The stunning beauty of Bratislava Christmas market

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The Bratislava Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition. Find out the dates, the best foods to eat and all the events you can't miss.

When my colleagues approached me about a possible trip to see the Bratislava Christmas market, I was ecstatic. Not only I’d always been very curious about experiencing Christmas in Slovakia, but being… slightly obsessed with everything holiday-themed, it was basically like asking me if I wanted dessert. How can you expect me to say no? Besides, I still had to buy Christmas gift for everyone and that was the perfect excuse!

Bratislava is a quaint little town in Slovakia, in Central Europe. We left the sunny Naples to land in a snowy place. You’d guess one might be disappointed, but the sight of the Bratislava Castle looking down at us, the streets all lit up, the merry decorations and the scent of mulled wine filled our heart with happiness: Christmas in Bratislava was going to be epic. Besides, we had learned how to pack light for our winter trips, so we also saved on the flight tickets. A huge bonus if you consider that we planned to spend the money we saved at the Christmas markets!
Some of you asked me if Bratislava is a safe place for a lone traveller, especially female ones. The answer is yes. Bratislava felt like a very safe place to be. I visited without my husband, and while I was with a group of colleagues, I still liked to explore on my own, also in the evening. A lone traveller here can find so many entertaining things to do that don’t only involve some shopping at the Bratislava Christmas market. Keep reading and don’t hesitate to ask me if you have more questions!
Christmas markets in Slovakia are a long-standing tradition. Large or small, each one reflects the culture of the Country – music, drink, food, scents. That’s probably why Europe is a pretty popular destination in December: every region has a different take on Christmas. You can taste elaborate pastries straight out of a Medieval cookbook, attend midnight masses in Gothic churches, listen to Christmas carols under a beautiful Christmas tree and so much more: Europeans take it very seriously!
If you have never been to Bratislava, you should consider visiting during the last weeks of the year. The capital of Slovakia in fact lits up with a big Christmas market, split in several areas of the city. That way it looks like Bratislava is one big Christmas village. There’s absolutely no reason to rent a car, either. Bratislava Christmas market can be explored on a self guided walking tour. Taxis aren’t as expensive as I thought, but I strongly suggest you rely on the official ones. At the Bratislava Airport you will find several people offering you a cheaper rate to bring you to your hotel. No need to say that it isn’t safe at all to accept: wheter you are a lone traveler or not. Being street smart is a must wherever you go!
Bratislava is also the perfect starting point for a trip that covers Slovakia, Czech Republic and Austria. You can in fact reach Vienna and Prague quite easily, they’re just a train ticket away. Bratislava is more or less in the middle. With just a few Euros you can reach Vienna in a little more than 1 hour and Prague in about 2 hours from the Bratislava train station. We used Bratislava as our “home base” to visit these European capitals, so you can visit more Christmas markets in one trip. Which is also a great way to save money: if you can spare a few more days, it’s cheaper to find a room in Bratislava than to lodge in Vienna, for example.
Read more about Vienna’s Christmas markets and go through this beautiful photo essay on Prague if you are looking for more information for your trip!
Bratislava Christmas market 2018 is open from November 24 to December 22, from 10 am until 10 pm. Let me guide you through the areas of the city I liked the most: each one has a different feel. And know that, being in the middle, we found a lot of products from Prague and Vienna here. Like the world famous Mozartkugel, also called Mozart Chocolate Balls which I absolutely love. They are made of pistachio marzipan and nougat, then covered with dark chocolate. You will find them in several shops all over Bratislava.
The Bratislava Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition. Find out the dates, the best foods to eat and all the events you can't miss.

Hlavne Namestie (Main Square)

This is the biggest market area in Bratislava: there are more than 100 stalls with items made with wood, glass, leather, beeswax and so on. It can get packed up pretty soon in the evening, and yet it never feels overwhelming. If you climb up the tower of the Old Town Hall you’ll be able to see all the red and white stalls: with all the lights on and all the people, it’s a truly impressive view!
We were staying at a nearby hotel and what led us to the market was the delicious scent of food. No need to ask for directions, we just had to follow our nose!
December is a pretty cold month and the locals get warmed up by drinking mead or mulled wine at the food stands. We noticed that one of their favorite snacks was a slice of warm bread topped with caramelized onions and melted lard, served burning hot. You can also buy sausages and roasted meat, cabbage soup, potato pancakes and many kinds of sweets.
Food yet isn’t the only reason why this part of the Bratislava Christmas market is so crowded. Every year the city has a very rich program with concerts and shows: from jazz to pop music, from a cappella concerts to Christmas carols, every night there’s a different show you can attend.

