Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game
Seat of the Slovak FA and now equipped with a stadium worthy of national status, Bratislava has celebrated domestic title victories 13 times since the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Flagship club Slovan Bratislava, champions five times since 2009, remain a major force in the game – and one with that spanking new arena.
Since early 2019, they have been based at a rebuilt Tehelné pole stadium after ten years at the Štadión Pasienky, traditional home of Inter Bratislava. Lowly Inter, meanwhile, moved out to Stupava, north of Bratislava.
Slovan’s current and former grounds face each other across the main road of Bajkalská, towards Bratislava airport.
Currently looking for promotion from the second flight, FC Petržalka, were reformed as FC Petržalka akadémia in 2014. Having won the title in 2005 and 2008, famously beating Celtic 5-0 in the Champions League, Petržalka hit the skids and players left en masse.
Juniors and defectors from the then equally defunct Inter Bratislava donned the black and white of Petržalka but relegation to the third flight was followed by financial collapse.
The club was forced to knock down their stadium across the Danube, where the Aupark mall now stands. They subsequently built a new one close by, the 1,500-capacity Stadium FC Petržalka 1898 at MC Sklodowskej 1.
The date is significant. That year saw the foundation of Petržalka’s predecessors, Pozsonyi Torna Egyesület, who played in the regional Hungarian league. Pozsony is the Hungarian name for Bratislava. Part of Hungary until 1918, the city was then known by everyone else as Preßburg, the German version of its name.
Few cities in Europe have as complex and multilingual a football history as Bratislava. As well as Pozsonyi Torna Egyesület, in the Hungarian era Ligetfalusi Sport Club (shortened to Ligeti SC) also came to the fore.
In 1919, full of independent spirit, mainly Czech residents formed 1.ČsŠK Bratislava at the Pannonia Café. The new club played at Starohajská, the city’s first football ground over the river in Petržalka.
When the Czech league was created in 1925, Slovak clubs weren’t invited. 1.ČsŠK won the inaugural, amateur Slovak title, then four more. The star forward was Štefan Čambal, who moved from Ligeti SC to 1.ČsŠK and was the sole Slovak player in the squad for the Czechoslovak side that reached the 1934 World Cup Final. A year later, 1.ČsŠK joined the professional Czechoslovak league.
In 1939, Slovakia broke away from Czechoslovakia to become a Nazi puppet state. Football clubs were given Germanised names – those in Petržalka became Engerau. Although Bratislava became Preßburg, 1.ČsŠK was renamed as Slovak-only ŠK Bratislava.
The Nazi authorities and slave labour created a new national stadium, the Tehelné pole (‘Brick Field’), in 1940, with a curtain-raiser between ŠK and Hertha Berlin. In November 1942, it staged the last international played by Germany’s national side under the Third Reich, against Slovakia.
After 1945, all changed again. ŠK became Sokol NV then, in 1953, Slovan Bratislava. By then, they had won the recently reunified Czechoslovak league three times. The golden era came in the late 1960s, when Slovan became the first side from Eastern Europe to win a European trophy, the Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1969. Slovan went on to dominate the Slovak league in the early years of independence after 1993.
Inter Bratislava represented the local oil refinery, then called Apollo, from 1940. Bombed by the Allies, the plant was rebuilt and renamed as Slovanaft. ŠK Apollo became Ćervená Hviezda (‘Red Star’) Bratislava and won the Czechoslovak title in 1959.
As AŠK Inter Slovanaft, the Yellow and Blacks won the Slovak title in 2000 and 2001 but the club collapsed less than a decade later. The current FK Inter play in the Bratislava division of the third flight and are based at the Stadium FK Stupava. about 20km north of the capital, with no direct connections by public transport. An Uber is your best bet – perhaps cheaper from the halfway point of Devinska Nová Ves, 15min by train (€0.90) from Bratislava main station.
While Inter have gone through 12 name changes, since 1898 Petržalka have had 17 different names. The Stadium FC Petržalka is located by Ovsište nám served by bus 99 – which calls at Farského on the swift tram route 1 from Bratislava main station – and bus 98, which goes to the Slovan stadium. Home games are often scheduled for Sunday morning.
