Located in the heart of Central Europe, Bratislava, Slovakia, is a charming medieval town on the Danube River that shouldnt be missed. Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993; both joined the European Union in 2004, and soon after, Slovakias tourism boom began. Bratislava has even been compared to Dubrovnik, Croatias much better-known resort town. Yet, while the cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, main square, and pedestrian-only areas of Bratislavas Old Town echo those of seaside Dubrovnik, Bratislava has a character all its own. I suggest a two-day visit to get a taste of the citys unique offerings. I spent time there bookended by a pair of four-day visits to Vienna and Budapest.
Dont expect to find a party scene here. The city is mostly quiet in the evenings. People eat in outdoor restaurants, drink beer in a smattering of small pubs, or enjoy the opera at the magnificent Slovak National Theatre, which will stage Mozarts Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) and Verdis La Traviata this fall.
The restaurant scene surprised me in two ways. First, Old Town has few traditional Slovak restaurants; most places offer international cuisine. For local dishes like Wiener schnitzel try Presburg. The second unexpected twist: Restaurants are a bit pricey. Having said that, Camouflage, in the Erdödy Palace, is on par with any luxury New York City dining spot. Splurge on a meal at Kogo, which serves excellent Italian food.
In general, Bratislava is less expensive than Prague or Vienna, and upscale hotel rooms are available at reasonable prices. A smart splurge is staying at Arcadia (from $199/night), a small boutique hotel in Old Town. If its booked (when I visited, Enrique Iglesias and his crew had taken it over during a concert tour) try the Skaritz Hotel & Residence (from $236/night). I found the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel (from $168/night), a large luxury hotel, less appealing. Next spring, the much-anticipated Kempinski Hotel River Park will open and overlook the Danube.
All in all, Bratislava is a great spot for a two-night stay, ideally combined with Vienna, Budapest, or Prague. And dont leave town without trying slivovica, the local plum brandy. But watch outit is quite potent.