 

Old Town Hall’s Court

If you are visiting the Bratislava Christmas Market at Hlavne Namestie, check out the Old Town’s Hall court, too. Here you can buy a ticket for 5€ to visit the Museum of the city history, and while it has nothing to do with food stands or Christmas concerts, it’s still a very interesting activity that you can add to your itinerary if you want to learn the history of this beautiful city. The Museum of the city in fact shows the events that shaped Bratislava and the way people have been living in this area since the Neolitic era. Before you leave the Old Town Hall you will be invited to watch a very interesting documentary named “People and the city” (included in your ticket).
 
The Bratislava Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition. Find out the dates, the best foods to eat and all the events you can't miss.

Hviezdolav’s Square

This square is only a short walk away from Hlavne Namestie. While the portion of the Bratislava Christmas Market here is smaller, the square is much bigger and you will find many vendors selling delicious local street food. Here I managed to buy a bunch of wool scarves for just a few Euros: it’s by far the area where I’ve found the best deals for Christmas shopping. If you are going to shop for Christmas presents, then have a look here. Chances are that you will buy everything you need for half the budget you intended to spend. Tourists and locals alike love the ice skating rink here. Because the square is surrounded by beautiful historical buildings, ice skating here feels like being in a fairytale. The air is filled with the scent of cinnamon and caramelized onions, the laughter of children and the chatter of happy people.
In Winter you can ice skate here, in Primate’s Square, at River Park, and in many other places. Here you can find all the information you need.

  

 

The Bratislava Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition. Find out the dates, the best foods to eat and all the events you can't miss.

 

If you are spending Christmas in Bratislava, consider staying also for the New Years eve. Every year in fact in the old town of Bratislava the celebrations start in the late afternoon and last until the following day. In the main squares there are live music performances, fireworks and lots of fun events. The best place to view the city from above is the UFO Bridge Observation deck. Here there’s a Casino too, where you can enjoy a delicious 10 course dinner, with live music and gifts. Book as soon as you can to reserve a seat!
The Bratislava Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition. Find out the dates, the best foods to eat and all the events you can't miss.

Street food at the Bratislava Christmas market

As you might have guessed, it’s always better to visit the Bratislava Christmas Markets on an empty stomach. While I always suggest people to taste everything when they are abroad, there are a few treat that you can’t miss. Since most of the times the signs are written in Slovak, here’s a little guide to know what you’re ordering.
LOKŠE: Potato pancakes. They can be sweet or not, as they fill them with cabbage and sausage, or with Nutella and nuts.
CIGÁNSKA PEČIENKA: It’s a roll filled with chicken or pork, mustard and grilled onions.
KLOBÁSA: It means sausage. You will find a lot of different grilled sausages at the food stands. They are generally served with mustard and bread, with onions on the side, if you prefer.
CHLEBA S MASŤOU A CIBUĽOU: A slice of bread with lard and onions. The onions in this one are raw and the scent can be pretty strong if you aren’t used to it. Some locals also like to add some Slovak cheese on the top, letting it melt before to eat their sandwitch to go.
STRUDEL: There’s a number of them you can try. Nuts and cherries, cheese and cherries, poppy seeds and apple. You can enjoy your strudel with home made fruit spirits, often sold in the same stands.
TRDELNÍK: Sweet pastry. It’s pretty  large (in case you are hungry) and you can choose between cinnamon, cocoa, vanilla or nuts.
MEDOVNÍK: Ginger bread. You will find it decorated with Christmas wishes or pictures, baked in all sorts of different shapes. There are really many stands that sell it, just like in Vienna and Prague.

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The stunning beauty of Christmas in Europe: let's find out more about Bratislava, Slovakia's Capital. Hidden away in the heart of Europe, this amazing city has so much to offer. The Christmas feel when it's full of snow is strong and eerie. Let us show you all the secret spots, and how to explore the Bratislava Christmas Market, with its traditional food, local handicrafts and fireworks! | #Bratislava #Europe #Christmas #ChristmasMarket

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86 Comments

  1. Lara Dunning

    I would definitely go to the market on an empty stomach as I would want to try everything! Experiencing the holidays in Europe is on my bucket list and Bratislava looks like a great place to do it! Thanks for the tip on the museum too as learning about the history of a place is always an important part of my travels.