Arriving in town, local transport and tips
Bratislava Airport is 9km (5.5 miles) north-east of town, connected by trolleybus 61 every 15-20min (journey time 20min) to the main train station near the city centre. It also passes close to the Slovan’s stadium at Bajkalská. A ticket is €0.90 from the kiosk at the airport or machine by the bus stop. It’s €0.70 for a 15min journey in town, €4.50 for a day ticket, €8.30 for 48 hours. City transport consists of buses, trams, trolleybuses and night buses.
Taxi Slovakia (+421 2 16 505) charges a flat €20 between airport and town.
Where to Drink
The best pubs and bars for football fans
Bratislava is a good party town and affordable with it. As well as most famous Czech brews, you’ll find the excellent Slovak Zlatý Bažant almost everywhere. There are bar hubs around the city centre, such as along Sedlárska, where you’ll find The Dubliner has live music three nights of the week plus TV sport. On the same street, Lochness Scottish Pub concentrates more on the kitchen. Further up in Michalská, the Infiniti Rock Bar shows sport but entertainment gets a little risqué later on – don’t expect a Slovak covers band. There’s more late-night japes at U Kata, with sport watched and spirits drunk to abandon at the 14th-century gateway to the historic centre.
If you’re here for the beer, then the age-old 1.Slovak Pub on Obchodná has its own keg room in the basement. A few doors along, KGB offers all kinds of Staropramen and affordable Hoegaarden in Soviet-themed surroundings. On Gorkého, the Beer Palace specialises in unpasteurised Staropramen – oh, and in a 16th-century palace, too. Towards the river on Hviezdoslavovo námestie, the ten-tap 17’s Bar is a realistic candidate for best spot in town, with a TV when required and heaving of a weekend.
Actually on the river, floating nightspot the Tanker Boat by the Sci-Fi bridge offers party fun above and below deck. DJs also spin at Hopkirk, a cheery pub transformed into a contemporary dance spot, the HPK Club. You’ll find it towards the station, where Karpatská meets Šancová – further along Šancová, the BeerArena is an easy option for match-watching before or after your train.
The station itself is flanked by the Caffe Pressburg, with TV football and Slovan Bratislava iconography – under renovation in the summer of 2019 – and Antic, a surprisingly comfortable 24/7 bar/restaurant with guestrooms also available.
Where to stay
The best hotels for the stadium and city centre
Several decent hotels are grouped around the Zimný ice hockey stadium close to the Slovan stadium. The mid-range Hotel Set is a great find, attached to the nearby National Tennis Centre – balconies of some rooms overlook Slovan’s ground. Pricier, and right on the main road, the business-friendly DoubleTree by Hilton Bratislava offers saunas and an indoor heated pool.
Near Bratislava station, an easy hop for Slovan and the airport on trolleybus 61, the four-star Mercure Bratislava Centrum has 175 comfortable rooms and equally smart bar and restaurant – stablemate three-star, the ibis Bratislava Centrum, sits at the foot of Bratislava Castle at Zámocká 38. Halfway down from the station to town, where Štefánikova meets Spojná, the Hotel LOFT Bratislava has a retro-industrial feel and a top-notch pub, Fabrika, worth a visit in its own right.
For the convenience of the station nearby and the attractions of the city centre, there are at least half-a-dozen hotels on or near the long square of Hodžovo námestie. The Austria Trend and pool-blessed Crowne Plaza Bratislava both cater to the four-star traveller on business or on a city break. Alongside, don’t be put off by the ‘Since 1930’ boast of the Hotel Tatra – it now has a zen spa and decent seasonal restaurant.
Down by the Danube, near the Sci-Fi bridge, the Hotel Devin offers Thai massages at its spa, a squash court and views of the river. Tucked in on Hviezdoslavovo námestie, the chic Radisson Blu Carlton stands close to several decent bars
Right in the heart of things on Michalská, the Old City Hotel is comfortable and affordable. If you’re on a real budget, then the City Hostel is a converted house on historic Obchodná with singles, doubles, three- and four-bed rooms.