After an autumn packed with cultural events and great gastronomy comes the most festive time in the life of the Slovak capital city. Cold weather and snow only encourages locals and visitors to fill the streets and squares, which turn, in November and December, into ice rinks, traditional Christmas markets and decorated alleys.
The city center squares (Hviezdoslav Square, Primate’s Square, Eurovea) give people winter skating opportunities at well-prepared open-air ice rinks with skates and skating props for children available for hire.
A special Christmas tram completes the atmosphere of the most beautiful period of the year, with city tours around and through the city center. The interior of the tram, in red and green with a fireplace, and Christmas carols resembles a cozy home. In 2017, it was named one of the most beautiful Christmas trams in Central Europe. This tram operates from December 6 to December 30, 2018 (except December 24 and 25) from 4 PM to 8 PM (from 10 AM to 8 PM during weekends). Rides are free of charge.
Christmas markets have had a long tradition in Bratislava. It is a place where friends meet, and time runs a little slower. People come together to drink mulled wine or mead and enjoy the true atmosphere of Christmas.
Starting on November 23 this year, the Christmas Market is located – with an irresistible fragrance and a unique atmosphere – at the Main Square and Hviezdoslavovo Square. In recent years, the Christmas Market has migrated to other locations of the city center as well, such as the square in front of the Eurovea shopping center.
One of the nicest moments is the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree at the Main Square. Over the years, this moment has become a symbol of the opening of the Christmas season in the city. One of the hidden treasures there is the carved wooden Bethlehem in the Primate’s Palace yard.
As in any other city during Christmas time, the Market is full of local specialties and goodies that will definitely entice visitors’ taste buds. The choice is wide: delicacies like lok¹a, goose, cigánska peèienka (Roma-styled roasted pork), potato pancake, strudel, mead, mulled wine and punch. In addition to gastronomy, people can treat themselves to home-made products and traditional souvenirs like scented candles, fur hats and scarves, handmade wooden toys, jewelry, books, and much more – even an original Christmas gift for the loved ones.
Advent at the Castle
The Bratislava Castle during the Advent festive season holds not only Christmas markets but also performances of traditional customs and folklore. Experience the magic of history in the Christmas atmosphere in an untraditional place.
Christmas world of music and fantasy
In addition to the Christmas market stages with local singers and dancers performing, each year there is something special in store. This year, people can enjoy a swing Christmas with a swing orchestra and dance school. The Christmas concert in Bratislava regularly presents Christmas songs, opera arias, Slovak and world Christmas carols performed by leading Slovak soloists. The Nutcracker ballet is a return to the traditional and most appreciated version of Russian choreographer Vasili Vainonen. An opportunity for people to immerse themselves in the world of childhood innocence and boundless fantasy.
As with any other festive season, Christmas has dozens of traditions like these customs kept in many Slovak households:
Scale of carp, a traditional Christmas Eve meal, is placed under the table cloth or into a wallet. The custom is meant to bring the person money.
APPLE CORE STAR
One of the family members cuts an apple across on the Christmas Eve and if the seeds are arranged in the shape of star, it is believed to mean health and happiness throughout the entire coming year. If the apple shows a cross, that means disease or death.
NUT IN A CORNER
A walnut, typical for Christmas, is thrown into the corner of the room during the Christmas dinner for an abundance of good things.
An extra plate is laid for the Christmas dinner for any unexpected guest or departed member of the family.
NO LEAVING THE TABLE DURING DINNER
During the Christmas dinner, no one should leave the table. All the food and drinks must therefore be near so that anyone in the family can reach them.
New Year’s Eve
During this night, Bratislava is immersed in celebrating the New Year and many local businesses have special offers prepared for their customers. People come out into the streets of Bratislava and enjoy the music of popular bands in the center of the city.
Shortly before midnight, the festive atmosphere culminates and people count down together the seconds which divide them from the New Year.
When the clock strikes midnight, the sky over Bratislava begins with a spectacular performance of fireworks with a reflection in the Danube of the spectacle over Bratislava castle.
More information about Bratislava: www.visitbratislava.com
FESTIVITIES ELSEWHERE IN SLOVAKIA
Ko¹ice Christmas Market
The Christmas Market in Ko¹ice, the second biggest Slovak city, traditionally starts on December 5, on the eve of St Nicolas’s Day. With the help of the Mayor of Ko¹ice, an almost 20-meter-high Christmas tree lights up the Hlavná Street full of stands with delicious meals, wonderful drinks and original hand-made souvenirs. The charitable mayor’s hot toddy and ambrosial mulled wine from Slovak vineyards warm peoples’ hearts and bodies alike, with roasted sausages, peanuts and boiled corn filling up their empty stomachs!
A living nativity scene, activities for children and concerts of famous bands as well as performances of pupils from schools are a must at the event lasting until December 23. An inherent part of Ko¹ice Christmas market is the ‘Angelical sauerkraut soup’. For one day, a large 1,000-liter cauldron appears under the Christmas tree to warm the bodies and hearts of all people of good will. For EUR 1, one can buy a bowl of this traditional Christmas soup and light up Christmas for children and families in need.
Christmas in the town of Poprad…
Poprad is a picturesque town at the foot of the High Tatras, known not only for its history and interesting sights but also as a town where one can enjoy many unique moments.
Poprad is magical at Christmas, with beautiful Christmas decorations that are truly unique far and wide. Between December 2 and January 6, visitors are welcome to spend fairy-tale moments in the town where a Christmas angel comes every year and the Christmas tree is lit up by St. Nicholas that also arrives there on December 5. The central square – where a 12-meter-tall angel is the dominant figure – is full of kids who help St. Nicholas light up the Christmas decorations.
…and in the village of ©trba
The peaceful and loving Christmas time begins with the traditional Opening of Christmas Doors under the Tatras on a stage next to the Municipal office of ©trba on December 23 at 5 PM – with performances of folklore ensembles, church choirs and a market. And to wish the settlement of ©rbské Pleso a long and successful ski season, the amusing New Year´s Eve Baptism of a Snowflake takes place on December 31.
Programs in the High Tatras
A series of programs, concerts, theater performances and literary-dramatic shows are prepared for Christmas in the High Tatras from December 6 to December 30. The most beautiful holiday of the year will be celebrated with music, the aroma of mulled wine, popular meals and folk craft traditions at the Christmas market of the Lomnica hotel, where Hungarian, Slovak and international wines can be tasted and will be offered in a small shop along with original Christmas presents such as chocolate products, home-made jams, chutney, coffee and tea.
Of course, the fans of skiing can take advantage of the natural assets of the region during the winter season by putting on the skis themselves or attending ski competitions like the Tatra Cross-country Skiing Cup (December 15-16), the Cross-country Skis of ©trba (a public race on January 20), or the Slovak Cross-country Skiing Championships (March 16-17 in the cross-country skiing complex of ©trbské Pleso).