  2. Anita Hendrieka

    I am so excited to visit Bratislava next year. Unfortunately, it won’t be Christmas time but I may have to go back just to experience the city during the holiday season. It sure does look beautiful <3

  3. Jennifer Melroy

    Mozartkugel sound amazing. I need to try them. The decorations look so epic and they don’t have the obivously commerical element we see here in the USA. I wish we had cute little Christmas markets here in the USA.

    1. According to the brand that makes them they can be unbearably sweet or just right: yet it’s something you should definitely try if given the chance! No Christmas markets anywhere in the USA? 🙁 I’ve never visited during the Christmas period!

  4. Sandy N Vyjay

    We have been planning an East Europe itinerary for some time and Bratislava figures in it. It is a different matter that the itinerary is on the backburner for now. But seriously Bratislava seems to assume a different avatar in Christmas, bedecked and dazzling, definitely a spectacular sight. Guess we need to plan to get there around Christmas, maybe the next one!

  5. Megan Jerrard

    I should add this to my own article of Christmas markets to see in Europe! I love Bratislava – such a charming town, though haven’t been over Christmas. I can only imagine how magical it would be when transformed by the festive season. Thanks for the tip on climbing up the tower in Old Town for an aerial view over the markets. I love that they’re so traditional, and that the city also has concerts and shows run in conjunction with the actual markets themselves.

    Will try and plan a trip next year to stay through to New Years too. Merry Christmas!

    1. Oh yes! Actually I found it cheap, very cute at Christmas and easy to explore without having to rent a car. Everything is at hand and there are Christmas stalls basically everywhere! We’re also thinking of getting back for more next Spring! Merry Christmas to you to Megan!

  6. Suruchi

    Europe is our dream destination and visiting it around Christmas will be super cool. But the only thing which keeps us back is the extreme cold. Anyways, Bratislava markets look colorful and quite great. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Jen Joslin

    My husband and I are talking about spending Christmas 2018 in Europe, and we hadn’t considered Bratislava. It sounds like a perfect base! I love the idea of visiting the Christmas markets in nearby cities since they are easily accessible by train. Going to share this article with him! Thanks for the inspiration 😀

  8. Janine Thomas

    You have just reminded me of how much I enjoyed my visit to Bratislava. It was in Spring, so the town had a completely different feel to it. I can just imagine how beautiful it must be in winter.

    I also came home with loads of Mozartkuge, at least that was the intention when I bought them, but they didn’t quite make it home!

  9. Skye Class

    This just isn’t fair. I’m working at the Christmas Market in Edinburgh, yet the one in Bratislava looks so much better. I actually heard about it when I toured in August a couple years ago. The sausages there are way better than the ones served here, and we don’t have those delicious chocolate heart cookies either. If I wasn’t working every day here in Edinburgh, I’d have to visit. Next year…

  10. Danijela

    Bratislava is the place I’ve been planning to go for a while. Heard so many nice things about the city and now, with your post on Christmas Market there, I’m even more interested. 🙂
    I actually didn’t know that Vienna and Prague are so easy to reach from here. I mean, few Euroes and an hour or two? How practical! 😉
    It would be lovely to stay in Bratislava for the New Year’s Eve. The atmosphere with live concerts and people on the streets must be really festive. Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. Helene

    I really should plan a roadtrip to Bratislava in the near future! I have friends living there and they told me so much about the city and the countryside. In fact I would spend 2-3 days in the city and more time in the forests.

  12. Thomas

    Ah.. Bratislava! Such a wonderful and underrated place in Europe. I was there during the summer and the city center is really good. Also the hostel are pretty amazing and have a very good price.

    When reading this article I should def. visit it during christmas time. A nice variation from Germany or the expensive Vienna. Thanks!

  13. Siddhartha Joshi

    The first person I ever couchsurfed with was from Bratislava and she actually made me fall in love with the city with her stories. Your pictures and story showed me another side of the city – the festive side! The Christmas Markets of Europe are so good, and Bratislava lives up to them all 🙂

  14. Dominic

    Thanks for your post Danila. As a German I know Christmas markets all too well. I’ve not been to Slovakia but looks like this is a greta option for those visiting during the holiday period. For me, the UFO platform and 10 course meal would be on the roster. 🙂

  15. Anna Faustino

    I love Christmas Markets…but for me, my primary reason is because of all the food so I love how you have a section featuring all the street grub. Strudel and Trdelnik both sound like they are up my alley. Would love to try them!

