When you think of Christmas in Europe, what do you think of? Christmas markets, sparking street lights, and mulled wine? Earlier this month, I experienced Christmas in Bratislava, and I spent a weekend exploring the Bratislava Christmas markets, eating festive treats, and getting to know the Slovakian capital. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I visited Bratislava, but the city surpassed my expectations with its adorable old town and unique attractions (like the UFO Tower!).
This post was created with help from Visit Bratislava, but all views are my own.
Bratislava Christmas Markets
The best part of visiting the Slovakian capital during December is the Bratislava Christmas markets. There are several Christmas markets located throughout the city, but the biggest one is in the Main Square of the city, in front of the Old Town Hall. This market has dozens of stalls, some selling local foods like potato pancakes, chimney cakes, and different types of mulled wine and punch, and others offering local goods, like lace and wooden crafts. There were even musical performances from foreign choirs on a stage in the square when I was there, which made for a magical, Christmassy atmosphere. Because this is the largest Christmas market in Bratislava, it’s a great place to try a bunch of traditional Slovak foods. I ate my way through the market, and it was so delicious! For a great view of the Christmas market from above, go to the top of the Town Hall Tower, located in the Bratislava City Museum.
Behind the square, through the arches of the Old Town Hall, there’s another traditional Christmas market in the Old Town Hall’s courtyard. This is a much smaller market, with fewer than 10 stalls, but it has a nativity scene and live farm animals, as well as traditional Slovakian goods.
You can find another big Christmas market in Hviezdoslav’s Square, located just a short walk from the Main Square. The market runs from the National Theater down several blocks, so there are lots of stalls to check out! Near the end towards the National Theater, there’s a stage where local groups perform- I saw a traditional Slovak dance group perform one night! Towards the other end, there’s an ice skating rink and skate rental stand.
There are a few other small Christmas markets located throughout the city. I visited the market by Bratislava Castle which had a handful of stalls selling traditional foods and a nice area to take in the atmosphere in the shadow of the castle. I also saw a small market by Eurovea, a huge shopping mall on the river in Bratislava. I highly recommend visiting the two large Christmas markets if you visit in December. The markets can get very crowded at night, but I felt safe the whole time I was there. Visit the markets during the day for short lines for food and wine, and visit again at night for the Christmassy atmosphere.
More Christmas Activities in Bratislava
There’s more to Christmas in Bratislava than the Christmas markets (even though they are wonderful)! The entire city is lit up beautifully, so I loved walking through the Old Town and checking out all the holiday decorations. One unique activity is the Christmas tram, which offers free rides through the city! The vintage looking trams are decorated with lights and garlands, and there is even a full nativity scene in the back of the tram! There are Christmas events throughout the city in December, and you can find the full program of events on the Visit Bratislava website.
Reflections on Christmas in Bratislava
I really loved visiting Bratislava during the holidays. The city looks absolutely beautiful decorated for Christmas, and there are so many festive activities happening during December. The Bratislava Christmas markets are some of the best I’ve been to. Even though the Main Square is a little touristy, I felt like the market was really authentic. There are so many traditional Slovak street foods for sale in the stalls, and hardly anything on the menus is in English! I visited the Christmas markets in London, Bruges, Brussels, and Paris, and they all seemed super touristy and manufactured, but I felt like a got a taste of local life at the Bratislava markets. Compared to those big city Christmas markets, the Bratislava markets are so inexpensive as well! After you’ve visited the markets, take a ride on the Christmas tram or check out the Bratislava Castle.
Bratislava is a perfect festive weekend getaway if you’re looking for something a little different this December. If you’re in nearby Vienna or Budapest, you could even visit the city as a day trip, but it’s even better as an overnight trip to experience the atmosphere at night!
Check out my guide to restaurants in Bratislava and traditional Slovak food for more Bratislava travel inspiration! #VisitBratislava #BratislavaCard