The capital of Slovakia, and its biggest city, Bratislava lies on the Danube, just an hour from Vienna and two and a half hours from Budapest. It’s a small picturesque town in Eastern Europe, and one I was looking forward to spending a few days in. While in Brno (Czech Republic) I heard from every single traveler that I came across (no exaggeration) that one night in Bratislava was more than enough. Some people had even changed their travel plans to move on without staying even one night. I knew it couldn’t be that blasé, and I’m drawn to small sleepy towns sometimes more than large cities, but I was really enjoying my time in Brno so extended my stay, cutting back into my Bratislava time. My original three nights in Bratislava were reduced to one.
The town center is a 20 minute walk from the bus station. Hostel Mansard, where I stayed, was centrally located. It made exploring a breeze. The only breeze I’d see that day, as Bratislava’s sun beat down on my skin, freckling my already too-pink sunburn.
Bratislava is a surprisingly vegan-friendly city. As I headed into town I passed a sign for a cafe that looked like it’d have vegan options, so I looped back after checking in.
The basic menu includes 4 wraps, 3 of which were vegan. Score.
I ordered The London Wrap–made of spicy beans, robi meat, tomato, cucumber, lettuce and parsley in a whole wheat tortilla. The small portion is half a wrap, and only 2 euros (about $2.65 US). It was filling and hearty and actually had vegetables, sometimes a rarity in Eastern Europe, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It also contained robi, a Czech vegan meat product made out of beetroot and cereal grains. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I wasn’t scared–I had tried it in Brno, and it was delicious; not quite as chewy as seitan, with a deep flavor and a meatier texture than tofu.
(Tofu Mom, look away now.)
Properly fueled, I was ready to explore the city. After walking up the steep hill to Bratislava Castle during the heat of the day, I wandered around the outer gates, alternately worrying I hadn’t been successful in my sunscreen search yet and being amazed by the sights.
“This view is so pretty!”
“I hope I’m not getting skin cancer.”
“Oh look, a castle!!”
“Shit. I’m sure I’m getting skin cancer.”
In the end, I wore my sandals out that day, flip-flopping my feet around Bratislava and working up even more freckles and a large appetite. For dinner, I already knew where I was headed: Lucy’s Vegan Food, a vegan and gluten-free bistro, was located close to the bus station and though they had a small menu, it all looked good. I knew I wanted to try them out and support an all-vegan restaurant in Bratislava.
Lucy’s is open from 11 am to 3 pm for lunch, closed in the afternoon for prepping and baking, and open again for dinner from 5 pm to 8 pm. I arrived shortly after 5, the first guest to arrive. Tim and Lucy, the owners, chatted with me while I ordered. Tim is from Canada and Lucy is from Slovakia, and after meeting on the road and traveling together for a few years, they decided to settle down in Bratislava and share the food with the public that they made at home.
I enjoyed a raw vegetable salad and a spicy rice noodle dish with a few glasses of rosé wine and chatted with the two owners. It’s a small place–only a few tables–so it’s ideal for lunchtime office workers to get take-out, or for solo or couple travelers to linger over a meal.
Tim and Lucy seem to be very clear in their vision of what they want, and are confident in their business choices. Lucy’s Vegan Food is a sugar-free gluten-free vegan restaurant with a limited menu that prefers not to allow children, and they’re unapologetic about it, which I found admirable and endearing. Tim creates the savory menu, and Lucy bakes the desserts fresh every day. As I was leaving, she gave me a banana cocoa muffin, which I had for breakfast the following morning. It was perfect. Moist and not too sweet. A hard combination to come by for vegan baked goods on my travels. The muffin remains my favorite vegan dessert I’ve had in Eastern Europe.
I stayed until close, getting tipsier from the wine and chatting their ear off. They’re lovely people, and it’s experiences like this that really make your travels–the night at the vegan restaurant, chatting with the owners and enjoying healthy vegan food in a small town in Slovakia, is really one to remember. One of a kind. For anyone who makes it to Bratislava, I encourage you to visit Lucy’s. The owners are welcoming and the food is a pleasant healthy and satisfying break from the heaviness of Eastern European food.
Bratislava is indeed a small town, and the people I met there are generous and kind. One night’s stay was perfect, though I imagine I could spend a lot more time there, exploring the surrounding hiking trails and frequently indulging in good vegan food.
Obchodna 66 Bratislava, Slovakia
vegan wraps and soft drinks
Lucy’s Vegan Food
Malý trh 4121/2 811 08 Bratislava, Slovakia
vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free bistro
Note: There were several other vegan or vegan-friendly eateries in Bratislava that I didn’t visit, but Vegan in Brighton has a good recap from her visit a few years back.