During the long Bratislava summer days, every self-respecting city restaurant with a patch of free concrete throws out a couple of plastic chairs and starts serving beers al fresco. The result is an Old Town so packed with West umbrellas the words "relaxing" and "outside" soon cease to have much in common.
But beyond Hlavné námestie and past jammed Michalská are a number of hidden outdoor retreats which offer a pleasant atmosphere to those street-smart enough to be able to find them. Many are old Slovak stand-bys with low prices to match. Here, The Spectator has highlighted 10 uncommon outdoor restaurant finds, each worth visting for its own reasons.
1 U Lizsta. Klariská 1. Open daily 11:00-23:00. Pass through the archway off Michalská Street, force yourself to enter the ugly gate opposite Klarisky Church, and you will enter one of the most beautiful courtyards in Bratislava. Though the plastic white tables won't satisfy your good taste, the courtyard has a special atmosphere with spotlights highlighting the huge trees, ancient walls, and neighbouring Music Hall of Comenius University's Library. The service is helpful.
2 Novinársky klub. Župné námestie 7. Open daily 09:00-23:00.
Hidden behind the building where the Syndicate for Slovak Journalists holds court (Dom Novinárov), the club shares a common courtyard with Montana's Grizzly Bar. But this is no American-style cafe. Here young poor philosophy students and old poor philosophy teachers drink cheap beer and wine along with the occassional foreign visitor. (Smädný Mních goes for 20 Sk /half litre) Plenty of tables and leafy trees overhead makes it a nice Slovak place to cool down in peace.
3 Sushi Bar Tokyo. Panská 27, open daily 10:00-24:00.
Though by now most city residents have seen the street facade of this new and pricey sushi bar, fewer know that there is a pleasant, clean courtyard tucked away inside the renovated palace Tokyo calls home. Though there are no trees, garden chairs and tables surrounded by many windows and balconies of the palace make the scene good for business breaks, quick sushi lunches and coffees.
4 U Vladára, Palisády 40, open Mon.-Fri., 10:00-23:00, weekend 12:00-23:00.
Mostly Slovak clientle patronize this pleasant leafy retreat in a well-tended garden just a few meters from the Presidential Palace. The restaurant serves standard Slovak cuisine but its long wooden benches make for an enjoyable day-time hang out for those working and passing through the palace area. Children can play in a small playground as the Slovaks around you discuss their daily problems or note that borovička tastes just fine with beer.
5 Horáreň in Horský park. Open daily 09:00-21:00.
Good beer, a children's zoo, and a great location right in the centre of a green park under the trees make this cozy wooden building one of best and most highly recommended places to sit outside. During rainy summer days, homemade cake can be enoyed inside, but on hot evenings it is pleasant to relax with friends on the outdoor wooden benches. The café also stages summer concerts and exhibitions. One note: wear mosquito repellant.
6 Castle Restaurant. Bratislava Castle, Mudroňova 1, open daily 11:00-23:00. The restaurant is accessible through the Hradná Vinaren and is right up against the wonderful Danube/Petražalka view. Though the tables themselves are made from somewhat uncomfortable and cold stone, it is worth coming up here for the panorama in almost every direction. While enjoying excellent Viennese coffee and a good selection of wine you will not feel bored while looking at couples in love walking under the castle walls. (The convenient car entrance is just off the Parliament building).
7 Aušpic. Viedenská cesta 38, Tel.:62 25 00 97, open daily 11.00-23.00.
While biking towards Hainburg or along the Petražalka paths, have a little break at this restaurant and café which lies just under New Bridge on the Peržalka bank. Aušpic, with its modern but rather socialist style decor, has outdoor seating overlooking the Bratislava castle. The clientele are mostly businessmen or families mixed with fitness buffs because of fitness centre situated on second floor.
8 Leberfinger Restaurant, Viedenská cesta 257, Sad Janka Kráľa, open daily 11:00-24:00.
Owned by the city, this restaurant will bring you are back into history as it is located adjacent to the oldest park in central Europe, mentioned in town chronicles from 1631. Rich Slovak couples tend to like this place. You can choose to sit outside either at the few tables which line the front of the restaurant or in a more secluded, green area in the back. Nearby is a children's playground overlooking the beautiful green area of the park, as well as, strangely, a strip bar.
9 Umelka. Dostojevského rad, open 10:00-23:00. This garden style folk restaurant, crowded with students from University Comenius across the street, attracts all from pseudo-intellectuals to football fans making it a casual neighbourhood place to drink a beer or tea. Plenty of tables with gingham cloths are set up in a circle around an outside dance floor. Located off of Šafárikovo námestie.
10 Stará sladovňa. Cintorínska 32, open daily 10:00-24:00. Otherwise known as Mamut, this Slovak standby was once the largest beer hall in Central Europe. While the inside lacks any real atmosphere, outside, a large, simple but pleasant yard filled with tables and Slovaks drinking beer awaits. The gate to the garden is to the right of the main entrance.