skaritz (see below). You can bargain hunt and read more reviews of the property on Trip Advisor, Expedia, and Hotels Combined.
Heading to Eastern Europe? You'll love these recent blog posts:
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But wait! There's more to Bratislava than ice cream...
Prasna Basta - We loved the charming courtyard and its prime location in the old city. Ryan was thrilled with his wiener schnitzel and salad and we both loved how the wait staff intervened and asked us if we wanted made-in-Slovakia soft drinks. I ordered the soft potato gnocchi with a sheep's cheese sauce and bacon (almost like a Slovak carbonara, a dish that everyone in Berlin and Prague swooned about). I quickly realized it was NOT for me, though it was fresh and well prepared. Still, I'm glad I tried it.
Cafe Verne - A fantastic spot for dinner, and not just because of its proximity to the ice cream shop! We started with a tomato salad and Ryan chose his favourite - the goulash, of course - while I had a goulash inspired dish with chicken in a creamy paprika sauce. No-fuss food at excellent prices.
We secured a great deal (about $120 Canadian) for this luxurious hotel by reserving well in advance. As we approached our visit, prices dropped, we cancelled our reservation and, for the same price point, booked a package that included breakfast. Breakfast was good - not great - so we were very happy we got it for "free".
We were provided with a complimentary Bratislava Card. As always, all research, writing, and opinions are our own.