  16. Chris Bloomfield

    The Mozart Chocolate Balls sound yummy! With 100 stalls, the market sounds like an epic shopping experience. I would like to visit for the New Years party. From afternoon till the next day, yeah that’s a good time.

  17. Tamara Elliott

    Christmas in Europe is just so charming! I came ohsoclose to Bratislava when I did a Christmas Market river cruise a few years back- but sadly we only saw the border of Slovakia and didn’t actually cross.

  18. Danik

    Mozartkugels are cool and they are delicious! I cant believe Christmas is around the corner and I havent been to a Xmas market yet! I havent been to Bratislava for some time, maybe this is a reason to go back.

  19. Silke

    I am German but I lived in Australia for a long time. You make me miss European Christmas markets! The one in Bratislava does remind me a lot of my childhood experiences… I can almost smell the sweetness of the candied almonds, the mulled wine and the paradise apples! What I find very interesting about Bratislava is that it’s so close to many other fascinating cities, making it such a great base for an exploration of Central Europe. Also good to know that it’s a safe place to visit. Need to look into this more closely now. Thanks!

  20. Renata Green

    I’m not a big fan of Christmas markets – maybe it’s because I’m based in Germany and for us it’s not that special. But it’s interesting how they spread now all over Europe and according to your post they obviously get a local touch everywhere. However, Season Greetings!

  21. tom

    I’ve never actually been to a Christmas market before, I was close to heading to the Munich airport one this winter but ended up booking London. Plus I’m like Bambi on ice. The pistachio marzipan and nougat chocolate balls sound incredibly tasty, I could definitely do with one now!

  22. Marcus and Mel

    We love visiting the Christmas markets in December. Good to hear about Bratislava and Slovakia as it is often overlooked by visitors who tend to visit Budapest or Vienna instead. The KLOBÁSA sounds good on a cold evening.

  23. Sarah

    Your photos are brilliant, the make me want to head straight over to the Bratislava Christmas markets. That is the one thing that I wish we had more of over in Australia, but I guess they do not have the same appeal in Summer.

  24. Hannah

    You had me at Mozartkugel! I love the christmas markets here in Europe, and I think the food is a big part of that. I love tasting the local street food, and the colder countries always have amazing winter warmer foods – like the bread with onions and lard you mention! I don’t know if that’s something I’d like, but I usually go for the klobása!

  25. Eva

    Oh toasted sourdough bread with lard is a treat! I had it last year at the Chrstmas Market in Krakow, and I can never get enough. Lard spread on bread is actually a great hangover food, so it helps from getting too tipsy from mulled wine!

  26. Reshma

    It is wonderful to see how Christmas celebrations vary in different parts of the world, and I have not witnessed much of it, but surely want to explore. I love how the city changes itself beautifully in Bratislava! Would love to check out the handicrafts too!

  27. Every time I hear the name Bratislava I think about Eurotrip 😀
    Maybe now something else would come to mind when I hear that name.
    Can’t really decide between spending the time at the food stands or at the other ones.

  28. Megan Jerrard

    Europe has some of the most incredible Christmas markets in the world, though I’ve not yet made it to those in Bratislava. I do love that every region has a different take on Christmas, so we’ve adopted a goal to hit up a couple every year and slowly make our way through them all! Might take a while, but will shoot Bratislava to the top of the list for this years Europe trip – it sounds charming, and I would love to get my hands on some beautiful Slovak handicrafts. Thanks for the tip!

  29. Debra Schroeder

    The Bratislava Christmas markets sound like a fun way to spend the winter. Fresh gingerbread and mulled wine sound fantastic. I’ve yet to visit a Christmas market, hopefully I can make it this winter.

  30. Meagan

    You make the markets sound so magical! Ice skating, shopping, hot and delicious food… I’m in 🙂 I’ve heard a lot about the Christmas markets lately, so obviously we need to add them to our bucket list. Thanks for sharing!

  31. Danik

    I love Christmas markets, but I love the smaller ones more than the huge commercial ones seen in Birmingham and London, UK. I just love flying off to central Europe and checking out cities like Dusseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Bratislava etc for their markets and having a few good drinkies as well. Love this post and you have reminded me that I need to book up for the next Christmas Market in a few months time 🙂

  32. Claudia

    Oh how cute these Christmas markets look! This particular one seems to be a really good one since there are over 100 stalls! And I think potato pancakes in the winter are perfect !:)

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