My strongest childhood memory of Bratislava involves me, a snowsuit-clad toddler, sitting in motion, partially encased in a thick, red plastic sled. Small and bundled, I remember slinking down the never-ending hill of the city’s Koliba neighborhood, its grassy wrinkles ironed out by a thick layer of snow. It was twilight, but the winter air was not biting. Chimney smoke, strong and undeniably Slavic, gave it substance and warmth.
That delicious smell of childhood in Bratislava, where I now live as a nostalgic adult, still lingers as summer completes its trek to the other side of the globe. Autumn has arrived and I am pumped! I live for the cold, for bundles of sweaters and coats, piping hot mugs of coffee and crumbly apple desserts. And while I wouldn’t mind some snowfall in October, I embrace the splendors of autumn as an essential transition to glorious winter.
What better way to celebrate autumn then a romantic tryst with a good book, strong cup of coffee (or hot chocolate/apple cider) and quirky cafe? If you find yourself in my beloved Bratislava this fall, here are some of my favorite book-coffee-cafe pairings in the Slovak capital (for those of you far away from the heart of Europe, you can still check out some of my favorite reads this year).
For old-fashioned intrigue and literary rebellion…
Cafe: Next Apache (Panenska 28, open everyday 9-22:00)
Order: Espresso, Hot apple
Description: Next Apache, the original epicenter of hipsterdom in Bratislava, serves the city’s best coffee. Tucked away from the tourist track, this unique cafe, with its unparalleled character and well-crafted Italian brews, will bring new life to your pallet and your mind. Classic and contemporary novels will keep you company as you enjoy a piping beverage infused with zen, creativity, and a dash of intellectualism. Two sips in, you’ll already feel calmer and, dare I say, smarter.
Book pairings: 1984, A Gentleman in Moscow
For heavy comfort and light reads…
Cafe: Drak & Finch (Mikulášska 1B, open 13:00-22:00 Monday; 9-22:00 Tuesday-Sunday)
Order: Hot Chocolate
Description: Tucked behind the Bratislava Castle on a steep cobbled alleyway lies a small and irresistible cafe. Drak & Finch is not the easiest to find, and the interior is tiny, but nevertheless, it is the perfect place to catch up on some light, tear-jerking reads.The cafe also has a dragon theme of sorts, which feels wholly appropriate on the historic streets behind the castle.
It’s hot chocolate can best described as hot pudding in a tall glass. It’s thick, scrumptious, velvet smooth elixir that more than makes up for the long waiting time (the staff are in no rush here). Plus, Drak & Finch’s prices are more than reasonable, among the cheapest in Bratislava. But the real bonus at this humble cafe is every hot drink is served with alligator animal crackers on the side – simply amazing!
Book pairings: The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise, The Art of Racing in the Rain
A cozy den for literary epics…
Cafe(s): Caffe4u, sro (Obchodna 42, open Monday – Friday 08:00 – 19:30; Saturday 09:00 – 19:30; Sunday closed) & Kaficko sro (Obchodna 17, open Monday – Friday 08:00 – 22:00; Saturday 9:00 – 22:00; Sunday 12:00 – 22:00)
Description: One of the things I love most about Bratislava is that you can escape the bustling Old Town in just a few steps. Both branches of this cafe are located off of the main shopping street, which is busy day and night. However, once you slip through a small alleyway and into the tiny cafe, everything turns quiet and infinitely more cozy.
Kafíčko’s interior is delightful and looks a lot like those mini kitchens on showcase at Ikea, a place I often dream about living in. As an added bonus, the coffee is cheap and truly delicious. Kafíčko offers coffee made from several varieties of coffee beans sourced from Brazil, Peru and Cuba. They even sell these global beans, along with some coffee-infused spa products, for reasonable prices.
The comfortable and calm atmosphere with non-intrusive baristas is perfect for delving into 1000-pg literary epics.
As an added bonus, Caffe4u, sro is equipped with a fake but convincing fireplace 🙂
Book pairings: Shogun, The Stand
For a bibliophiles and cappuccino art fanatics…
Cafe: Foxford (Obchodná 516/26 [within Martinus bookstore], open Monday-Friday 8:30-21:00; Saturday-Sunday 10:00-20:00)
Description: Nestled within the beloved, two-storey bookstore Martinus, Foxford cafe is the place to go. I write most of my articles, blog posts, emails, shopping lists, five-year plans, dream vacation itineraries etc. here.
For days I need a creative boost, I go for a cappuccino. On Cinco de Mayo, they drew a sombrero with milk froth on top. On a rainy Monday, it was an adorable whale. I find Foxford’s cappuccino art magnificent.
The coolest part of Foxford’s, which has two floors, is it’s part of a gigantic bookstore. In Martinus, there is an entire section of English books to choose from adjacent to a line of comfy sofas. Sometimes, I come here with my own book after work, plop myself down on one of the giant bean bags in the corner, and spend hours reading. It’s pure bliss.
Book pairings: Homegoing, Born a Crime