What to do in Bratislava in Winter

Old Town Bratislava in January
Central Europe has a reputation for having snowy and bone-chilling winters so you may be raising an eyebrow when I say that this post is about our trip to Bratislava in January. Is Bratislava worth visiting in winter? Yes! Visit Bratislava in winter and enjoy the old town free from crowds. Find a quiet spot in a Bratislava beer bar. Winter is the perfect season to enjoy Slovakian comfort food. Read on to learn about all the things to do in Bratislava in winter.

Summary of What to Do in Bratislava in Winter

Let me start by summarizing my picks of things to do in Bratislava in winter. We visited in January when the Bratislava Christmas market groups had cleared out leaving us with a much more locals-focused experience.
  1. Eat cheese from a vending machine
  2. Take a brisk walk in Bratislava's presidential garden
  3. Enjoy beer and hearty Slovak cuisine
  4. Try Bratislava's hipster coffee
  5. Search for men at work
  6. Explore picturesque Old Town Bratislava (and have it all to yourself) 
  7. Look for UFOs
  8. Sample Slovak wines
  9. Play in the snow
  10. Visit St. Martin's church
  11. Seek out the blue church
  12. Check out an ice hockey match
  13. Look for upside-down pyramids

Eat Cheese from a Vending Machine

Vending machine cheese in Bratislava in winter
We arrived in Bratislava and took the bus from the airport to a stop near the central train station and my mind was almost immediately blown. We discovered a cheese vending machine near the train station. For less than 2 EUR, we were treated to spicy knots of delicious cheese: a perfect winter snack.

Take a Brisk Walk in Bratislava's Presidential Garden 

Bratislava is gorgeous when the sun shines and we were lucky to find the sun shining upon our arrival. One of the advantages of visiting Bratislava in winter is the blue skies. Don't be deceived though, it's cold so make sure to pack a warm coat, hat and gloves for the trip. If you dress appropriately, take a brisk walk around the Presidential Garden (Prezidentská Záhrada in Slovak). The Presidential Garden is conveniently situated between the train station and Bratislava Old Town and taking a walk here is a good way to get the blood flowing in Bratislava in January.
The Presidential Garden in Bratislava in Winter

Enjoy Beer and Hearty Slovak Cuisine

Slovak cuisine served in Bratislava in winter
One of the best things about Bratislava in winter is that the local cuisine is well-suited to these weather conditions. Hearty stews and dumplings are core to Slovak dining and just don't sit as well in summer, don't you think? We warmed up for a bit with a hearty deer goulash and Slovak craft beer at Sladovna in Bratislava Staré Mesto.
What to eat in Bratislava in winter: Jokai bableves and goose fat crepes
Goose fat crepes with a pint of monastic beer at Klastorny Pivovar in Bratislava was another winter treat. So. Good. There is always room for one more beer! We enjoyed the Komin IPA at Pivovar Alzbetka with Jokai bableves soup. Jokai bableves is full of beans and pork and was a meal unto itself.
What to eat and drink in Bratislava in winter
There are some great beer bars in Bratislava and they are ideal places to while away an evening well-protected from the cold outside. Perogi with sour cream and bacon and a dish that can basically be described as cheesy spätzle with bacon were highlights of our visit to Starosloviensky Pivovar in Bratislava. "Get in my belly!" was my immediate reaction when the dishes arrived at the table.

Enjoy comforting Slovak dishes with a pint of craft beer or get a bit more traditional. We ordered řezané on a whim and were initially quite confused when a beer arrived that was dark on the bottom and light on the top. Apparently that was working as intended. Řezané means half dark/half light beer. Řezané was worth trying but I probably wouldn't order it on purpose again. I'm a purist when it comes to drinking beer.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Thinking about it more, I'm not entirely a purist when it comes to beer. I recall sitting on a sun-drenched square in Piran Slovenia and enjoying a radler (half beer, half lemonade). Radler is the perfect drink when it's not winter. 

Bratislava in winter: Rezane: half dark and half light beer

Try Bratislava's Hipster Coffee

Bratislava has a surprisingly vibrant coffee scene which is great news for a winter visit. Visit Five Points for a filter coffee with a backdrop of old school funk music. Five Points is just the place to warm up and fuel up before exploring Bratislava in January.
Bratislava in January: drink coffee at Five Points

Search for Men at Work

Bratislava is known for iconic statues anytime of year. Seek out Man at Work, Bratislava's most famous statue of a man crawling out of a manhole cover. We loved the quirky works of art scattered around the Staré Mesto.
Bratislava in winter: Man at Work and other sculptures in Bratislava old town

Have Picturesque Old Town Bratislava All To Yourself in Winter

Bratislava in winter: Old Town entrance gate and tower
One of the best reasons to visit Bratislava in winter is that you'll have Bratislava Old Town almost entirely to yourself. Instead of jostling with busloads of tourists to get a perfect picture, admire the old town hall at your leisure with very few people to block your sight lines. Bratislava Staré Mesto is compact which is helpful in winter when you may not want to walk so far.

