Guide to Trnava and Bratislava
Bratislava residing Welshman Thom Lovelock talks you through all you need to know about Trnava, venue for Wales’s Euro 2020 qualifier this week
PART ONE: TRNAVA
Where Is The Game? – Although most of you will be flying into Bratislava, the game is taking place in a town called Trnava (Tur-NAV-a).
Trnava is 30 minutes away by train with regular services throughout the day getting there; fares are extremely cheap, shouldn’t be more than €3 each way. The stop you need is just called Trnava. To get to the Anton Malatinsky Stadium from Trnava Main station, it’s a 5 minute walk; 5 actual minutes and not a massive trek.
If you’re there during the day, the “Irish Pub” across from the stadium is cheap and cheerful but a bit spartan. The stadium itself is on top of a shopping complex with some bars and restaurants attached, Bokovka being the best one. Otherwise, in town on the main strip Lokal is a small pub but the best bet for craft beers. I don’t drink beer (prefer spirits) but I’m told it’s excellent.
The rest of the main strip is picturesque with some cool spots.
How To Get Back – I am assuming that most people are staying in Bratislava. There is no scheduled train back after the game at the time I am writing this. The last train back is always at 22:34 and the game won’t finish until 23:00. It is possible that a football special train will be scheduled to take people back to Bratislava; I was on one after a Slovakia-Scotland game, but that’s not a guarantee. If there isn’t a train back you should try and get a taxi. Using the correct taxi app it should cost between €50-70 which, between four people, isn’t eye-watering considering the distance.
I’m hoping that this is a last resort and that an extra train will be scheduled. See Getting Around Town for information on taxis.
PART TWO: BRATISLAVA DOS AND DON’TS
Having lived in Bratislava for five years, I’d like people to enjoy the town as best as possible. Here are some tips to have a great time and avoid getting into trouble:
- Never take a taxi off the street. Any fare will be €30 minimum no matter where you’re going. Using a correct taxi that won’t rip you off, you can get between anywhere in the centre of town for €4-7
- Do NOT visit the strip clubs. Some towns in central Europe like Prague and Krakow are great but this just isn’t the town for it. They’re rubbish and interested in nothing but drugging tourists and robbing them. Ignore any offers they give you. They’ll give you a “free shot” which knocks you sideways, bill you whatever they feel like and double tap your card if you have contactless. Even if you go in, do nothing and try to leave, some burly thug will ensure that you have to pay to leave. They’re clever enough to have cash machines inside and cameras pointed on them so they can prove that you withdrew your own money willingly. The most recent horror story was someone who was stung for €84,000 on a no limit company credit card.
- Be aware that customer service is extremely suspect. It’s a culture shock you just have to get used to. Younger staff are usually fine but older staff might be cranky and miserable. It shouldn’t be a problem because any international chain (Subway, McDonald’s) or place big enough for a crowd of football fans usually have good hiring policies.
- Most places are cheap to drink in and, as I say, even though customer service might be bad in some places, it is polite to tip in bars and restaurants. Beers can cost between ~€1.70 for a basic lager and €2.50 for a premium lager and €3-4 for a special craft ale. Minimum wage is €2.50 an hour, so it’s polite to tip about 15% or, if the bill is less than €10, add on an extra €2 or so.
- You can still smoke in most pubs. General rule is you can smoke in places that don’t have kitchens. Just something to be prepared for before you remember what pubs in Wales were like 25 years ago.
Getting Around Town – The buses, trolleybuses and trams are all unified under one single umbrella. Tickets are purchased from vending machines at each individual stop and you must validate them when you enter the bus or tram. They work on a time basis; your ticket is time stamped from when it is validated and the length of time it is valid for is pre-printed depending on which ticket you buy. A ticket for 30 minutes travel is 90 cents and you can swap between bus/trolleybus/trams within your allotted time.
From Bratislava airport the 61 bus into town passes through Trnavske Myto, the main public transport interchange, onto the main railway station. Otherwise, your option is to take a taxi. As mentioned, never take a taxi off the street. Taxis are actually exceptionally cheap if you get them the correct way. You can get taxis if you download one of the following apps: Uber, Bolt, Hop In.
I personally use Hop In because unlike Uber and Bolt, Hop In drivers are actual, proper taxi drivers so they don’t mess about and know the best routes to take.
PART THREE: BRATISLAVA DRINKING; PLACES & PRICES
What To Drink – Slovakia is one of a few countries that doesn’t use % when quoting beer strength; instead degrees are still used. So a basic lager is 10˚ (~4.5%) and ales are usually between 12-15˚ (~5.5-6.8%) but, for some reason, supermarket bottles might say 10% even though it isn’t.
Good Beers: Pilsner Urquell (Cz) Translation: Plzeň Original Source Gambrinus (Cz) Primator (Cz) Zlaty Bažant ’73 (Sk) – specifically the ’73 and not normal ZB Translation: Golden Pheasant Kaltenecker (Sk) Urpiner (Sk).
