One of the most beautiful periods of the year in Bratislava is definitely during the last weeks of the year, when people celebrate the scents of Christmas on the street markets. Yes, we are talking about the traditional Christmas markets. They are so popular among locals and tourists that the city is probably never so constantly packed like it is from the end of November (23.11.2018) until the third week of December (22.12.2018). Some markets happen just over a weekend and others last for weeks. Which parts of Bratislava should you visit to see the best of our Christmas markets? What street specialties should you try to experience the real Bratislava? Read on to find out :)
Note: Christmas markets at Hviezdoslav’s Square started already on 16.11.2018.
HLAVNE NAMESTIE (MAIN SQUARE) + FRANTISKANSKE SQ.
Our Main square is without doubt our most favorite spot where you can enjoy the atmosphere of our Christmas markets. It is partially because of its size – the square is not the largest and with all the stands built around, and all the people coming there, it gets packed very easily. And people are those who really create the atmosphere :) We also think this is the most beautiful part to watch – especially when you climb up to the tower of our Old Town Hall – this is the view you get from there:
The Old Town Hall is open daily except Mondays from 10am until 5pm during the week days, and from 11am until 6pm during the weekends. The last entrance is 30 min prior to closing. Part of the Main square is another square, Frantiskanske square, with some more stands to stop by:
If you want to hide from the cold and still enjoy the sight on the markets, visit Schokocafe Maximilian which is directly at the Main square. It has two floors and if you are lucky to sit by the window, you get to enjoy this:
Just remember not to order hot chocolate there – it’s everything but tasty. Have a coffee or a cup of warm tea. Or some of their chocolate truffles :)
OLD TOWN HALL’S COURT
Once you are at the Main square, make sure you have a look at Old Town Hall’s court as well. It is actually the court of the Museum of City History as well (the Town Hall is part of this museum). In those stands you can buy Slovak craft products or have some mulled wine. There are usually no food stands but for example you can also admire some real sheep – a nice attraction for kids :)
Hviezdoslav’s square is only a few meters walk from the Main square. It is bigger and logically has more stands where you can buy food or some nice souvenirs. The markets begin right in front of our national theater, and are spread along the majority of the square. They are starting as of 16.11.2018.
There is usually an ice rink which is very popular not only for kids. You will often see people standing around the rink just watching those who dare to walk on the ice, while enjoying some food or hot beverages.
Again, at night, everything gets more magical. The lit buildings, the music, the noise of people, the laughter of children or greetings of the street sellers convincing you to try their specialty.
Check the rich cultural program planned for Hviezdoslav’s square here.
THE CITY WALLS
Since the medieval city walls were opened, there is often something organized and you can find street sellers there, too. Besides the food and souvenirs, various concerts and performances are held there as well. You can find the city walls near the St. Martin’s Cathedral, a few meters walk from our UFO bridge. Sometimes you can find Christmas markets here, too (we’ll update this when there’s more official info published by the city).
If you plan to do some pre-Christmas shopping in Eurovea, one of our most popular shopping malls near Danube embankment, spend a few minutes at its square and have a look at its small markets. There are only a few stands but the Christmas decoration is really nice and worth of taking a picture of or with.
MARKETS UNDER THE PYRAMID
Pyramid is the nickname of our main radio building (on Mytna street 1) which looks like a reverse pyramid. The Christmas Markets here usually start at the beginning of December. Visitors can look forward to music concerts from various music genres. Check their events page for details of the program.
MARKETS ON MILETICOVA STREET
Mileticova street is a famous market place that organizes regular open markets through the year. During the pre-Christmas time, you will be able to enjoy traditional as well as non-traditional Christmas goodies here, purchase various decorations and savor excellent bands and artists. The markets on Mileticova street usually start a little later, in the first week of December.
MARKETS AT THE CASTLE
For the first time in 2016, the Christmas markets were held at our castle as well. We are waiting for the official dates to be confirmed for the 2018 season.
CHRISTMAS DAYS IN INCHEBA
Dozens of tips for traditional and original Christmas surprises, Christmas atmosphere full of scent of mulled wine and Christmas specialties and a fantastic pre-Christmas program both for children and adults on top of that – this all is brought to you by the Christmas Days in Incheba (30.11. – 29.12.2018) . In Incheba, during the pre-Christmas period, visitors can not only buy Christmas decorations but also toys, books, cosmetics, jewels and costume jewellery, clothes, electronics, accessories for interior and much more interesting odds and ends and Christmas gifts for you dearest ones. Interesting weekend pre-Christmas activities will make sure about fun and relax during the very exhausting pre-Christmas period.
