We planned our first visit to Slovakia for December, just so we could experience the Bratislava Christmas Market. Approximately 100 red & white stalls teem with traditional Slovakian cuisine and handcrafted goods. Live music played nightly with locals and tourist milling about, shopping, eating, drinking, laughing and dancing. It was fun for our entire family to be part of the lively Christmas atmosphere.
Bratislava Christmas Market
The kids favorite part of our visit was eating their way through the Christmas Market. This is becoming a theme with them. It’s a great motivational tool to get them out the door! Tantalizing aromas tickle your senses as you make your way through the market. The sweet smell of cinnamon, the sizzling of frying sausage and the roasting of chestnuts all blend together to leave your stomach grumbling.
Visitors will find traditional dishes such as cabbage soup in a bowl and barbecued meat turning slowing on a stick. Plenty of high tables are set up around the market, so you can enjoy your meal while taking in the festive market atmosphere.
The kids loved the traditional Bratislavské rožky which is a crescent shaped pastry. We chose the walnut filling instead of the poppyseed as it’s more in line with our personal tastes. Poppyseed is wildly popular in Slovakia, so you’ll see poppyseed in a variety of breads and sweet treats. K ended up purchasing a pastry with poppyseed one morning – he thought it was chocolate filled 🙂
Of course, the kids HAD to sample Trdelnik (chimney cake) in Bratislava, as it’s their favorite market treat. Chimney cake is a sweet, raised dough that is wrapped around a cut cone. After cooking over the fire, the roll is coated with cinnamon, poppyseed, coconut or chocolate.
The kids also munched on a Nutella Palacinka (crepe), “just to see if it tasted any different from other crepes.” I’m thinking they just wanted an excuse for more chocolate. Derrick wanted to share a Palacinka with what I believe was duck fat. I’m not that brave.
Another classical favorite was slovenská parenica which is a similar to string cheese but wound into two rolls with a slightly salty or smoky flavor. The kids preference is the salty parenica. We tried one variety that I swear tasted like we were eating a campfire. My stepdad drinks scotch that tastes similar.I don’t get it. The kids enjoyed parenica so much that we purchased extra for them to eat while we were in Vienna as well.
Many other sweets can be found as well including wafers, lokše (baked potato pancakes), gingerbread without ginger, and honey cakes. You can’t forget the hot Christmas punch, mulled wine (varené víno) or honey wine either! I found the honey wine to be too sweet. But it’s something you should try when visiting as it’s a Slovakian specialty.
Christmas Markets are a great spot to pick up gifts or a souvenir for yourself. We found the prices in Bratislava to be extremely reasonable. Lucy spied puppets hanging in the Christmas Market stalls upon our arrival. I think she had her puppet radar up. She purchased a Pinocchio puppet as her souvenir and spent the entire vacation learning how to make him walk and dance.
We purchased Derrick’s mom an embroidered linen Christmas mat. The quality is outstanding and the price couldn’t be beat – only 12€! Other gifts included wax candles, fragrant hanging potpourri, Slovakian ceramics, and handmade jewelry. I thought about getting some parenica for my stepdad. He could pair it with his scotch.
The best time to visit the markets was early in the day. The stalls are open around 10am, so get in early so you don’t have to fight the masses. After the sun goes down the markets get crowded. We had to hold on to the kids hands a bit tighter to ensure we didn’t get separated.
Christmas Markets can be found all around the historic center of Bratislava in the Main square, Františkánske square, Courtyard of the Old Town Hall, Hviezdoslavovo square, Square of Milana R. Štefánika and Primacial square. The Main Square and Hviezdoslavovo Square are the largest. These are all located within easy walking distance of each other, so browsing all the various Christmas stalls would be easy for the youngest visitors. Right in the center of the city is an open air ice-skating rink, so rent some skates and enjoy this winter tradition.
The cosy Bratislava Christmas Markets are a perfect spot to spend the holiday season. Kids and adults alike will admire the squares illuminated by thousands of Christmas lights. You definitely won’t leave the market with an empty stomach or empty handed!
Looking for more Christmas Marker inspiration? I found Rick Steves’ European Christmas book that could give you more ideas when planning your next holiday.
Disclosure: We were guests of Bratislava Tourist Board. All opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.