Look for UFOs

Assuming you've brought appropriate winter gear, take a walk along the Danube River park to catch a glimpse of the UFO, Bratislava's futuristic bridge. Be prepared for biting winds but it's worth it to catch a glimpse of the UFO with the late-afternoon setting sun behind it.
Bratislava in winter: The UFO bridge at sunset

Sample Slovak Wines in Bratislava

Did you know that Slovakia makes wine? We learned that Slovak wines are actually pretty popular and tried two different varieties at the hotels we stayed at. Slovakia seems to be known for bright and light red wines. One of our hotels (Hotel Arcadia) even had Slovak Sparking wine on the breakfast buffet which was perfect for a mimosa.

Play in the Snow in Bratislava in Winter

There is a good chance the Bratislava winter temperature will dip below zero (celsius) and that if you visit Bratislava in winter that you'll encounter some snow. In contrast to other places we've lived (like Dublin and Philadelphia) that seem to grind to a halt when it snows, Bratislava just carries on. A small squall passed through during our weekend visit leaving a few inches of snow on the ground. Public transportation drivers didn't even bat an eye and barely slowed down. Embrace the snow that you may find in Bratislava in January and get out there and play: make a snowman or perhaps have a snowball fight?
Is Bratislava worth visiting in winter: snow covered buildings

Visit St. Martin's Church

We definitely focused on indoor activities during our winter visit to Bratislava. Visit St. Martin's church to warm up and take time to appreciate the patterned marble floors and soaring arches.
Bratislava in winter: Inside St. Martin's ChurchBratislava in January: The Church of St. Elizabeth (blue church)

Seek out Bratislava's Blue Church

The Church of St. Elizabeth (Kostol svätej Alžbety) is baby blue and really pops against a gray winter sky. The church was built in an Art Nouveau style. The Church of St. Elizabeth is located about a 15 minute walk from Bratislava Old Town. The door to the church leads to a small antechamber so that you can peer inside but entering the main part of the church is forbidden if there is not a service on or pending, it seemed. While the church is beautiful, recognize that there are not many places to warm up along the way and the little anteroom is not very warm. This is one place I'd probably skip if we had a 'do over' on our trip to Bratislava in winter.

Check Out an Ice Hockey Match in Bratislava in January

The main reason that we chose to visit Bratislava in winter is because I love ice hockey. I grew up watching hockey in Buffalo, home of the Buffalo Sabres. This time, I found myself sitting in the stands in Bratislava cheering on the HC Slovan against Minsk Dinamo. The arena was far from full. I attribute this to the snowy weather but also to the fact that HC Slovan was the last-place team in the league when we visited.
Why visit Bratislava in winter: Catch an HC Slovan ice hockey match
The fans who were present were enthusiastic in cheering on the home team. Some visitors had traveled in from Minsk to support the Dinamo and they ended up leaving happy when Minsk Dinamo won handily. You'll find some aspiring NHL players and folks who used to play in the NHL in North America who are banking on a few more seasons in Europe before retirement. Catching an ice hockey game is one of the best reasons to visit Bratislava in winter.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Ice hockey is a great excuse for traveling in the winter and a useful guiding principle for selecting a destination. One of our best travel-for-hockey experiences was in St. Petersburg where we watched St. Petersburg SKA take on Amur Khabarovsk in a packed house full of rabid fans.

Look for Upside-Down Pyramids

There is one final thing that you should do during a visit to Bratislava in winter. Keep an eye out for the Slovak Radio Building. Shaped like an upside-down pyramid, the architecture lends the city a futuristic air. It took me a while to notice because of all the blowing snow but on the final morning of our trip, the snow cleared up a bit and we were able to appreciate the view from our room in Bratislava which included an upside-down pyramid sighting.
Presidential palace and Slovak Radio building in Bratislava in winter

Where to Stay in Bratislava

Where to stay in Bratislava in winter: Hotel Arcadia
Where should you stay in Bratislava in winter? We opted to try two different hotels in Bratislava (with a break for an overnight trip from Bratislava to Brno in Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic)).

We spent our first night at historic Hotel Arcadia in Bratislava Staré Mesto. Situated less than a five minute walk from the main square in Bratislava Old Town, you couldn't possibly find a more tourist-friendly location. I'm sure this is one of the first hotels to fill up during the high summer season. The hotel is situated in a 13th century building so it just oozes with history. Have a seat in the soaring atrium topped with colorful stained glass. Have a glass of Slovak wine in the comfy library. Our room on the top floor featured slanted ceilings held up by sturdy beams.
Where to stay in Bratislava in January: Hotel Loft Bratislava
On our second night in Bratislava, we stayed at a boutique hotel that was decidedly more modern. Hotel Loft Bratislava featured designer rooms with quirky touches and a craft beer bar on site. We finished off our Saturday evening after the hockey match with some great beers and people watching plus classic hits from the 80s at Fabrika. If you'd like to drink and dine at Fabrika, definitely make a reservation. The venue is also extremely popular with locals.
Things to do in Bratislava in winter: Drink craft beer at Fabrika

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: What to do in Bratislava in Winter
What to do in Bratislava in Winter
Find out if Bratislava is worth visiting in winter. Learn about things to do in Bratislava in January. Spend a weekend in Bratislava in winter. Explore Bratislava Slovakia during the winter season.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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