How to Choose Wisely, Featuring my No#1 Recommendation for Bratislava.
It took me a long while to really absorb this. When I was travelling full-time last year, I stayed in some pretty *interesting* places. I didn’t see, until after a specific period in Portugal, how where I was staying was significantly influencing how much I enjoyed the whole place. And it’s unfair to pinpoint your value of a city based on what you chose to book on the internet… isn’t it? If you’ve read my recent article, you’ll know I’m a fan of certain steps to avoid staying somewhere shite.
But now, I want to look at the opposite: A 4* hotel experience for the weekend.
Essentially: “the weekend away”. The “few days visit”. The “short-term stay”.
For the avid comfort-and-joy seekers, stay right where you are.
The reason for my reflections on this topic is my recent trip to Bratislava. I wrote an article with all the cool and ‘typical’ stuff we did, along with our own highlights that you might not find in guide books… We had a blast over the weekend.
But I’ve been really thinking about it. I have fun at home. I have fun away. I am a fun person. Except when I’m not. And when am I not? When I’m… Tired.
And while you’re away, you don’t want to be spending precious moments in the sun getting light-headed because you didn’t get a good sleep. You want to wake up with enthusiasm, remember eagerly the buffet breakfast awaiting you, jump out of bed, land on soft carpet, and wash your face in a bathroom that is so shiny and clean you feel a million dollars (especially in that lighting).
And that is why you should re-prioritise your budget and spend a little more on your accommodation.
Think about it.
You can’t enjoy the extraordinary things until you’ve ticked all the basic, ordinary boxes — a good night’s sleep, rehydration, a healthy feed, and feeling valued as a person.
So, here’s my case for booking that 4* Hotel. And I’m going to use one hotel in particular to demonstrate this: Park Inn Danube by Radisson.
1. Location is so important.
Bratislava’s historical centre is quite small so it’s one of those cities where you can’t do much wrong in terms of booking a good location — you’d think. But actually, that means that all the accommodations on the fringes are still pretty close on the map, but they’re not quite in amongst it all anymore. Park Inn Danube is situated right on the river front (tick), below the walls of Bratislava castle (tick), and is 5 minutes’ walk into the centre of the centre (tick). It’s also next to the bridge Most SNP which has the UFO deck on it, so chances are you might have a view of this from your window like we did. It ticks all the boxes for what you want from location.
2. It’s nice to pop back in the afternoon for a refresher.
Need a cup of tea? To refill your water bottle? Some air conditioning? A change of clothes? Ten minutes on the toilet after your big lunch? Whatever it is, it’s nice to “pop back to the hotel for a bit” — which you can only do if it’s in the right place. And when you get there, the kettle is waiting with tea, coffee, hot chocolate… clean towels to dry your freshly washed and soap-smelling face on… and you feel at home for a while before head back out for the next few activities. The best part? It’s all in your own privacy. If you’re staying at Park Inn Danube, the best refresher of all is the spa, but I’ll tell you about that later…
3. Hotel pillows and the coolest bedside lights I’ve ever seen.
I don’t know about you, but every nice hotel I’ve ever stayed in in my life has pillows to die for. Seriously. Is there some secret 4* hotel-pillow-shop that worldwide classy hotels are going to? With about a meter of soft luxury behind my head, it didn’t take long to drift off in extreme comfort with tired little legs after a big day. Laying on that much cloud is pretty indulgent, it’s true. But as most of us aren’t immune to Saturdays of mundane household chores, stocking the fridge for the week and errand running, doesn’t it feel good to indulge just a little in these snuggled-up moments?
Oh, did I mention the bedside lights? The touchpad on the wall dictates the colour, fade and speed of the strip lighting above the bed, so with the glide of a finger you can turn sunset orange into electrifying blue, or devilish red. By the time you’ve gotten through all the colours the pillows will be dragging your consciousness from you and keeping it safe in their plush den until it’s time to wake again.
4. Buffet breakfast — for real. It’s serious.
It’s an easy way for accommodations to pretend to add value, I think. How many times have we seen the words ‘breakfast included’ only to be disappointed? In my experience, so many times has the “exquisite buffet breakfast” turned out to be sliced white bread with jam.
So, you can imagine my excitement and enthusiasm when we walk into the hotel restaurant for breakfast on Sunday morning to see other guests buzzing like flies around the food as they hop from table to table, adding to the collection that is their plate. From fresh fruits, to tasteful salad and vegetables, from croissants to homemade yoghurt, from cereals to the notorious ‘egg station’, it was a parade of colour laid before us with a natural red carpet (did I imagine this?) leading us right down the middle.
They even had a choice of milk! Fresh milk, almond milk or soy milk, displayed next to each other in bottles of equal size.
My partner worked out the time appreciation for the day and said “Good. We have two hours to try everything then”.
I laughed, but his face was serious, and judging from the amount of plates we took in total, he really wasn’t joking… (we finished everything).
5. Sometimes all we need is “out of the ordinary”.
I’m a big believer in this. It’s just like everything in life. The unusual things are often the best, because they are just that — un-usual. It doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy your routines at home. It just means you want something out of the ordinary once in a while. And what better way to do this, than experience a Wellness and Spa?
When we entered the Danube Wellness and Spa complex inside the hotel, I must say, I was blown away. It might have been the enormous white fluffy robe I was wearing or the uplifting white towelling slippers cuddling my feet that made me feel as though I was in a dream, but I think instead it might have been the bed-size leather loungers and the sight of the jacuzzi. Slipping into that hot water and turning the bubbles on was a rare Sunday morning treat — like I’m sure it would be for most of us.
It’s not just a fancy hot bath with a view, because it gets you to this completely zen state where you can dreamily plan your world domination.
The choice between the Finnish sauna, the Steam Sauna and the Infra-Red Sauna will be tough, but the handfuls of ice you can put on your neck afterwards and the cool drinking water available will soothe you. If you’re daring, you can even stand under the ice bucket and willingly pull the rope to empty the barrel on top of your head!
6. There are less sexy things to write about too, like luggage storage.
Practically, this is quite important for travelling. If you’re doing a weekend or a short trip, chances are you’ll want to make the most out of the day you arrive and even the day you leave. Leaving the hotel in comfort right after your enormous feed and pamper session doesn’t need to include lugging around bags in 30-degree heat. When you leave your bags at Park Inn Danube, like any good 4* hotel, you can trust completely they are safe, and you don’t even give them a second thought until it’s time to pick them up again. A stress-free mind and empty hands? A luxury that not every place offers.
7. Those VIP perks that are simply priceless.
I’m talking about the piano in the lobby, amongst other things. I hadn’t played for a few years (and I can only ever play one song from memory) but the opportunity presented itself. I was still walking on the light air of those fluffy slippers, drunk from the heat of the saunas, and in heaven from the clouds under my head last night that I felt like Mozart and sat down to play. It turned out surprisingly well (I impressed myself, I’ll admit) and it was a pretty special moment.
You can’t book these special moments. You can’t plan them; they just happen. But you can, for sure, put yourself in inspiring situations that encourage them to happen.
And that’s why I wholeheartedly recommend staying at Park Inn Danubewhen you go to Bratislava (because I know after reading My Top 10 Things to Do in Bratislava over on my blog you’re just hankering to visit this city!)
Slovakia’s capital can be a real whirl.
Enjoy the high life at this hotel and see it for yourself!