WHAT TO HAVE AT THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS?
OK so now you know which are the best Christmas market places to visit. But what to try and what to buy? What are the most traditional meals you should not miss? Get your pen ready and start putting these things on your list:
LOKŠE. Translation: potato pancakes. They come in both sweet and salty version. Our favorite ones are lokše filled with cabbage & sausage, or with „bryndza“ (our special Slovak cheese). You can of course have chocolate, Nutella, nuts and other delicious fillings as well.
CIGÁNSKA PEČIENKA. Translation: even though the literal translation is „gypsy roast,“ it in fact stands for a roll filled with chicken or pork meat, mustard and onion (ideally grilled). One of the most popular things to get at our Christmas markets.
KLOBÁSA. Translation: sausage. Basically any grilled sausage you get to see. It is served with a sauce, usually mustard, and bread. And onion as well if you wish.
CHLEBA S MASŤOU A CIBUĽOU. Translation: bread with fat and onion. We must confess we don’t really like the idea of eating fat with raw onion but most of the people swear it is one of the most delicious things to have. Well, we guess you need to try to see if it’s something for you :) You can also buy Slovak cheeses at the markets, the term to remember here is KORBÁČIK – that is the one looking like a small whip.
Besides the sweet pancakes, we recommend to try STRUDELS as well. Nut & cherry, cream cheese & cherry or amarelle, poppy-seed & apple – these are the most common variations of them. When it comes to beverages, you need to try our fruit spirits (this is also what you can see on the picture below). Each color of the cup represents a different fruit and flavour, it is up to you which one to pick – all of them will warm you up the same way :) The spirits are often called „DOMÁCA“ – which means something home-made.
Our favorite sweet thing to have at any food market is TRDELNÍK. It is a sweet pastry prepared in a special way and comes in a cinnamon, cocoa, vanilla or nut flavor. It is quite big so make sure you are hungry enough or have a peer to split it with.
From the many sweet treats available at the markets, another traditional one is MEDOVNÍK – something like a ginger bread with a typical honey & caramel taste. They are always decorated with ornaments, inscriptions or pictures, and are baked as hearts, bells, different characters, animals, Christmas trees or other shapes – depending on the actual season.
OBLÁTKY. Translation: wafers. Their plain version is usually eaten with honey before each Christmas dinner because they are a symbol of peace and joy. The wafers that you can find at the markets however mostly come with some type of a sweet filling – nuts, chocolate, almonds etc.
We already mentioned the fruit spirits, there are some other drinks you should also put on your list though. One of them is MEDOVINA (metheglin). It is a traditional alcoholic drink of fermented honey and water. The other one is VČELOVINA – a type of medovina which is fermented at lower temperatures and has a stronger taste of honey. Both these drinks are very sweet so pay attention to how many cups you can manage before losing the ability to talk… or walk :)
PUNČ (punch) is a slightly less sweet drink – and you can have it with or without alcohol. It is served with fruit or fruit juice and spices. Last but not least, there is the VARENÉ VÍNO (mulled wine) which is the „symbol“ of our Christmas markets. White or red, either way its characteristic is cinnamon and star anise, and it is also usually served with different kinds of fruit.
If you want to be sure that you are having a really good mulled wine or punch, try a stand “U VINÁRA” at the Main Square with a 10 year long tradition. Their staff is super smiling and offers tasty drinks, including their special – medovina with something stronger in it (a secret recipe, so we don’t know more:D)
In addition to all the food and drinks, Christmas markets are a great resource of presents and souvenirs as well. From jewelry to magnets, toys, hats, bags and ceramics, you will be able to do some proper shopping for sure :)
If you want to see what the atmosphere is like at the Christmas markets in Bratislava, watch this video by Gavin Shoebridge where he leads you through the streets of our capital, talks to people and reveals why the markets are so special :)
The Christmas markets in 2018 will last from 23th November till 22nd December.
Official program published by the city.
Author: Maria Kecsoova