Hugging the banks of The Danube, with Austria and Hungary for close neighbours, Bratislava is historically a proud multinational city, embracing a healthy flow of people from across the respective borders. Over the last century the city’s sprawling southern district of Petržalka has seen the greatest influx of border crossers.
Pozsony. That is the Hungarian name for the Slovak Republic’s characterful commercial centre. Declared the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1536, Bratislava became one of the nation’s key cultural, administrative and economic centres, acting as a vital nexus for trade with their central European neighbours.
Despite having severed ties from Hungary following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, the tracks of the city’s Hungarian heritage can still be observed in its winding cobbled streets. However, nowhere is Hungary’s spectral presence more keenly sensed than south of the river in Petržalka.
Once referred to as the ‘Hungarian island’ on account of its strong contingent of residents from south of the border, with its row upon uniform row of Brutalist, 1970s matchbox apartment blocks, Petržalka could today be more accurately labelled as a ‘concrete island’. Home to over 130,000 residents, almost a third of Bratislava’s entire population, Petržalka is reputedly the most densely populated housing district in Central Europe, with the vast majority living in amongst the tangled tessellations of these concrete complexes.
Known in Czech and Slovak as ‘panelaks’, or panel houses, these typically drab, soulless cells were hastily assembled in response to the post-World War Two housing crisis, with scant attention paid to aesthetics. Today, however, the hulking monoliths are adorned with vibrant pastel hues and cute geometric designs.
Petržalka is connected to the Old Town, with its chalk-white castle and medieval city centre, by five bridges. The one which arguably dominates the waterfront is The Bridge of Slovak National Uprising. Known to many simply as the UFO bridge due to the retro-futuristic, saucer-shaped observation deck that’s perched atop the bridge’s supporting pylon, the tower affords 360-degree views across the city and Danube River.
For those who prefer being lulled to sleep by the gentle ebb and flow of water, Botel Dunajský Pivovar (Tyršovo nábrežie 1) satisfies such inclinations. Moored close to the ‘UFO’ bridge or New Bridge and Petržalka railway station, Botel Dunajský Pivovar is within easy reach of many of Bratislava’s major sites. There is, however, plenty to admire within the botel’s walls too with plush, boutique décor throughout, and the substitution of names of famous global cities for hotel room numbers gives the place a bespoke feel. Adding to the already fragrant aroma of novelty, this floating hotel has an onboard microbrewery and bar.
Hotel Espirit (Zadunajská cesta 12) is a modern boutique hotel with sharp, chic rooms, and the minimalist interior décor has sleek, clean lines accompanied by flashes of lavish baroque furnishings. The complimentary breakfast at Hotel Espirit is praiseworthy both for its size and quality, also further offering wide views of the city. Clean and functional, this hotel is likely to meet the essential requirements of most travellers prepared to settle for that comfortable, respectable middle ground between luxury and economy living.
Hotel Viktor (Kremnická 2009/26) is just a few minutes’ amble away from Petržalka railway station. Despite being so centrally located, the area in which Hotel Viktor sits is quiet and residential. The interior décor is clean and bright with the ample-sized bedrooms all featuring double-glazed windows to dampen the sound from the nearby railway and motorway. Staff members are attentive and welcoming, with the restaurant offering traditional Slovakian cuisine, including the classic dish of bryndza dumplings made from sheep’s milk cheese, washed down with wines from Slovakia’s Tokaj region.
Whilst residing in the south-east at a slight remove from the city’s Old Town, Mari Kiri (M. C. Sklodowskej 1) is within relatively easy reach of the Petržalka district’s commercial hub with its shopping centre Aupark and the nearby E-commerce service MALL.SK. The on-site playground and beach volleyball court gear the hotel towards families and fitness enthusiasts. Guests are offered the option to stay in functional ‘Family Suites’, fitted with two beds, a living room with kitchenette and a private bathroom. Attached to the hotel is a modern, monochrome restaurant serving substantially sized dishes from Italian-style pizza through to a selection of burgers and steaks. Vegetarian and vegan dishes are also included.
Cafés & Restaurants
Located on the southern fringes of The Danube in Petržalka, Au Café (Tyršovo nábrežie 1) admitted its very first patrons in 1827, with the accompanying restaurant arriving later in 1890. After a prolonged period of decline, Au Café was forced to close its doors in the 1960s, only to reopen again in 2003 where, perhaps surprisingly, it was reimagined as an Italian Restaurant. While this isn’t one for visitors seeking authentic Slovakian cuisine, the premier quality of the restaurant’s dishes provides sufficient recompense. Stand out menu options include the controfiletto beef sirloin and the tagliatelle Bolognese. For those with a sweet tooth, the Tiramisu comes highly recommended.