Slovakia doesn’t have quite as strong a brewing tradition as Czechia, hence more Czech beers being palatable. Slovakia is big on distilled fruit spirits for anyone brave enough to try them. They’re probably nasty to anyone trying them for the first time but well worth a go if you want to say you’ve tried them:
- Borovička – juniper, a bit like raw gin. My personal favourite.
- Slivovica – plum. Disgusting and only for the brave.
- Jablkovica – apple
- Jahodovica – strawberry
- Pomerančovica – orange
- Tatransky čaj – Tatra tea. A very strong, 52% herbal spirit. Actually very tasty but it gets you pissed very quickly.
Borovička, slivovica and Tatratea are the most common spirits you’ll find in bars and restaurants.
Important: A standard, single measurement for all spirits in Slovakia is 40ml and not the 25ml you’d be used to at home. Also, beers usually come with big heads. That’s just how they like them.
Where To Drink – Goblins Pub – a big pub that can handle groups of people; don’t order the Staropramen and order the Pilsner or Guinness instead. Opens at 5pm and stays open late every night. Smoking is permitted in the main bar.
Uisce Beatha – a small bar that is only suited for small batches of 3-5 people rather than big groups. Specialises in whisky but has excellent Primator beer and a different guest ale each week. Also does a great gin & tonic. Opens from 3pm every afternoon. Non-smoking.
Čierny Pes (Black Dog) – Just up the road from Uisce Beatha if you want to sample somewhere else.
Stupavar – A nice pub that specialises in beers. Lots of different craft beers to choose from. Non-smoking.
Papichulo – Slightly out of the town centre (you can follow the tram lines down Obchodna high street to find it) but also has a great selection of beers and is also open late every night. Has the neat gimmick of being a refurbished public toilet but don’t let that put you off; there are three pubs in town like this and they’re all great. Also opens at 5pm and stays open late every night.
Don’t just take my word for it though, feel free to explore places in the Old Town. Hviezdoslavovo Namestie is the principal town square with the old theatre and Jupiter fountain. There are lots of neat places there but be warned, don’t be surprised if you find somewhere more expensive than the places I’ve listed.
For daytime drinking you’re better going to more restaurant-type pubs. Slovakia is big on pivovars, which are places that brew their own beer on site. All should be able to accommodate big groups if you phone ahead:
1. Slovak Pub – A nice place to eat and drink. Each room represents a different part of Slovak history.
Klubovňa – A pub chain with at least one location in each borough of town.
Meštiansky Pivovar – Two different outlets in the middle of town, both are great and have great food.
Flagship – A big venue in a converted cinema
17s Bar – Also a great place to eat and drink during the day. Has good pizzas.
Minerva Biss Burger – Situated just underneath St Michael’s tower, another good place for food and daytime drinks.
Where NOT To Drink – Of course 2,000 fans coming to town means we can’t all be in the same places and by all means, go to the tourist traps if you want but there are one or two places to categorically avoid: Angels, Devils, Pressburg Gentleman’s Club etc.
As mentioned, do not go to the strip clubs unless you want to be drugged and robbed:
- Alize – Horrible venue with racist, thuggish bouncers
- Bar Rock – Extremely overpriced with the same thuggish bouncers
- Havanas – Nothing particularly wrong with it, it’s just extremely overpriced for my liking.
The usual touristy traps which aren’t terrible but just not places I would recommend to a friend:
- The Dubliner – An “Oirish” place
- Hacienda – Fake Mexican place
- Lochness – Allegedly a Scottish place but very, very expensive from what I recall
- Infiniti Rock Café – A usual tourist place
The Dubliner, Hacienda, Lochness and Bar Rock are all located on the same street which we call Stag Alley.
PART FOUR: CULTURE VULTURES
If you’re flying back on Sunday and want some things to do over the weekend, here are the sights to see in Bratislava:
Bratislava Castle – The most obvious landmark to see. A walk around the castle grounds is well worth a go.
St Michael’s Gate – The most famous tower in the principal entry into the old town. The munitions museum is located in this tower.
Viticulture Museum – History of Slovak wine. Actually very interesting and informative as well as a chance to get blotto on Slovak wine; white wine is the best.
Hviezdoslavovo Namestie – One of the main town squares. Lots of nice looking buildings like the Carlton hotle, old theatre, philharmonic opera and Jupiter fountain
UFO Bridge – Like something from The War Of The Worlds. It gets its name for obvious reasons.
St Martin’s Cathedral – The site of coronations for the Hungarian monarch from 1563 to 1830
St Elizabeth’s Church – Also known simply as the blue church.
Slavin – High above the town centre, there is a bus that takes you there. A war memorial with 3,000 soldiers buried there, it is a monument to celebrate liberation from the Nazis by the Soviets. Has excellent views of the entire city from up there.
Devin Castle – A bit outside the city centre but well worth taking a taxi there if you’re into this sort of thing. An old castle on top of a tall rock cliff overlooking the confluence where the Morava river meets the Danube.
Sad Janka Krala – On the other side of the river next to UFO bridge, this is the nicest park in town.
Danubia Modern Art Gallery – Quite a way out from the middle of town but there is a bus that takes you there if you don’t fancy a taxi. The art gallery is not really my sort of thing but the views of the river down there are great. Check opening/closing times.
Enjoy the match!