Good old Covid may have pushed back The Festival in Tallinn to 2022, but 2021 is far from a write-off - the inaugural Festival in Bratislava is very much on this September 20-26, and there are few better cities to provide a backdrop to the return of live events in Europe.
Our venue for the week, Banco Casino, boasts possibly the best location of any casino in Europe. Positioned right in the very heart of Slovakia’s capital, virtually all the city’s major attractions, restaurants and nightlife are easily reached by foot.
What is there to see in Bratislava?
Start by stepping out of the casino directly into the historic Old Town, taking in the Presidential Palace, the Primate’s Palace with its spectacular hall of mirrors, and the charming Main Square with its mediaeval architecture and al fresco drinking and dining.
After a couple of refreshments, naturally, consider taking a stroll up to Slavin, partly to take in the monumental architecture and learn about Slovak history, but mostly to catch the view at sunset from possibly the city’s best vantage point. The weather in September is usually pretty balmy, making it a doubly pleasant way to take in the beauty of the city. Along the way, marvel at some of the city’s public art installations, which may take on a slightly surreal edge depending on how many drinks you’ve had en route.
You really can’t miss Bratislava Castle - it literally dominates the city’s skyline, and no visit to Bratislava is complete without a hike up the hill to see it up close. The castle houses an assortment of museums and exhibitions, but by far the most impressive aspect is the castle itself, which was completely rebuilt in 1811 after the 9th century original was destroyed in a fire. If you like your castles unreconstructed, there’s also the spectacular ruins of Devín Castle just a 15 minute drive away from Banco Casino. The area around Devín is also great for canoe trips, gorgeous scenery, and fantastic traditional Slovak restaurants.
Talking of restaurants, some of the best in the city are right on Banco Casino’s doorstep. Meštiansky Pivovar is located two minutes’ walk from the casino and features traditional slow-cooked Slovakian cuisine alongside a beer selection large enough to keep even Franke busy for a few days. The Flagship Restaurant is another must-see, housed as it is in a former monastery and now boasting grand interiors and its own in-house brewery, with legendary pies on the menu to help soak up the booze. Or for a finer diner experience you might like to try Great Bratislava, conveniently located right next to the casino and offering a convenient segue into a wild night as it converts into a club after 10pm.
Indeed, you won’t be short of after-dark entertainment options - Bratislava has developed a serious reputation as a party town in recent years. Offering everything from upmarket cafe culture to dive bars with live rock music, via strip clubs and hipster hangouts, the area immediately surrounding the casino has something for everyone. Just take a stroll around the area and see what takes your fancy, or plan your big night out in advance using one of the many online guides to Bratislava after dark.
The full schedule for The Festival in Bratislava will be published in the next few weeks, but between the above and the 24-hour poker and casino game extravaganza planned at Banco Casino, seven days almost isn’t enough to take in all that Bratislava has to offer. Bring on September - we’ll see you at the bar. 🍻