One of a chain of several pubs in Bratislava, Petržalka Klubovna (Starohájska Street) is a real hit with the locals, courtesy of its three main selling points: the comprehensive selection of fifteen different kinds of craft beers, hearty and authentic Slovakian food, and the welcoming, homely fireside surroundings. Reflecting this setup, the menu has a homespun feel, with popular dishes like the chicken leg stew. The pub also provides ample space, comfortably seating 175 indoors and even more outside. Live music is regularly billed and the handy playground on-site is a place for energetic young tykes to run riot while parents snatch some precious ‘me time’.
Standing proud as one of the tallest buildings in the district, the Technopol tower dominates Petržalka’s skyline. Hidden away amid the many floors of sleek office space is Liviano (Kutlíkova 17), a local neighbourhood restaurant offering a menu that gives respectful nods both to traditional Slovakian cuisine and to more exotic international flavours. From the pigeon with truffle and foie gras to the mome-made spaghetti with prawns, the menu is pleasantly inclusive of many tastes. Inconveniently however, the restaurant is closed at the weekend.
Inconspicuously located on a side street close to a central road interchange, when looking for Trojka Bistro (Bulíkova 3152/27) one can be forgiven for doing a double take while waiting for Google Maps to buffer on the smartphone. The place’s petite stature doesn’t help matters either; fifteen people is all this bistro can realistically hold. Those few able to squeeze their way in can sample their in-house Trojka burgers with optional French fries and coleslaw. What is also diminutive in scale are the going rates, which are likely to fall within the threshold of even the most cash conscious of travellers. Word of warning, however: Card payments aren’t accepted and vegetarian options are limited.
With a capacity of over two hundred, lying on the southernmost fringes of Petržalka, Viky’s Cafe Bar Restaurant (Vyšehradská 6) is a better solution for larger groups. Located within a much larger high-rise apartment complex, which itself lies within a quiet neighbourhood, Viky’s Cafe Bar Restaurant mainly attracts a local clientele, with the menu offering up both Slovakian and Italian fare. For those who enjoy dancing the two-step, the establishment also holds the occasional country music evening.
Vinoteka Wine Bars
Offering a heady, representative spread of wines from Slovakia and further afield, LOGLOG wine bar-bottleshop (Černyševského 3761/40) is a veritable Eden for wine connoisseurs, especially when considering that weekly private wine tastings with local winemakers are held on the premises. For those seeking a taste of home-grown grog, the local wine producer Adam Sykora is sold on site for truly bottom of the wine keg rates. With rum imported from the Dominican Republic and traditional, Slovakian fruit spirits offered in addition to its range of fine wines, LOGLOG is likely to satisfy most taste buds.
Fouund at the foot of one of Petržalka’s many characteristic ‘panelak’ apartment blocks, with space at a premium, Anjelská Vinotéka (Topoľčianska 3200/8) resembles more a children’s cubbyhole than a strictly adults-only wine bar. Depending on one’s perspective, the bar’s interior can be seen as either cosy or confined; there’s scarcely room for a couple of modestly sized tables and spindly wooden chairs. Despite being opposite the modern Kostol svätej rodiny, or Holy Family Church, once visited by Pope Saint John Paul II, sitting within a dense residential district the bar is predominantly a local haunt. Do take note however of the bar’s relatively restrained opening times: From 12 Noon – 7pm on weekdays and 10am – 1pm on Saturdays.
Wine aficionados willing to venture south of the river to Petržalka may be pleasantly surprised by what they find. Also known as The Wine Shop on the Corner, Weineck (Gercenova 3634/6A) is a small, unassuming wine bar which is, you guessed it, at the apex of a building block. Its interior layout is open plan and ‘rustic’ in feel, which here translates as a floor to ceiling smattering of wood furnishings, from its dark wooden beams to the decorative oak barrels. Featuring a rich selection of mature, oak-aged wines including Cantina Tramin, Weineck has a dedicated team of staff willing and able to advise you on the best tipple.
Located across the train tracks from Weineck, and a tipsy totter away from Petržalka Railway Station, Portofino wine bar & pasta (Rusovská cesta 56) delivers exactly what it says on the sign – fine wines and classic Italian pasta dishes. Portofino has a sizeable array of vintage wines on show within the bar’s cellar and a good array of house reds and whites. Portofino is a cash only establishment.