Christmas markets are traditional and very popular events in many cities across the globe. Many families and friends go out to see Christmas lights, taste hot wine, breathe the atmosphere or taste traditional food. And often the cuisine is what makes every market in every town special and unique – because the Christmas markets are never the same in any country or continent. They vary mostly according to the traditions and religion of the place, where they are. How does look Christmas markets in Bratislava, in Slovakia’s capital? Let’s have a look.
people enjoying hot wine on the Main square under the Christmas tree
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN SLOVAKIA
The history goes back to the 1993 when on the 1st January the federal state of Czechoslovakia split into the Slovakia and Czech Republic, so Slovakia is relatively new state and many people still think, that Czechoslovakia still exist. Historically the first Christmas market in the capital – Bratislava took place under the castle in the 1993 (1) where the Christmas markets were inspired by other markets in the Europe, like those in the Brussels or Stuttgart. Markets were supposed to be something like the invitation, mostly for the visitors to convince them to come and spend advent time in the historical heart of the town – and they did come. Bratislava became popular because of its Christmas markets mostly among the visitors from Austria, because of the lower prices and its intimate atmosphere.
in stalls you can buy food, alcohol or hand made products
CHRISTMAS MARKETS TODAY
During the past years, the Christmas markets turned out to be one of the most popular events in Bratislava, where people from the whole country come over every year to enjoy tasty (and unhealthy :D ) food with friends and family. Christmas markets always start by lightening up the 13 meters (42 foot) tall spruce tree on the Main square, usually around 21st of November (pretty early, isn’t it?) and end always on 23rd of December, the day before the Christmas. There are around 70 stalls with everything, you can imagine, starting from the food, alcohol, toys or sweets. Stalls are around the whole Old Town, but those most populars are on the Main square, from where you can walk to Frantiskanske square where are another stalls or towards to the Slovak National Theater, where the ice ring can be found under the another Christmas tree.
ice ring in front of the Slovak National Theater
selling handmade products became very popular
To keep people smiling, there is always a big podium on the Main square where there are many show going on during the whole Christmas – usually traditional folk dancers from across the whole country come to present their skills and entertain people. These events are mostly in traditional character to keep „genius loci“ of this place and I think it is very important to maintain local culture, since year by year traditions not only of Slovakia are disappearing in the world of commerce and money.
the birth of Jesus Christ performance for children in Old Town Hall courtyard
WHAT TO EAT & DRINK
Talking about food and drinks, there are many typical refreshments you can have, but I want to aware you if you are on diet, haha – these drinks are very caloric and food fat. But its Christmas :P If you are vegetarian, there are few stalls with veggie burgers – just look around. Here is the list of goodies you shouldn’t miss.
Gypsy roast and sausages are the most popular food of markets
- Varene vino (hot wine) is simply hot red or white wine, you can buy it in almost every stall. Just don’t drink of it too much, they usually put a lot of sugar into it to make it sweet. Once I got drunk from it and had head ache for next two days. Never more! Two deciliter cost around 1,50 EUR (stalls have different prices).
- Medovina (mead) is another very sweet alcohol made from honey. I prefer it more than hot wine (it doesn’t color your teeth and tongue). Two deciliter cost around 2 EUR
- Vianocny punc (Christmas punch) the mix of rum, white wine orange or lemon, two deciliter cost around 1, 50 EUR
- Ciganska pecienka (Gypsy roast) is the most popular among visitors, you can have it with chicken or pork (I prefer chicken) in the big bun. It is served with mustard and onion and if you want chili or preserving cucumber, just ask for it. The price goes around 3 EUR.
- Klobasa (pork sausage) with bread and mustard, these sausages are really tasty – you can have spicy or sweet for 3 EUR.
- Loksa (pancake, but not sure if the translation is right) this pancake is not sweet and it is usually filled with poppy or with duck liver (yum!) and cost around 1, 50 EUR.
- Zincica (doesn’t have translation) is traditional Slovak sheep cheese that smells like sheep :D but people say it is healthy as hell. One liter costs around 2 EUR.
typical spicy sausages
There are many sweets you can choose from but I suggest you not to try the apple in caramel, once you bite into the this apple, you will never get rid of the caramel from your teeth. Christmas time is the time of being together and enjoying time with those we love. It is also the time of giving presents and have you ever thought of giving a present to complete stranger? There is a book shelve on the Main Square, where you can bring books you do not want anymore and take any you like for free. Although, there is a box for voluntary financial contribution, so you can support this project of saving old books.
free books on the Main square
Christmas time is my favorite part of the year and I love the atmosphere in this town. Yearly, there are more and more people who come to visit Bratislava because of its Christmas markets and they always leave satisfied and full of great food.
take a free ride on Christmas tram in Bratislava
You do not have to by lucky to spot famous Christmas tram in Bratislava, just walk around old town and you will definitely spot it. The fare is free, but you may be little bit squeezed with others inside ;) Do you want to know more about Bratislava? Then check out my post One Day In Bratislava (tips by local)
Milan Bardun – because it is better to travel, than to arrive
1. – vianocnetrhy.sk
I miss the European Christmas markets! I went to uni in Milan and have extensively visited markets in Vienna and Barcelona every year. How can you do such an informative post? I suck at this, really. HAHAHAHA! Thanks for sharing, Milan!
I love checking out markets in every destination I visit. It looks like the Christmas markets of Slovakia are a must-see! But I could never resist those caramel apples! They’re one of my very favourite things! Wishing you a wonderful Christmas season, Milan.
Thank you Doreen, I wish you as little caramel on your teeth as it is possible :) haha.
What an amazing experience! I’ve never been to Europe at Christmas, but this post makes me want to change that immediately. I would love to try some of the food from the stalls and get my shopping done! :) I live in Charleston, South Carolina, where it never gets too cold, and where we decorate palm trees with Christmas lights–so to have a traditional Christmas somewhere like this would be SUCH a fun change!
Well, the only thing I miss here on Christmas time is snow. It always starts falling around mid of January, after the Christmas :( So by the time, maybe we will decorate the palm tree, as well haha :D
There are similar markets in Germany, Belgium, and, increasingly, here in the Netherlands. Yet each country has its own unique twist on the theme!
What a lovely post!!
As a brazilian we never have such beautiful and interesting markets during Christmas time… People are too busy enjoying the beach and no way to drink hot wine on 35ºC :-)
It´s so nice to learn different cultures and habits. Thinking in maybe next year give up the south summer and head to some Snowing Christmas in Europe. Bratislava is on the list now!
Thank you! Well, for me as a person who has „winter“ Christmas every year, it sound so much fun enjoying it at the beach for me :D maybe we should swich for the next year. Me in Brazil and you in Slovakia, haha.